1. The Best of All Possible Worlds
by Karen Lord, February 12, 2013 (See review)
2. The Painted Girls
by Cathy Marie Buchanan, 2013
Three sisters in Belle Époque Paris struggle to survive in the treacherous worlds of ballet and theatre. Middle sister Marie becomes the model for Edgar Degas’ well-known sculpture Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen. But the gritty environment in which they live will haunt that legacy.
3. Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker
by Jennifer Chiaverini, 2013
Long before Tracy Reese or Oscar de la Renta, former slave Elizabeth Keckley designed gowns for Mary Todd Lincoln. Chosen personally by the first lady and elevated to great intimacy in the White House, Keckley observed the Lincolns firsthand. The obscure memoir over which Mrs. Lincoln severed ties with her has been forgotten, but Chiaverini revives Keckley in fiction as a savvy and determined woman who made a new life for herself and her son despite strife and prejudice.
4. Jujitsu Rabbi and the Godless Blonde
by Rebecca Dana, 2013
The Daily Beast reporter Rebecca Dana recounts her year in ultra-Orthodox Crown Heights living with a disillusioned, martial arts-practicing rabbi. A Carrie Bradshaw wannabe, Dana finds faith in her secular religion crumbling. As she attempts to carve out a more balanced lifestyle, she accumulates several amusing cocktail stories, even running into Carrie’s creator, Candace Bushnell.
5. A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea
by Dina Nayeri, 2013
Iranian twin Saba tells herself imagined stories about her sister Mahtab’s parallel life in America as she grows up under the increasingly oppressive post-revolutionary regime. First-time novelist Dina Nayeri paints an intensive portrait of life in the Iranian countryside before and after the revolution. The perspectives and characters in the novel shed light on the true feelings of a hijacked people.
6. Farewell, Fred Voodoo: A Letter from Haiti
by Amy Wilentz, 2013
Reporter Amy Wilentz explores the effects of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti in the context of Haiti’s troubled past. A onetime resident, Wilentz is best known for her first book on Haiti, The Rainy Season, which looked at the country after the fall of Jean-Claude Duvalier. Her new book is a similarly thoughtful work of personal observations as well as history in the making.
7. The Last Runaway
by Tracy Chevalier, 2013
The bestselling author of Girl with a Pearl Earring tells the story of Honor Bright, an English Quaker woman who comes to live in 1850s Ohio, where the Underground Railroad is active. Despite being a modest, proper woman of her time, she refuses to abandon her engrained high moral standards when they come into conflict with her new reality. Chevalier has written another captivatingly bittersweet historical novel.
8. Finding Camlann
by Sean Pidgeon, 2013
British archaeologist Donald Gladstone and linguist Julia Llewellyn become embroiled in a mystery when documents surface that hint at the historical origins of Britain’s mythical King Arthur. In his first novel, Pidgeon invents a seductively academic world where texts are the center. Arthurian legend and history fans alike will enjoy this restrained but well thought-out thriller.
by Marjorie Celona, 2013
Shannon, abandoned at the local YMCA as a baby, grows up in the foster care system, always wondering about the mother who gave her up…until their stories converge. Debut novelist Marjorie Celona’s evocative prose bears the mark of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
10. The Aviator’s Wife
by Melanie Benjamin, 2013
Charles Lindbergh is still a household name and the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby still evokes horror. But how many people know much of anything about Anne Morrow Lindbergh? In this well-researched work of historical fiction, Melanie Benjamin tells the tale of a quietly accomplished woman (she was the first licensed female glider pilot in the United States) who all but allowed herself to be subsumed in her husband’s larger-than-life image.