My New Year, New Reads Recommendations

As I mentioned in my previous post, last Saturday was my bi-annual book buzz program at the library where I work. After reading about 15 books for the program I narrowed down my picks to the following titles. I do try to choose a variety of books, but I also want them to be a reflection of my style and taste – after all they are my personal picks. My co-presenter, Melissa, reads much different books then I do and between us I think we do a good job of providing something for everyone!

Here are the books I recommended for the first quarter of 2020. All publication dates are for the US:

you're not listening

You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why it Matters by Kate Murphy – If you like Quiet by Susan Cain, You Just Don’t Understand by Deborah Tannen or just want to improve your listening skills this is a perfect book for you. Published January 7th.

long bright river

Long Bright River by Liz Moore – This novel held me in thrall and I absolutely enjoyed reading every page. If you like the crime novels of Tana French and Laura McHugh or the character driven family dramas of Celeste Ng and Jean Kwok you should try Long Bright River. Published January 7th.

girl with louding

The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Dare – If you like stories about triumph over adversity with strong female protagonists you will love The Girl with the Louding Voice. Published February 4th.

independence square

Independence Square by A.D. Miller – This is a novel about power, corruption and money and how all of those combined can not only impact governments but change the lives of ordinary people caught in the machine. If you like novels about political intrigue and novels by Robert Harris and John Le Carre you should try Independence Square. Published February 4th.

house of trelawney

House of Trelawney by Hannah Rothschild – If you want to know what Downton Abbey might turn out like 80 years on if Lady Mary’s son George happens to be a womanizing, ineffective buffoon incapable of hanging on to his money than you should read House of Trelawney. It’s also a good read if you love satire and plots that are proudly over the top. Published February 11th.


Firewatching by Russ Thomas – This new police procedural series features a fascinating main detective, colorful supporting characters and a clever plot. It’s set in Sheffield, Yorkshire and reminded me of the Inspector Banks series by Peter Robinson (also set in Yorkshire) so if you like the Banks series you will like this one. It will also appeal to readers who like Susie Steiner and Dervla McTiernan or any of the British police shows like Shetland or Broadchurch. Published February 25th.

lady in waiting

Lady in Waiting by Anne Glenconner – If you like to read aristo-lit, books about royalty and fabulously rich people and if you are a fan of The Crown you will love Lady in Waiting. Published March 24th.

house of glass

House of Glass by Hadley Freeman – I enjoyed this unraveling of the mystery of Freeman’s paternal family combined with her concise and insightful description of twentieth century Jewish history. If you like Catherine Bailey and the WWII histories of Caroline Moorehead you will enjoy House of Glass. Published March 24th.

miss austen

Miss Austen by Gill Hornby – With humor and compassion Gill Hornby has brought Cassandra Austen to life and created a compelling portrait of a single woman in the early 19th century. If you liked Longbourn by Jo Baker, The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen Flynn or are a Janeite you will enjoy Miss Austen. Published April 7th.

Are there any books on my list that you’ve already read or look forward to reading?

Is anyone participating in the Mini Persephone Readathon this weekend? I am going to try to read two Persephones over the next few days. We’ll see how it goes!

Snowdrops by A.D. Miller

Snowdrops is the kind of vicious, cynical little book that I usually avoid because I find it hard to read a book in which none of the characters are sympathetic or valiant, though I know that this probably reflects true life more than I like to believe.

Moscow in the 2000’s – drunken, corrupt, violent and greedy. Nick Platt is a British attorney who’s lived in Moscow for 4 years and up to now has only dipped his toe into the sewer of Moscow’s decadence. Like many ex-pats he’s learned the rules of Moscow’s confusing society by observation and has managed to avoid trouble. Until he meets two young girls in the subway station. Masha and Katya tell him that they’re sisters who’ve moved to Moscow from the country. He’s immediately smitten with Masha. She’s the older of the two and more sophisticated and confident. They begin a mostly sexual relationship, yet Nick feels so strongly about Masha that he wonders if she’s “the one”. The girls introduce him to their Aunt Tatiana, an older widow who eventually asks him to help her switch apartments with a man in the suburbs. Tatiana’s apartment is in a desirable central location and he does briefly wonder why she’d ever want to give it up. However, he uses his skills and knowledge of the Moscow legal system to help her because he wants to please Masha.

Ever so subtly, so slyly, does Miller drop hints that Nick is being taken for a huge ride. I felt anxiety throughout the narrative, knowing that things were going to end badly, but not really knowing how. I imagine this is how Nick himself felt as he ignored all the signs of deceit and blindly followed Masha’s lead. But it is self-delusion because he knows what is going on, his conscience prods him every once in a while and he calmly ignores it.

Most interestingly, this novel is written in the second person, addressed from Nick to his fiancee, telling her about this event that’s taken place in his past. It’s almost written as an excuse for her to change her mind or maybe for him to passively get out of the marriage himself?

There is so much to ponder in Snowdrops. It’s a powerful book for having  a relatively action-less, slow moving plot. The descriptions of life in modern Russia are depressing, yet fascinating. I can’t imagine living in a society that is so slippery and lawless. And cold.

I can see why Snowdrops was chosen for the Booker long list, but I wonder if it might be seen as too “trifling” to win. Has anyone else read it ? What do you think?