Annie Bloom's Staff Picks

By Annie Bloom's Books

By Annie Bloom's Books

These are some of the books currently on our Staff Favorites table.

The Authenticity Project

Clare Pooley

$26.00 $23.40

"Everyone lies about their lives. What would happen if you shared the truth instead?" Julian Jessop, age 79—or is that really his age?—is lonely. He writes his story in an exercise book and purposely leaves it behind in a café. The owner picks it up, reads it, and decides to add her own story and leave it in a neighboring wine bar for someone else to find. The book passes through several hands and several life stories before coming full circle. Interesting premise. One thing leads to another in most unexpected ways. While this story is not a serious psychological study, I found myself thinking philosophically. What is a lie? The absence of truth? Partial truth? White lie? Lies you tell yourself? Tell others? This is a fun and satisfying read. Each character is unique. All have different lifestyles and stories to tell. The reader is kept wondering where the exercise book will land next. But one thing is certain. By being authentic and taking a chance, you just never know where life will lead you, often in most surprising and satisfying ways. — Sandy

Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan

Ruby Lal

$19.95 $18.35

This biography of a fascinating woman also offers a great introduction to the early history of the Mughal Empire. Nur Jahan became the consort of the Mughal ruler Jahangir (father of the Shah Jahan who commissioned the Taj Mahal) and rose to power in her own right. Lal traces the various legends and stories that surround Nur Jahan’s life while also detailing the the intricacies of the Mughal court and its neighbors. While not a household name here, Nur Jahan has her share of pop-culture references—including being the namesake of the main character in Tasha Suri’s Mughal-inspired fantasy novel Empire of Sand. If you’re looking for a good history to sink your teeth into, Empress is inviting and satisfying! — Ruby

The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming

David Wallace-Wells

$18.00 $16.56

The Lightness

Emily Temple

$26.99 $24.29

The Lightness is the debut novel from the editor of Literary Hub. Not only does she recognize good writing, but Temple also writes beautifully, herself. I enjoyed this book for its attention to detail as much as for its story, about a teenage girl, Olivia, who signs herself up for a meditation retreat that is effectively a summer camp for troubled teen girls. Yes, Olivia is troubled: by the disappearance of her Buddhist father at that same retreat center and by the atrocious behavior of her mother. While looking for clues to her father's whereabouts, Olivia falls in with an outsider clique of girls who seek the key to achieving levitation. It's a dangerous game these girls are playing, involving a nighttime precipice, bloodletting, starvation, seduction, and lies. Temple explores all of these themes with fresh and effervescent prose, bringing her characters fully alive. A wonderful novel. — Michael

Deep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country

Pam Houston

$15.95 $14.67

Deep Creek by Pam Houston is, as two reviewers have declared, "a love letter to the earth" and those who inhabit it. It is an account of the beauty and brutality of living on a ranch in the high Colorado Rockies. The subtitle is a mild comment on the full freshness, warmth and humor it brings. — Bobby

Women Talking

Miriam Toews

$16.00 $14.72

How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States

Daniel Immerwahr

$20.00 $18.00

Many Americans choose to believe the myth that the U.S. is a nation-state that is merely defending itself in far-off lands. Immerwahl destroys these illusions in his biting and comprehensive history of America in various stages of Empire. The land grabs and forced removals of the indigenous people "domestically" in the 19th Century expanded to the brutal colonization abroad of the Philippines and Puerto Rico with dire circumstances for the natives. A fascinating and lesser known period of resource extraction from the "guano islands" of the Pacific and Caribbean for fertilizer led to the eventual strategic conversion of some of the islands to military functions and listening posts. The next phase of imperialism culminated in statehood for Alaska and Hawaii. Now, of course, the U.S. occupies over 800 military bases in 80 countries, a troubling situation unique to the world. This brief review merely skims the surface of this wildly readable, fact-filled history where the colonized were "shot, shelled, starved, interned, dispossessed, tortured and experimented on" and has details that most of us don't know and that will surprise many. — Will

Little Fires Everywhere

Celeste Ng

$17.00 $15.64

Writers & Lovers

Lily King

$27.00 $24.30

Casey has been working on her first novel for six years. She gets up early and writes every day even though her grief over the recent death of her mother nearly consumes her. At the same time, she is suffering from a crushing amount of student debt, a heartbreaking break up, the indignities of being a server at an upscale restaurant, and her depressing living situation in a rental that used to be a potting shed with a toaster oven and a hotplate on a shelf over the toilet. Things couldn’t get much worse. Then they do. Your heart will go out to Casey as she struggles to become a published writer. This girl has heart and you will want to be there to see her through. — Carol

The Vanishing Man: A Charles Lenox Mystery

Charles Finch

$17.99 $16.55

What better way to banish the political woes than to drop yourself into a Victorian mystery novel? Finch has written a number of great stories about Charles Lenox, an amateur detective in the 1850s who drives Scotland Yard crazy by solving complicated problems. The first in the series was published in 2007 and they are delightful. This particular new mystery is the second prequel and takes us back to Lenox's first cases and sets you up for more. If you haven't tried them, start with this. Lenox has a neighbor, Lady Jane, who.....well, I won't spoil it. Lenox takes on a case of a missing painting, a vanished duke, and a shocking murder. He is helped by Graham, his valet, servant, devious assistant, and friend. Finch has a wonderful eye for period detail, which makes it all great fun to read. As Louise Penny says, "Bravo Mr. Finch, and keep them coming." — Edie

The River

Peter Heller

$16.00 $14.72

Late in the Day

Tessa Hadley

$16.99 $15.63

As usual, spending time with Tessa Hadley's characters is as comfortable as meeting with old friends. Her latest novel is no exception in showcasing her skill as a master of domestic fiction--giving rich complexity to the ties that bind people, especially marriage and friendship. Late in the Day opens with three close-knit friends grieving the untimely death of one of their group of four, and the remaining novel is a testament to how things change and yet also remain the same. Fans of Tessa Hadley will not be disappointed. — Erin

The New Iberia Blues: A Dave Robicheaux Novel

James Lee Burke

$16.99 $15.63

Gingerbread

Helen Oyeyemi

$17.00 $15.64

Hurricane Season

Fernanda Melchor

$22.95 $20.66

Mexican author Fernanda Melchor arrives on U.S. shores like the titular storm of her novel, her first to be translated into English. Her writing is torrential, her sprawling paragraphs equally beautiful and profane. The rotating cast of narrators in Hurricane Season all live in the same small, run-down town. They are brothel madams and strung-out junkies, big dreamers and colossal losers, mothers and husbands and girlfriends and sons. All of their fragile lives are connected by the Witch, who is equally renown for her promiscuity as for her potions. And everyone knows––or thinks they know––about the treasure locked away in the Witch's decrepit house. For Melchor's hard-luck characters, that temptation proves too strong to resist. Just like the visceral and heartbreaking Hurricane Season, itself. — Michael

Lost Children Archive

Valeria Luiselli

$16.95 $15.59

The Royal Abduls

Ramiza Shamoun Koya

$16.95 $15.59

Koya's The Royal Abduls is a powerful novel. In the wake of 9/11 and the fracturing of a serious relationship, Amina moves back East to be closer to her family. I was swept up by Amina's independent spirit and her nephew Omar's struggles to connect with family and friends. The friction between isolation and community that Koya presents so realistically in every character left me both hurt and hopeful. This book would be the perfect choice for any book clubs looking for a hearty discussion! — Ruby

Washington Black

Esi Edugyan

$16.95 $15.59

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill

Abbi Waxman

$16.00 $14.72

In these days of trying times, political unrest, uncertainty on many fronts, it's good to just take a step back and find some joy somewhere, anywhere. Reading Abbi Waxman's novel is a good start. From the first page to the last, this is a book that will keep the reader giggling, chuckling and even laughing out loud over an unexpected phrase or incident or reference. Nina Hill works in an independent bookstore. She is young, introverted, shy and highly intelligent. She lives alone in a small guardhouse with her books and a cat. Life is good. Suddenly she is thrown for a loop when she meets a guy she actually might like. In addition, she discovers a father she never knew she had (recently deceased) and a whole passel of relatives thinking she should definitely not be in his will. If you dislike trivia, literary references, non sequiturs, movie quotes or anything of that nature, this is not the book for you. But for those book lovers among us, this novel is made to order. It's witty, charming, fun, highly entertaining, and I cannot praise it enough. — Sandy

Freefall

Jessica Barry

$16.99 $15.63

This is not your typical mother-daughter story. Maggie and her daughter Allison have been estranged for two years. Allison left her childhood home in Maine upon the death of her father, and Maggie had not heard a word of her until the news came that Allison had been one of two people to have crashed in a private plane in the Rockies. Allison's body had not been recovered. Why not? Maggie works from her end to try to learn the details of Allison's life once she left home. Allison, on her part, did survive the crash but now needs to survive long enough to reach her mother before Maggie uncovers secrets that will get an attempt made on her life as well. The story builds to a race-against-time tense conclusion. Jessica Barry is the pseudonym for an American author now working in publishing. Whoever she is, she is talented and writes gripping novels. — Sandy

Lights All Night Long

Lydia Fitzpatrick

$17.00 $15.64

In this wonderful and heartbreaking novel, fifteen-year-old Ilya is the best student in the small industrial town in remote Russia where he lives with his mother, his babushka, and his charismatic older brother, Vladimir. Ilya has won a scholarship to study abroad in America; a happy event that coincides with Vladimir being jailed for murder. We follow Ilya as he adjusts to living with a big Christian family in the rural Southern U.S., while also attempting to prove his brother's innocence from afar. In alternating chapters, we see Ilya's life during the year or so leading up to his departure, as Vladimir grows increasingly reckless and distant. Fitzpatrick creates vivid and believable characters, writes palpably of both remote Russia and the American South, and is masterful at slowly building tension throughout the novel. Beautiful, sad, powerful, sweet, and evocative, Lights All Night Long is storytelling at its finest. — Michael

Horizon

Barry Lopez

$17.00 $15.64

Exhalation: Stories

Ted Chiang

$25.95 $23.36

Ellie and the Harpmaker

Hazel Prior

$26.00 $23.40

Ellie Jacobs takes a walk near her home in the Exmoor countryside one day. While her husband, Clive, is a domineering lout, Ellie tries to create a peaceful life for herself by writing poetry and walking in the woods. On this day, however, Ellie comes across a barn that has been converted into a harpmaker's studio. Dan Hollis, the harpmaker, isn't like anyone she has ever met. He's a quiet loner, spectacularly awkward yet incredibly handsome. When Dan impulsively gives Ellie one of his harps, Clive demands that Ellie return it. Dan takes it back but suggests that Ellie could visit her harp whenever she wants. Dan then introduces Ellie to his erstwhile girlfriend, Rhonda, a professional harpist, who agrees to give her lessons. When Ellie discovers a secret about Rhonda, that revelation changes Dan's quiet world forever. You will find yourself yearning for this odd pair's happiness. — Carol

The Paragon Hotel

Lyndsay Faye

$17.00 $15.64

The Library Book

Susan Orlean

$16.99 $15.63

Night Boat to Tangier

Kevin Barry

$25.95 $23.36

The Far Field

Madhuri Vijay

$17.00 $15.64

In this gorgeously written debut novel, Shalini is a young woman living in upper class Bangalore when her mother--a complicated figure in her life--dies. Adrift in her grief, Shalini travels north to Kashmir to try to find Bashir Ahmed, a charming traveling salesman who frequently visited their home when Shalini was a girl, spinning tales and winning her mother's heart. Shalini is, however, terribly naive about the complicated interplay of religion, class, and militancy at play in the region of Kashmir that she visits. When she finally tracks down Bashir Ahmed's family in a small mountainous village, her presence disrupts the delicate balance of their lives, with grave consequences. Seen through the intimate lens of Shalini's interpersonal interactions, The Far Field is a bittersweet examination of privilege and selfishness, of longing and sorrow, of awakening to the world as it truly is. — Michael

The Topeka School

Ben Lerner

$27.00 $24.30

Big Bang

David Bowman

$21.99 $19.79

The Starless Sea

Erin Morgenstern

$28.95 $26.06

Killing Commendatore

Haruki Murakami

$17.00 $15.64

Civilized to Death: The Price of Progress

Christopher Ryan

$28.00 $25.20

Have you ever wondered about the idea of progress, about whether life is better today than it was a generation ago, or fifty generations ago, or five hundred generations ago? Christopher Ryan explores these themes in depth. Civilized to Death challenges the Narrative of Perpetual Progress (NPP) in its many iterations. The civilized define themselves over and against the non-civilized, even giving the word "civilized" entirely positive denotative and connotative powers. "It would be hard to overstate how much the dual demonization of the natural world and of human nature have shaped the modern sensibility. Politics, economics, foreign policy, criminal justice, our beliefs about the nobility of work, questions of how and whom we love, how we choose to give birth and opt to die--virtually everything we think and do rests on the conviction that the untamed and uncivilized are dangerous, merciless, evil and 'other.'" Ryan also gives examples of how civilization's cheerleaders ignore its many detriments: "the greatest bait-and-switch that ever was...as it convinces us to destroy the free things we need so an overpriced inferior copy can be sold to us later--often financed with the money we've earned hastening the destruction of the free version." Exploring pro-civilization thinkers such as Hobbes, Malthus, and Dawkins, Ryan carefully debunks some of their major claims. Especially given the devastation to the world's ecologies and the accelerating damaging effects of climate change, questioning the Narrative of Perpetual Progress that civilization preaches is highly necessary. With a blend of anthropology, psychology, history, and storytelling, this book gives us an engaging and evocative read. — Matt

The Weight of a Piano

Chris Cander

$16.00 $14.72

An upright Bluthner piano is the only surviving relic 26-yr-old Clara has from her childhood home, which was destroyed by fire, killing both of her parents. Katya, a young Russian pianist, reluctantly emigrates to the United States in the 1960s with her disillusioned husband and loses her beloved Bluthner in the move. While Clara has never learned to play, she doggedly moves her piano from place to place and relationship to relationship. When her hand is crushed during the latest move, she impulsively puts the piano up for sale online where it’s immediately snatched up by an eager young photographer who has his own fierce attachment to the Bluthner. As Katya and Clara's stories intertwine, one can feel not only the physical weight of the piano but the crushing weight of sorrow and disappointment both women feel as they each come to terms with their loss. — Carol

Upstream: Selected Essays

Mary Oliver

$17.00 $15.64

Abigail

Magda Szabo

$16.95 $15.59

Gina Vitay, the fourteen-year-old daughter of a high ranking Hungarian general finds her bright life of luxury suddenly dimmed when she is sent away to the Matula, an onerous boarding school in the country renowned for strict governance. As the world outside erupts with the tensions of WWII, life inside the heavy cement fortress of the Matula is filled with eccentric students and teachers and a mystery that fills the reader with a sense of deep intrigue. It's no wonder Abigail is Szabo's most famous novel in her native Hungary. Readers who enjoyed The Door will not be disappointed. — Erin

Melmoth

Sarah Perry

$16.99 $15.63

If you are looking for a good contemporary novel with a touch of Gothic horror, then this book is for you. As in her first novel, The Essex Serpent, Perry's tale revolves around an old legend which seemingly comes to life. Helen's life is forever changed at a coffee shop in Prague, when her friend Karel hands her a mysterious bundle of papers. She is distressed to find him in a state of disarray and fear, but it is unclear why. He points to the papers as explanation. They contain his research: accounts of encounters with Melmoth, the Witness. Legend has it that Melmoth was condemned to wander the earth eternally and bear witness to mankind's worst atrocities. Sometimes she appears as a woman shrouded in flowing black cloth, or a shadow one catches out of the side of one's eye, or the feeling that one is being watched, or even just a prickling at the back of the neck. Helen soon begins to suspect that she is being stalked… either by Melmoth or perhaps by her own guilt. While enjoying Perry's masterful storytelling, I found myself contemplating the nature of one's conscience, and at times even wondered if Melmoth was watching me! — Sharon

Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World

Anand Giridharadas

$16.00 $14.72

This is a wonderfully unrelenting critique of the myopic do-gooding of the moneyed elite. The ruthless business practices of "winners"—think financiers, Silicon Valley CEOs, globalizers—cause and perpetuate inequality. These same winners then try to change the world for the better with their ill-begotten wealth by employing the same market-based strategies that caused the inequality in the first place, while "keeping the social order largely as is." Giridharadas shows how this tack fails by interviewing thought leaders, a former president, entrepreneurs and others and by chronicling their incestuous meetings. He also details how this "philanthropy" undermines democracy by allowing anti-government elites to dictate which problems are addressed and the form of the solutions on an extra-governmental level. Threaded through the book is a documentation of the elite corruption of the intellectual public sphere and, quite often, words themselves. Fascinating and infuriating, Winners Take All provides another perspective on the corrosive effects of gross economic inequality. — Andy

The Secrets Between Us

Thrity Umrigar

$16.99 $15.63

Bhima, servant for many years to the upper class Dubush family, has been fired from her job. It was sudden and uncalled for (see The Space Between Us). Now, Bhima, who lives in abject poverty in the Mumbai slums, must find a way to support herself and her granddaughter, Maya. She forms a shaky partnership with the bitter woman Pavati (who has been selling 5 cauliflowers a day) to sell fruit and vegetables at the local market. They bond after many setbacks, learning about each other's lives and the wounds they have endured. It is a moving story of the of strength and respect that grows between two illiterate and desperately poor women who learn how to stand on their own and survive. This sequel by Umvigar evokes the world of modern day India so well and the dignity and richness of their friendship is a pleasure to experience. — Edie

Once Upon a River

Diane Setterfield

$17.00 $15.64

The story begins at a tavern by the Thames where a young girl has been pulled out of the river, almost dead. All those who meet her are drawn to her, and some even lay claim to her. But who is she really? Captivating and haunting from the start this intricate story does not disappoint! If you are a fan of Setterfield's "The Thirteenth Tale" you should no doubt enjoy this one too. — Sharon

News of the World

Paulette Jiles

$15.99 $14.71

The Great Believers

Rebecca Makkai

$16.00 $14.72

Makkai's lovely third novel, The Great Believers, is about two close friends, their stories told 30 years apart. In 1985, Yale Tishman is an art gallery development director and a proudly monogamous resident of Boystown, a largely gay neighborhood of Chicago. On the verge of acquiring a set of rare sketches, Yale discovers that his partner is HIV-positive, sending his life into a tailspin. In 2015, Fiona flies to Paris in search of her estranged adult daughter, Claire, who disappeared into a cult years before. Can Fiona ever repair their broken trust? Makkai has woven a rich tapestry of interconnected lives. These characters are so very real, you'll find yourself bereft at the conclusion of this beautiful and bittersweet novel. — Michael

The Widows of Malabar Hill

Sujata Massey

$15.95 $14.67

The Woman in the Window

A. J. Finn

$16.99 $15.63

It isn’t paranoia if it’s really happening…. There have been numerous psychological thrillers written of late, and I would list this title among the best. A child psychologist suffering from agoraphobia, living alone and spying on her neighbors—this sounds promising. She believes she saw a crime committed in a house across the park, but no one will believe her. Why? She’s an alcoholic who likes to mix her numerous prescriptions with daily bottles of merlot. She watches old black and white movies of the film noir genre and Hitchcockian thrillers. Do her delusions stem from these? This debut novel is filled with tragedy, sudden revelations, suspense¸ not to mention many literary references and even a cat. What more could you wish for? — Sandy

The Essex Serpent

Sarah Perry

$16.99 $15.63

No Time to Spare: Thinking about What Matters

Ursula K. Le Guin

$22.00 $19.80