SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:
There are four days left before the end of the year, which means you have plenty of time to read one more great book. I personally love a good love story - the ones about relationships and romance - so here are four recommendations from NPR's Book Concierge brought to you by some of my colleagues.
MARISSA LORUSSO, BYLINE: I'm Marissa Lorusso, and I'm a writer and editor for NPR Music and Events. The book that I'm recommending is "My Autobiography Of Carson McCullers: A Memoir" by Jenn Shapland. As the title suggests, this book is both a memoir and a deep dive into the life of novelist Carson McCullers. On the memoir side, it's a coming out story for its author. On the biography side, the story is focused on something that's often overlooked or not really talked about, which is the romantic relationships that Carson McCullers had with women and the gender transgressions that were part of her life. I love the way this book asks questions about how much we can really know about historical figures who pushed back against the social expectations of their time and how those kinds of people can help us understand ourselves in our own time, too.
JIM ZARROLI, BYLINE: My name is Jim Zarroli, and I'm a business and economics correspondent at NPR. "Cleanness" by Garth Greenwell is a semiautobiographical novel about a gay American man in his 30s who's teaching in Bulgaria. There's a kind of rootlessness to the character. He doesn't have a lot of illusions left, if he ever had them. But his life is briefly transformed by an affair with a young Portuguese student. The student, who's identified only by the initial R, is just discovering life on his own, and he has a kind of infectious joy about him. He brings something like happiness into the main character's life, but he doesn't want to stay in dreary Bulgaria. And though they try to maintain a long-distance relationship, it feels kind of inevitable that they'll drift apart. Still, he leaves his mark on the main character's life. He's a reminder that meaningful connection is still possible. Greenwell is a poet with a kind of uncompromising eye for detail, and the book is worth reading for the beautiful writing alone.
ANYA KAMENETZ, BYLINE: I'm Anya Kamenetz, and I'm a reporter on NPR's education team, but the book I'm recommending is definitely not for children. It's called "Luster" and it's the debut novel by Raven Leilani. The main character, Edie, is a young Black woman who works in book publishing and also is a painter, and she dives into a pretty edgy, kinky relationship with a man who is white, is much older, has more money, lived in the suburbs - and, oh, did I mention he's also married? That's a pretty spicy premise, but it's not the only reason this book won so many awards and literary accolades. What really pulled me through it was Edie's internal monologue. Every page of this book has a turn of phrase that will surprise you or make you laugh. Underneath Edie's sharp, unflinching gaze there is empathy for every single character in this novel. In the end, "Luster" is a book about the messy processes of each human and the strangeness of love.
CANDICE LIM, BYLINE: Hi, I'm Candice Lim. I'm a producer on "Pop Culture Happy Hour," and I am recommending "Girl Gone Viral" by Alisha Rai. So "Girl Gone Viral" is about Katrina King, who lives a very quiet life after the passing of her husband. She lives in a beautiful mansion with her bodyguard Jas who is kind of this ideal modern hero. He's quiet and mysterious, but ultimately dedicated to protecting Katrina. So when Katrina is finally ready to put herself out there again, she finds herself in a bit of a precarious situation that ends up becoming a security threat. Jas quickly comes up with a plan and whisks her away to his family's secluded peach farm. It's a bit like a hometown date on "The Bachelorette." This is the second novel in Alisha Rai's modern love series, and you don't need to read the first one to love this one. What I love about Alisha's writing is that she is very good at integrating technology and dating app culture into her novels without making them cheesy or overdone. I read this book in two days and it is a fun, twisty, layered, exciting love story.
MCCAMMON: That was Candice Lim recommending "Girl Gone Viral," Anya Kamenetz, who recommended "Luster," Jim Zarroli recommending "Cleanness," Marissa Lorusso, who recommended "My Autobiography of Carson McCullers." And for the full list of NPR Book Concierge recommendations, check out npr.org/bestbooks.
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