Madeline Miller gives vibrant life to ancient Greece and its classical mythology. In a world where people created gods very much in their own image the deities are just as petty, jealous, vindictive and violent as their human worshipers. The tale of Circe and her relationship with Odysseus is viewed from a fresh perspective and puts the ancient hero in a different light. Most of all, the author lends a human touch to the mythological tale, taking it out of the realm of fantasy into one that probes the deeper meaning of existence.
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An unforgettable first line propels this debut novel of two brothers on the Australian frontier who are drawn into a world of conflict and revenge that tests their beliefs and morals to the ultimate degree. The age old conflict between settlers and indigenous people is played out on the southern continent much as it was in the American west and Russian east and the brothers become deeply embroiled. They enter a savage and unforgiving landscape, both physically and culturally, and it becomes the ultimate test of their growth and humanity. This is a work that is as unrelenting as the world it describes and will long linger with the reader.
Michael Farris Smith has inherited the rough south of Larry Brown and created his own rugged terrain. It is a world populated by people with few choices in life, not many of them good. Violence, physical, mental and social, is prevalent and the response to it shapes lives. Jack Boucher is immersed in this world and has to enter it one final time to have his last chance at redemption. This is another spare, powerful, beautifully composed work by a writer who can probe the dark side of the American dream like no other.
What began as an assignment to cover a professional basketball team turned into a piece of pure Americana. Oklahoma City may be the most unique city in the country, beginning with its aberrant origin, yet the various stages it has gone through also reflect the general philosophy and aspirations of much of the nation. Sam Anderson presents an American city in all its glory and failure, making it a metaphor for so much of the national history and experience.
This powerful debut is a novel of terrible beauty. Using evocative prose the author perfectly describes the lush landscape of the Virginia Appalachians while juxtaposing it against a world of primal violence. The caretaker at a private preserve is hiding from a Mexican drug cartel but finds himself drawn back into a life of conflict when he encounters bear poachers. A world of pristine beauty is altered by the intrusion of man made violence and the caretaker has no choice but to be become a part of it himself. The clash of nature and humanity is portrayed brilliantly.
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A horrific plane crash in 1962 took the lives of most of Atlanta's cultural elite, presaging the vast changes that were to occur in the city and society. Hannah Pittard artfully weaves together the stories of a diverse group of people who not only must adjust to the void in their lives but also confront a rising social change that will alter the entire fabric of the city. Once again the author demonstrates her ability to use language succinctly yet exquisitely.
Rome is called the Eternal City and has earned the title through the centuries by enduring numerous threats and invasions, each time rising to further glory. The history of the city is presented through some of those invasions, delineating the changes wrought upon the landscape and culture. From its place as the center of the ancient world through the centuries of being the seat of Christianity and Catholicism to its present incarnation as the capital of Italy Rome is seen in all its glory and also its faults, giving a superb portrait of a city that has done so much to shape Western culture.
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Slavery has never been a simple subject to contemplate and the narrative of the South's "peculiar institution" has always been complex, even more so since the end of the Civil War and the rise of revisionist historians. That narrative is the subject of this new, intense study which is so relevant to today's continued dialogue about a subject that has always divided the country. Using Charleston, the former leading city of slavery and the Confederacy, as a base the authors delineate the perversions of the historical data and place an important perspective which is essential to modern thought and scholarship.
Chris Offutt portrays a landscape both beautiful and rugged that provides the setting for people whose lives are as hard as the terrain. Tucker is a man who is at one with nature but also imbued with violence which he must use to protect his family. His is a world where the only immutable laws are those of nature and the only form justice takes is that of the natural. Offutt writes with precision and evokes a world that will have the reader engrossed from beginning to end.
Dinosaurs ruled the earth for over 150 million years, making them one of the most efficient, accomplished species ever and only a catastrophic event caused their elimination, leading the way to the eventual rise of humans. They still hold a fascination in our collective psyche but the truth about these diverse creatures is more amazing than the legends and Steve Brusatte brings it to the reader with the art of a natural storyteller. And, remember, the next time you watch a bird, you are seeing the culmination of dinosaurs.
Spanning over a century, beginning prior to the Civil War, the lives of people both free and slave centered on a Virginia plantation are intertwined as the must deal with and suffer the consequences of the nation's defining conflict. Written with poetic prose the novel serves as an exposition and indictment of the violence that has shaped and is inherent to American culture. This is a powerful, provocative yet beautiful work that is sure to gather laurels come award season but is also, more importantly, one that will endure. A spectacular achievement.
Tim Samaras may have been the greatest storm chaser but his life was more than just an incredible adventure story. The self taught engineer used his considerable skills and daring to reveal many of the mysteries of one of nature's most powerful forces, tornadoes. Little was actually known about the ferocious storms were generated and sustained but his work developed a greater understanding that helped increase the effectiveness of early warning systems. His story and its effect are as strong as the fierce storms which he pursued relentlessly.
James Lee Burke returns with his most famous character, the tortured but noble Louisiana detective Dave Robicheaux. The past is always present in
Burke's novels and often the only justice attained is that of a rough, natural variety. Some have called him America's best novelist and certainly few can match his lyrical, evocative prose. To classify Mr. Burke in the crime fiction genre is criminal in itself as he is a complete master of the craft and for those who have never read him, be prepared for an unforgettable experience.
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The saga of Billy Gawronski, the young man who continually hid on ships to join Richard Byrd's Antarctic expedition reads like an adventure novel. The reality of his life was beyond the realm of the wildest imagination. This resilient and resourceful man is brought to life against the changing world of the Roaring '20s and his story perfectly reflects the times of a world undergoing vast change. Combining narrative, science and portraits of outsized personalities, the reader is treated to a story that is not only relevant but a total joy as Billy makes his way in the world.
Waiting for Eden is, quite simply, the best novel written this year. If you want to discover the ultimate power of literature, read this incredible work.