Chosen by Anna Quindlen
In Anna Quindlen’s new novel, Alternate Side, a cozy Manhattan neighborhood is upended by a violent crime. Below, the best-selling author and Pulitzer Prize–winning opinion columnist names six of her favorite books by female contemporary writers.
The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26). The latest of McDermott’s deeply felt novels is the story of a girl who grows up among the Little Sisters of the Poor in a Brooklyn convent. With her deft use of detail and her profound understanding of human nature, McDermott creates a world entire in a slender volume.
White Houses by Amy Bloom (Random House, $27). Bloom, too, is a gifted miniaturist, yet her novels feel epic. Here she makes vivid the love affair between Associated Press reporter Lorena Hickok and Eleanor Roosevelt in a moving account of what it means to love and to lose. Kleenex handy for the denouement.
Field of Blood by Denise Mina (Little, Brown, $32). I buy anything Mina writes, but as a former newspaper copy girl I’m particularly fond of her novels about Paddy Meehan’s attempts to scale the greasy pole at a Glasgow daily. This first outing explores the murder of a toddler and whether Paddy will sell out her fiancé and her family to worm her way into a big story.
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett (Harper Perennial, $17). Most Patchett fans—and they are legion—probably suspected she could never best Bel Canto, her 2001 award-winner. But in 2016, along came Commonwealth, a pitch-perfect evocation of the messiness of family life among six stepsiblings.
Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $15). Donoghue is best known now for the chilling novel Room, but long before that book became a best-seller I was charmed by her tale of an 18th-century girl who pays for the extravagant clothing she craves by selling herself. It’s a wonderful read for anyone who loves English doorstop novels.
Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson (Picador, $17). Atkinson has also produced a series of crackerjack crime novels, and scored big several years ago with a time-bending tour de force called Life After Life. But her debut novel is unforgettable, the story of one existence interspersed with all those that touch it over time. First chapter: conception. First sentence: “I exist.”