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With thousands of books published each year and much attention paid to the works of bestselling and well-known authors, it is inevitable that some titles worthy of praise and discussion may not get the attention we think they deserve. Thus throughout the year, we will continue this feature that we started in 2009, to spotlight books that immediately struck a chord with us and made us say “just read this.” We will alert our readers about these titles as soon as they’re released so you can discover them for yourselves and recommend them to your family and friends.

Below are all of our selections thus far. For future "Bets On" titles that we will announce shortly after their release dates, please visit this page.

31 Hours by Masha Hamilton

September 2009

In 31 HOURS, Masha Hamilton delivers a novel that is powerful and profound. It’s the story of a young American man who has joined a group of terrorists plotting to blow up parts of the subway system in New York.

The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf

July 2009

As I flew back from San Diego earlier this week, I started reading THE WEIGHT OF SILENCE by Heather Gudenkauf, and from the first page this debut author grabbed me. Why? She dropped me right into the story in the Prologue, and from there the characters drew me through a plot that had me inside their lives and their heads bouncing from one perspective to the next.

How Shall I Tell the Dog?: and Other Final Musings by Miles Kington

July 2009

HOW SHALL I TELL THE DOG?: And Other Final Musings, by Miles Kington, is snappy, witty and thought-provoking. Kington was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and in this memoir writes about the thoughts that come to him along the way as he muses his exit from this world. 

Crazy for the Storm: A Memoir Of Survival by Norman Ollestad

June 2009

CRAZY FOR THE STORM is the story of Norman Ollestad’s relationship with his dad, who cultivated a daredevil survival streak in him that he credits with saving his life when he was in a charter plane crash on a mountain at age 11 that killed his dad, his dad’s girlfriend and the pilot.

The Photographer: Into War-Torn Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders by Emmanuel Guibert

May 2009

THE PHOTOGRAPHER is a stunningly original work that tells the story of Didier Lefèvre's 1986 journey with Doctors Without Borders into Afghanistan through photos and graphic panels. Written and drawn by Emmanuel Guibert and designed by Frederic Lemercier, the dramatic and personal story of Lefèvre's journey will both inform and haunt you. Lefèvre's photos are dramatic essays unto themselves, but set as they are to punctuate the drawings and story, readers will feel they are in the story, not merely watching from the sidelines. Guibert's work portrays both Lefèvre's triumphs and anguishes, and he paces the book wonderfully.

Rooftops of Tehran by Mahbod Seraji

May 2009

Set in Tehran in 1973, ROOFTOPS OF TEHRAN drops you into the world of Pasha and Ahmed, who while away their summer hours on the roof. They are in that in-between year --- not still a child, but not quite an adult --- where they are feeling their way to the next thing. They play games, mull the future --- and think about girls. Pasha has a secret crush on Zari, the fiancé of a local boy named Doctor, who is older. But beyond this world on the roof, Tehran is explosive with the SAVAK running around the city looking for those who are outspoken against the Shah and the government. One night on the roof, a look from Pasha turns their world upside down --- and the fallout will change everyone’s lives.

A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick

February 2009

A RELIABLE WIFE opens with Ralph Truitt standing on a train platform on a cold winter morning waiting for a woman who had answered his ad looking for "a reliable wife," "a simple honest woman." But Catherine Land is not the woman who she appears to be, and she, like Ralph, has secrets to hide.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

February 2009

Set in 1962, THE HELP is the story of three women --- two African-American maids in the Deep South and a young white woman who sees a story in the world that they live in. You hear the voices, see the houses and truly feel like a voyeur in their world. I found myself reaching for my advance reading copy of the book between present opening, dinner preparations and other holiday festivities in December. Aibileen, Minny and Skeeter are strong characters, and the stories they tell speak volumes about the time. Stockett closes the book with a piece about her family's maid, which shows why she could write this novel with such insight and honesty. No matter what your political views about our new president, reading THE HELP and seeing the world 46 years ago when the right to vote was something that was fought over, and not taken for granted, is interesting.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

January 2009

Henry Lee comes upon the Panama Hotel in Seattle, where the new owner has found a treasure trove of belongings that were left there by Japanese families who were taken to internment camps during World War II. Henry, who is of Chinese heritage, reflects back on a young Japanese woman, Keiko Okabe, with whom he had an innocent but profound love. He searches the hotel looking for anything that may remind him of Keiko's family. His reminiscences as well as his internal conflicts create a beautiful story of hope, forgiveness and the power of love.


Still Alice by Lisa Genova

January 2009

Alice Howland, happily married with three grown children, is a celebrated Harvard professor at the height of her career when she notices a forgetfulness creeping into her life. As confusion starts to cloud her thinking and her memory begins to fail her, she receives a devastating diagnosis: early onset Alzheimer's disease.