Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland's History-Making Race Around the World by Matthew Goodman (Ballantine Books, $28.00)
I mostly read fiction, but I absolutely loved Goodman's previous book, The Sun and the Moon: The Remarkable True Account of Hoaxers, Showman, Dueling Journalists, and Lunar Man-Bats in Nineteenth Century New York. Goodman has a remarkable and rare talent for both meticulous research -- as he told us when he read here recently, every single detail is true! -- and also fine, novelistic story-telling. Eighty Days promises to be a true story about a remarkable and daring young female journalist that reads like fiction. What could be bad? It's also getting fabulous reviews and is a New York Times National Best Seller.
Life After Life by Jill McCorkle (Algonquin Books, $24.95)
Not to be confused with the other Life After Life by Kate Atkins, which also looks terrific, this novel is the story of a group of residents, staff and neighbors of a retirement center whose relationships and lives "illuminate the possibilities of second chances, hope and rediscovering life right up to the very end" (from the flap copy). As a middle-aged woman launching into a new adventure as a fiction writer, I love stories like this!
The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud (Knopf, $25.95)
This just came in and is on the Indie Bestsellers List. From the flap copy: "Told with urgency, intimacy and piercing emotion, this brilliant novel of passion and artistic fulfillment explores the intensity, thrill -- and the devastating cost -- of embracing an authentic life." OK, so maybe I would prefer to skip the "devastating cost," but the rest sounds right up my alley!
Benediction by Kent Haruf (Knopf, $25.95)
I've lived in Philadelphia for over twenty years, but I'm from a small Midwestern town, and I often write about small towns, people of faith, and the intimate lives of ordinary folks. This novel is set in the West, not the Midwest, but the rest of it rings familiar to me. I also loved Haruf's other novels, Plainsong and Eventide.
Are You my Mother? A Comic Drama by Alison Bechdel (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $15.95)
My wife Julie and I often joke that we've become such middle-aged moms that any minute now we're going to have our lesbian cards revoked! The fact that I have never once read anything by Alison Bechdel is just further evidence that the time is nigh. But our ten-year-old son Micah (yes, another staff child named Micah!) has lately introduced me to the wonders of graphic novels, and I figure this is a terrific place to start on my own grown-up journey into the genre.
Marta Rose, June 2013