You voted, we counted, and in yesterday's edition of XTRA, we shared the results of our Readers' Choice Best Books of 2013 survey! While this year lacked a breakout hit the likes of last year's Gone Girl, it turns out that you guys agree with us on Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch, which came in at #1 on your list, as well as ours. Coming in a very close second—with only one vote less—is Life After Life by Kate Atkinson.
Also making appearances on the list are mystery page-turners, stunning debuts and edge-of-your-seat thrillers, including Stephen King's Doctor Sleep and NOS4A2 by Joe Hill (King's son), which both received the same number of votes! See the Readers' Choice Top 15 Books of 2013. Did your favorite book make the list?
A big box of 10 books is on its way to one lucky voter, Amy from Illinois, whose favorite book is And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini (#9). A big thank you to everyone who voted—we look forward to helping you discover more great books in 2014!
If you're wondering what you're going to do with yourself after this week's "Mad Men" finale, don't fret. Get your 1960s fix by reading Lily Koppel's The Astronaut Wives Club.
Their husbands may have gotten all of the glory, but, in this delightfully juicy, touching book, the women behind the men finally get to tell their stories—what it was like being married to men who had the most dangerous job in the world, who were away from home more often than they weren't and who were constantly pursued by groupies called "Cape Cookies." The Astrowives leaned on each other, forming deep and lasting friendships that shine from every page of The Astronaut Wives Club.
We were curious about what Koppel has been reading lately, so we asked her. Here's what she shared with us:
I’m one of those readers who reads multiple books at a time. I particularly love books about women—wives, sisters, mothers and daughters, at different stages in their lives.
Life After Life, the new Kate Atkinson novel about a woman fated to live her life over and over again: I was drawn to the book’s highly evocative premise, and became enchanted with the rational tone employed for such a dreamlike topic. Even the opening—set in a foreign café over cigarettes, coffee, and rich cake, is like something you’d expect out of an old-fashioned spy novel. I highly recommend it for anyone who has ever wished for a “do-over” in life.
Sisterland, by Curtis Sittenfeld, who I’ve been a fan of since her debut novel Prep, followed by The American Wife. I’d read anything Curtis writes, and this one is about twins and their psychic abilities. Set in suburban St. Louis, Violet (“Vi”) embraces her psychic visions, while Kate hides hers under the rug until an earthquake shakes things up. I picked this one up because we’ve all wondered at a time if we have such talents, or think we know someone who does. Plus it looks at the relationship between two sisters, finding forgiveness, and truth.
The Flamethrowers, by Rachel Kushner, which follows a female artist, Reno (great name), through the 1970s New York art world. I picked this one up because of the great accolades it has been receiving and because Rachel’s grandparents lived across the street in Westport, Connecticut, from my honorary grandmother, Florence Wolfson (the subject of my previous book, The Red Leather Diary). Needless to say, I’d heard a lot about her! I recommend this book because it is fascinating to see another young writer take on a time and world she didn’t live through, yet invokes so masterfully.
We recently asked you to vote in our poll to let us know which book you're most looking forward to reading this summer. More than 650 of you responded, and the results have been tallied. Here are your top five picks:
#1: And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini—14%
#2: Other (which included the likes of The Son, Life After Life and even The Great Gatsby!)—11%
#3: Inferno by Dan Brown—10%
#4: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman—8%
#5: The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan—7%
Wishing you happy reading all summer long—whatever books you're reading!
J. Courtney Sullivan’s third novel, The Engagements, is coming out tomorrow, June 11, and fans of her first two novels, Commencement and Maine, will not be disappointed. The Engagements takes a fascinating peek into four marriages, all at different stages and interspersed throughout the 20th century. Intertwined is the true-life story of ahead-of-her-time advertising genius Frances Gerety, who came up with the classic slogan "A diamond is forever." (Click here to read our interview with Sullivan about the book.)
We asked Sullivan to share three recent reads, and here are her recommendations, in her own words.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette
By Maria Semple
Before I flew to Europe for a recent book tour, I took a poll on Twitter, asking for great reading recommendations for a long flight—Bernadette got the most votes by far. The book captivated me from page one. Semple has such a fresh voice and approach to storytelling. I read it throughout an overnight flight to Germany, and when I arrived at my hotel, jetlagged as I was, I had to stay up until I finished.
Instructions for a Heatwave
By Maggie O’Farrell
A friend and fellow writer mentioned over dinner one night that she had received an early copy of this novel and loved it. The next day, though it was mid-April, the heat in my apartment broke. Even with the windows open, the place was about a hundred degrees. I had been traveling for a while, and I was opening a mountain of mail. As I stood there sweating in my own private heatwave, I opened an envelope, and there was the novel my friend had mentioned the night before. I took it as a sign. This is one of those wonderful family stories with beautiful prose and unforgettable characters. It’s told from the point of view of three adult siblings and their mother in 1970’s London. In the midst of a heatwave, their father vanishes, and they’re left to sort out what happened.
Life After Life
By Kate Atkinson
Ever since I read Behind the Scenes at the Museum over a decade ago, I’ve been a huge fan of Atkinson’s work. She can spin a sentence like few others can. So I was delighted to hear she had a new novel coming. But I wasn’t at all prepared for how phenomenal Life After Life would be. It is one of the best and most ambitious novels I’ve ever read. If you haven’t read it yet, you must do so immediately. You’ll thank me later, I promise.