Stephen Schmidt

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The Prophets

Jones’s expertly drawn characters have depth and purpose, and the writing is beautiful despite the subject matter. A work that will resonate with those moved by Charles Johnson’s Middle Passage and Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad; highly recommended and especially encouraged for collections with an LGBTQ focus.


The Prettiest Star

A touching, sad, and important book, but sturdier editing would have helped to take it to another level. Libraries with large LGBTQ collections will want, but novels such as Rebecca Makkai’s The Great Believers and Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty delve into the subject with more success.

Deacon King Kong

Much is unpacked by the time the book reaches its lovely and heartfelt climax, as McBride shows what can happen when people set aside their differences. Highly recommended, especially for fans of Jacqueline Woodson and Spike Lee. [See Prepub Alert, 9/9/19.]


The nonlinear time line may puzzle, and readers unfamiliar with late 16th-century European politics may find many of the references confusing. In the end, this retelling of a famous German legend will work best for niche readers who appreciate a challenge, portrayals of feudal society reminiscent of Jim Crace’s excellent Harvest, or, Game of Thrones–style gore.

The Innocents

Similar to Crummey’s Sweetland as it delves into the minutiae of life on a northerly island, this novel can be tough going at times, but fans of narrative travel writing will appreciate Crummey’s descriptive flourishes. The relentless bleakness is alleviated by the cinematic depiction of the surrounding wilderness, with Crummey’s prose recalling that of Jim Crace in its strange, archaic terminology and sense of timelessness, and the conclusion is strangely moving.

The Water Dancer

Coates cites Toni Morrison and E.L. Doctorow as huge influences in writing this book, and the scope and seriousness on display here would make them both proud. The author can be didactic, unable to escape the weight of his message, but when he allows the action to unfold, the story becomes a work of wonder. Essential for all libraries. [See Prepub Alert, 3/4/19.]


The novel’s global range is impressive and the interconnected stories and overall tone will appeal to readers who enjoyed Lisa Halliday’s Asymmetry and Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad. [See Prepub Alert, 1/23/19.]

The Organs of Sense

Great fun and notable for its singular style, playful tone, and sense of economy (Sachs covers a huge amount of ground in just over 200 pages), this impressive debut is for fans of George Saunders and Vladimir Nabokov. [See Prepub Alert, 11/12/18.]



Distinctive in his look at Iraq, Murphy can also be strident as he touches upon foreign intervention, gun control, Far Right conspiracy theorists, the taboo of being gay in the Middle East and much more. How readers view the book may depend on how they feel about these issues themselves. [See Prepub Alert, 11/19/18.]

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