"Our Souls at Night," by Kent Haruf
Within the first three pages of this gripping and tender novel, Addie Moore, a 70-year-old widow, invites her neighbor, Louis Waters, to sleep over. “No, not sex,” she clarifies. “I’m talking about getting through the night. And lying warm in bed, companionably.” Although Louis is taken off guard, the urgency of Addie’s loneliness does not come across as desperate, and her logic will soon persuade him. She reasons that they’re both alone (Louis’s wife has also been dead for a number of years) and that, simply, “nights are the worst.” What follows is a sweet love story, a deep friendship, and a delightful revival of a life neither of them was expecting, all against the backdrop of a gossiping (and at times disapproving) small town. When Addie’s six-year-old grandson arrives for the summer, Addie and Louis’s relationship is tested but ultimately strengthened. Addie’s adult son’s judgment, however, is not so easily overcome. In this book, Haruf, who died in 2014, returns to the landscape and daily life of Holt County, Colo., where his previous novels (“Plainsong,” “Eventide,” “The Tie That Binds”) have also been set, this time with a stunning sense of all that’s passed and the precious importance of the days that remain.
— Publishers Weekly
“The Tenth Muse: A Novel," by Catherine Chung
Chung’s impressive, poignant second novel (after “Forgotten Country”) explores the intersections of intellectual and familial legacies. Nearing the end of her life but still on the verge of solving the elusive Riemann hypothesis, Katherine is a noted mathematician who did her graduate work in the mid-20th century, at a time when women scholars were still a rarity. As Katherine recounts the highs and lows of her academic and romantic pursuits, she reflects on the various discoveries she’s pursued—both in her field of study and into her family history—inquiries that became inextricable while Katherine was pursuing her doctorate at MIT and learning revelations about her parentage following her father’s heart attack. Having grown up believing herself the daughter of a white father and a Chinese mother, Katherine is stunned to learn the truth of her family history. The stories of betrayal and sacrifice also end up informing her professional work in surprising ways through a storyline involving stolen math proofs. Chung persuasively interweaves myths and legends with the real-world stories of lesser-known women mathematicians and of WWII on both the European and Asian fronts. The legacy that Katherine inherits may defy the kinds of elegant proofs to which mathematicians aspire, but Chung’s novel boldly illustrates that truth and beauty can reside even amid the messiest solutions.
— Publishers Weekly
"Think Black: A Memoir," by Clyde W. Ford
In this powerful memoir, Ford (“Whiskey Gulf”) tells the story of his father’s tenure as IBM’s first black systems engineer. Though he was recruited in 1947 by the company’s founder, Thomas J. Watson Sr., John Stanley Ford endured 25 years of racism from his white coworkers, who repeatedly tried to get him fired. “Like Robinson, my father had also stepped into a role elevating him as a symbol much larger than his individual self,” Ford writes. Writing with a potent sense of outrage, Ford portrays his father as more conciliatory than he would have been when he himself was hired by IBM in 1971 and brought with him an African nationalist pride. Throughout, Ford details IBM’s racist history supporting both the Nazis and apartheid, and how his father, in his stoicism, fought back against the company’s racism (he obtained a document that contained answers to questions on IBM’s entry exam and gave it to black applicants). Ford came to see his father as a fighter who made his life as a black man better. “Whenever I hear the blips and beeps, the whines and whirs of a computer,” Ford writes, “I recall what I learned from my father about these machines, about being a man who’s Black, and about being first.” Ford’s thought-provoking narrative tells the story of African-American pride and perseverance.
— Publishers Weekly
"The Ravenmaster: My Life with the Ravens at the Tower of London," by Christopher Skaife
Author and narrator Christopher Skaife is a Yeoman Warder, otherwise known as a Beefeater, at the Tower of London. Those titles might sound a bit formal or even posh, but Skaife is definitely not either. His natural storyteller's charm results in a performance that is conversational, funny, and self-deprecating. Skaife describes his raven charges with obvious affection. He has most closely bonded with Merlina, and he demonstrates their conversations in "ravenish"--a definite benefit to being a listener. As Skaife outlines his responsibilities as ravenmaster, he blends in ornithological anecdotes about ravens, his former military service (a required qualification for the job), and experiences of living in the tower. Skaife even saw a ghost once, although he prefers to call them "echoes of the past." RAVENMASTER is a joyful listening experience.
"The Music Shop: A Novel," by Rachel Joyce (fiction)
"Confessions of an Innocent Man: A Novel," by David R. Dow (fiction)
“I Can Only Imagine: A Memoir," by Bart Millard with Robert Noland (nonfiction)
"The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep is Broken and How to Fix It," by W. Chris Winter (nonfiction)