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Readerly Top Picks In Paperback – October 2015

the martianThe Martian by Andy Weir (Crown) When a storm hits Mars, the crew of the Hermes is forced to abort their mission without fellow astronaut Mark Watney, who they believe was killed during the storm. Alive and stranded, Watney must use every ounce of resilience and strength to survive. Balancing technology and a thrilling storyline, The Martian is an intense and riveting story of endurance.—Jenn Lawrence

duplexDuplex by Kathryn Davis ( Graywolf Press) Excitingly weird and delicious, Davis’s novel goes off the beaten path to explore a town on the cusp of the real and the magical. Disappearing teachers, sketchy sorcerers, and a family of robots are just a few of the striking cast of characters you’ll meet alongside the novel’s centerpiece, star-crossed lovers Mary and Eddie.—Nicole Bonia

Hild by Nicola Griffith

Hild by Nicola Griffith (Picador) Hild transports us to seventh-century Britain to tell the story of St. Hilda of Whitby, the king’s niece and a seer who changes the course of history for her people. Though it might seem like a daunting read, Griffith’s excellent sense of place and history and her impeccable attention to detail bring this amazing young woman to life.—Swapna Krishna

The Magicians LieThe Magicians Lie by Greer Macallister (Sourcebooks Landmark) When famed female illusionist The Amazing Arden’s husband turns up dead, she is the prime suspect. As a magician Arden can make herself disappear but policeman Virgil Holt catches up to her and lets her tell her side of the story. Nothing is what it seems in Macallister’s work of historical fiction, but everything is told with such flair and vibrancy that the reader will easily slip into the alternating magic and horror of Arden’s life. —Jen Karsbaek

Without you, There is no usWithout You There Is No Us by Suki Kim (Broadway BooksDuring the six months that Suki Kim taught English at an elite university in North Korea, she came to care deeply for the young men she instructed, despite their tendency to lie and inability to understand a world outside Pyongyang. This memoir delves deeply into the claustrophobic and paranoid society of the world’s most mysterious and shares moving and disturbing details about how youth being groomed to lead have been taught to think.—Kim Ukura

Vanessa and her SisterVanessa and her Sister by Priya Parmar (Ballantine Books)  Vanessa and Her Sister is a fascinating look at Virginia Woolf, her sister Vanessa Bell and their friends. Parmar tells the sisters’ story through Vanessa’s eyes, as well as postcards, telegrams, and letters. In doing so she captures the unforgettable personalities of what comes to be known as the Bloomsbury Group, while painting an intimate portrait of two sisters.—Beth Nolan Conners

HerHer by Harriet Lane (Back Bay Books) Recounted in the intriguing alternating perspectives of a struggling mother of two and the stylish, sophisticated artist she meets by chance on the street, Her is a harrowing and suspense­ridden tale of female friendship, fraught marriages, and the bittersweet dramas of motherhood. Guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat, you’ll also cast a wary eye towards new friends you’ve recently made.—Nicole Bonia

Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywoodtinseltownpaperbacks by William J. Mann (Harper Paperbacks) After World War I America flocked to the movies, but the public’s love also spurred condemnation of the movies on the part of moral crusaders. In Tinseltown, Mann tells the story of the movie industry’s attempts to halt censorship and the difficulty of doing that in the wake of a number of scandals, including the infamous murder of director William Desmond Taylor. This is an incredibly well­crafted story that reads with the speed of a murder mystery.—Nicole Bonia

The Chain: Farm, Factory, and the Fate of Our FoodThe Chain by Ted Genoways (Harper Paperbacks) In The Chain, Genoways weaves together the food activism and education of Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma with a medical mystery. Central to Genoways’s story is the unexplained illness of a number of employees at a Hormel factory who got sick after working at the brain table. Genoways does not stop here, however. Instead he investigate the entire chain of pork production, highlighting issues of labor, immigration, and environmental pollution along the way. The Chain is a truly enlightening look at exactly where our food comes from, and what it does to the people and places around us on its way to the grocery store shelves.—Jen Karsbaek

Live in RuinsLives in Ruins by Marilyn Johnson (Harper Perennial) Having previously written about librarians and obit writers, Johnson is a master of bringing new life to fascinating and little-considered professions. In Lives in Ruins Johnson turns her pen to the lives of archaeologists in a way that is endlessly entertaining, while still broadening the popular understanding of the profession beyond Indiana Jones. Johnson’s lively writing and ability to tease out the most interesting aspects of any given job make her books a must-read.—Jen Karsbaek