So many books, so little time… Who hasn’t heard this before? We, the digital booksellers of 24symbols, are set on helping you make the best of your time and presenting you those books that everybody is talking about. However, this is more than just a bestseller list. We also want to point out hidden gems that have caught our special attention. Check out the best books of the moment and find your next read. We made sure to include something for everyone’s taste:
High as the Waters Rise
This astonishing debut novel by young German poet Anja Kampmann was one of the most celebrated novels in Germany after its publication in 2018 and is on the longlist for the National Book Award for translated literature 2020.
HIGH AS THE WATERS RISE is a modern odyssey of an oil rig worker who travels from Morocco to Hungary, Malta, Italy and Western Germany after losing his friend to the sea at a work accident. It is a journey back to the roots, his friend’s as well as his own, only to discover that twelve years of moving from one oil platform to another has estranged him from the settled lives of the people he cares about. Kampmann captures this alienation in beautiful images that will stick with you long after finishing the novel. Just as remarkable as the metaphorical language are the bits and pieces that are kept in the dark, thus emphasizing the man’s isolation, loss and sorrow.
Something Worth Doing
As bestselling author of more than thirty books, Jane Kirkpatrick is known for portraying fascinating historical women in her novels and SOMETHING WORTH DOING is yet another proof of her ability to make history come to life in fiction.
Abigail Scott was an impressive woman who gave up her teaching job to marry young and have six children but ended up being the provider of the family and a selfless fighter of women’s rights. The novel is well researched and one learns a lot about the suffrage movement of the second half of the 19th century in Oregon, as Kirkpatrick masterfully recreates the atmosphere of what it meant to be a working woman in the 1850s. If nowadays it is difficult to combine career and family, imagine how it must have been 170 years ago (with six children!). It is thanks to women like Abigail Scott Duniway and the sacrifices they have made that women today can vote, own property, businesses, etc. A wonderful read that rightfully remembers and honours an inspiring woman.
Hold onto your seats because you are in for a treat. Even if you are not into science fiction, SPACESIDE should be on your reading list. The novel is a perfect mix of sci-fi, suspense and action. Colonel Carl Butler may be known to some of you from Mammay’s debut novel PLANETSIDE, a book that was meant to be a stand-alone but has now evolved into a captivating series. Even though SPACESIDE is a great read by itself, you might want to read PLANETSIDE first to get the full picture.
Butler is an ex-military who thought he had found a calm and quiet retirement job at a high-tech military company but his peaceful days come to an abrupt end when one of the firm’s competitors is hacked. Asked to investigate the attack, he is thrown into a mysterious war that requires his military mastermind. A dangerous task he quite enjoys…
Do Her No Harm
When Annabelle’s best friend Tabitha mysteriously disappears after a night out, everybody believes she was murdered but no murderer is ever found. Annabelle is determined to get to the bottom of the truth and when she is contacted five years after the incident by a journalist who specializes in unsolved crime cases, dark secrets are being uncovered.
This thriller may be a bit slow in the beginning but things get moving once Annabelle teams up with the journalist and she realizes that Tabitha might not have been the person she thought her to be. It is a story about different life visions, betrayal, loss and never-ending friendship. As the events are told from different perspectives, we get deep insight into the characters thoughts and feelings, even though none of them turns out to be especially trustworthy. This just adds to the twists and turns of the book and builds up to a shocking ending – find out yourself!
What Happens at Night
There is a certain fascination about hotels in faraway countries. Cameron plays masterfully with the concept of home which never can be home. A childless couple travels an unknown country in the North to adopt a baby. Their journey is troublesome and both are exhausted, especially the woman, who suffers from a cancer in final stage. Still, they are determined to go through with the adoption to become a family and to give life continuity.
The man and woman remain nameless throughout the whole novel which adds to the general distance between the characters. They passively endure bizarre encounters and conversations, as well as the well-minded meddling of locals in their affairs. Even though the atmosphere of the story is slightly eery and mystic, there are lots of comic moments and beautiful observations, as the protagonists battle with disease, loneliness and grief.
It is not often that a book from North Korea hits our shelves and obviously we were very intrigued by the arrival of Paek’s FRIEND. Originally published in 1988, the novel is now available in English and allows us a view behind the curtain of the DPRK. The North Korean bestseller is not a propaganda text as one might expect. Rather than focusing on the political, the novel investigates the personal, which makes it easier for the reader to connect to the characters.
On her 10th wedding anniversary, Chae Sun Hee pleads for divorce. The judge she turns to, decides to investigate the case to better understand the failing of this marriage. A quite questionable approach but as everything is allowed in fiction, the judge’s meddling paves the way for a general reflection on love, marriage and individual identity. As he delves into the couple’s past, he compares their situation to his own marital life and that of other couples he knows. The result is a well-drawn study of a society that is shut-off from the Western world but whose emotional troubles are universal.
A moving comedy about what happens after the kids leave the house. Three suburban mothers feel neglected by their grown-up sons and reject the idea of being downgraded from “mother” to “other”. In an act of impulse they drive to New York to revive their mother-son relationships. Needless to say the sons are not overly delighted by this intervention and hence begins a hilarious and heartrending tale about family, growing up and letting go. Sutcliffe is a master in portraying his characters which makes it easy to relate to the sons, who are still trying to find their place in the world, as well as to the empty nester moms, who you cannot help but love with all their flaws and imperfections.
First published as Whatever Makes You Happy, OTHERHOOD is now a Netflix movie. Whether you have seen the movie or not, the book is a must read!
The Interpreter from Java
Awarded with the Libris Literature Prize, the Netherlands’ premier literary award, and the Henriëtte Roland Holst Prize, THE INTERPRETER FROM JAVA is an extraordinary story of a father-son relationship that gives insight into a dark chapter of Dutch history.
Arto Nolan was a war criminal in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) and fled to the Netherlands to avoid being executed as a traitor. In Holland, he married a Dutch woman, had five children and went on to abuse them nonstop. When his son Alan finds Arto’s memoirs, he discovers a horrible past he did not know about. Will he be able to find answers for his father’s violent outbursts? At first he is sceptic of his father’s account but his acid comments become less frequent as the novel develops. A fascinating book that will keep you on the hook from the very first page.
The Desert Sky Before Us
In her second novel, award-winning author Anne Valente takes us on a road trip through the American West. Two estranged sisters, Rhiannon and Billie, drive from Illinois to Utah to their mother’s funeral. On the way they need to complete a scavenger hunt their mother designed for them before her death. A journey which takes them on an unexpected emotional roller coaster, as each stop reveals a new secret. In the middle of the desert the two sisters start reflecting not only on the loss of their mother but also on lost relations-ships, careers, hobbies and time. The novel does not only explore the personal drama of Rhiannon and Billie, it also takes the reader through an immense field of topics ranging from paleontology to NASCAR and falconry. The book is over 400 pages but Valente keeps the story a great pace, turning it into a fast and captivating read.
The Perfect Fraud
Claire is a psychic, just as her mother and grandmother, but truth is that Claire is faking her supernatural powers. This changes when she has a heart-opening talk with her mother after her father’s death. On her way back home she meets Rena, who is distressed about her daughter’s mysterious stomach problems that no doctor has an explanation for. Can Claire help?
The story is told alternatively by both women, which allows you to get a thorough understanding of what each of them is going through. While Claire is trying to cope with her new-found powers, Rena is willing to try every medical and supernatural healing method to help her daughter. As each chapter reveals new details, tension is sure kept high throughout the whole novel. A page-turner with mystical edges that will blow your mind.
Love in the Time of Affluenza
A rom-com satire about Mumbai’s high society, Shroff’s debut novel is a delightful read that will take your mind off your daily routine. Get a glimpse into the drama of the super rich after the happily-ever-after moment has worn off. Natasha and Trisha have both been married for over a decade and their marital love life leaves a lot to be desired. While Natasha plays her role as wife and mother of three without complaining, Trisha feels neglected and has thrown herself into an affair. Even though Natasha is shocked at first, she begins questioning her own situation. Shroff examines the role of women before and after marriage/motherhood and raises questions about individual fulfillment and the right balance of family and career. Her observations are painfully accurate and utterly funny at the same time, making the book a perfect choice for your vacation.
The Cutting Room
The writing duo Margaret Murphy and Helen Pepper, aka Ashley Dyer, has published its second novel in the Lake/Carver detective series. With Murphy being a prize-winning novelist and Pepper a policing and forensics expert, the series is a must for those who like to get into the specifics of police procedurals and who do not mind if things get bloody.
In this gripping crime story the murderer kills men (interesting alternative to the usual serial killers of young women) to display their brains in a self-arranged art exhibition on a public street. Being told by the changing perspectives of the detectives Lake and Carver, as well as the so-called Ferryman, the book offers you a great insight of the characters’ motivations and perceptions. This is especially interesting in the case of the Ferryman who considers himself an artist whose art is destroyed by police investigation. As his fanbase grows on social media, his fans begin to sabotage the investigation in order to preserve the killer’s art. A truly intriguing read that is fun and disturbing at the same time.
Lifting Belly – An Erotic Poem
Gertrude Stein’s erotic poem is considered a lesbian classic among literary critics and has been reprinted by Counterpoint in honor of Pride Month. Stein wrote the almost 50-page poem for her life partner Alice B. Toklas between 1915 and 1917. At this time, the Great War was at its peak and the two women were on a constant move. So it is not surprising that LIFTING BELLY not only celebrates lesbian love but also examines the influence of war on love. LIFTING BELLY is an inspiring read for everybody, regardless of your sexual orientation!
This well researched historical novel by New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Chiaverini sheds light on a brave group of young women who risked everything to fight for justice and freedom in Nazi Germany. The so called Harnack cell has long been overlooked because they were thought to be communist sympathizers, as most of their information came from Soviet sources.
Chiaverini mixes historical figures such as the main heroine Mildred Harnack and her friends Greta Kuckhoff and Martha Dodd with fictive characters, the most important one being Sara Weitz, a Jewish student of American Literature. By adding the Jewish perspective, the story gains complexity and allows Chiaverini to intersperse different experiences. A thrilling read that will captivate you and that honours the courage of all those who are defending liberty in times of suppression.
Only the River
Anne Raeff is known for diving deep into the stories of her characters and ONLY THE RIVER is no exception. 13-year old Pepa escapes Vienna in 1938 and arrives with her family in El Castillo, Nicaragua, where her parents (both doctors) fight the yellow fever. While her parents long for winter and culture, Pepa connects with the jungle and falls in love with a boy from the village. However, she is uprooted again as the family moves to New York. Several decades later her daughter travels back to Nicaragua to look for answers to her brother’s death, who fought with the Sandinistas in the Nicaraguan Revolution. Raeff entangles many different lives and backgrounds into a beautiful and multilayered story about flight, war and the need to move on and especially, as one of the minor characters puts it, about the unanswerable questions of life. An engrossing read that will stay with you for a long time after you have reached the final page.
Sansei and Sensibility
This collection of short stories combines work of fiction and nonfiction, resulting in a fascinating portrayal of the Sansei community (third generation of Japanese immigrants in the Americas). In the first part of the book, Yamashita introduces the reader to historical, cultural and social aspects of Japanese American life. The second part consists of a Japanese American retelling of Jane Austen’s novels. What may sound like literary Kamikaze actually turns out to be hilarious thanks to Yamashita’s witty parallels between the British gentry of the late 18th century and Sansei upbringings in the suburbs of L.A.
Just as Jane Austen, Yamashita knows how to disclose society’s flaws and peculiarities, as is clearly demonstrated by Candy Yuasa in The Dentist and the Dental Hygienist or the biting letter exchange in Omaki-san (inspired by Jane Austen’s Lady Susan). An absolutely intriguing and fun read we cannot recommend enough!
Can you get away with murder? If you are a tenured professor at a renown university maybe you can… At least this is the theory. Daniel Waite is a spousal hire, the real academic star is his wife Abbie, but he is likeable and inoffensive and students enroll in his class because he goes easy on the grades. We learn all this after having discovered on the very first page that he is a murderer. So how did this happen? Will he be able to get away with it? You will sure hope so until things get real and a sense for justice kicks in. A cynic novel about elites and closed communities with brilliant movie references. If you are a filmophile or a fan of dark humor, PRIVILIGE is a must-read for you!
Misconduct of the Heart
The much acclaimed Canadian writer Cordelia Strube is back with another first-rate novel and she only needs one chapter to throw the reader into a swirl of traumatic experiences including PTSD, rape, alcoholism and capitalistic exploitation. What sounds like a depressing read is actually a darkly humorous story told by kitchen manager Stevie. Unable to emotionally connect with the people that surround her (or so she thinks) she is actually quite loveable herself. You cannot help but warm up to her biting sarcasm, her way of facing the challenges she encounters in life. Strube knows how to cover serious themes without being patronizing or judgemental and, most importantly, she reminds us that a good sense of humor may help with getting through the seemingly impossible.
Queen of the Owls
How do we want to be seen and what does it matter how others perceive us? Elizabeth is tired of her role as the brainy one, the responsible one who always has a plan and thinks everything through. At age 34 she is a mother, wife, PhD student and teacher but something is missing. Her marriage is a “polite co-existence” and she is yearning to be seen as a desirable woman, not just as the brilliant scholar. In a search for wholeness, she reenacts the nude portraits of Georgia O’Keeffe, the painter she is writing her dissertation on. The pictures go public and while everything Elizabeth has worked for seems to crumble before her eyes, she gets the chance to redefine the role she had been living so far.
Barabara Linn Probst raises questions about labels, perception and authenticity. Just as O’Keeffe did not like being described as Modernist or Woman Artist because it did not capture her whole being as an artist, Elizabeth does not want to be recognized only for her intellect.
When Nataša Kramberger published her debut novel in 2007, she was immediately recognized as a new powerful literary voice in Slovenia. In 2010, she was awarded the European Union Prize for Literature and since then the novel has been translated into multiple languages.
The two protagonists Jana and Bepi are both foreigners in Amsterdam. Jana is a young woman from the Slovenian countryside and Bepi an old man from Venice. Both have many stories to tell and these stories make up the novel. They complement each other, offer different perspectives on similar situations and give the author a great opportunity to engage with different voices. The result is a wildly creative use of language and a novel that is at times melancholic, at times comic but always beautiful.
The Book of Anna
Mexican writer Carmen Boullosa’s sequel to Tolstoy’s classic Anna Karenina is an incredibly smart take on fiction and reality. Merging the two, the novel is set in Saint Petersburg in 1905 and includes “real” as well as “fictional” characters, such as Anna’s son Sergei who is painfully aware of his condition. Sergei meets Tolstoy in his dreams and has trouble coming to terms with being a product of great novelist’s imagination. Full of clever twists and surprises, this book will make you smile at Boullosa’s crafty story line. While it is not necessary to have read Tolstoy’s version, this is a definite must read for all fans of Anna Karenina who long to know more.
Beautifully translated by Samantha Schnee.
Canadian multidisciplinary artist Vivek Shraya has delivered a stunning novel about being an artist in times of social media. The protagonist Sheela is a Toronto music legend who is proud to pour her entire being into her music. Her groundedness is being challenged, when youtuber RIK-MINI becomes popular overnight by covering one of Neela’s songs. The two women meet up and become friends but their relationship is build on fragile grounds. While friendship between artists has always been a roller coaster ride between mutual admiration and jealousy; social media is giving these feelings an explosive and unpredictable outlet. The novel’s underlying theme is not only rivalry and insecurity among artists but also (the lack of) communication and what it means to be a person of color performing for a mainstream – in other words white – audience.
Don’t forget to check out the book’s soundtrack! Yes, that’s right, Shraya recorded both versions of “Every Song” – the very reason for Neela’s and Rikmini’s friendship and conflict. We’ll leave it to you to decide which version you like best. But first, make sure to read the book!
As former environmental lobbyist, Heath is able to draw from his experience and delights us with this authentic and gripping eco-thriller. Meet Kit Olinsky, a single mom who works for the Alaska Environmental Lobby and is falsely charged for the death of a logger which was presumably caused by eco-terrorists. In order to prove her innocence (and keep her child’s custody), she turns to her ex-lover Rinn Vaness for help and might have to betray an old friend of hers. The result is a fast-moving novel that cleverly intertwines topical issues such as environmental politics, land management matters and Native American rights, while spicing things up with an unresolved love story.
Evie of the Deepthorn
The title of this peculiar novel has a different meaning for each of its three protagonists. For Kent, “Evie of the Deepthorn” is a cult movie, for Sarah a novel she wrote as a teenager and for Reza a poem by the deceased poet Kent Adler. What links them all is a deep emotional bond with the movie/novel/poem and maybe even more than that. The storyline seems to be straightforward as each character narrates his part one after the other and their lives start to overlap. Yet, things do not quite add up, or maybe we should rather say that time is a flexible concept in Babyn’s puzzling debut novel. In the end the reader will have to decide which interpretation of time to believe, the fictitious or the realistic one. A wonderful read that will surprise you with its experimental joy.
Every day we receive thousands of new books and we carefully select the ones that we believe will interest you most. Our recipe? A great book should give food for thought, it should move, educate and fascinate the reader. A book is a door to another world, and it is while reading how we discover different perspectives and widen our horizon. A book can change a person but be no fool, because just as Edmund Wilson said, “no two persons ever read the same book.” That is another beauty of books. There is always room for interpretation, imagination and discussion. That is why we invite you to comment the books you read, recommend them to your friends and discuss them with fellow digital readers on 24symbols.
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