Disappearing Earth

Julia Phillips (Vintage)

Suspenseful in an understated way—and filled with fascinating characters whose lives may come within a breath of one another or intersect in more significant ways—this book feels at first like a collection of linked short stories. But the more you read, the more the plot reveals itself. On the surface, it concerns the disappearance of two young sisters. On a deeper level, it explores the lengths we’ll go to justify our actions and attitudes, even when we know they are destructive, both to others and to our own souls. The minute I finished, I wanted to flip back to page one and start over.

Munich

Robert Harris (Knopf)

In his tight narrative of the days surrounding the Munich Agreement of 1938, which conceded part of Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany, Harris manages something remarkable: making government bureaucracy in the midst of a conflict whose outcome we already know feel exciting. Through two fictional low-level statesmen, we see behind the curtain as Neville Chamberlain and Adolf Hitler move chess pieces across the board. With remarkable insight into modern political realities, Harris leaves readers feeling that we too live in an age of futile gestures, of seeming powerlessness in the face of broken systems. But even so, we must do what we can—with courage and integrity.

Idaho

Emily Ruskovich (Random House)

In Idaho, Ruskovich has written both a literary novel and an up-all-night page-turner. The plot of this haunting debut novel about life and death, love and memory, holding on and letting go, turns on one violent act, though the act itself is never directly described. Instead, Ruskovich approaches it from various angles at various spots along the timeline, ...

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