The books to read this week

|     Stephanie Merry     |

WASHINGTON (The Washington Post) – It’s that time of year: There are more worthwhile books getting released each week than you can possibly read. This week was particularly rich with promising fiction, memoirs and cultural history. Here’s a look at some books we reviewed – and recommended – this week, plus a bonus list of more seasoned titles.

The Age of Light, by Whitney Scharer

A fictional look at the life of photographer Lee Miller, who was more than avant-garde artist Man Ray’s muse. Scharer “joins such novelists as Paula McLain (The Paris Wife) and Rupert Thomson (Never Anyone but You) in a most worthy enterprise: Repopulating male-dominated accounts of the past with the many noteworthy women who deserve the same limelight,” our reviewer writes.

The Atlas of Reds and Blues, by Devi S Laskar

A violent police raid leads to a casualty – and a meditation on racism in America in Laskar’s debut. The book “is a quick read,” according to our review, “in part, because of these short sections, some only two sentences long. But it’s a page-turner, too, because of the urgency of each small story, each revelatory memory.”

Black Leopard, Red Wolf, by Marlon James

This is the fantasy epic everyone will be talking about, according to critic Ron Charles, “Stand aside, Beowulf. There’s a new epic hero slashing his way into our hearts, and we may never get all the blood off our hands.”

Bowlaway, by Elizabeth McCracken

It’s been 18 years since McCracken’s last novel, but this was worth the wait. “Death and life, frosted with macabre comedy: It’s why we’ve enjoyed Elizabeth McCracken since her debut novel, The Giant’s House, appeared more than 20 years ago,” Charles writes. “She never promises us freedom from pain, but she always offers just enough heart to endure it.”

I Owe You One, by Sophie Kinsella

Kinsella returns to her “Shopaholic” roots with this romantic comedy. The entertaining cast of characters that orbit around the pathologically helpful protagonist “will certainly remind readers why 19 years after her first hit Kinsella remains one of the reigning queens of women’s fiction.”

The Last Romantics, by Tara Conklin

Conklin’s sophomore effort, after The House Girl, is a sweeping family saga with a poetic streak, according to our reviewer, about the strength and fragility of the sibling bonds and “the evolving nature of love.”

On the Come Up, by Angie Thomas

Thomas follows up her huge young adult hit The Hate U Give with the story of an aspiring hip-hop star that also takes place in Garden Heights. “This book beckons young readers and music lovers alike,” our reviewer writes, “with an homage to the forefathers of hip-hop that also assures the feminine voice is never dismissed from the cypher.”

The Spirit of Science Fiction, by Roberto Bolaño

Bolaño’s popularity surged after his death, so a search for his never-before-published work is only natural to satiate his many fans. While The Spirit of Science Fiction doesn’t live up to the greatness of The Savage Detectives, it is nonetheless “a minor gem,” according to our reviewer.

Walk This Way, by Geoff Edgers

With his “exhaustively sourced, briskly entertaining read,” Edgers, a Washington Post staff writer, looks back at how the crossover hit Walk This Way – the collaboration between Run-DMC and Aerosmith – became a major moment in pop culture.

What We Did, by Christobel Kent

In this moody thriller, an abused woman finds an unusual way to exact revenge. The author of The Crooked House “serves up a twisting and complex plot,” our reviewer writes, “but the novel’s chief appeal lies in the tense character of Bridget, who learns that a life lived under the radar can’t protect her from the creepy-crawly things that live there, too.”

The Unwinding of the Miracle, by Julie Yip-Williams

Like When Breath Becomes Air, this posthumous memoir finds hope at life’s end. Yip-Williams wrote the book after she was diagnosed with terminal cancer and she “writes movingly of how she was torn by the wish to abandon the fight and find peace in accepting her death, and the feeling that this would be betraying her family,” according to our reviewer.

If you’re hankering for something more vintage, then have we got a list for you: Michael Dirda combed through the thousands of books published in 1923 that are now in the public domain and picked out more than a dozen that are worth reading, including works by Willa Cather and Aldous Huxley, and one underappreciated book, by EV Odle, that presents a steampunk version of The Terminator. Who could resist?