As part of our Best Books of 2013 coverage, our editors weigh in on some of their personal favorites from the list. Think J.R. Ewing and “Dallas.” Think Lonesome Dove. Think Faulkner. This stunning second novel from Philipp Meyer (following his critically praised debut, American Rust) combines epic storytelling, Texas tragedy and raw, powerful writing. Tracing the rise to power of the McCullough clan—from the birth of patriarch Eli in 1836 to the 20th-century struggles of great-granddaughter Jeannie—Meyer reveals more about Texas and its violent past than any history book ever could. Read our review or interview, or check out an excerpt. To see the full list of our best books of 2013, click here.
Acclaimed author Marilynne Robinson will return with another novel set in the town of Gilead, Iowa. Her publisher FSG has just purchased rights to publish Lila, the story of a mysterious young woman who arrives in town and marries John Ames, the hero of her second novel, Gilead, which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. No release date has been set.
Robinson has spent her last two novels rounding out the lives and characters of the Ames family in her lyrical, deliberate writing, and it sounds like she'll be continuing in the same vein here. Those looking for a comparable read can turn to fellow Pulitzer winner Paul Harding, a former student and now friend of Robinson who has just published his second novel, Enon. In a recent Q&A, Harding says of Robinson: "[W]ithin 10 minutes of her walking into the first meeting I knew that hers was the sort of life of the mind, the intellect, the soul that I wanted for myself. For whatever reasons, she and I can plunk down onto whatever chairs or park bench might be at hand, or just walk around in circles and talk and talk for hours about theology and art and politics and physics and cosmology."
Are you looking forward to Lila?
Today’s Debut of the Day pick is Amy & Isabelle, by Elizabeth Strout. Strout went on to win the Pulitzer Prize with her third book, Olive Kitteridge, but her debut, a sensitive story about mothers and daughters, marked her as an author to watch. Isabelle thinks she knows everything about her daughter, Amy, but when she discovers that Amy has been having an affair with her math teacher, their relationship is tested.
Amy's deceit makes Isabelle, a single mother, question her own parenting skills, remembering her own lies that began when she first moved to Shirley Falls when Amy was a baby. Horrified by her daughter's actions, Isabelle commits an act that they later regret, igniting the hostile silence throughout the summer. Unsure how to make amends, Amy and Isabelle begin the arduous process of learning to see each other as adults and recognizing their respective limits. . . . In this quiet but exhilarating novel, the reader becomes involved in the life of Shirley Falls, able to peer through everyone's roofs at night and empathize with their struggles.
Read the full review from our January 1999 issue here.
Today’s Debut of the Day pick is A Reliable Wife, the 2009 first novel from Robert Goolrick. Set in small-town Wisconsin in the early 1900s, this Gothic, ominous story is full of dark twists and turns.
In its best moments, A Reliable Wife calls to mind the chilling tales of Poe and Stephen King, and at its core this is a tragedy of Shakespearean dimensions. It melds a plot drenched in suspense with expertly realized characters and psychological realism. The fate of those characters is in doubt right up to this relentless story’s intense final pages, and Goolrick’s ability to sustain that tension is a tribute to his craftsmanship and one of the true pleasures of a fine first novel.
Read the entire review from our April 2009 issue here.
It's been seven years since McDermott published After This, and fans have been eager for another novel from the insightful, lyrical American author, who won the 1998 National Book Award for Charming Billy.
Her new novel, Someone, will be published by FSG on September 10. Subtle and tender, it's the story of one Brooklyn woman's life, a life that runs the course of much of the 20th century. Her loves and heartbreaks, gains and losses, are all deftly chronicled by McDermott as she traces Marie's life with sympathy and insight.
Says the publisher: "This is a novel that speaks of life as it is daily lived; a crowning achievement by one of the finest American writers at work today."
Will you read it? What books are you most looking forward to this fall?
Since its publication in 2009, Jamie Ford's Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (Ballantine) has sold 1.3 million copies. That's some debut!
Well, Ford is finally following up on his success: Songs of Willow Frost will be published September 10. Like Hotel, Songs of Willow Frost is historical fiction and features a Chinese-American character and a childhood friendship. This time, though, the story is set in the 1920s and 1930s, where a lonely young boy looks for the mother he longs for. From the publisher description:
Twelve-year-old William Eng, a Chinese-American boy, has lived at Seattle’s Sacred Heart Orphanage ever since his mother’s listless body was carried away from their small apartment five years ago. On his birthday—or rather, the day the nuns designate as his birthday—William and the other orphans are taken to the historical Moore Theatre, where William glimpses an actress on the silver screen who goes by the name of Willow Frost. Struck by her features, William is convinced that the movie star is his mother, Liu Song.
Determined to find Willow, and prove his mother is still alive, William escapes from Sacred Heart with his friend Charlotte. The pair navigates the streets of Seattle, where they must not only survive, but confront the mysteries of William’s past and his connection to the exotic film star. The story of Willow Frost, however, is far more complicated than the Hollywood fantasy William sees onscreen.
Did you read Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet? Will you be looking for Songs of Willow Frost?
Well, it looks like our 2010 "Three years to Gabaldon" post was just about on target. Delacorte will release the eighth book in Diana Gabaldon's Outlander saga, Written in My Own Heart's Blood, on December 10, 2013. Gabaldon will be speaking at this year's BEA author breakfast to support the book—and she's already posted a few excerpts on her website.
It has been more than 20 years since Gabaldon published the novel that started it all, The Outlander. The seven published novels have sold more than 20 million copies, and the universe has expanded to include three generations: the star-crossed, time-traveling lovers Claire and Jamie; their daughter Brianna, who was born in the 18th century but returned to the late 20th century with her husband; and their grandchildren Jem and Amanda. Then there are the dozens of peripheral characters, who "crop up in one book, disappear, and then return two or three books later. Someone barely mentioned in an early book may become pivotal in a later one," as our interviewer Rebecca Bain noted in her 2009 chat with Gabaldon. So it's certain that surprises are in store.
In other Gabaldon news, it looks as though opponents of Katherine Heigl as Claire can breathe easier. The Outlander series has recently been optioned for a TV series, not a film, as was previously reported. Showrunner Ron Moore, who has worked on Star Trek films and the TV series "Roswell," will helm the project, and the Starz cable network has signed on to develop the series, which means that seeing an actual pilot sometime this year is quite likely. (Gabaldon has an extensive FAQ section on this topic on her site.) Move over, "Game of Thrones."
ETA: Though BEA's website continues to list a pub date of December 10, Diana Gabaldon has informed us that the pub date is "still fluid." Updates to come!
This just in: Curtis Sittenfeld is publishing a fourth novel on June 25, 2013.
Sisterland (Random House) is the story of twin sisters: Vi, a self-proclaimed psychic, and Kate, a wife and mother who ignores her own clairvoyant talents. When Vi predicts that a devastating earthquake is around the corner, Kate must decide if she is willing to risk her normal life to support her sister's claim—and possibly save their community.
From the catalog:
Funny, haunting, and thought-provoking, Sisterland is a beautifully written novel of the obligation we have toward others, and the responsibility we take for ourselves. With her deep empathy, keen wisdom, and unerring talent for finding the extraordinary moments in our everyday lives, Curtis Sittenfeld is one of the most exceptional voices in literary fiction today.
On Tuesday, my personal favorite book of 2011, Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie, came out in paperback. I love the regal red touch they added to the cover.
But wait—there's more! Modern Library has reissued new versions of Massie's previous books on the Romanovs: the book that started it all, Nicholas & Alexandra (1969); Pulitzer Prize-winner and my personal fave biography of all time, Peter the Great (1980); and The Romanovs: The Final Chapter (1995), written after the discovery of the royal bones in a mass grave in Siberia. (via)
These editions have beautiful matching covers with typography that looks vaguely Cyrillic without being obnoxious (doesn't the small "a" recall the Russian "?"?) and the double-headed eagle that was the royal family's symbol. Their appeal is almost enough to make me consider buying new versions, even though I got my well-loved copies signed when Massie visited Nashville last fall and therefore will never, ever consider giving them up.
Do reprints ever tempt you into buying multiple copies of old favorites? Is anyone with me in the RKM fan club? :)
Hyperion announced today that they'll be publishing The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom on August 28. This is a "magical" new novel about Father Time that casts the fairy-tale figure in a new light: as the person who first attempted to track time. It's the first novel in six years from Albom, who originally struck literary gold in 1997 with Tuesdays with Morrie, a memoir about the death of his friend and mentor, teacher Morrie Schwartz.
"We are excited once again to share a new Mitch Albom book with his beloved fans and readers," said Hyperion President and Publisher Ellen Archer. "Mitch taps into an issue we all struggle with these days—our time and what we make of it. His novel will spark a lot of conversation about how we live our lives now—and what we can't afford to forget."
Albom's modern-day parables have moved millions and The Time Keeper isn't likely to be an exception. Will you look out for it?
Related in BookPage: our past coverage of Mitch Albom's books, including an interview about his last novel, Have a Little Faith.