Our Apple-a-Month Club selections have very few guidelines; new, paperback fiction is the main criteria, and we endeavor to share something you might not pick up or hear about anywhere else. Other than that, you can expect a variety of literary genres and styles. To get a loose idea of the types of books you'll get with a subscription, check out these archives of past picks.
This might be one of the most convincing examples of a good thing coming out of a bad situation. From the economic collapse in Greece comes Ikonomou's heart-wrenching book of fiction. Everyone in this book is hungry, longing, hopeful, hopeless, broke but not broken. By looking at Greece's downfall you'll see remnants of America, and just maybe, remnants of yourself.
I picked up this book because if its cover and before I could put it down again, I had read half the novel. Igoni Barrett brings contemporary Lagos, Nigeria to the page in a way that is visceral and alive. But the feeling of being transported to Africa is only part of the pleasure of this book. When we first meet Furo Wariboko, a young Nigerian desperate for a job, he has just woken up one morning a white man. As he learns to navigate through his country with his new skin color, Barrett brilliantly explores race, identity, human connection, social media, sex, and power. It’s funny, lively, eye-opening, and wholly unique. I only wish it were longer. STS
Amber Sparks is a gem in the dizziness and cacophony of young writers bursting onto the literary scene. In prose that dazzles, Sparks dangles worlds, characters, and plots before us like a magician debuting a new illusion. In these stories you'll find heart, drama, and a curiosity that is unceasing and persistent!
A gripping narrative that's as moving as it is satirical. It's 1984 meets H.G. Wells meets Margaret Atwood meets the inverse of every Jane Austen novel. The Core of the Sun maps one woman's rebellion against a tyrannical system that oppresses all women. Sinisalo is a rare find, and dazzles with her creation of this not-so-post-apocolyptic dark world!
In the spirit of the season, we're sending out not one but three novels this holiday season! 2014 Nobel Prize winner Patrick Modiano's Occupation Trilogy marked the beginning of an auspicious career and sets out the themes that have preoccupied Modiano. These haunting novels are the perfect introduction to the work of one of the masters of French literature!
The Story of My Teeth is a sly and melancholy romp (yes, romp) that reminds us of the power and sway of great stories, especially those we tell ourselves that, by sheer persistence, we come to believe.
Long out of print (now back in print by New York Review of Books), Fat City is a portrait fo Stockton, CA in the late '50s. Two boxers on opposing ends of their careers fight through much more than their next opponent. Gardner's prose sings in celebration and defeat!
Naja Marie Aidt's first novel is well worth the wait. Long-time lauded as a poet and short story writer, Aidt brings the best of those genres to her novel. At times harrowing, at times funny, this debut is both a page-turner and a lyrical masterpiece!
Grounded in reality, this book employs all the best elements of magical realism to keep readers in perpetual suspense. Spjut creates characters that are not only believable, but also relatable. He writes with the imagination of Calvino and the daring of Garcia Marquez. Enjoy!
Claire Fuller's debut novel takes a unique twist on the apocalyptic novel. In it, eight-year-old Peggy Hillcoast is brought to the woods by her father, who tells her that the world has ended. Inspired by fairy tales, this coming of age story reveals a fractured world that is slowly pieced together by one of the most memorable characters you'll encounter this, or any, year.
True to its name, this book pushes the envelope of storytelling further into the absurd. Bunn tackles subjects as lofty as the cold war and as mundane as online gaming. Yet throughout, it's the strong voice that casts this brief but potent book in an insanely surreal mold. Readers will reread time and again.
This is a sweeping tale, epic but precise (not sprawling). It carried me away from the get-go on a journey of unexpected twists and turns, and it sticks with me even months after reading it. More an experience than a novel.
In the aptly named Migratory Animals, Mary Helen Specht's rich and lyrical prose gracefully connects real human emotions and authentic affairs of life with the landscape and environment in which the characters exist. Through shifting viewpoints, Migratory Animals gives a rare glimpse at into the individual minds of those directly and indirectly affected by life's circumstances. An elegantly written story with absolute reality in each characters' motives and reactions.
Scholastique Mukasonga's debut novel offers an evocative glimpse into a world few of us have access to. A perfect example of the small writ large, Our Lady of the Nile is a tender and compelling look at a society on the brink of horror. Named one of Publishers Weekly's "Best Books of 2014," this novel will stick with you.
This book, Benjamin's debut and longlisted for the Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel prize, is such a gem! Told through chapters that alternate between past and present, the novel explores the mysteries of dreams and the psychology behind the urge that drives so many of us—the urge to know the truth. Don't be surprised if snippets of this story make their way into your own dreams—she's that good.
An incredible blend of biographical imaginings and captivating storytelling, "Arctic Summer" tells the tale of E.M. Forster's many adventures across Europe and Asia. Even for those completely unfamiliar with Forster's actual writings (admittedly, myself), this novel remains a joy to read. Galgut executes each sentences with such skill, you'll find you're moved to feel the empathy, tolerance, and passion within each chapter.
A beautiful, funny debut novel that covers all the big questions such as "Will the world end?" or "Will I fall in love?" and everything in between.
This is my favorite book of 2014! I know the year is only half over, but that just shows how much I loved this book. Have you ever wanted to drop everything in your life? To leave without telling anyone? That is exactly what Lacey's protagonist does. The result is one of the most beautiful and heartbreaking books I've ever read.
- Emily Ballaine
The Antiquarian is a dazzling literary mystery in which the truth seems always just out of reach. Telling the story of Gustavo and his friend Daniel, who years before killed his fiance, the novel weaves a complex web of deceit, violence, old books, and...human body parts.
There aren't many World War II novels you can describe as charming, but Joanna Gruda's Revolution Baby is just that. Based on the life of her father, this rich and atmospheric novel takes us into the heart of Warsaw with one of the most memorable narrators you'll have the pleasure of meeting. Enjoy!
Pamela Erens's debut novel is a minimalist tale of psychological depth and emotional resonance. Traveling with a disgraced ex-lawyer through a well-ordered but unraveling New York, we enter into a world of hidden connections and secret meaning. Much larger than its size would lead you to believe, The Understory is a brilliant and memorable portrait of a man in despair.
The women of The Isle of Youth are lost. They are searching for love, searching for family, searching for that deeper meaning behind it all. Each story in this collection is a journey that places these women in situations that are sometimes tragic, sometimes comic, but always compelling. It would be easy for these characters to become one-sided caricatures, but Van den Berg, in her sparse and hauntingly beautiful style of prose, transforms them into fully-realized people, and while their motivations may not always be clear, you will certainly find it necessary to see them through to the end.
You hold in your hands that rare novel that has both heart and madcap hilarity. It's about impending fatherhood, shady in-laws, and Florida real estate silliness. It's sweet and smart and funny. Dig in!
The Guest Cat is a quiet and touching novel about the way we fall in love with animals, sometimes despite ourselves. In a small number of pages, it spans a wide spectrum of emotion—love cats or not, this novel will make you care.
This is a quiet book. So quiet you might not be able to hear it here, with all these other books clamoring for attention. Take it home, go into your room, close the door behind you, sit near the window. Only then, I think, will you be able to hear the voices captured in these pages—and they'll haunt you, quietly.
In this deceptively simple tale—reminiscent of the best of Bolaño—a Columbian of questionable means drifts through Tangier without much of a guiding impulse other than his own satisfaction. In the background, one can sense the barely audible, sinister machinations creaking...
Kate Bernheimer's 2010 anthology, My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me was an impressive collection of modern authors reinventing and creating fairy tales. XO Orpheus is an even more impressive collection but this is the modern take on the myth. In his explanation of his story, Madame Liang Lutz Bassman puts it best, "What are myths if not the stories that the living tell the dead, and the dead tell the living?" This is evident in Willy Vlautin's Kid Collins, a quick, dark, and beautiful take on Demeter and Persephone; or in Madeline Miller's breathtaking, Galatea where Pygmalion's beautiful statue lies institutionalized by her husband. There is so much imaginative writing in this well curated anthology that you just can't go wrong.
I love this book. It's melancholic at times, but life-affirming in a way that feels honest and unfaced. Beautifully written and told in two convincing voices, Hoban's long out-of-print novel just might inspire some "turtle thoughts" in you, dear reader.
As a native Nevadan, I gotta say, Claire Watkins really nails it with this collection of stories. From finding your pet cat's carcass picked clean by coyotes, to the way the punch at the neighborhood Basque joint sneaks up on you, she captures the peculiarities of desert life to a tee. Though the tales wander back and forth across two centuries like a sagebrush blowing across a dried-up lakebed, they combine into a stunning portrait of one of the most desolate, weird, and wonderful states in the country. Made me darned homesick though!
I want to tell you everything about The Blue Fox – all at once – in a barrage of imagery and plot; lyricism and a deft hold on language. But I can’t. I can’t give away a single detail of this brief and beautiful story. I certainly would be doing Sjón a severe injustice it I tried. This is a captivating and beautiful novel, sculpted by the Icelandic landscape that already has me clamoring to read his other two novels that have been translated in to English.
Read an exclusive interview with the author on the GAB tumblr.
A relatively recent convert to the magic of short stories, I found myself enthralled by Rebecca Lee’s beautiful, authentic prose. Bobcat and Other Stories pulls you in from the start with a tale about marriage, happiness and wild beasts. Lee’s characters are simultaneously appealing and appalling, acting upon inner impulses and coping with cringe-worthy situations. A student plagiarizes a paper and is forced to claim responsibility for ideas not her own. A best friend finds herself matchmaking in a foreign country, and an architect falls down the rabbit hole of forbidden love. Lee’s prose is lucid, yet her characters and stories remain grounded in reality; the sign of a truly talented author.
Hailed by NPR's "All Things Considered" book reviewer Alan Cheuse as "an extraordinary fusion of science and lyricism" and called "profoundly readable and unfailingly interesting" by Publishers Weekly, J.M. Ledgard's second Submergence is a powerful novel of love, extremism, and the deep sea. Full of remarkably beautiful language, it tells the story of James More, a British spy captured by jihadists in Somalia, and his one-time lover Danielle Flinders, a deep sea scientist. Ranging across time and space, Submergence is guaranteed to provoke and entertain.
Gerbrand Bakker is a Dutch gardener who won's the world's most lucrative literary prize (IMPAC Award) for his compelling novel, The Twin, which is a Green Apple Books favorite. He had his work cut out for him writing a follow-up that would live up to that book and, luckily for us, he has succeeded by far. Ten White Geese is a slow, contemplative novel in touch with the rhythms of the earth, about an Emily Dickinson scholar who retreats to rural Wales, seeking to repair the damage inflicted on her by a bad marriage. Bakker's heroine finds solace in the lives of the animals around her and quietly works her way back to some semblance of normalcy. Told in evocative, luminous prose, Ten White Geese is an unforgettable book.
Ludmilla Petrushevskaya has quickly become one of our favorite contemporary Russian writers. Her biting and twisted sense of humor are one of a kind and the stories in this, her second collection translated into English, are every bit as brilliantly funny as those in her first, There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor's Baby.
In this novel (which was longlisted for the 2012 Man Asian Prize for literature), Uzma Aslam Khan captures the heartbreak of many kinds of love: romantic, parental, and most importantly, the complicated love for one's homeland. The first description to pull me into this story was that of the grey expanse and sweeping ocean cliffs of San Francisco's Outer Richmond district--not far from the creaky bookstore where I write this now--and her poetic language and vivid characters will pull you from the edge of one continent to the heart of another.
The writing in this debut novel by Ben Fountain crackles with the jazzy precision of a master. Billy Lynn's moment of glory--he and his troops displayed at a Dallay Cowboys' halftime show before being redeployed to Iraq--is funny, headlong, and just under the surface, more than a little heartbreaking.
A finalist for the National Book Award!
November was a lucky month: Dan Josefson, whose excellent debut novel That’s Not a Feeling was our November selection for the Apple-a-Month Club, did a reading at the store and even answered a few questions for our subscribers, who received signed copies of this one. The full interview is up on our Tumblr!
Unlike other literary magazines (the New Yorker, for instance), the Paris Review has never been too closely affiliated with a particular aesthetic. Proof of this lies in the diversity of this anthology, which has been uniquely compiled by contemporary writers who have selected and introduced their favorite Paris Review stories. With an array of stories by writers as different as Jorge Luis Borges, Raymond Carver, Jane Bowles, and Joy Williams, this collection is sure to have that universally claimed characteristic, something for everyone. Enjoy!
As you can see, this month's pitch comes from Miguel de Cervantes, the narrator of Cervantes Street: "As the creator of the immortal Don Quixotre, I (Miguel de Cervantes) deserve a suitably rich story, which I get here in Jaime Manrique's Cervantes Street, a novel full of the vibrancy, clamor, and castastrophe of the 16th century. Manrique deftly intertwines my life and adventures with those of my friend-turned-rival Luis de Lara. (Our relationship, unsurprisingly, soured over our love of the same woman.) Told in alternating chapters, so each character get his say, the novel builds layers of swashbuckling adventures and back-stabbing betrayals. A page-turner worthy of its subject."
With its effusive praise from Salman Rushdie, Julie Orringer, and Tom McCarthy (who likened it to Hemingway, no less), I was ready for Katie Kitamura's Gone to the Forest to immediately leap off the page and pull me in. But that is not what this novel does. Instead it begins with a slow burn, in short, sharp sentences that lay a haunting foundation for the drama that unfolds in a timeless, unnamed colonial country where a family is falling apart as the world they inhabit is, too. Gone to the Forest offers what few novels can: a story that feels at once eerily familiar and completely singular. In Kitamura's expert hand, it's a story that's sure to spellbind you.
History, we all know, is written by winners. Marie Chaix's novel shows the flip-side of that well-worn axiom, offering a poignant account of a man (a fictionalized version of her father) who made a disastrously wrong choice and, as a consequence, ended up on the side of the losers. It's a novel about war, politics, and family. Even more, it's about distance: the distance between heartfelt conviction and the practical application of those convictions; the distance between members of a family; and perhaps most achingly, the insurmountable distances borne of war.
It's been a long time since I've been as surprised and utterly charmed by a novel as I was by Crusoe's Daughter. At once a masterfully written portrait of early twentieth century England and a fun story full of endlessly complex characters, Crusoe's Daughter begins with young orphan Polly Flint arriving at a strange yellow house on the moors which is inhabited by an even stranger pair of aunts. Through two World Wars, a bizarre stint at a mysterious home for artists on the verge of nervous breakdown, the lives and deaths of many of her loved ones and her own rather drastic ups and downs, Polly keeps close her beloved copy of Robinson Crusoe, which she considers her guidebook to all things. With nods Dickens and Charlotte Bronte (and the constant presence of Defoe) but with a wit and voice of her own, Jane Gardham weaves a remarkable tale of a life -- inner, outer, and all the intersections therein.
Albert Cohen's The Book of My Mother defies classification, as a tribute to the complexities and depth of familial love should. Part memoir, part novel, and written originally as a collection of richly narrative and descriptive essays, the book is both the story of Cohen's relationship with and loss of his mother (who died shortly after he had left France for London to escape the Nazis during World War II) and a meditation on grief, family, exile and isolation. While you should probably keep tissues handy, there's great joy here, too -- Cohen, who once claimed that his true homeland was the French language, relays his often playful love for his mother in what seems to be a love affair with the sentence itself, each remarkably crafted and full of wit and wonder. Both a timely and timeless read for the month of Mothers Day.
None of This is Real by Miranda Mellis is a fantastic collection of short stories in which lost souls grow strange appendages, a line for coffee becomes a sort of quotidian purgatory, children must contend and compete with the both the failures and the mysticism of their ancestors, and every word is at once startling and perfect. Mellis, a local author who loves Green Apple, was kind enough to stop by the store in April, allowing us to send subscribers an extra special package that month which included signed copies of None of This is Real as well as a three page interview with the author herself.
I've been a bookseller long enough to know that this book is going to be a tough sell. As memorable and heartbreaking a novel as any I've read in recent memory, New Finnish Grammar is saddled with both a dry title and unassuming packaging. It's unlikely that either of these things are going to grab a hold of you the way the extraordinary story hidden inside of this book will; you'd be forgiven for passing the book by, as I did for months. (Finland? Grammar? I'll stick with Fifty Shades of Gray, thanks.) But, when I finally gave in to the nagging voice that insists I read a certain book, I found myself caught up in a heartbreaking story about a man with no memory, no language and no homeland. Narrated in an earnest, straightforward voice, New Finnish Grammar manages nonetheless to speak to profound questions of identity and meaning, all while remaining as compelling as The English Patient.
Gwenealle Aubry's No One is a genre-straddling work of tremendous power. In attempting to come to grips with her father's descent into madness, Aubry breaks the boundaries of the traditional fiction/non-fiction divide, creating in the process a blend of memoir and novel. Constructed as a fragmented dictionary -- from Artaud to Woody Allen's Zelig -- this lyrical and heartbreaking work will challenge each reader to examine the ties that bind us to our family, to what it means to love someone who we may never understand.
The characters in this collection of linked stories are, as all characters are, on quests. But the quests herein take place in the smallest of spaces -- a detective's search for the inner truth of a person, the footsteps of an aging cartographer, everyone's desperate dialing in search of the click that means you're home. Emmanuel's writing, an ode to Baudelaire with echoes of Kafka and Borges, is both so precise and so vague as to attain something like universal meaning, spurring the reader into their own such reveries even as they tumble into those on the page. You're invited; you should go.
Ben Lerner's debut novel is a smart and ironic account of cultural, linguistic, and personal dislocation. Chronicling the rather unextraordinary adventures of a young American poet in Madrid (there under the false pretenses of writing a poem about the Spanish Civil War), Leaving the Atocha Station is a comedic portrait of the artist as a bundle of failures. Much more than an attempt to understand what poetry means in the early 21st century, Lerner's novel is an attempt to figure out what it means to be human.
The heart of Magdelena Tulli's novel is the imaginary Polish town Stitchings. Reminiscent of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's famous Macondo (in One Hundred Years of Solitude), Stitchings serves as setting for an array of darkly fantastic events: from a girl who refuses to acknowledge her death to the home of a man destined for a bullet that's circled the earth for years, Tulli's town offers the ultimate pleasure to readers: the impossible made believable. As such, we felt it was the perfect place to start our Apple-a-Month Club.