2. 'Astonish Me,' by Maggie Shipstead
Shipstead of "Seating Arrangements" centers her novel on ballet dancer Joan, a former member of a corps de ballet who assists Arslan Rusakov, a ballet star from the USSR, to defect during the 1970s. Years later, Joan is married with a son who is showing increasing promise as a dancer. As she returns to dance through her son, she once again encounters Arslan. Nelson calls the book "even better" than Shipstead's previous novel "Seating Arrangements." "It's about giving up your dreams and growing up," she says. "It's very smart."