Carnegie Medal Read-alikes, 2015: The Fiction Shortlist

This feature appeared first on Booklist Online with the announcement of the Andrew Carnegie Medals Shortlist titles for 2015.

This year’s finalists for the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction carry readers into fully realized worlds embroiled in conflicts epic and intimate—from Occupied France to mid-twentieth-century Ireland to a decimated near-future America, in which sensitive and valiant individuals struggle to hold their own. The specifics are unique to each novel, while the underlying themes are universal. The read-alike titles below, selected and annotated by Brad Hooper and Donna Seaman, will please readers who want more in this deep literary vein.

All The Light We Cannot SeeAnthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See, the first fiction finalist, is a magnificently drawn story of a young French woman and a young German man during the occupation of France during WWII. Here are three read-alikes that also explore aspects of the Resistance movement.

My Stripes Were Earned in Hell: A French Resistance Fighter’s Memoir of Survival in a Nazi Prison Camp. By Jean-Pierre Renouard. 2012. Rowman & Littlefield.

This grim account details the struggle to stay alive endured by the author and other of his fellow Resistance fighters, who suffered from starvation and rampant disease after they were captured by the Germans and moved to a death camp. An ultimately inspiring example of triumph over seemingly unbearable conditions and an insightful look at the determination of those in the Resistance movement.

Red Gold. By Alan Furst. 1999. Random.

One of today’s masters of historical espionage sets this exciting novel in autumn 1941, and his depiction of the loyalties and deceptions between the Gestapo and Resistance fighters is dark and authentic, as a movie director turned reluctant Resistance fighter scurries through the underground world of informers, saboteurs, and collaborators.

Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France. By Caroline Moorehead. 2014. Harper.

The citizens of Le Chambon-sur Lignon, a tiny village in the mountains of eastern France, saved scores of Resistance members and Jews from deportation to concentration camps in the time between the German invasion and France’s liberation four years later. Moorhead not only recounts the heroics of those involved but also gives readers a sense of the everyday lives and essential humanity of these remarkable men and women.

Nora WebsterIn Nora Webster, the second fiction finalist, Irish writer Colm Tóibín beautifully evokes the Ireland of four decades ago through the events in the three-year widowhood of the fortysomething title character. The titles below either offer related visions of Ireland or explore the lives of other widows.

The Green Road.     By Anne Enright. 2015. Norton.

The first recipient of the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction (for The Forgotten Walt,2011), Enright writes again about her native Ireland, exploring a family composed of a mother and her four children as the two boys and two girls grow up and leave the nest in the west of Ireland.

The Love Object: Selected Stories. By Edna O’Brien. 2015. Little, Brown.

In a collection of riveting short stories, Irish writer O’Brien demonstrates both intelligence and sassiness as she probes women’s lives and men’s vulnerabilities in the face of the “wiles” of strong women.

Our Souls at Night. By Kent Haruf. 2015. Knopf.

Addie Moore has lost her husband, and her solution to end her loneliness and enjoy companionship again is the focus of this short, spare, but beautiful novel about the joy of love and togetherness.

On Such a Full SeaChang-rae Lee’s On Such a Full Sea, the third fiction finalist, is part of a wave of speculative fiction about a near-future in which pandemics and environmental decimation have destroyed life as we know it. Readers enthralled by Lee’s compassionate and imaginative tale will also find these three similar works compelling.

The Blondes. By Emily Schultz. 2015. St. Martin’s/Thomas Dunne.

Hazel, a struggling, pregnant graduate student in New York City, finds herself witnessing a horrifying outbreak of a bizarre, deadly virus that transforms blondes, those icons of standardized beauty, into rabid, indiscriminate killers. Schultz’s gripping, acidly observant, and darkly bemusing satire offers keen insights into womanhood and society.

Find Me. By Laura van den Berg. 2015. Farrar.

Abandoned as a baby, Joy, 19, barely survived foster care only to be thrown into extreme quarantine while a pandemic rages. Back out in the world, where far more has gone catastrophically wrong than the “sickness,” she embarks on a dark odyssey through eerie, decimated landscapes in search of the truth about her origins

The Flame Alphabet. By Ben Marcus. 2012. Knopf.

Teenagers can be described as toxic, but in Marcus’ suspenseful, apocalyptic tale, teens are literally poisoning their parents each time they speak. As this confounding, heartrending plague spreads from Jewish families to the general population, society breaks down, and Marcus conducts a blazing metaphysical inquiry into expression, self, love, and civilization.



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Sarah Grant is the Marketing Associate for Booklist. Follow her on Twitter at @Booklist_Grant.

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