Readerly Top Picks In Paperbacks – January 2016

Many of wonderful titles we’ve loved and recommended are now out in paperback. Enjoy!

 The Jaguar’s Children by John Vaillant (Mariner Books) Award­-winning non­fiction author John Vaillant makes his searing fiction debut with a timely story of a tragic border crossing. Trapped and dying inside a broken­down and sealed transport, Hector is going to die, but not before he records his story. Suffused with universal humanity, The Jaguar’s Children elevates a controversial political topic into a moving story of moral complexity that captures attention and inspires admiration.— Michele Jacobsen

Black River by S.M. Hulse (Mariner Books) Forgiveness and atonement are the heart of S.M. Hulse’s remarkably confident literary debut Black River.Wes Carver is a broken man who has lost his faith in God and humanity and now he is embarking on a journey back to the small Montana town to face the convict who stole it away from him. A modern Western that poignantly captures both rage and virtue, Black River is pitch perfect.— Michele Jacobsen

Inside the O’briens by Lisa Genova (Gallery Books) Everyone knows that Joe O’Brien’s mother drank herself to death, it is accepted neighborhood lore. When Joe starts exhibiting similar symptoms – involuntary movements, outbursts of temper – similar rumors begin to circulate about him. Except that Joe knows that he does not have a problem with alcohol. After visits to a couple of different doctors, Joe has an answer that explains not only his problems, but the ones that his mother had as well: Huntington’s disease. Genova builds the tension in Inside the O’Briens beautifully and establishes terribly high stakes while Sudduth so convincingly becomes Joe that the listener cannot help but be incredibly invested not only in Joe’s life, but in what his disease means for his family, and especially his children who each have a 50/50 chance of having inherited the gene themselves.

Delicious Foods by James Hannaham (Back Bay Books) Darlene’s downward spiral is set in motion after her husband’s lynching and is helped along by her new best friend, Scotty (aka crack cocaine). After she is conned by a recruitment team for a shady agricultural company, she finds herself virtually enslaved and separated from her son, Eddie. Hannaham’s dark humor lightens atmosphere as Delicious Foods explores deeper themes of poverty, addiction, grief, and prejudice. Readers won’t soon forget Hannahm’s rendition of one of literature’s cleverest characters: the energetic, jive­talking Scotty, who speaks for Darlene throughout much of the book. From the opening paragraphs readers are caught up in young Eddie’s desperate quest to find his mother and set her free.—Candace B. Levy

A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab (Tor Books) One part historical fiction and one part fantasy, A Darker Shade of Magic is a fantasy novel that draws on thoughtful and complex theories of magic and world building to present characters who are nuanced and a delight to discover, fighting for their salvation but also to save each other and the worlds they know. Schwab’s most recent foray into fantasy is smart, fun and delightful to devour.—Kerry McHugh

The Unraveling of Mercy Louis by Keija Parssinen (Harper) Mercy Louis is focused. Ready for her last chance as her school’s basketball star, it’s 1999, and she knows from her grandmother the rapture is coming. When a fetus is discovered in a dumpster, her grandmother sees it as a portent of further evil, and the girls of southeast Texas come under scrutiny before being struck down by a bizarre affliction in this strangely intriguing novel examining the brittle nature of girlhood.—Jenn Ravey

Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink (Broadway Books) A tense narrative nonfiction about the days after Hurricane Katrina, when Memorial Medical Center was abandoned and staff were left to care for dozens of seriously ill patients on their own. Fink does an amazing job dropping the reader right into the rapidly deteriorating conditions, under which some of the remaining patients died after being given large doses of morphine.—Diane LaRue

The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon (Bloomsbury) Fans of Shannon’s alternate history / urban fantasy series will be happy with The Mime Order, which picks up the story just after Paige Mahoney’s escape from bondage at the end of the first book. In 2059, the London that Paige is returning home to is ruled by two factions: the Scion, who kills any citizen displaying psychic ability, and the not­so­secret gangs of psychics, who have created their own underworld culture. Despite having enemies in both arenas, Paige, a clairvoyant, finds herself at the center of escalating sociopolitical events that threaten to undermine the government. This is an action ­packed, twisty story. Shannon has created a series trifecta: a unique world, complex characters, and pulse­ pounding action. —Candace B. Levy

Orhan’s Inheritance by Aline Ohanesian (Algonquin Books) Past and present collide when Orhan’s grandfather dies and leaves the family house in rural Turkey to an elderly Armenian woman living in a nursing home in California, leading Orhan to discover the connection between them. Ohanesian writes about the Armenian genocide with authority and poetic but brutal honesty. She explores not only the genocide itself but also modern Turkish attitudes toward the same, which adds additional complexity and interest. – Jen Karsbaek

Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer, narrated by Mozhan Marno and Scott Brick (Random House Audio) After hearing about a friend’s sexual assault, Krakauer launched into an investigation of acquaintance rape in America by examining the realities of acquaintance rape in the college town of Missoula, Montana. Krakauer unpacks the psychological complexities of acquaintance rape that make it so difficult for those who are unaffected to comprehend and thus so difficult to prosecute. Marno provides the vast majority of the narration; her delivery is straightforward yet empathetic which makes Missoulaeasy to listen to, despite the difficult and often disturbing subject matter.—Jen Karsbaek

Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran In a time when much historical fiction focuses on the Western world, Michelle Moran has written more books about the East than the West. In Rebel Queen she leaves behind her previous locales of Egypt and France and focuses on India just before the British conquest, telling the story of Queen Lakshmi of Jhansi who raises both a male army and a female army to fight the British. Moran’s writing is at it’s peak and Rebel Queen is an utterly compelling reading experience.—Jennifer Karsbaek


  1. There are so many fantastic books here.

    Posted 1.7.16

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