Readerly Top Picks In Paperbacks – February 2016

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

Frog Music by Emma Donoghue (Back Bay Books) Set in 1870s San Francisco, a French burlesque dancer and courtesan struggles to stay alive after the murder of her unorthodox friend.  The dark world of dandies, pimps, and prostitutes is made vibrant and real by Donoghue’s electric prose.  Written in the present tense, the story races from both the dramatic plot – a smallpox epidemic, a crippling heat wave, baby farms – and the messy world inhabited by the main characters.

Melt: The art of Macaroni and Cheese by Stephanie Stiavetti, Garrett McCord, Michael Ruhlman (Little, Brown, and Company) Think beyond school ­cafeteria mac and cheese to discover the modern, bright flavors of today’s cheese and pasta dishes. The easy recipes run the gamut from an updated baked ziti to a light pasta salad with goat cheese and grilled peaches. With its world of flavors and casual feel, Melt is destined to become your go ­to cookbook for relaxed entertaining.

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust by Alan Bradley (Bantam) Fans of Flavia de Luce rejoice! The young sleuth is back after uncovering a crucial family secret. As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust finds Flavia forced out on her own ­ to Canada, and her new school, where she discovers a body stuffed up the chimney. But bigger still is the mystery of who she can trust, and watching Flavia come into her own makes this one of the best books yet.

The Mapmaker’s Children by Sarah McCoy (Broadway Books) 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.

I Am Sorry to Think I Have Raised a Timid Son by Kent Russell (Vintage) Russell’s prose is simplistic and approachable, with moments of lyricism. He fluctuates between existential analysis and dry humor and back again, often on the same page. What proves most refreshing, though, is Russell’s choice to not overtly put all his cards on the table; he never gives the compilation a concrete definition. If taken as merely a collection of essays one may find I Am Sorry to Think That I Have Raised a Timid Son not altogether cohesive. Think of it more as a sort of journalistic memoir and you’ll find Russell’s musings profound, naked, and moving.

Epitaph by Mary Doria Russell (Ecco) Mary Doria Russell brings to life the dusty heat of Tombstone, Arizona in Epitaph, her novel of the O.K. Corral. Though you likely know the story of the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday, you’ve never heard it like this. America in 1881 was a country divided by the outcome of civil war. Politics were dirty, and the media was dirtier, but the Earp brothers stood against that corruption. They didn’t escape unscathed, and the aftermath of the shootout and the story of these men and the women they loved is enthralling.

The Village by Nikita Lalwani (Random House Trade Books) In The Village, Nikita Lalwani evokes the richness of contemporary India and introduces readers to a unique prison setting through the use of precise language. It’s a fascinating examination of the difference between reality and the narrative we choose to present to the world.