Contemporary Novels List

The Bean Trees

Barbara Kingsolver


Marietta Greer, the heroine of the story, lives in Pittman County Kentucky and is convinced that it is a place “behind the nation in practically every way you can think of except the rate of teenage pregnancies.” Determined to avoid becoming another pregnant teenager, Taylor saves enough money to buy a ’55 Volkswagon bug, and with the support of her mother, leaves Pittman County. She renames herself, Taylor, acquires an unwanted and abused Cherokee baby girl outside a bar in Taylorville Illinois, where she ran out of gas. She names the baby Turtle for her habit of “holding on”. The story continues with the travels of Taylor and Turtle and of the people they encounter. This is an up beat story of life, adventure, and learning how to appreciate what we have.

The Honk and Holler Opening Soon

Billie Letts

ISBN-10: 0446675059

Vietnam veteran Caney Paxton lives in Sequoyah, Oklahoma, and has been wheelchair-bound for 12 years. He is the owner of the restaurant known as the Honk and Holler Opening Soon (due to an error made by the sign-maker) and has not left his place of business in a very long time. Caney is ashamed of his part in the war, and feels trapped by his wound and by his painful past. The story begins in 1985, during Christmas, and for both Caney and Molly O (who helped raised him, and who also works as a waitress in the resturant) the holidays look bleak. Business is bad, the bills are piling up, and to add to the misery, the roof has a leak. Molly O is worried about her teen-aged daughter Brenda, who is seeking her fortune in Nashville as a country musician. Things begin to perk-up when two new employees are began working at the Honk and Holler. Vena Takes Horse, a Crow Indian, signs on as a carhop, and Bui Khanh a Vietnamese refugee, works as a cook and handyman. Both have secrets of their own.

At the start the regular customers of the Honk and Holler don’t trust either of the new commers, but eventually they welcome both, especially after an act of violence threatens Bui’s life!

This is a story that speaks of the power of love, respect, and the healing power of customs and of the community.

Shoot The Moon

Billie Letts

ISBN-10: 0446401145

The residents in DeClare Oklahoma, have not forgotten the murder that took place in 1972. They found the young Cherokee Gaylene Harjo dead, and her infant son, Nicky Jack abducted. The well-like preacher Joe Dawson, was accused of the murder by Sheriff Oliver “O Boy” Daniels, but only a few people in town believed the kindly Joe capable of such an heinous crime. The story opens 30 years later, when Nicky Jack, mysteriously reappears in town, determined to learn about his mother and the circumstances surrounding her death. It seems that Nicky was adopted by rich parents, and raised in the wealthy Beverly Hills area. This is a story of love, betrayal, honor and respect, all told through the diary of Gaylene Harjo.

Sophie and the Rising Sun

Augusta Trobagh

ISBN-10: 0452283493

This story takes place in Salty Creek, Georgia, two years before before Pearl Harbor. The story begins with Miss Anne, who is considered to be a woman of impeccable morals retelling her recollection years after, about the romance between the town spinster Sophie and Grover Cleveland Oto, the 50-year-old Japanese man from California, who everyone thinks of as Miss Anne’s “Chinese” gardner. Both Sophie and Oto have secrets. Sophie’s secret is that the man she loved never returned from WWI. Oto’s is that he ended up in Salty Creek, by accident, starved and in disgrace by a bus driver who left him there. For two years the two are aware of each other, but constrained from anything but brief, polite conversation. Each is a painter with artistic imaginations. Over time, they begin meeting at the riverbank on Sunday mornings with brushes and paper to work in companionable silence while the other townsfolk sing hymns at church. Eventually, the pressur of town gossip keeps Sophie and Oto away from each other, but the passion they feel for each other continues to intensify, until they vow to see each other in spite of the tow. This is a story about loneliness, racism, honor, respect, and the triumph of true love.

The Secret Life of Bees

Sue Monk Kidd

ISBN-10: 0142001740

The story The Secret Life of Bees, takes place in the 1960s, a time of racial violence and tension. Lily Owen who is 14-years-old, has been neglected by her father and isolated on their South Carolina peach farm. She spends hours imagining a blissful infancy when she was loved and nurtured by her mother, Deborah, whom she barely remembers. Lily has been told that as a child, under circumstances that were never made clear, Lily accidently shot and killed her mother. All Lily has left of Deborah is a strange image of a Black Madonna, with the words “Tiburon, South Carolina” scrawled on the back. The tale follows Lily’s search for someone to replace the mother-image in her life, as she comes of age. The action starts when Rosaleen, Lily’s nanny, insults a group of white men on her way to register to vote.

Rosaleen has to leave town, and takes Lily with her. They end up meeting a peculiar group of women, who for Lily provide answers to her questions, and teach her valuable life lessons. A wonderful book full of passion and excitement.

Montana 1948

Larry Watson

ISBN-10: 0671507036

When David’s family’s American Indian housekeeper Marie falls ill, Frank Hayden, the local doctor and David’s uncle, is called. When Marie vehemently refuses medical treatment, David suspects something is terribly wrong. When Marie is found dead, Frank convinces the family it is pneumonia which has killed her. Not until later that day does David admit to his parents that he saw his uncle exit their house at approximately the time of Marie’s death. The story builds with tension as David’s father Wes, who is also the town sheriff, begins an investigation into the death of the woman and his brother’s Frank involvement.

This is a story of racism, abuse, honor, respect, and of doing the right thing, regardless of the price.

Menachem’s Seed

Carl Dierassi

ISBN-10: 0140277943

Dr. Menachem Dvir and Melanie Laidlaw become lovers, when they meet at several international science and world affairs conferences over a period of time. Menachem is an Israeli nuclear engineer; Melanie serves as director of an American foundation supporting reproductive biology research. While Menachem is married and infertile, Laidlaw is a widow and childless. This story presents ethical questions about fertilization, and the religious, and personal ramifications involved.

Wolf By The Ears

Ann Rinaldi

ISBN-10: 0590434128

This is an historical novel that explores the life of Harriet Hemings, a woman believed to be the daughter and slave of Thomas Jefferson. The story is based on authentic documentation, although the character of Harriet is largely fictional. We learn the plot through Harriet’s diary.

The action takes place at Monticello, Jefferson’s plantation, where he maintains slaves. Because Harriet is so fair that she can pass as white, she is favored by Jefferson, and so she feels secure and protected. Other less fortunate members of the slave community urge her to make plans to take her freedom when she turns 21, a freedom that Jefferson has promised to all of the children of his supposed mistress, Sally Hemings. Something very bad happens to Harriet which forces her to make decision to leave Montecello, realizing that this is her best hope for a decent life. It still doesn’t prevent her from feeling guilty over abandoning her race or grief over leaving behind all that she knows and loves. This story tells of the evils of slavery, love, passion, honor and respect, all of which have occurred in this country.

Body of Lies

Iris Johansen

ISBN-10: 0553582143

Forensic sculptor Eve Duncan is happy with her life. She lives with her lover Detective Joe Quinn. She recently found the body of her daughter Bonnie, after years of searching, and has buried her.

When Eve discovers Joe’s betrayal, she decides to take a job in Louisiana to get away from Joe and the pain (again). However, someone want her dead, and Joe trails behind her to make sure no one kills her, in spite of Eve’s protests. A story packed full of excitement and drama.


William H. Armstrong

ISBN-10: 0060809752

The story begins with the character Sounder, who happens to be a dog. Sounder was found when he was puppy. He turned out to be a very special dog to his African-American family that owns him because he keeps them fed. Sounder is a “coon” dog. when The father is accused of stealing a hog and placed in jail, his family suffers the loss, and to make matters worse, Sounder is shot and disappears. The story then turns to the hardships the young son faces as he makes a transition into adulthood. This story won the Newbery Award, and has become an American classic. It tells of the resilience of the human spirit, and the triumph of individuals in the face of tragedy and the evils of racism.

Jim the Boy

Tony Early

ISBN-10: 0316198951

This is a slow-moving story about a 10-year-old Jim Glass, coming of age in Aliceville North Carolina, in the early 1930s. Jim lives on a farm with widowed mother and three uncles, who school him in the ways of life as he encounters situations. Jim’s father died at the young age of 23. The story read as a collection of vignettes vaguely related to each other. For example, Jim accompanies his uncles to a carnival, his best frienD struggles with polio, his mother resists a suitor, and the introduction to electricity in the small town. In general this story has overtones of gentleness, and softness, of a boy having to cope with some of the harsh realities of life

Buffalo for the Broken Heart

Dan O’Brien

ISBN-10: 037576139

A true story about Dan O’Brien, who purchased the Broken Heart Ranch located in the Black Hills region of South Dakota, and began running cattle on more than a thousand acres. This book tells of how he brought life back to the ranch and to himself. Though the decision ultimately cost him his marriage and, at times, his peace of mind, he feels a connection to the land and the lifestyle that continues to justify the decision. When necessary, he has even worked as an endangered-species biologist or English teacher in order to support his ranch.

The story includes descriptions of the life on a buffalo ranch, fellow ranchers, and captures the rugged beauty, and harshness of the land.

Snow Falling on Cedars

David Guterson

ISBN-10: 067976402X

The story takes place in the 1950s, on an island in the straits of Puget Sound on the Washington coast. The plot revolves around a murder case involving a Japanese-American Kabuo Miyamoto, is accused of killing Carl Heine, a respected fisherman in the close-knit community. Carl’s body had been pulled from the sea, trapped in his own net. The trial occurs in the midst of deep anti-Japanese sentiments following World War II. Covering the case is the editor of the town’s one-man newspaper, Ishmael Chambers, a World War II veteran who lost an arm fighting the Japanese. Chambers struggles with his conscience wondering if Kabuo is innocent or not. This is a story full of tension, and mystery.

House of Sand and Fog

Andre Dubus III

ISBN-10: 0375727345

Mainly focused on the immigrant experience in the United States, this story takes place in California, and looks at Massoud Amir Behrani, a former colonel in the Iranian military under the Shah, who reflects on his job-search efforts since arriving in the U.S. four years before.

Behrani has spent most of the money he brought with him from Iran on an apartment and furnishings that are too expensive, because he’s desperately trying to keep up appearances in order to enhance his daughter’s chances of making a good marriage.

Once his daughter is married, he decides to buy a house at an auction which sets the stage for the tragedy to come. The house once belonged to an alcoholic woman who now decides that she wants it back. What starts out as a legal battle, soon escalates into a personal confrontation with disastrous results. A gripping and sad tragic story.

Revere Beach Boulevard

Roland Merullo

ISBN-10: 0805060057

The story talks about Revere, Massachusetts, the population basically Italian-American where crime has taken over the neighborhood.

Peter Imbesalacqua, a 40-year-old real estate agent whose business is bankrupt, and whose penchant for high-stakes gambling has spiraled out of control. Peter is in debt to the mob and Peter’s family life is a shambles. His mother is dying, his father distraught, and his sister, a television reporter in Boston, has decided to run an expose on Eddie Crevine, a local gangster, who is looking to hurt Peter and his family. What’s more Peter’s family has a dark secret, which he never knew. A gripping story about crime, and how the love of family can help one surpass hardships and frightening situations.

The Wig

Charles Wright

ISBN-10: 1562791273

An unusual story about a young man, Lester Jefferson, whose repeated attempts to become a part of The Great Society are doomed in advance. His life includes people who support, thwart and confuse him in his struggles. Lester searches for happiness in a series of misadventures that begins with the transformation of the hair on his head into burnished curls, by using a wig.

The Good Brother

Chris Offutt

ISBN-10: 06848461

The story of Virgil, a young man who finds himself deeply burdened when his wild older brother Boyd is murdered. He was very close to Boyd, and his death leaves a deep void in Virgil’s life. The residents of the small town in Kentucky including his family and friends, all expect Virgil to avenge his brother’s death by killing the local man suspected of the murder. Due to the pressure, and with growing despair, Virgil plans to do so. Afterwards, Virgil heads for the backwoods of Montana, where he thinks he can hide until he decides what to do.

Unfortunately, the relatives of the man he murdered come searching for him, and, through yet another act of violence, he inadvertently falls in with modern militiamen who’ve declared war on the US government.

The ending is sad, and violent. It’s the picture of a good man whose life has been shattered by violence, not of his own making.


Ron Hansen

ISBN-10: 0060927860

This story is about Atticus Cody, a 67-year-old Colorado cattle man who goes to Mexico to retrieve the body of his younger son. Scott was an an artist and an alcoholic. As far as Atticus knows Scott committed suicide. Having lost his wife in a car crash (a car Scott had been driving) Atticus is deeply hurt by this latest news. Atticus meets Scott’s friends in the little town of Resurreccion and copes with the unknowns of a culture far removed from his ranch in Colorado. As the story unfolds, new evidence surfaces which leads Atticus to question whether the death of his son Scott was a suicide or murder. A novel fill of suspense.

About the Author

John Colapinto

ISBN-10: 0060932171

This story takes place in Manhattan New York, and is about Cal Cunningham, a man who calls himself a writer, but who is too busy to sit down and actually write anything. He spends his days working as a bookstore stock boy, and at night he visits various bars. Sunday mornings, he spins tales about his nightly conquests to his roommate, a reclusive, hard-working law student named Stewart Church. When Stewart is killed in auto accident, Cal finds in Stewart’s desk a very well written novel based on Cal’s own exploits. At first, Cal is appalled, and then inspired.

He sends the novel off to New York’s leading literary agent, claiming it as his own. After the book makes the New York Times book list, Cal convinces himself that he is, really responsible for the writing of the book, if not exactly its author, since the book is about his life.

Cal marries Stewart’s ex-girlfriend Janet. Trouble begins when Cal discovers that someone else is in possession of a copy of the original manuscript. Cal and his blackmailer pursue each other to the very death

The Intuitionist

Colson Whitehead

ISBN-10: 0385492995

This is a sci-fi novel, and the plot surrounds the life of Lila Mae Watson, the first African-American woman to graduate from the Institute for Vertical Transport. She is also the first female to be employed by the Department of Elevator Inspectors. Ms. Watson works in a futuristic city, which has a strong resemblance to New York City. Her job title is “Intuitionist” which means she’s responsible for checking the conditions of the elevators assigned to her. To accomplish her job, she meditates on the elevators and is then able to “sense” or to pick up the “vibes” of any problems the elevators may have.

The trouble begins when Ms. Watson comes into conflict with the “Empiricists” a group who checks the condition of elevators by looking at the actual mechanical problems. This conflict in turn leads Ms. Watson into the under-ground world of the Intuitionists and the founder James Fulton, who revolutionized elevator construction, and who is working on a mysterious “black box” that could alter the life forever. An interesting story, definitely for the advanced reader.

Salt: A World History

Mark Kurlansky

ISBN-10: 0142001619

The focus of this book is to explain how the ingredient “salt” has affected the history of the world. The book is divided into three parts, with a collection of vignettes grouped into chronological order. Part I is the history of salt in China and Rome, Part II the Middle Ages to the Wars of Independence and Part III delves into salt in modern society.

The tale is interesting and different.

Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth

Guo Xialou

ISBN-10: 0307389383

The plot centers around the life of seventeen- year-old Fenfang Wang in the fast-paced urban city of Beijing. Having lived in a remote village all of her life, Fenfang must learn the life-style of the city, it’s people and her new job as a film extra in a movie. The story is often humorous, and includes lots of food information such as noodles, carp’s head broth, pork and chive dumplings to name a few.

Hidden Moon

James Church

ISBN-10: 0312387660

An engaging mystery featuring Inspector O (detective from a past series). In this story he is assigned to investigate a bank robbery in Pyongyang, and he is told it is urgent. The question is whether this urgency is real or a ploy. This investigation may lead to crimes in the highest levels of command. Good mystery and very fast-paced.

The Sparrow

Mary Doria Russell

ISBN-10: 0449912558

A Science Fiction story about life on a distant planet, known as Rakhat. The inhabitants communicate by sending signals in the form of music, or singing.

The UN debates tactics for a space mission to the planet, while a group known as The Society of Jesus organizes its own expedition. The survivor of this mission returns to earth and tries to explain what he’s learned. Very intriguing, especially for sci-fi enthusiasts.

Children of God,

Mary Doria Russell

ISBN-10: 044900483X

This is the sequel to The Sparrow.

Of Love and Other Demons

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

ISBN-10: 0140256369

Twelve-year-old girl Sierva Maria, daughter of the Marquis de Casalduero, is bitten by a rabid dog. There appears to be no medicine that can save the her. The solution (or plot) is to commit her to the Convent of Santa Clara, where a yong priest Cayetano Delaura is brought in to “exorcize” the demon in young Sierva. This is a magical story of love as only Marquez can write.

The Hot Zone

Richard Preston

ISBN-10: 0385495226

The true story of an Ebola virus outbreak in the late 1980s, that occurred in a laboratory located in Washington D.C. Interwoven are stories of several previous outbreaks that occurred in Africa. The first previous experiences in Africa are told in order to help describe the potential damage such an outbreak could create if not checked.

The story is frightening simply because it’s true.


Bram Stoker

ISBN-10: 0812523016

This is the original Dracula that started it all. This volume includes 14 of Stoker’s lesser known vampire tales. A good read for those who are vampire fans.

Interview with the Vampire

Anne Rice

ISBN-10: 0345409647

Anne Rice refreshed and up-dated the original count Dracula by Bram Stoker.

An 18th century plantation owner Louis Pointe du Lac loses everything and becomes an alcoholic. It is in this state that he meets Lestat, a powerful and charismatic vampire, who first turns Louis into a vampire, then controls his life.

The story centers on Louis’s experiences with Lestat, and how they seek out others like themselves. What is different in this story is the Lastat is being interviewed by a young reporter, which transform the vampire into a character that is human.

Great tale especially if you’re a vampire fan.


Stephenie Meyer

ISBN-10: 0316015849

This is the most recent version of the vampire.

The central character Bella Swan moves to a small town in Washington, and meet the mysterious and attractive Edward Cullen. Bella’s life takes an exciting and terrifying turn. She discovers that Edward is a vampire and has dark secrets that can destroy everybody including Bella.

This is the first book in a series; there are a total of 4 books thus far. An exciting story for vampire fans.