All The Light We Cannot See - Anthony Doerr
With brisk chapters and sumptuous language, Doerr’s novel follows two characters whose paths will intersect in the waning days of World War II: an orphaned engineering prodigy recruited into the Nazi ranks, and a blind French girl who joins the Resistance. Tackling questions of survival, endurance and moral obligations during wartime, the book is precise and artful and ingenious.

Dept. Of Speculation - Jenny Offill
Offill’s slender and cannily paced novel assembles fragments, observations and different points of view to chart the course of a troubled marriage. Wry and devastating in equal measure, the novel is a cracked mirror that throws light in every direction — on music & literature; science & philosophy; marriage & motherhood & infidelity; and
love & the gruelling rigours of domestic life. 

Euphoria – Lily King
In 1933, anthropologist Margaret Mead took a field trip to the Sepik river in New Guinea with her second husband; they met the man who would become her third. King has taken the known details of that actual event and created this novel about the rewards and disappointments of intellectual ambition & physical desire. The result is a smart sensual tale told with a suitable mix of precision and heat.

Family Life - Akhil Sharma
Sharma’s austere but moving novel tells the semi-autobiographical story of a family that immigrates from India to Queens, and has just begun to build a new life when the elder son suffers severe brain damage in a swimming pool accident. Deeply unnerving and gorgeously tender, the book chronicles how grief renders the parents unable to cherish and raise their other son.

Redeployment - Phil Klay
In this brilliant debut story collection, Klay, a former
Marine who served in Iraq, shows what happens when young, heavily armed Americans collide with a fractured and deeply foreign country few of them even remotely understand.The collection is hilarious, biting, whipsawing and sad: the best thing written so far on what the war did to people’s souls.

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? Roz Chast
Cartoons, it turns out, are tailor-made for the absurdities of old age, illness and dementia. In Chast’s devastating and sublime graphic memoir, the odd dramas and repetitive minutiae find perfect expression in her signature antic drawings as she describes helping her parents navigate their final years.

On Immunity: An Inoculation - Eula Biss
In this blend of memoir, science journalism and literary criticism, Biss unpacks what the fear of vaccines tells us about larger anxieties involving purity, contamination and interdependency. Deeply researched and anchored in Biss’s own experiences as a new mother, this intelligent book is itself an inoculation against bad science and superstition, and a reminder that we owe one another our lives.

Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life - Hermione Lee
The life and times of that elusive, original miracle worker, the English novelist and biographer Penelope Fitzgerald, have been brilliantly captured by Lee. Growing up steeped in literature but sidetracked by the vicissitudes of life, Fitzgerald published her first book at 58 and did not become famous until she was 80.

The Sixth Extinction - Elizabeth Kolbert
Kolbert reports from the front lines of the violent collision between civilisation and our planet’s ecosystem in this book. Travelling to some of the world’s remotest corners, she examines how man-made climate change threatens to eliminate 20 to 50 per cent of all living species on earth within this century. This is environmental writing at its most rigorous, and as riveting as any thriller.

Thirteen Days in September - Lawrence Wright
In 1978, over 13 days at Camp David, Anwar Sadat, Menachem Begin and Jimmy Carter hammered out a peace agreement between Israel and Egypt that remains the most profound diplomatic achievement to emerge from the Mideast conflict. Wright combines history, politics and drama in this fascinating account of the talks.

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