Code name Verity by Elizabeth Wein In 1943, a British fighter plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France and the survivor tells a tale of friendship, war, espionage, and great courage as she relates what she must to survive while keeping secret all that she can. Also highly recommended by Nancy Pearl on NPR.
The fault in our stars by John Green Sixteen-year-old Hazel, a stage IV thyroid cancer patient, has accepted her terminal diagnosis until a chance meeting with a cute boy in recovery at cancer support group forces her to reexamine her perspective on love, loss, and life.
The false prince by Jennifer Nielsen In the country of Carthya, a devious nobleman engages four orphans in a brutal competition to the death to be selected to impersonate the king's long-missing son in an effort to avoid a civil war.
Wonder by RJ Palacio Auggie Pullman was born with a facial deformity so severe that it prevented him from going to a mainstream school - until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and is nervous about being the new kid at school. The thing is, Auggie's just an ordinary kid, but with an extraordinary face. Can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances?
Don’t ever get old by Daniel Friedman Death-camp survivor Buck is 87, abrasive, and has trouble remembering. But his cop's watchfulness is intact, and he keeps his .375 Magnum close by. When he learns that the sadistic guard who brutalized him is likely still alive and the possessor of much stolen Nazi gold, Buck and his chatterbox grandson go on a quest. But why are the bodies piling up?
Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking by Susan Cain Why is brash all-roundedness emphasized in college when singular focus serves so well in many jobs and relationships? Relating personal experience and backing it up with case studies, Cain explains how the quietly confident can take over the world – or at least become more content.
Beautiful ruins by Jess Walter In 1962 on a rocky patch of the sun-drenched Italian coastline, a young innkeeper looks out over the incandescent waters and spies a tall, thin woman, a vision in white, approaching him on a boat. And today, half a world away, an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studio's back lot - searching for the mysterious woman he last saw at his hotel decades earlier. Gloriously inventive, constantly surprising, this is a story of flawed yet fascinating people, clinging to their improbable dreams.
Curious behavior: Yawning, laughing, hiccupping, and beyond by Robert Provine Psychologist and neuroscientist Provine looks at 13 curiosities of how humans function, from laughing and yawning to being ticklish and prone to emotional tears. Random oddities? No, each is an evolutionary inheritance. With wit, a light touch, and scientific expertise accessibly delivered, Provine gives us the fascinating backstory on each.
Let’s pretend this never happened by Jenny Lawson A memoir about growing up poor in rural Texas and learning to live with mental illness doesn’t sound like a laugh-out-loud read, but Lawson, known online as The Bloggess, has a way with gallows humor and a knack for providing non-treacly support to anyone struggling with loneliness, anxiety, chronic pain, or depression. Plus, after her stories about life with a taxidermist father, readers will never look at a dead squirrel in the same way.
The snow child by Eowyn Ivey In this evocative retelling of a Russian folktale set in 1920 Alaska, a childless couple distract themselves their first winter by building a snow girl. The snow girl and the scarf are gone the next morning, but Jack spies a real child in the woods. Is she indeed a "snow fairy," magicked out of the cold? Or is she a wild child who knows better than anyone how to survive in the rugged north?
Billy Lynn’s long halftime walk by Ben Fountain A member of Bravo squad, whose fiercely fought battle in Iraq was caught on tape by an embedded Fox News crew, Billy Lynn is on a victory tour of sorts with the survivors. In a compacted but unrushed time frame, Fountain effectively captures both the transformative experiences of one young man and the horrific impact of war. As he ponders life choices, Billy makes a surprising decision.
NW by Zadie Smith Relating the story of four people in North West London, Smith articulates important issues of race and class, but what matters most is her distinctive narrative voice. In numbered, run-on chapters that occasionally turn to aphorism, memo and even poetry, Smith shows us how to write for the 21st century, when the online environment has changed our way of thinking, that makes other books sound ordinary.
The song of Achilles by Madeline Miller Patroclus is an awkward, exiled young prince; golden Achilles is the much-admired son of a sea goddess. In telling the story of their intense friendship and love, debut novelist Miller brings Homer’s ancient Greece to glorious life and offers a masterly vision of the valor, drama, and tragedy of the Trojan War. This won the 2012 Orange Prize for fiction.