We’re excited for these 20 books—all coming out in 2011—for different reasons: Maybe we’ve heard a lot of buzz about a first novel. Or maybe it’s time for a follow-up after a hit debut last year. Maybe, we love a particular author so much that any new release is something to celebrate.
T.C. Boyle, WHEN THE KILLING'S DONE (Viking)
T.C. Boyle’s When the Killing’s Done is set off the coast of Santa Barbara and follows a National Park Service biologist who is trying to keep invasive, non-native species from killing off the island’s endangered native creatures. Her task is complicated by a local businessman and his folksinger girlfriend, who don’t think that the non-native species should be eliminated. This isn’t Boyle’s first foray into environmental fiction: His 2000 novel, A Friend of the Earth, is set in the future (2025, to be exact) in the wake of a massive species extinction.
Téa Obreht, THE TIGER'S WIFE (Random House)
She’s been published in the New Yorker (and included on their list of 20 Best Writers Under 40); her first novel has drawn glowing blurbs from the likes of Ann Patchett and T.C. Boyle. And, oh yeah, she’s just 25 years old. The pressure is on for Téa Obreht and her first novel, The Tiger’s Wife, about a young woman’s unraveling of family secrets, set in a Balkan country. Added bonus? An interview with Obreht happens to be BookPage’s March cover story.
Meg Wolitzer, THE UNCOUPLING (Riverhead)
In The Ten-Year Nap, Meg Wolitzer took a provocative topic—the lives and needs of stay-at-home mothers—and turned it into an insightful page-turner. Wolitzer's newest book, The Uncoupling, is equally intriguing: The women of Stellar Plains, New Jersey, mysteriously stop having sex with their significant others when the local high school's drama department decides to perform Lysistrata.
Tina Fey, BOSSYPANTS (Little, Brown)
Who doesn’t love Tina Fey? Whether she’s Liz Lemon of “30 Rock,” Sarah Palin on “SNL” or Ms. Norbury in Mean Girls, Fey keeps us laughing harder than just about anyone else. Bossypants tells her story, and the publisher says it includes “Special, Never-Before-Solicited Opinions on Breastfeeding, Princesses, Photoshop, the Electoral Process, and Italian Rum Cake!”—sounds good to us!
Ann Packer, SWIM BACK TO ME (Knopf)
Ann Packer, author of The Dive from Clausen’s Pier and Songs Without Words, crafts beautiful sentences and writes female characters (put in difficult situations) that will stick with you for days. Knopf is calling her newest work, Swim Back to Me, “her strongest work yet—a collection of burnished, impossible-to-put-down narratives framed by two stunning, linked novellas.”
Gwyneth Paltrow, MY FATHER’S DAUGHTER (Grand Central)
From her Academy Award-winning role in Shakespeare in Love to her commentary on goop.com, Gwyneth Paltrow is known for her good taste and sophistication (okay, and her uber-strict macrobiotic diet). We’re eager to see what she’ll bring to the table in My Father’s Daughter, a collection of recipes inspired by Paltrow’s dad.
Meghan O'Rourke, THE LONG GOODBYE (Riverhead)
Captivated and heartbroken, we read along with Meghan O'Rourke’s “The Long Goodbye” series on Slate. Now, we are eager to read the full-length book on the same topic: saying goodbye to a loved one. (O'Rourke was 32 when her mother died on Christmas Day.) The Long Goodbye will mix personal reflection with an analysis of grief. It’s sure to be a fascinating, emotional read. Have tissues handy.
David Foster Wallace, THE PALE KING (Little, Brown)
David Foster Wallace is considered by many to be one of the finest contemporary writers, and Infinite Jest a masterpiece. Two-and-a-half years after his suicide, Wallace’s final novel will become available to readers. The Pale King is about an IRS agent named David Foster Wallace, and Little, Brown is calling it “as original as anything Wallace ever undertook.”
Geraldine Brooks, CALEB'S CROSSING (Viking)
Geraldine Brooks writes some of the smartest historical fiction around (March, People of the Book). Her next novel, Caleb’s Crossing, takes place in the 1660s and is also inspired by a historical event—this time, the graduation of the first Native American from Harvard University. Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck is taken under the wing of a minster who sees the opportunity to convert his tribe through education. Caleb’s story is juxtaposed with that of the minister’s own daughter, who, despite a similar yearning for knowledge, becomes an indentured servant.
Adam Hochschild, TO END ALL WARS (HMH)
Best-selling history writer Adam Hochschild has written a history of World War I—To End All Wars—with a focus on moral drama. Known for his powerful storytelling, Hochschild turns his eye toward the people who refused to fight in the war: generals, cabinet ministers, war resisters.
Ann Patchett, STATE OF WONDER (Harper)
South America is the setting for both Ann Patchett’s biggest hit, Bel Canto, and her newest novel, State of Wonder, the story of two physicians who make discoveries in the Amazon jungle. The author herself says it’s a “sort of ‘Heart of Darkness’ journey.” Run, Patchett’s most recent novel, took place over the course of a single day in Boston; State of Wonder promises to have a more global scale.
Josh Ritter, BRIGHT'S PASSAGE (The Dial Press)
Josh Ritter is a talented singer-songwriter with an uncanny ability to tell a lyrical story in just a few hundred words. With Bright's Passage, his debut novel, we’ll see if the knack carries over to a longer form. Set in Appalachia, the story is about a World War I veteran who has lost his wife and must care for their baby. If the writing is as good as what we’ve come to expect in Ritter’s songs, readers are in for a treat.
Adam Ross, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN (Knopf)
Adam Ross’s novel Mr. Peanut—part police procedural, part marital drama—had us flipping pages, deciphering symbolism and feeling very excited about a new talent. Now with Ladies and Gentlemen, Ross is back for his second outing, this time a collection of stories about “brothers, loners, lovers, and young people navigating lives full of good intentions, misunderstandings, and obscured motives.”
Chevy Stevens, NEVER KNOWING (St. Martin’s)
Chevy Stevens’ Still Missing—about a Realtor who gets abducted during an open house—was one of our favorite thrillers of 2010. Luckily, we only had to wait a year for a follow-up. Never Knowing is a companion book to Still Missing, about a woman who discovers her biological father is an infamous killer. The creepy factor is sure to be high.
Bonnie Jo Campbell, ONCE UPON A RIVER (Norton)
Bonnie Jo Campbell was a National Book Award finalist for American Salvage, a story collection set in the backwoods of rural Michigan. Her newest book, Once Upon a River, sounds like it’d be right at home next to True Grit and Huckleberry Finn. In it, a 16-year-old girl (armed with a biography of Annie Oakley) takes off in search of her mother and must use her wits to survive.
Glen Duncan, THE LAST WEREWOLF (Knopf)
Glen Duncan’s The Last Werewolf sounds like The Passage with a little bit of Twilight mixed in. Jake, “the last werewolf,” counts down to his own suicide (he’s worn out from too much hunting and sex). The plot thickens when Jake discovers that “there are powerful forces who for very different reasons want—and have the power—to keep [him] alive.” Should be sexy, gory—and lots of fun.
John Hart, IRON HOUSE (St. Martin’s)
With each subsequent novel, it seems that John Hart gets more acclaim. His first novel, The King of Lies, received an Edgar nomination; his second, Down River, won an Edgar Award; and his third, The Last Child, was a New York Times bestseller. (BookPage called it “a lineal descendant and spiritual soul mate of Huck Finn and Holden Caulfield.”) Iron House is about a couple of orphaned brothers accused of murder.
Amy Waldman, THE SUBMISSION (FSG)
Amy Waldman’s The Submission is about the competition for a 9/11 memorial—with a twist that could be lifted from current headlines. After the planning committee for the memorial chooses a submission, they discover that the anonymous designer is Muslim. If the chaos surrounding the “Ground Zero mosque” is any indication, we can bet that this will be a debut that gets people talking.
Alexandra Fuller, COCKTAIL HOUR UNDER THE TREE OF FORGETFULNESS (Penguin Press)
Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, Alexandra Fuller’s memoir of growing up as a white girl in Rhodesia, is a contemporary classic of the memoir genre. With Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness, Fuller returns to Africa and the story of her mother and father.
Haruki Murakami, 1Q84 (Knopf)
Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 (a play on Orwell’s 1984) was first published in three volumes in Japan. Critics have called this story a “magnum opus,” and readers have made it a bestseller in Japan. Now Americans can see what all the fuss is about. Added convenience: Knopf will release the trilogy as one single volume (it’ll be 928 pages!).
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