Prose Bowl: The Contenders

by Jackie

ProseBOWL_HOMEPAGE

Yesterday we announced Prose Bowl, but let’s take a closer look at the 32 books that are in contention to become Sno-Isle’s favorite book of 2015.

As I said yesterday, we arranged the matches as though they were seeded sports teams, but here they are in order of popularity (most checkouts and holds in 2015) and with descriptions. (Place a hold on any/all of these):

  1. Personal by Lee Child: Someone has taken a shot at the president of France in the City of Light. The bullet was American. The distance between the gunman and the target was exceptional.  John Kott–an American marksman gone bad is out of prison after 15 years, unaccounted for, and likely drawing a bead on a G-8 summit packed with enough world leaders to tempt any assassin. If anyone can stop Kott, it’s the man who beat him before: Reacher. And though he’d rather work alone, Reacher is teamed with Casey Nice, a rookie analyst who keeps her cool with Zoloft. They’re facing a rough road, full of ruthless mobsters, Serbian thugs, close calls, double-crosses, and no backup if they’re caught. All the while Reacher can’t stop thinking about the woman he once failed to save. But he won’t let that happen again. Not this time. Not Nice. Reacher never gets too close. But now a killer is making it personal.
  2. Gray Mountain by John Grisham: The Great Recession of 2008 left many young professionals out of work. Promising careers were suddenly ended as banks, hedge funds, and law firms engaged in mass lay-offs and brutal belt tightening. Samantha Kofer was a third year associate at Scully & Pershing, New York City’s largest law firm. Two weeks after Lehman Brothers collapsed, she lost her job, her security, and her future. A week later she was working as an unpaid intern in a legal aid clinic deep in small town Appalachia. There, for the first time in her career, she was confronted with real clients with real problems. She also stumbled across secrets that should have remained buried deep in the mountains forever.
  3. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins: Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life, as she sees it, is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost. And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good? Compulsively readable, The Girl on the Train is an emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller and an electrifying debut.
  4. Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult: Alice Metcalf was a devoted mother, loving wife, and accomplished scientist who studied grief among elephants. Yet it’s been a decade since she disappeared under mysterious circumstances, leaving behind her small daughter, husband, and the animals to which she devoted her life. All signs point to abandonment . . . or worse. Still Jenna–now thirteen years old and truly orphaned by a father maddened by grief–steadfastly refuses to believe in her mother’s desertion. So she decides to approach the two people who might still be able to help her find Alice: a disgraced psychic named Serenity Jones, and Virgil Stanhope, the cynical detective who first investigated her mother’s disappearance and the death of one of her mother’s co-workers. Together these three lonely souls will discover truths destined to forever change their lives. Deeply moving and suspenseful, Leaving Time is a radiant exploration of the enduring love between mothers and daughters.
  5. A Sudden Light by Garth Stein: In the summer of 1990, 14-year-old Trevor Riddell gets his first glimpse of Riddell House. Built from the spoils of a massive timber fortune, the legendary family mansion is constructed of giant, whole trees, and is set on a huge estate overlooking Puget Sound. But Trevor soon discovers there’s someone else living in Riddell House: a ghost with an agenda of his own. As he uncovers secrets of his family’s past that are hidden deep within the house, guided by the whisperings of the ghost, Trevor discovers a legacy of family trauma and terrible guilt. The ghost will not rest until Elijah’s wish is fulfilled, and Trevor’s willingness to face the past holds the key to his family’s future.
  6. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondō: This best-selling guide to decluttering your home from Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes readers step-by-step through her revolutionary KonMari Method for simplifying, organizing, and storing.
  7. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah: An epic love story and family drama set at the dawn of World War II.
  8. A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler: It was a beautiful, breezy, yellow-and-green afternoon.” This is the way Abby Whitshank always begins the story of how she fell in love with Red that day in July 1959. The whole family–their two daughters and two sons, their grandchildren, even their faithful old dog–is on the porch, listening contentedly as Abby tells the tale they have heard so many times before. And yet this gathering is different too: Abby and Red are growing older, and decisions must be made about how best to look after them, and the fate of the house so lovingly built by Red’s father.
  9. Revival by Stephen King: In a small New England town over half a century ago, a boy is playing with his new toy soldiers in the dirt in front of his house when a shadow falls over him. He looks up to see a striking man, the new minister, Jamie learns later, who with his beautiful wife, will transform the church and the town. The men and boys are a bit in love with Mrs. Jacobs; the women and girls, with the Reverend Jacobs. Then tragedy strikes, and this charismatic preacher curses God, and is banished from the shocked town. Decades later, sober and living a decent life, Jamie and Reverend Charles Jacobs meet again in a pact beyond even the Devil’s devising, and the many terrifying meanings of Revival are revealed. King imbues this spectacularly rich and dark novel with everything he knows about music, addiction, and religious fanaticism, and every nightmare we ever had about death.
  10. Being Mortal by Gawande Atul: Gawande, a practicing surgeon, addresses his profession’s ultimate limitation, arguing that quality of life is the desired goal for patients and families of the terminally ill.
  11. Yes Please by Amy Poehler: The actress best known for her work on “Parks and Recreation” and “Saturday Night Live” reveals personal stories and offers her humorous take on such topics as love, friendship, parenthood, and her relationship with Tina Fey.
  12. Dead Wake by Erik Larson: The #1 New York Times best-selling author of In the Garden of Beasts presents a 100th-anniversary chronicle of the sinking of the Lusitania that discusses the factors that led to the tragedy and the contributions of such figures as President Wilson, bookseller Charles Lauriat and architect Theodate Pope Riddle.
  13. The Liar by Nora Roberts: Devastated to learn that her unfaithful husband had actually married her using an alias, Shelby returns with her young daughter to her Tennessee hometown and pursues a new relationship before her husband’s past poses dangerous threats.
  14. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel: An audacious, darkly glittering novel about art, fame, and ambition set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, from the author of three highly acclaimed previous novels. One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time-from the actor’s early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as the Traveling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains-this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor’s first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet. Sometimes terrifying, sometimes tender, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.
  15. Cold Betrayal by J.A. Jance: Revenge isn’t the only dish served cold… Ali Reynolds’s longtime friend and Taser-carrying nun, Sister Anselm, rushes to the bedside of a young pregnant woman hospitalized for severe injuries after she was hit by a car on a deserted Arizona highway. The girl had been running away from The Family, a polygamous cult with no patience for those who try to leave its ranks. Meanwhile, married life agrees with Ali. But any hopes that she and her husband, B. Simpson, will finally slow down and relax now that they’ve tied the knot are dashed when Ali’s new daughter-in-law approaches her, desperate for help. The girl’s grandmother, Betsy, is in danger: she’s been receiving anonymous threats, and someone even broke into her home and turned on the gas burners in the middle of the night.
  16. I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson: A story of first love, family, loss, and betrayal told from different points in time, and in separate voices, by artists Jude and her twin brother Noah
  17. Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee: A new novel from one of America’s bestselling authors. Exploring the tensions between a local culture and a changing national political agenda; family arguments and love.
  18. The Wright Brothers by David McCullough: As he did so brilliantly in THE GREAT BRIDGE and THE PATH BETWEEN THE SEAS, David McCullough once again tells a dramatic story of people and technology, this time about the courageous brothers who taught the world how to fly, Wilbur and Orville Wright.
  19. 14th Deadly Sin by James Patterson: With San Francisco under siege and everyone a suspect, the Women’s Murder Club must risk their lives to save the city–and each other.
  20. Circling the Sun by Paula McLain: Brought to Kenya from England as a child and then abandoned by her mother, Beryl is raised by both her father and the native Kipsigis tribe who share his estate. Her unconventional upbringing transforms Beryl into a bold young woman with a fierce love of all things wild. But even the wild child must grow up, and when everything Beryl knows and trusts dissolves, she is catapulted into a string of disastrous relationships. It’s the ruggedly charismatic Denys Finch Hatton who ultimately helps Beryl navigate the uncharted territory of her own heart. The intensity of their love reveals Beryl’s truest self and her fate: to fly. Set against the majestic landscape of early-twentieth-century Africa, McLain’s powerful tale reveals the extraordinary adventures of a woman before her time, the exhilaration of freedom and its cost, and the tenacity of the human spirit.
  21. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard: In a world divided by blood–those with common, Red blood serve the Silver-blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities–seventeen-year-old Mare, a Red, discovers she has an ability of her own. To cover up this impossibility, the king forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. But Mare risks everything and uses her new position to help the Scarlet Guard –a growing Red rebellion–even as her heart tugs her in an impossible direction.
  22. X by Sue Grafton: Perhaps Grafton’s darkest and most chilling novel, it features a remorseless serial killer who leaves no trace of his crimes. Once again breaking the rules and establishing new paths, Grafton wastes little time identifying this sociopath. The test is whether Kinsey can prove her case against him before she becomes his next victim.
  23. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven: Told in alternating voices, when Theodore Finch and Violet Markey meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school–both teetering on the edge–it’s the beginning of an unlikely relationship, a journey to discover the “natural wonders” of the state of Indiana, and two teens’ desperate desire to heal and save one another.
  24. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir: Laia is a Scholar living under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars who claim that they will help to save her brother from execution.
  25. The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion: Don Tillman and Rosie Jarman are back. The Wife Project is complete, and Don and Rosie are happily married and living in New York. But they’re about to face a new challenge because– surprise!–Rosie is pregnant. Don sets about learning the protocols of becoming a father, but his unusual research style gets him into trouble with the law. Fortunately his best friend Gene is on hand to offer advice: he’s left Claudia and moved in with Don and Rosie. As Don tries to schedule time for pregnancy research, getting Gene and Claudia to reconcile, servicing the industrial refrigeration unit that occupies half his apartment, helping Dave the Baseball Fan save his business, and staying on the right side of Lydia the social worker, he almost misses the biggest problem of all: he might lose Rosie when she needs him the most.
  26. Last Bus to Wisdom by Ivan Doig: Donal Cameron is being raised by his grandmother, but when Gram has to have surgery in the summer of 1951, all she can think to do is to ship Donal off to her sister in faraway Manitowoc, Wisconsin. There Donal is in for a rude surprise: Aunt Kate-bossy, opinionated, argumentative, and tyrannical–is nothing like her sister. She henpecks her good-natured husband, Herman the German (as Donal discovers him to be), and Donal can’t seem to get on her good side either. After one contretemps too many, Kate decides to pack him back to the authorities in Montana on the next Greyhound. But to Donal’s surprise, he’s not traveling solo: Herman the German has decided to fly the coop with him. In the immortal American tradition, the pair light out for the territory together, meeting a classic Doigian ensemble of characters and having rollicking misadventures along the way. Charming, wise, and slyly funny, Last Bus to Wisdom is another treasure of a novel from the best storyteller of the West.
  27. Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith: When a mysterious package is delivered to Robin Ellacott, she is horrified to discover that it contains a woman’s severed leg. Her boss, private detective Cormoran Strike, is less surprised but no less alarmed. There are four people from his past who he thinks could be responsible–and Strike knows that any one of them is capable of sustained and unspeakable brutality. With the police focusing on the one suspect Strike is increasingly sure is not the perpetrator, he and Robin take matters into their own hands, and delve into the dark and twisted worlds of the other three men. But as more horrendous acts occur, time is running out for the two of them…
  28. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates: For Ta-Nehisi Coates, history has always been personal. At every stage of his life, he’s sought in his explorations of history answers to the mysteries that surrounded him — most urgently, why he, and other black people he knew, seemed to live in fear. What were they afraid of? A mix of lyrical personal narrative, reimagined history, essayistic argument, and reportage — Coates provides readers a thrillingly illuminating new framework for understanding race: its history, our contemporary dilemma, and where we go from here.
  29. Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson: In Furiously Happy, #1 New York Times bestselling author Jenny Lawson explores her lifelong battle with mental illness. A hysterical, ridiculous book about crippling depression and anxiety? That sounds like a terrible idea. But terrible ideas are what Jenny does best. Lawson is beloved around the world for her inimitable humor and honesty, and in Furiously Happy, she is at her snort-inducing funniest. This is a book about embracing everything that makes us who we are – the beautiful and the flawed – and then using it to find joy in fantastic and outrageous ways.
  30. Seveneves by Neal Stephenson: Five thousand years after a catastrophic event rendered the Earth a ticking time bomb, the progeny of a handful of outer space explorers–seven distinct races now three billion strong–embark on yet another audacious journey: to return to Earth.
  31. Come Rain or Come Shine by Jan Karon: Dooley Kavanagh, first seen in At Home in Mitford as a barefoot, freckle-faced boy in filthy overalls has graduated from vet school and opened his own animal clinic. Since money will be tight for a while, maybe he and Lace Harper, his once and future soul mate, should keep their wedding simple. So the plan is to eliminate the cost of catering and do potluck. Ought to be fun. An old friend offers to bring his well-known country band. Gratis. And once mucked out, the barn works as a perfect venue for seating family and friends. Piece of cake, right?
  32. Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter: More than twenty years ago, Claire and Lydia’s teenaged sister Julia vanished without a trace. The two women have not spoken since, and now their lives could not be more different. Neither has recovered from the horror and heartbreak of their shared loss — a devastating wound that’s ripped open when Claire’s husband is killed. Forming a wary truce, the surviving sisters look to the past to find the truth, unearthing the secrets that destroyed their family all those years ago … and uncovering the possibility of redemption, and revenge, where they least expect it.

Some of these books do have wait lists, and we linked to the format (print vs ebook) that would get you the book the quickest. If you search in the catalog, you’ll find that most are also available in audio and large print.

Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with some of the titles you weren’t familiar with (it’s ok not to have read them all! We’d be gobsmacked if anyone has!), feel free to vote below:

If the above is a little small, try the larger version.

Tags: ,


Comments

6 responses to “Prose Bowl: The Contenders”

  1. Julie Muhlstein says:

    Feel guilty at how few of these I have read, but have read many previous books by same authors. I’m writing a Herald story about Prose Bowl for Jan. 1.

    • Don’t feel guilty, Julie! Really! We know most people won’t have read many of them, but we’re pretty sure most will have read at least a few and have definite preferences. Mostly, it’s just fun!

  2. Pat Hollister says:

    I would like to vote for some that are not on the list, please:

    The Most Dangerous Thing by Lippman
    North River by Hamill
    Truth Like the Sun by Lynch
    Broken Harbor by French
    Tonight I Said Goodbye by Koryta
    Defending Jacob by Landay

    These are not all new but I just read them this year.

  3. […] In case that’s a little too much squinting for you, in the final, The Girl on the Train went up against Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. Station Eleven beat Circling the Sun in the quarter finals, and Girl on the Train beat Furiously Happy in its quarter-final match. You can see the whole list of contenders here. […]

  4. […] far, I have read two from our Prose Bowl Finalist […]

Leave a reply