Meet the team of the MS Publishing Office through our favorite books! Books, in an imaginative form, mirror our most memorable parts of life, including friendships, found family, love, equality, and so much more. Read through our list and find a new book to read (or to add to your TBR pile)!
Manuela Soares, Director
Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garbus
Summary: Chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact, Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing as an average woman. But it’s the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute takes a very unscientific view of equality. Except for one: Calvin Evans; the lonely, brilliant, Nobel–prize nominated grudge-holder who falls in love with—of all things—her mind. True chemistry results.
But like science, life is unpredictable. Which is why a few years later Elizabeth Zott finds herself not only a single mother, but the reluctant star of America’s most beloved cooking show Supper at Six. Elizabeth’s unusual approach to cooking (“combine one tablespoon acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride”) proves revolutionary. But as her following grows, not everyone is happy. Because as it turns out, Elizabeth Zott isn’t just teaching women to cook. She’s daring them to change the status quo.
Fresh Water for Flowers by Valerie Perrin
Summary: Violette Toussaint is the caretaker at a cemetery in a small town in Bourgogne. Random visitors, regulars, and, most notably, her colleagues—three gravediggers, three groundskeepers, and a priest—visit her as often as possible to warm themselves in her lodge, where laughter, companionship, and occasional tears mix with the coffee that she offers them. Her daily life is lived to the rhythms of their hilarious and touching confidences.
Violette’s routine is disrupted one day by the arrival of a man—Julien Sole, local police chief—who insists on depositing the ashes of his recently departed mother on the gravesite of a complete stranger. It soon becomes clear that the grave Julien is looking for belongs to his mother’s one-time lover, and that his mother’s story of clandestine love is intertwined with Violette’s own secret past.
Karen Holt, Lecturer
The Revivalists by Christopher M. Hood
Summary: Bill and Penelope are the lucky ones. Not only do they survive the Shark Flu emerging from the melting Icelandic permafrost to sweep like a scythe across the world, but they begin to rebuild a life in the wreckage of the old. A garden to feed themselves planted where the lawn used to be, a mattress pulled down to the living room fireplace for warmth. Even Bill’s psychology practice endures the collapse of the social order, the handful of remaining clients bartering cans of food for their sessions. But when their daughter’s voice over the radio in the kitchen announces that she’s joined a cult three thousand miles away in Bishop, California, they leave it all behind to embark on a perilous trek across the hollowed-out remains of America to save her.
Their journey is an unforgettable odyssey through communities scattered across the continent, but for all the ways that the world has changed, the hopes and fears of this little family remain the same as they always have been. In The Revivalists, Christopher M. Hood creates a haunting, moving, darkly funny, and ultimately hopeful portrait of a world and a marriage tested by extraordinary circumstances.
Cloudbursts: Collected and New Stories by Thomas McGuane
Summary: For more than four decades, Thomas McGuane has been heralded as an unrivaled master of the short story. Now the arc of that achievement appears in one definitive volume. Set in the seedy corners of Key West, the remote shore towns of the Bahamas, and McGuane’s hallmark Big Sky country, with its vast and unforgiving landscape, these are stories of people on the fringes of society, whose twisted pasts meddle with their chances for companionship. Moving from the hilarious to the tragic and back again, McGuane writes about familial dysfunction, emotional failure, and American loneliness, celebrating the human ability to persist through life’s absurdities.
Jennifer Romanello, Associate Director
One Hundred Saturdays: Stella Levi and the Search for a Lost World by Michael Frank
Summary: With nearly a century of life behind her, Stella Levi had never before spoken in detail about her past. Then she met Michael Frank. He came to her Greenwich Village apartment one Saturday afternoon to ask her a question about the Juderia, the neighborhood in Rhodes where she’d grown up in a Jewish community that had thrived there for half a millennium.
Neither of them could know this was the first of one hundred Saturdays over the course of six years that they would spend in each other’s company. During these meetings Stella traveled back in time to conjure what it felt like to come of age on this luminous, legendary island in the eastern Aegean, which the Italians conquered in 1912, began governing as an official colonial possession in 1923, and continued to administer even after the Germans seized control in September 1943. The following July, the Germans rounded up all 1,700-plus residents of the Juderia and sent them first by boat and then by train to Auschwitz on what was the longest journey—measured by both time and distance—of any of the deportations. Ninety percent of them were murdered upon arrival.
Kaitlyn Keel, Graduate Student Aide
Written in the Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur
Summary: After a disastrous blind date, Darcy Lowell is desperate to stop her well-meaning brother from playing matchmaker ever again. Love—and the inevitable heartbreak—is the last thing she wants. So she fibs and says her latest set up was a success. Darcy doesn’t expect her lie to bite her in the ass.
Elle Jones, one of the astrologers behind the popular Twitter account, Oh My Stars, dreams of finding her soul mate. But she knows it is most assuredly not Darcy… a no-nonsense stick-in-the-mud, who is way too analytical, punctual, and skeptical for someone as free-spirited as Elle. When Darcy’s brother—and Elle’s new business partner—expresses how happy he is that they hit it off, Elle is baffled. Was Darcy on the same date? Because… awkward.
When Darcy begs Elle to play along, she agrees to pretend they’re dating to save face. But with a few conditions: Darcy must help Elle navigate her own overbearing family over the holidays and their arrangement expires on New Year’s Eve. The last thing they expect is to develop real feelings during a fake relationship.
But maybe opposites can attract when true love is written in the stars?
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Book Store by Robin Sloan
Summary: Global conspiracy, complex code-breaking, high-tech data visualization, young love, the secret to eternal life. Mostly in a hole-in-the-wall San Francisco bookstore.
Clay Jannon tells how serendipity, sheer curiosity, and the ability to climb a ladder like a monkey has sent him from Web Drone to night shift at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. After just a few days on the job, Clay realizes just how curious this store is.
A few customers come in repeatedly without buying anything. Instead they “check out” obscure volumes from strange corners of the store. All runs according to some elaborate, long-standing arrangement with the gnomic Mr. Penumbra. The store must be a front for something larger, Clay concludes.
He embarks on a complex analysis of the customers’ behavior and ropes in friends to help. Once they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, it turns out the secrets extend far outside the walls of the bookstore. A quest to New York City dips in a world conspiracy for eternal life. The current of romance pulls Clay onward.
Shianne Henion, Graduate Assistant
Realm Breaker by Victoria Aveyard
Summary: A strange darkness is growing in the Ward. Even Corayne an-Amarat can feel it, tucked away in her small town at the edge of the sea.
Fate knocks on her door, in the form of a mythical immortal and a lethal assassin, who tell Corayne that she is the last of an ancient lineage—with the power to save the world from destruction.
Because a man who would burn kingdoms to the ground is raising an army unlike any seen before, bent on uprooting the foundations of the world. With poison in his heart and a stolen sword in his hand, he’ll break the realm itself to claim it. And only Corayne can stop him.
Alongside an unlikely group of reluctant allies, Corayne finds herself on a desperate journey to complete an impossible task, with untold magic singing in her blood and the fate of the world on her shoulders.
The Girl in the Garden by Kamala Nair
Summary: The redemptive journey of a young woman unsure of her engagement, who revisits in memory the events of one scorching childhood summer when her beautiful yet troubled mother spirits her away from her home to an Indian village untouched by time, where she discovers in the jungle behind her ancestral house a spellbinding garden that harbors a terrifying secret.