Such an easy category to define: Award Winners! It could be any award, in any year, in any format, or in any age range, all the book needs is to have won some sort of prize by a recognized organization. Really this includes an almost endless array of possibilities: Hugo Awards, Edgar Award, RITA, Macavity, Nobel Prize in Literature, Newbery, Alex, Caldecott and -of course- Notable Books for Adults, just as a few places to consider starting your own search.
Megan: The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker is an international bestselling mystery and the recipient of two French literature awards. Marcus Goldman is a young novelist suffering from a severe case of writer’s block. He seeks solace and inspiration at the isolated beach house of his friend and mentor, renowned author Harry Quebert. His plans for a second novel are derailed when the sleepy town of Somerset is rocked by the discovery of the body of 15-year old Nola Kellergan, a girl who disappeared in 1975. Even more disturbing is the fact that Harry, who had an affair with the girl, is implicated in her murder. Marcus’s publisher is clamoring for the inside scoop, but Marcus is only interested in clearing Harry’s name. To that end, he sets about writing his book, The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair and in the process learns what really happened to Nola Kellergan. This book about a book is full of multiple timelines, plenty of suspects, and red herrings on every page. Readers will find themselves engrossed in the small town secrets, the suspicious locals and their contradicting stories.
Carol: In Homeless Bird, Gloria Whelan’s 2000 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature winner, Koly is a 13-year-old Indian girl whose arranged marriage to a sickly boy leaves her a young widow. Facing a lifetime of servitude in her in-law’s home, Koly thinks that her chances at happiness are over until quite unexpectedly, she finds herself in the Indian holy city of Vrindavan. There on her own, Koly must rely on the sewing and embroidery skills she learned from her own mother to eke out a living. This is moving young adult novel that blends modern culture with ages-old Indian traditions and makes for a compelling and inspirational read.
Emma: There had been warnings before, and the dam always held. Sadly on May 31, 1889, 2,209 people died when an immense rainstorm forced a neglected dam near Johnstown, Pennsylvania to break away. This is the story of before, during, and after the flood. It’s an amazing tale of an awful tragedy never to be forgotten. David G. McCullough, author of The Johnstown Flood, received the Outstanding Achievement Award for his role in preserving Johnstown history by The Johnstown Area Heritage Association.
Chris: Toms River by journalist and professor Dan Fagin won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize and the 2014 NY Public Library Helen Bernstein Book Award and we still have five months to go. What happens when the CIBA chemical company moves into the quiet New Jersey community of Toms River in 1960 and begins pumping its wastewater onto the land and dumping its waste product into its makeshift landfill? One of the largest residential cancer cluster cases in history. Sure there was that initial rise in employment and a big boost to the local the economy, but after numerous deaths and horrific tragedies, the community rises up against the company and all the politicians who supported it and succeeds in closing down the company, embarrassing those politicians, and getting the wells cleaned and regularly checked. This is a story about real people, corporate greed, and concerned citizens. Toms River is well-researched non-fiction that reads like a novel with a cast of characters you’ll love or hate and surprises you like a mystery with its fascinating twists and turns.
Steve: Heart of a Tiger: Growing Up with My Grandfather, Ty Cobb, by Herschel Cobb, is the story of Herschel and his grandfather and their relationship that blossomed during Ty’s retirement and after the death of Ty’s two adult sons, who he never fully reconciled with. Young Herschel and his siblings were the brunt of horrible abuses by their bullying father and alcoholic mother, and grandfather Ty was the welcome comfort in their lives. Herschel offers another side to the often vilified Ty Cobb, as we witness Cobb showering affection on the grandchildren and him helping struggling ex-ballplayers who didn’t have the great fortunes that he amassed.
Ann: Doctor Sleep by Stephen King won the 2013 Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel. It continues the story of Danny Torrance, the young boy from The Shining, who is now an adult with lots of problems in his life. Dan still has “the shining,” the ability to know things, sometimes of the future, but the special gift hasn’t always served him well. He’s drifted through life relying on alcohol and often resorting to violence. When he gets off a bus in the small town of Frazier, New Hampshire, something there feels like home. He settles in, taking a job at a hospice, where with his special “shining,” aided by an all-knowing cat called Azzie, he is able to provide comfort to those patients at the end of life. The staff calls him Doctor Sleep. Little does Dan Torrance know that soon he and his special abilities will be called upon to help a young girl with powers of her own. Author Peter Straub, says of Doctor Sleep– “Obviously a masterpiece, probably the best supernatural novel in a hundred years.”
Julie: Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson was named to the ALA Best Books for Young Adults 2010 with good reason. The story is about Lia, an 18 year old dealing with the usual problems – school, fitting in, parents – and who now has to contend with her (former) best friend being found alone in a hotel room, dead. All of this while trying to convince everyone she is recovering from anorexia (she’s not) and no longer cutting herself (she is). Lia’s voice is believable and lyrical, and her story is heartbreaking but not without hope.
Dori: In The Guards, by Ken Bruen, private detective Jack Taylor, fired from the Irish police force for punching a superior, spends most of his time on a barstool in Galway, waxing eloquently about books and music. When a beautiful woman asks him to investigate the supposed suicide of her daughter, he discovers, suspiciously, that more young woman have committed suicide at the same spot. Beatings, blackouts and a stint at a mental asylum follow. Spare and poetic, Bruen’s writing is funny and original, with the focus less on plot than writing and character. The first of a 10 book series and winner of the 2004 Shamus Award from the Private Eye Writers of America.
Stacey: Too Bright to Hear Too Loud to See by Juliann Garey is one of those unforgettable books that readers will want all their friends to read -mostly so they can discuss each and every detail! Readers learn about Greyson Todd and his mental health issues short episodes of his life are revealed in-between electroshock treatments. It’s easy to feel a connection with Greyson, even when he’s being despicable, but his story also provides an interesting, insight into how difficult it is for individuals and their families to live with bipolar disorder. This is one of the books I read for the Notable Books Council last year -and it absolutely earned it’s place on the Notable Books for Adults list!
Next time we’re going to head into uncharted territory -the bold new world of Science Fiction! Now’s the time to let your inner geek select a book about alternate worlds and scientific ideas are still exist mostly in the imagination. You can lean toward “hard” science fiction which focuses on the technology and machines or you might want to try something that could be considered “soft” science fiction which focuses primarily on the human element and the societies people construct for themselves. I can’t wait to see what people pick! -Including you!