This year, you helped choose Durham’s Pass the Book title! Our short list titles are:
The Confabulist by Steven Galloway
From the beloved, award-winning, bestselling author of The Cellist of Sarajevo, a beautiful, suspense-filled novel that uses the life and sudden death of Harry Houdini to weave a magical tale of intrigue, love, and illusion.
The Confabulist weaves together the life, loves, and murder of the world’s greatest magician, Harry Houdini, with the story of the man who killed him (twice): Martin Strauss, an everyday man whose fate was tied to the magician’s in unforeseen ways. A cast of memorable characters spins around Houdini’s celebrity-driven life, as they did in his time: from the Romanov family soon to be assassinated, to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the powerful heads of Scotland Yard, and the Spiritualists who would use whoever they could to establish their religion. A brilliant novel about fame and ambition, reality and illusion, and the ways that love, grief, and imagination can alter what we perceive and believe.
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon out of his life as a San Francisco web-design drone, and serendipity, sheer curiosity, and the ability to climb a ladder like a monkey have landed him a new gig working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after just a few days on the job, Clay begins to realize that this store is even more curious than the name suggests. There are only a few customers, but they come in repeatedly and never seem to actually buy anything, instead “checking out” impossibly obscure volumes from strange corners of the store, all according to some elaborate, long-standing arrangement with gnomic Mr. Penumbra. The store must be a front for something larger, Clay concludes, and soon he has embarked on a complex analysis of the customers’ behaviour and roped his friends into helping him figure out just what’s going on. But once they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, they discover the secrets extend far beyond the walls of the bookstore.
With irresistible brio and dazzling intelligence, Robin Sloan has crafted a literary adventure story for the 21st century. Evoking a unique and feisty sensibility that’s rare to the world of literary fiction, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is exactly what it sounds like: an establishment you have to enter and will never want to leave, a modern-day cabinet of wonders ready to give a jolt of energy to every curious reader, no matter what the time of day.
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
In The Golem and the Jinni, a chance meeting between mythical beings takes readers on a dazzling journey through cultures in turn-of-the-century New York.
Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life to by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic and dies at sea on the voyage from Poland. Chava is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York harbor in 1899.
Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire born in the ancient Syrian desert, trapped in an old copper flask and released in New York City, though still not entirely free.
Ahmad and Chava become unlikely friends and soul mates with a mystical connection. Marvelous and compulsively readable, Helene Wecker’s debut novel The Golem and the Jinni weaves strands of Yiddish and Middle Eastern literature, historical fiction and magical fable, into a wondrously inventive and unforgettable tale.
Voting has now ended. Thank you to everyone who cast their vote!
The 2015 selection will be announced at a special event on Family Literacy Day in January!