1 The Love Story of Missy Carmichael by Beth Morrey
At a time when people are having to isolate themselves, this charming debut novel by Beth Morrey is a balm. Instead of boy meets girl, it’s woman meets dog ... and toddler, and single mom, and ultimately, herself. A trip to the park leads to a new sense of family for septuagenarian Millicent Carmichael, who finally starts making a home a half-century after she moved into her London house.
2 The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd
Sue Monk Kidd imagines a wife for Jesus, a woman who stands as his intellectual and spiritual partner. Ana longs to write about the lives of women. Jesus longs to save humanity. The novel captures both their affecting relationship and also the larger political and social currents.
3 Simon the Fiddler by Paulette Jiles
A fiddler conscripted into the Confederate Army crosses paths with an Irish woman, the indentured servant of a Union officer. When the South surrenders and Simon moves on and immerses himself in his music, he still longs for her. Beautifully told with lyrical descriptions, the novel illuminates the everyday struggles of the era.
4 The Engineer’s Wife by Tracey Enerson Wood
Tracey Enerson Wood infuses her novel about the building of the Brooklyn Bridge with fascinating historical details. The construction was overseen by Emily Warren Roebling when her civil engineer husband fell ill. Faced with challenges such as corrupt politicians and dangerous working conditions, she nonetheless rose to the occasion.
5 The Moment of Tenderness by Madeleine L’Engle
Charlotte Jones Voiklis patches together a mosaic of her grandmother’s largely unpublished writings. Such familiar subjects as forlorn misfits, social cruelty, a planet in danger, and Christian hope all went together to make “A Wrinkle in Time” a genre-busting classic. Read the stories here in the raw. Read the full review here.
6 Hid From Our Eyes by Julia Spencer-Fleming
Julia Spencer-Fleming returns to Miller’s Kill, New York, for her latest exploration of life, murder, and morality. Episcopal priest Clare Fergusson and her husband, police Chief Russ Van Alstyne, are trying to navigate later-in-life parenthood. The police department itself is on the line, with voters deciding whether to disband the force, when a girl is found dead along a highway. The whodunit is the least interesting part of the book, but the rich characterizations and exploration of humanity make this series worth following.
7 Warhol by Blake Gopnik
“In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes,” Andy Warhol is credited with saying. But there is nothing fleeting about his legacy as an artist, filmmaker, and self-created pop-culture phenomenon. His life and work are examined in detail in Blake Gopnik’s biography. Warhol devotees will rejoice, and more casual readers will receive an education in all things Andy.
8 Becoming Wild by Carl Safina
Carl Safina looks at three species – the sperm whale, the scarlet macaw, and the chimpanzee – to chart all the ways they build and sustain their societies. He explores how those cultures echo and differ from our own.
9 Active Measures by Thomas Rid
Information specialist Thomas Rid takes readers on a comprehensive and disturbing tour of the changing shape of disinformation over the last century.
10 Calder by Jed Perl
The public has always loved Alexander Calder’s vivid and dramatic sculptures, but the art critics have usually been unimpressed. Jed Perl’s biography, the second of two parts, firmly places this genial, fun-loving artist in the pantheon of American art, where he belongs. Read the full review here.