Aerialists by Mark Mayer ’06 (Bloomsbury)
There’s plenty of intriguing loneliness spread through the nine stories in Mayer’s supple, darkly funny collection. There are also surprising turns in nearly every paragraph. The thread here is that lots of these characters are takes on traditional circus tropes. But instead of a strongman you’ll meet a female bodybuilder who befriends an eleven-year-old boy after his parents have divorced. The ringmaster is an electrical engineer with a vast model railroad and the clown is a real estate agent with an array of knives who imagines how he might kill his clients. A rich, ambitious debut that highlights the weirdness simmering just below the everyday.
A People’s History of Heaven by Mathangi Subramanian ’02 (Algonquin)
“Swarga,” in Sanskrit, is the name of a Bangalore slum, which translates to Heaven. Here in Subramanian’s engaging adult debut, we follow five teenage girls, all longtime friends, as they try to fend off the bulldozers and keep their neighborhood from becoming a shopping center. Subramanian, who also wrote the young adult novel Dear Mrs. Naidu, uses a collective narrator to weave between the stories of Deepa, Banu, Padma, Rukshana, and Joy, as well as those of their mothers. The result is less of a straight- ahead novel and more a vivid constellation as the book illuminates the vast challenges these women face and details a rich portrait of a community determined to save its place.
The Night Before by Wendy Walker ’89 (St. Martin’s Press)
In Walker’s third thriller, Laura Lochner has fled a bad Manhattan break-up to recuperate with her sister Rosie’s family in Connecticut. Laura heads out on a blind date in her sister’s minivan to meet Jonathan Fields, and doesn’t return. Rosie fears the worst and soon discovers that Fields might not be who he seems. The police are called as past secrets about old friendships begin to unfurl. The novel loops through a trio of timelines, starting with snippets of Laura’s therapy sessions before the date, Laura’s account of that night, and Rosie’s next-day attempts to find her. The threads finally converge amid some surprising misdirection. A brisk and twisty read.
The Last Book Party by Karen Dukess ’84 (Henry Holt and Co.)
The Women’s Guide to Overcoming Insomnia: Get a Good Night’s Sleep Without Relying on Medication by Shelby Freedman Harris ’00 (W.W. Norton & Company)
Antidemocracy in America: Truth, Power, and the Republic at Risk by Eric Klinenberg ’93, Caitlin Zaloom ’95, Sharon Marcus ’86 (Columbia University Press)
Holocaust Memories: A Survey of Holocaust Memoirs, Histories, Novels, and Films by Claudia Moscovici ’95 AM, ’97 PhD (Hamilton Books)
How to College: What to Know Before You Go (and When You’re There) by Andrea Malkin Brenner and Lara Hope Schwartz ’93 (St. Martin’s Press)
The Paper Wasp by Lauren Acampora ’97 (Grove Press)
Air Logic by Laurie J. Marks ’80 (Small Beer Press)
Costalegre by Courtney Maum ’01 (Tin House Books)
We Are All Good People Here by Susan Rebecca White ’99 (Aria Books)
Love Drones by Noam Dorr ’09 (Saraband)