The Sound of Things Falling

"National Bestseller and winner of the 2014 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award

Juan Gabriel Vásquez has been hailed not only as one of South America’s greatest literary stars, but also as one of the most acclaimed writers of his generation. In this gorgeously wrought, award-winning novel, Vásquez confronts the history of his home country, Colombia.

In the city of Bogotá, Antonio Yammara reads an article about a hippo that had escaped from a derelict zoo once owned by legendary Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. The article transports Antonio back to when the war between Escobar’s Medellín cartel and government forces played out violently in Colombia’s streets and in the skies above. Back then, Antonio witnessed a friend’s murder, an event that haunts him still. As he investigates, he discovers the many ways in which his own life and his friend’s family have been shaped by his country’s recent violent past. His journey leads him all the way back to the 1960s and a world on the brink of change: a time before narco-trafficking trapped a whole generation in a living nightmare."

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The Book of Emma Reyes

"'Startling and astringently poetic.' - The New York Times

Finalist for the PEN Translation Prize

This astonishing memoir was hailed as an instant classic when first published in Colombia in 2012, nearly a decade after the death of its author, who was encouraged in her writing by Gabriel García Márquez. Comprised of letters written over the course of thirty years, and translated by acclaimed writer Daniel Alarcón, it describes in vivid, painterly detail the remarkable courage and limitless imagination of a young girl growing up with nothing.
 
Emma Reyes was an illegitimate child, raised in a windowless room in Bogotá with no water or toilet and only ingenuity to keep her and her sister alive. Abandoned by their mother, she and her sister moved to a Catholic convent housing 150 orphan girls, where they washed pots, ironed and mended laundry, scrubbed floors, cleaned bathrooms, sewed garments and decorative cloths for the nuns—and lived in fear of the Devil. Illiterate and knowing nothing of the outside world, Emma escaped at age nineteen, eventually establishing a career as an artist and befriending the likes of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera as well as European artists and intellectuals. The portrait of her childhood that emerges from this clear-eyed account inspires awe at the stunning early life of a gifted writer whose talent remained hidden for far too long."

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Chronicle of a Death Foretold

"A man returns to the town where a baffling murder took place 27 years earlier, determined to get to the bottom of the story. Just hours after marrying the beautiful Angela Vicario, everyone agrees, Bayardo San Roman returned his bride in disgrace to her parents. Her distraught family forced her to name her first lover; and her twin brothers announced their intention to murder Santiago Nasar for dishonoring their sister. 

Yet if everyone knew the murder was going to happen, why did no one intervene to stop it? The more that is learned, the less is understood, and as the story races to its inexplicable conclusion, an entire society--not just a pair of murderers—is put on trial.

Gabriel García Márquez was born in Colombia in 1927. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982."

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Delirium

"In this remarkably nuanced novel, both a gripping detective story and a passionate, devastating tale of eros and insanity in Colombia, internationally acclaimed author Laura Restrepo delves into the minds of four characters.

There's Agustina, a beautiful woman from an upper-class family who is caught in the throes of madness; her husband Aguilar, a man passionately in love with his wife and determined to rescue her from insanity; Agustina's former lover Midas, a drug-trafficker and money-launderer; and Nicolás, Agustina's grandfather. Through the blend of these distinct voices, Restrepo creates a searing portrait of a society battered by war and corruption, as well as an intimate look at the daily lives of people struggling to stay sane in an unstable reality."

(A special thank you to book club member, Markey Jones for the suggestion.)

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Even Silence Has an End

"'Betancourt's riveting memoir...is an unforgettable epic of moral courage and human endurance.' -Los Angeles Times

In the midst of her campaign for the Colombian presidency in 2002, Ingrid Betancourt traveled into a military-controlled region, where she was abducted by the FARC, a brutal terrorist guerrilla organization in conflict with the government. She would spend the next six and a half years captive in the depths of the Colombian jungle. 

Even Silence Has an End is her deeply moving and personal account of that time. The facts of her story are astounding, but it is Betancourt's indomitable spirit that drives this very special narrative—an intensely intelligent, thoughtful, and compassionate reflection on what it really means to be human."

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Love in the Time of Cholera

"'A love story of astonishing power.' 
- Newsweek 

Nobel prize winner Gabriel García Márquez tells a tale of an unrequited love. 

In their youth, Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza fall passionately in love. When Fermina eventually chooses to marry a wealthy, well-born doctor, Florentino is devastated, but he is a romantic. As he rises in his business career, he whiles away the years in 622 affairs—yet he reserves his heart for Fermina. Her husband dies at last, and Florentino purposefully attends the funeral. Fifty years, nine months, and four days after he first declared his love for Fermina, he will do so again."

(A special thank you to book club member, Ester Elbert for the suggestion.)

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Central Station

An international multi-award winner, international bestseller & one of the few Israeli sci fi books in the world. NPR Best Book, Amazon Featured Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Book, Guardian Best SF & Fantasy Book, Longlist - British Science Fiction Award, Arthur C. Clarke Award nominee & World Fantasy Award

"A worldwide diaspora has left a quarter of a million people at the foot of a space station. Cultures collide in real life and virtual reality. The city is literally a weed, its growth left unchecked. Life is cheap, and data is cheaper.

When Boris Chong returns to Tel Aviv from Mars, much has changed. Boris’s ex-lover is raising a strangely familiar child who can tap into the datastream of a mind with the touch of a finger. His cousin is infatuated with a robotnik—a damaged cyborg soldier who might as well be begging for parts. His father is terminally-ill with a multigenerational mind-plague. And a hunted data-vampire has followed Boris to where she is forbidden to return.

Rising above them is Central Station, the interplanetary hub between all things: the constantly shifting Tel Aviv; a powerful virtual arena, and the space colonies where humanity has gone to escape the ravages of poverty and war. Everything is connected by the Others, powerful alien entities who, through the Conversation—a shifting, flowing stream of consciousness—are just the beginning of irrevocable change.

At Central Station, humans and machines continue to adapt, thrive...and even evolve."

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Suddenly, a Knock on the Door

"Bringing up a child, lying to the boss, placing an order in a fast-food restaurant: in Etgar Keret's new collection, daily life is complicated, dangerous, and full of yearning. In his most playful and most mature work yet, the living and the dead, silent children and talking animals, dreams and waking life coexist in an uneasy world. Overflowing with absurdity, humor, sadness, and compassion, the tales in Suddenly, a Knock on the Door establish Etgar Keret—declared a "genius" by The New York Times—as one of the most original writers of his generation."

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A Tale of Love and Darkness

International bestseller & winner of the National Jewish Book Award

"'[An] ingenious work that circles around the rise of a state, the tragic destiny of a mother, a boy’s creation of a new self.' - The New Yorker

A family saga and a magical self-portrait of a writer who witnessed the birth of a nation and lived through its turbulent history. A Tale of Love and Darkness is the story of a boy who grows up in war-torn Jerusalem, in a small apartment crowded with books in twelve languages and relatives speaking nearly as many. The story of an adolescent whose life has been changed forever by his mother’s suicide. The story of a man who leaves the constraints of his family and community to join a kibbutz, change his name, marry, have children. The story of a writer who becomes an active participant in the political life of his nation."

A special thank you to book club member, Kayla Reynolds for the suggestion.

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Tel Aviv Noir

"'This collection escapes the limits of formula fiction. The genre is hot, Tel Aviv is exotic, and this volume is outstanding.' - Library Journal, Starred review

In spite of its outwardly warm and polite exterior, Tel Aviv has quite a bit to hide. At any club, most of the people dancing around you to the sounds of a deep-house hit dedicated to peace and love have undergone extensive automatic-weapons training and a hand-grenade tutorial. The workers washing the dishes in the fluorescent-lit kitchen of that same club are Eritrean refugees who have crossed the Egyptian border illegally, along with a group of Bedouins smuggling some high-quality hash, which the deejay will soon be smoking on his little podium, right by the busy dance floor filled with drunks, coked-up lawyers, and Ukrainian call girls whose pimp keeps their passports in a safe two streets away. Don't get me wrong—Tel Aviv is a lovely, safe city. Most of the time, for most of its inhabitants. But the stories in this collection describe what happens the rest of the time, to the rest of its inhabitants. From one last cup of coffee at a café targeted by a suicide bomber, through repeat visits from a Yiddish-speaking ghost, to an organized tour of mythological crime scenes that goes terribly wrong, the stories of Tel Aviv Noir reveal the concealed, scarred face of this city that we love so much."

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To the End of the Land

"In this stunning, bestselling novel—and an NBCC Award finalist—David Grossman tells the powerful story of a mother’s love for her son. Just before his release from service in the Israeli army, Ora’s son, Ofer is sent back to the front for a major offensive. In a fit of preemptive grief and magical thinking, so that no bad news can reach her, Ora sets out on an epic hike in the Galilee. She is joined by an unlikely companion—Avram, a former friend and lover with a troubled past—and as they sleep out in the hills, Ora begins to conjure her son. Ofer’s story, as told by Ora, becomes a surprising balm both for her and for Avram—and a mother’s haunting meditation on war and family.

One of the Best Books of the Year: The Christian Science Monitor, The Economist, The New Republic, The New Yorker, The Washington Post, and The Pittsburgh Post Gazette"

A special thank you to book club member, Karen Roberts for the suggestion.

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The World of the End

International bestseller as well as winner of both the Geffen Award & the Kugel Award for Hebrew literature

"As an epilogist, Ben Mendelssohn appreciates an unexpected ending. But when that denouement is the untimely demise of his beloved wife, Ben is incapable of coping. Marian was more than his life partner; she was the fiber that held together all that he is. And Ben is willing to do anything, even enter the unknown beyond, if it means a chance to be with her again.

One bullet to the brain later, Ben is in the Other World, where he discovers a vast and curiously secular existence utterly unlike anything he could have imagined: a realm of sprawling cities where the deceased of every age live an eternal second life, and where forests of family trees are tended by mysterious humans who never lived in the previous world. But Ben cannot find Marian.

Desperate for a reunion, he enlists an unconventional afterlife investigator to track her down, little knowing that his search is entangled in events that continue to unfold in the world of the living. It is a search that confronts Ben with one heart-rending shock after another; with the best and worst of human nature; with the resilience and fragility of love; and with truths that will haunt him through eternity."

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Qissat

"These fascinating and diverse stories reflect the everyday concerns of Palestinians living under occupation. Writers who were children during the first intifada appear alongside those who remember the outbreak of the Lebanese civil war. They offer compassionate, often critical, insight into their society in times of hardship and turmoil, drawing upon the warmth of human relations and the hope that better times will come. Qissat is a rare showcase of Palestinian women writers across generations and places, including Gaza, Ramallah, the United States and the Gulf.

'Raw and honest ... lyrical and beautifully written' - Sunday Times

'Layered, haunting, sensuously rich' - The Times

'In turn lyrical, sensuous, comic and ironic ... it is the quality of subtle, evocative writing here that makes Qissat remarkable.' -Independent"

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The Book of Gaza

"Under the Israeli occupation of the '70s and '80s, writers in Gaza had to go to considerable lengths to ever have a chance of seeing their work in print. Manuscripts were written out longhand, invariably under pseudonyms, and smuggled out of the Strip to Jerusalem, Cairo or Beirut, where they then had to be typed up. Consequently, fiction grew shorter, novels became novellas, and short stories flourished as the city's form of choice. Indeed, to Palestinians elsewhere, Gaza became known as 'the exporter of oranges and short stories'.

This anthology brings together some of the pioneers of the Gazan short story from that era, as well as younger exponents of the form, with ten stories offering glimpses of life in the Strip that go beyond the global media headlines; stories of anxiety, oppression, and violence, but also of resilience and hope, of what it means to be a Palestinian, and how that identity is continually being reforged; stories of ordinary characters struggling to live with dignity in what many have called 'the largest prison in the world'."

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Born in Jerusalem, Born Palestinian

"A poignant memoir of an eye witness of a major historical event in Jerusalem.

When Jacob Nammar was a young boy growing up in Harret al-Nammareh, his family, his friends, and the streets of his West Jerusalem neighborhood were the center of his life. It wasn’t long, however, before his existence was turned upside down when his family was forced out of their home during al-nakba, the catastrophe that resulted in the ethnic cleansing of nearly 750,000 natives and the destruction of over 500 Palestinian villages and towns.

In this heartwarming memoir, Jacob paints a vivid portrait of Palestinian life—from his childhood days in pre-1948 Jerusalem, the struggles of the Palestinian community under Israeli rule, to his ultimate decision to leave for America at age 23. It is a relevant and deeply personal tale of a man struggling to hold his world together as his beloved homeland is torn apart before his eyes and a chronicle of a love story with a city and a Palestinian family’s resilience and determination to survive even in their weakest moments.

Readers will laugh, cry, and be inspired by this charming coming of age story set amid the backdrop of one of the most tragic historical events that engulfed the region."

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I Saw Ramallah

"A fierce and moving work and an unparalleled rendering of the human aspects of the Palestinian predicament.

Barred from his homeland after 1967’s Six-Day War, the poet Mourid Barghouti spent thirty years in exile—shuttling among the world’s cities, yet secure in none of them; separated from his family for years at a time; never certain whether he was a visitor, a refugee, a citizen, or a guest. As he returns home for the first time since the Israeli occupation, Barghouti crosses a wooden bridge over the Jordan River into Ramallah and is unable to recognize the city of his youth. Sifting through memories of the old Palestine as they come up against what he now encounters in this mere 'idea of Palestine,' he discovers what it means to be deprived not only of a homeland but of 'the habitual place and status of a person.' A tour de force of memory and reflection, lamentation and resilience, I Saw Ramallah is a deeply humane book, essential to any balanced understanding of today’s Middle East."

A special thank you to book club member, Jo Jackson for the suggestion.

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I Was Born There, I Was Born Here

"In 1996, Barghouti went back to his Palestinian home for the first time since his exile following the Six-Day War in 1967, and wrote a poignant account of the exile's lot in the acclaimed memoir I Saw Ramallah. In 2003, he returned to Ramallah to introduce his Cairo-born son to his Palestinian family. 

I Was Born There, I was Born Here traces Barghouti's own life in recent years and in the past - early life in Palestine, expulsion from Cairo, exile to Budapest, marriage to one of Egypt's leading writers and critics (Radwa Ashour), the birth of his son, Tamim, and then the young man's own expulsion from Cairo.

Ranging freely back and forth in time, Barghouti weaves into his account poignant evocations of Palestinian history and daily life. His evocative, composed prose, beautifully rendered in Humphrey Davies' precise and sensitive translation, leads to the surprisingly candid condemnation of the Palestinian authority's leading figures and the astonishing verdict that 'The real disaster that the Palestinians are living through these days is that they've fallen under the control of a bunch of school kids with no teacher.' 

Beautifully rendered by the prize-winning translator Humphrey Davies, I Was Born There, I Was Born Here, is destined, like its predecessor, to become a classic."

A special thank you to book club member, Shivalaxmi Arumugham for the suggestion.

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When the Birds Stopped Singing

"The Israeli army invaded Ramallah in March 2002. A tank stood at the end of Raja Shehadeh's road; Israeli soldiers patrolled from the roof tops. Four soldiers took over his brother's apartment and then used him as a human shield as they went through the building, while his wife tried to keep her composure for the sake of their frightened childred, ages four and six.
This is an account of what it is like to be under seige: the terror, the frustrations, the humiliations, and the rage. How do you pass your time when you are imprisoned in your own home? What do you do when you cannot cross the neighborhood to help your sick mother?
Shehadeh's other memoir, Strangers in the House: Coming of Age in Occupied Palestine, was the first book by a Palestinian writer to chronicle a life of displacement on the West Bank from 1967 to the present. It received international acclaim and was a finalist for the 2002 Lionel Gelber Prize. When the Birds Stopped Singing is a book of the moment, a chronicle of life today as lived by ordinary Palestinians throughout the West Bank and Gaza in the grip of the most stringent Israeli security measures in years. And yet it is also an enduring document, at once literary and of great political import, that should serve as a cautionary tale for today's and future generations."

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Midnight's Furies

"Named one of the best books of 2015 by NPR, Amazon, Seattle Times, and Shelf Awareness.

A  few bloody months in South Asia during the summer of 1947 explain the world that troubles us today.

Nobody expected the liberation of India and birth of Pakistan to be so bloody — it was supposed to be an answer to the dreams of Muslims and Hindus who had been ruled by the British for centuries. Jawaharlal Nehru, Gandhi’s protégé and the political leader of India, believed Indians were an inherently nonviolent, peaceful people. Pakistan’s founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, was a secular lawyer, not a firebrand.  But in August 1946, exactly a year before Independence, Calcutta erupted in street-gang fighting. A cycle of riots — targeting Hindus, then Muslims, then Sikhs — spiraled out of control. As the summer of 1947 approached, all three groups were heavily armed and on edge, and the British rushed to leave. Hell let loose. Trains carried Muslims west and Hindus east to their slaughter. Some of the most brutal and widespread ethnic cleansing in modern history erupted on both sides of the new border, searing a divide between India and Pakistan that remains a root cause of many evils. From jihadi terrorism to nuclear proliferation, the searing tale told in Midnight’s Furies explains all too many of the headlines we read today."

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Climbing the Mango Trees

"The enchanting autobiography of the seven-time James Beard Award-winning cookbook author and acclaimed actress who taught America how to cook Indian food.

Whether climbing the mango trees in her grandparents' orchard in Delhi or picnicking in the Himalayan foothills on meatballs stuffed with raisins and mint tucked into freshly baked spiced pooris, Madhur Jaffrey’s life has been marked by food, and today these childhood pleasures evoke for her the tastes and textures of growing up. Following Jaffrey from India to Britain, this memoir is both an enormously appealing account of an unusual childhood and a testament to the power of food to prompt memory, vividly bringing to life a lost time and place. Also included here are recipes for more than thirty delicious dishes from Jaffrey’s childhood."

A special thank you to book club member, Jo Jackson for the suggestion.

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