Run Your Week: Big Books, Sure Bets, & Titles Making News, Jan. 13, 2020 | Book Pulse

Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain leads holds this week. The National Book Critics Circle announce their finalists for the 2019 award year. The Oscar nominations are out. Joker gets plenty of chances to win. The Critics’ Choice Awards were awarded last night. Little Women, Joker, and The Irishman have wins. Betsy Bird considers 2019 in children’s literature in SLJ. NYPL counts its 10 most checked-out books in history.  

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Big Books of the Week

Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain (St. Martin’s Press: Macmillan) leads holds this week.

Other titles in demand include:

Uncanny Valley: A Memoir by Anna Wiener (MCD: Macmillan)

Lost by James Patterson, James O. Born (Little, Brown: Hachette)

No Fixed Line Dana Stabenow (Head of Zeus)

All the Ways We Said Goodbye: A Novel of the Ritz Paris by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, Karen White (William Morrow: Harper; LJ starred review)

Librarians and Booksellers Suggest

There are five LibraryReads picks hitting shelves this week, two are also Indie Next selections:

How Quickly She Disappears by Raymond Fleischmann (Berkley: Penguin)

“In 1941 Alaska, a woman whose twin disappeared 20 years earlier crosses paths with a sinister stranger threatening to reveal the truth of what happened. Does she dare risk what little she has left to save her sister? For readers of moody thrillers such as Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown and The Dry by Jane Harper. —Jennifer Winberry, Hunterdon County Library, Flemington NJ

Indie Next:

How Quickly She Disappears is a Thriller with a capital T!! Set in Alaska with flashbacks to a childhood in Pennsylvania, the story follows Elisabeth, who is still haunted by and feeling partially responsible for the disappearance of her twin sister, Jacqueline, when they were 11. It’s been 20 years, but when a stranger, Alfred, shows up claiming to have proof Jacqueline is still alive, Elisabeth sets out to assuage her guilty conscience. Alfred is demanding. Alfred demands frightening things of her. And as he teases her with more and more information, the stakes and demands escalate. How far will she go? Author Raymond Fleischmann will put you to the test. Your heart will race. Your breathing will become shallow. The pages will fly. This thriller is unlike any you’ve ever read!” —Nancy Simpson-Brice, Book Vault, Oskaloosa, IA

Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain (St. Martin’s Press: Macmillan)

Told in alternating viewpoints, this suspense tale centers on a secret involving two artists working on a mural 78 years apart. Excellent and engaging, with a twist! —Marilyn Sieb, L.D. Fargo Public Library, Lake Mills, WI

Indie Next:

Big Lies in a Small Town offers an intriguing mystery that caused me to stay up way past my bedtime on several occasions. The author perfectly weaves the 1940 and the 1918 storylines throughout alternating chapters, captivating the reader with main characters Anna and Morgan, as well as a host of fascinating supporting players. The ending offers a surprise twist that catches the reader unaware. A must-read for mystery lovers as well as those who appreciate art.” —Gayle Lovvorn, Noteworthy Bookstore, Stamford, TX

All the Ways We Said Goodbye : A Novel of the Ritz Paris by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, Karen White (William Morrow: Harper; LJ starred review)

“Three time periods, three women, three authors combine for an absorbing read. Aurelie is ready to fight the Germans during WWI. Daisy, a woman with a collaborator husband, is embroiled in the fight against the Nazis. Babs, an Englishwoman in the 1960s, is anxious to find the truth about her dead husband. For readers who liked The Alice Network and Sarah’s Key.” —Ellen Firer, Merrick Library, Merrick, NY

Followers by Megan Angelo (Graydon House: Harper). 

A thrilling, satirical critique of societal values. The timeline alternates before and after "the Spill," a psychological terrorist attack using online data, and society is wildly changed. But one thing is still the same--family is complicated. For fans of The Circle (Dave Eggers) and Super Sad True Love Story (Gary Shteyngart) — Jessica Rodrigues, Steger-South Chicago Heights Public Library, Chicago, IL

Love Her or Lose Her by Tessa Bailey (Avon: Harper)

“This story of a married couple losing--and then finding--their way together is beautiful, touching and hot, with just the right touch of comic relief. For readers of Sally Thorne and Christina Lauren. —Carole Tossman, Howard County Library System, Ellicott City, MD

There are seven additional Indie Next choices coming out this week:

Imaginary Museums: Stories by Nicolette Polek (Soft Skull Press)

“It’s no small feat to establish a spellbinding presence in the span of 26 micro-stories, but Nicolette Polek pulls it off masterfully with Imaginary Museums. Her formula is so subtle that I can’t really figure out how she achieves these literary sleights of hand with such consistency: one part magical realism here, a dash of unadorned honesty there, stir in some gallows humor, and serve chilled.” —Sam Faulkner, A Room of One’s Own Bookstore, Madison, WI

Uncanny Valley: A Memoir by Anna Wiener (MCD: Macmillan).

“Like Joan Didion or Renata Adler, Ben Lerner or Sally Rooney, Anna Wiener writes with dead-on specificity, scalpel-sharp analysis, deep sensitivity, and an eye for the absurd. She headed west into the modern gold rush that is the tech boom and now returns with gleaming ingots of insight, weaving tales of a strange land where boy-CEOs ride ripsticks and hoover up your data. An essential and very human look at the forces shaping who we are and how we behave.” —Sam MacLaughlin, McNally Jackson Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY

The Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez (Del Rey: Random House)

“This book has stuck with me in a way that I know can only be attributed to masterful storytelling. In The Vanished Birds, Earth becomes uninhabitable and humankind spreads out into space using technology that is all of our capitalist, designer-baby, smart-everything, social-media-age fears realized. But this new world is also beautifully poetic — enormous space stations have been designed to mimic specific birds but have outlived their namesakes for lifetimes. I am dizzied by this world Jimenez has created and the characters that live in it. I find myself thinking about Nia and the people in her orbit — their thoughts, their motives, their choices — and going over mistakes and minutiae as if they were my own. This is literary science fiction at its most effective and affective.” —Samantha Tovey, Tattered Cover Book Store, Denver, CO

Night Theater by Vikram Paralkar (Catapult)

“What does it mean to be truly alive? When a village surgeon comes face to face with three impossible patients, he must decide if he is willing to risk everything to try and help them. What a story! A mix of speculative fiction and operating room drama, this book totally enraptured me.” —Jennifer Rohrbach, Newtonville Books, Newton Centre, MA

Cleanness by Garth Greenwell (FSG: Macmillan)

Cleanness is a trance-inducing read. I started this book and was immediately swept up in it, and before I knew it, hours had passed. Greenwell describes human relationships in raw, beautiful detail while also exploring the power dynamics at play. If Cleanness is not one of my favorite books of 2020, it will have been a spectacular year for books.” —Hunter Gillum, Beaverdale Books, Des Moines, IA

Kingdomtide by Rye Curtis (Little, Brown: Hachette)

“Original, fresh, and vulnerable. As soon as I finished Kingdomtide, I wanted to read it all over again. The shared plotline of the main characters felt like a heartbeat, speeding up and slowing down as they dealt with what life handed them. This story felt so real, not just in the sense that it could truly happen, but the feelings and emotions and conflicts the characters struggled through, with themselves, others, and society as a whole. A must-read for 2020, it really blew me away. I can’t wait for Curtis’ next novel.” —Jen Morrow, Bards Alley, Vienna, VA

The Tenant by Katrine Engberg (Gallery/Scout Press: S. & S.)

“Truth is stranger than fiction for two detectives and an aspiring author, characters featured in Katrine Engberg’s new novel, The Tenant. No one is quite who we think they are, so we’re right there with police detectives Jeppe Korner and Anette Werner as they try to unravel the multitude of threads connecting victims, possible suspects, and witnesses. Terror and thrills abound as Engberg keeps all of us guessing right up to the end. I didn’t breathe a sigh of relief until the last page.” —Eileen McGervey, One More Page Books, Arlington, VA

These books and others publishing the week of Jan. 13, 2020, are listed in a  downloadable spreadsheet 

In the Media

Long Bright River by Liz Moore (Riverhead: Penguin; LJ starred review) is People’s Book of the Week.

Also getting attention are Lady Clementine by Marie Benedict (Sourcebooks Landmark; LJ starred review) and the The Prized Girl by Amy K. Green (Dutton: Penguin). The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy (HarperOne) also makes news.

On People Picks list are Lincoln Rhyme: Hunt for the Bone Collector and Dracula. There is also a feature on Just Mercy.


USA Today reviews Little Gods by Meng Jin (Custom House: Harper), giving it three stars and writing it ”is built from familiar tropes: love amid violence, lost parents, secrets held by those closest to us. But Jin brings a fresh imagination to them, thoughtfully leveraging the language of physics without making the narrative cold or overladen.” Also, Zed by Joanna Kavenna (Doubleday: Random House), giving it 3.5 stars and writing it “triggers an unsettling buzz inside your brain that lasts long after the last page.”

NPR reviews Oligarchy by Scarlett Thomas (Counterpoint): “it's Thomas' boldness, as well as her writing — every sentence seems painstakingly constructed — that make Oligarchy such a remarkable novel. It's brash, bizarre and original, an unflinching look.” The PLAIN Janes by Cecil Castellucci, Jim Rugg (Little, Brown Books for Young Audlts: Hachette): “one of those great teen books that transcends its category. It's always offered respite and inspiration for anyone, of any age, who struggles to keep their creative potential alive. But now that the Janes have grown up a bit, there's more than respite here: there's reflection.”

The L.A. Times reviews Cleanness by Garth Greenwell (FSG: Macmillan), writing that it “thrums with life’s questions.” Also, Uncanny Valley: A Memoir by Anna Wiener (MCD: Macmillan): “biting and funny … will speak to you as well as any book about millennial culture. Its humor is a proxy for the despair Wiener feels about tech culture’s predicament and her helplessness at doing anything about it.” Overground Railroad: The Green Book and the Roots of Black Travel in America by Candacy Taylor (Abrams; LJ starred review): “has meticulously retraced history.”

The Washington Post reviews The Age of Illusions: How America Squandered Its Cold War Victory by Andrew J. Bacevich (Metropolitan Books: Macmillan): "a wry and dark book aimed at dissecting decades-long trends and first principles rather than moment-to-moment crises.” Also, God's Hand on America: Divine Providence in the Modern Era by Michael Medved (Crown Forum: Random House): “the book will mostly appeal to listeners of right-wing radio and viewers of Fox News.” Zed by Joanna Kavenna (Doubleday: Random House): “What begins as a familiar addition to the dystopian or techno-horror genres becomes far stranger and more appealing.”

Briefly Noted

The National Book Critics Circle announce their finalists for the 2019 award year. The winners are awarded on March 12. As part of the announcement are the winners of specific NBCC awards. The Yellow House by Sarah Broom (Grove Press) wins The John Leonard Award for Best First Book. Naomi Shihab Nye, Cast Away: Poems for Our Time (Greenwillow Books: Harper), wins The Ivan Sandrof Award for Lifetime Achievement. Reviewer Katy Waldman wins The Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing.

The Guardian has a conversation with “six authors shortlisted for the Portico prize – AKA the ‘Booker of the north’.”

The February Indie Next list is out. American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins (Flatiron: Macmillan; LJ starred review) tops the choices. The NYT features the novel, writing it “seems poised to become one of this year’s biggest breakout works of fiction” and also surveying some of the criticism surrounding it.

USA Today picks its books for the week.

The NYT runs its romance column.

Vulture’s “Read Like the Wind” January column is out. Also, the site’s picks for the best books of 2020.

Book Riot picks its most anticipated books of 2020.

Bitch Media selects “17 Nonfiction Books Feminists Should Read in 2020.”

The NYT offers “The Cookbooks You Need for 2020, as Selected by Chefs.” It is not a 2020 list, but a list of cookbooks to try this year. It is done in round robin style, starting with Alison Roman, Nothing Fancy: Unfussy Food for Having People Over (Clarkson Potter: Random House).

Betsy Bird considers 2019 in children’s literature in SLJ.

Booklist announces its Editors’ Choices for 2019 (follow the links for all categories).

Vogue picks “The 15 Best David Bowie Books.”

Entertainment Weekly has an excerpt of The Ravens by Kass Morgan and Danielle Paige, due out Jan. 2021 from HMH.

The NYT reports on the 10 most checked-out books in NYPL’s history. The Washington Post also has a piece on the list.

The L.A. Times features Heather John Fogarty’s 52 books in 52 weeks project: “In the year leading up to the 2020 election, I would read (at least) one book from each state, as well as from Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., prioritizing contemporary fiction and memoir, with the hope of exploring shared experiences, such as family, identity and a sense of home.” writes “Long Live Short Fiction: The New Golden Age of the SFF Novella.”

Entertainment Weekly features the Hellboy Winter Special 2019 comic.

The Guardian interviews Jo Nesbø, Knife: A New Harry Hole Novel (Knopf). Also, an interview with William Gibson, Agency (Berkley: Penguin).

Sarah Moss, Ghost Wall (FSG: Macmillan), answers the Book Marks questionnaire.

Pakistani author Mohammed Hanif’s A Case of Exploding Mangoes, now translated into Urdu, has prompted “men claiming to be from Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency [to raid] the Maktaba-e-Danyal publishing house in Karachi, confiscating about 250 copies and demanding to know which bookshops were selling the novel.” NPR has details.

Alyssa Cole, How to Catch a Queen: Runaway Royals (Avon: Harper), writes a Perspective piece on Meghan and Harry for The Washington Post.

Alasdair Gray has died. John Rothchild has died. The NYT has obituaries.

Chukwuemeka Ike has died. Sahara Reporters has the news.

Authors on Air

The Oscar nominations are out. The NYT has the full list. Joker gets plenty of chances to win.

The Critics’ Choice Awards were awarded last night. Little Women, Joker, and The Irishman have wins. The Hollywood Reporter has the full list and details.

NPR interviews Anna Wiener, Uncanny Valley: A Memoir (MCD: Macmillan). Also, an interview with Steve Inskeep, Imperfect Union: How Jessie and John Fremont Mapped the West, Invented Celebrity, and Helped Cause the Civil War (Penguin).

PBS NewsHour has a story on the new art for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which includes references to Japanese manga.

Sy Montgomery, The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness (Atria: S. & S.), featured on CBS Sunday Morning.

Rapper Noname is promoting librarians and bookstores and has a book club. NPR has details.

Star Trek: Picard has been renewed for a second season. Season one starts on Jan. 23. There is even more Star Trek news. Silence of the Lambs gets a sequel series at CBS. PBS’s Frontline is focusing on Amazon. Toni Morrison will be the focus on a forthcoming PBS show about notable American heroines. Another PBS show will focus on Gloria Steinem. Robert Beatty’s Willa Of The Wood is headed to TV, with Amy Adams’s production group at the head. FX plans more adaptations Charles Dickens’s novels. The Sony Pictures musical comedy adaptation of Cinderella adds to the cast. The 2021 YA novel Anatomy: A Love Story by Dana Schwartz sells rights. Deadline has details on all.

SyFy is planning a new Peter Pan series, The League of Pan. Also, The Mad Women’s Ball by Victoria Mas is headed to the movies. Variety has the news.

Amber Tamblyn, Era of Ignition: Coming of Age in a Time of Rage and Revolution (Crown Archetype: Random House), will be on with Seth Meyers tonight.

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Author Image
Neal Wyatt

Neal Wyatt is LJ’s readers’ advisory columnist, contributing The Reader’s Shelf, Book Pulse, and Wyatt’s World columns. She is the coauthor of The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction, 3d ed. (ALA Editions, 2019). Contact her at

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