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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.

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin

January 2010

A confession here. In my literary memories, I had forgotten that Lewis Carroll was a pseudonym for Charles Dodgson, and it also had slipped my mind that the Alice in ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND had been fashioned after a real little girl named Alice.

Rainwater by Sandra Brown

November 2009

On the last day of my vacation in September, I sat by the pool and read an advance copy of RAINWATER by Sandra Brown, her first historical novel. Set during the Great Depression in Gilead, Texas, it’s a beautifully and tightly written story of love and hope in a world torn with economic and racial strife.

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.