Readerly Top Picks – June 2015

TigermanTigerman by Nick Harkaway (Knopf) Nick Harkaway’s novels are always strange and wonderful; Tigerman is no exception. Set on the tiny island of Mancreu, formerly a British colony, the story centers on an aging British Army sergeant awaiting retirement and his unlikely friendship with a young boy from the island. As the two are caught up in a political plot that seems far too large for the small island on which they live, Tigerman reveals itself to be a tale of wit and wonder, full of sly humor and important lessons on life, friendship, and fighting for a cause you believe in.—Kerry McHugh

I’m Special, and Other Lies we Tell Ourselves by Ryan I'm Special And Other Lies We Tell OurselvesO’Connell (Simon & Schuster) A lot has been said about Millennials—spoiled, entitled, coddled, the worst generation ever. So, who better to refute (or corroborate) those claims than an actual millennial? O’Connell’s debut I’m Special is part memoir and part Millennial self-help book. Detailing his trials and tribulations, including having Cerebral Palsy, “helicopter parents,” a drug problem, and trying to maintain his sanity while breaking into the literary world, O’Connell’s sense of humor and wise beyond his years insight provide for a fun, lighthearted, and moving read.—Adam Pribila

Day Four by Sarah LotzDay Four by Sarah Lotz (Little, Brown) Lotz returns with a strong sophomore entry in Day Four. As in her freshman novel, the remarkable The Three, Lotz writes about the subject of a transportation catastrophe that is tinged with the possibility of supernatural influence, this time a cruise ship which is stranded and in the grips of a nasty virus. Lotz is superb at ratcheting up drama and suspense in order to keep her readers completely hooked. Although Day Four is told in a more conventional manner than The Three, it is still intensely engaging.—Jen Karsbaek 

The Mapmaker's ChildrenThe Mapmaker’s Children by Sarah McCoy (Crown) The Mapmaker’s Children is composed of the parallel stories of Sarah (daughter of the infamous John Brown) and her work on the Underground Railroad and modern-day Eden who is struggling with infertility. This is a beautifully written book that explores the power of family and relationships, through the stories of these two complex women.—Beth Nolan Conners

BlackoutBlackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget by Sarah Hepola (Grand Central) Blackout is a brutally honest look at life under the influence of alcohol. From her first sip of beer at the age of seven through most of the following 30 years, Hepola’s world revolved around drinking. She wasn’t a homeless, deadbeat drunk; instead she had a respectable job, meeting her writing and editing deadlines with the help of a bottle or two. In the after work hours, however, she often drank herself into blackouts, waking up in a stranger’s bed or with no recollection of how she got home. In her frank, straightforward memoir, Hepola writes of her love of drink, her deepest insecurities, and her fear of becoming sober. This can’t-stop-reading memoir gives alcoholism a context within Gen X sociocultural pressures and post-feminism expectations.—Candace Levy

SpectacleSpectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga by Pamela Newkirk (Harper) In the opening years of the 20th century, a human being was displayed in the Monkey House of the New York Zoological Gardens. Ota Benga was a pygmy from the Congo who was first brought to the United States in 1904 to be exhibited at the St. Louis World’s Fair before being displayed in New York. Spectacle is a fascinating but painful look at racism and colonialism, as well as the evolution of science.—Jen Karsbaek