We're still putting the final touches on our 2014 preview, but couldn't wait to share this news: Hilary Mantel is publishing a short story collection in September. The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher is the double-Booker winner's second short story collection and her first in 10 years—and it certainly has a killer title (ha).
If you need convincing that Mantel is as able a short-story writer as she is a novelist, there are a few samples of her short fiction online:
"Curved Is the Line of Beauty" (Times Literary Supplement, 2002)
"The Heart Fails Without Warning" (The Guardian, 2009)
"Comma" (The Guardian, 2010)
"Winter Break" (welovethisbook.com, 2012)
"The Long QT" (The Guardian, 2012)
I can't wait to get my hands on this book. Will you read it?
p.s. More about Mantel on our site. And did you know she was named one of Time's most influential people last year?
Readers can't seem to get enough of Jojo Moyes these days! Her most recent novel, Me Before You, came in at #2 on Your top 20 books of 2013 (so far!). Our reviewer deemed the book—about the development of an unlikely relationship between former coffee shop clerk Lou and recently paralyzed, former adrenaline junkie Will—a "twisting, turning, heartbreaking novel . . . the kind of book you simply can’t put down." (Click here to read a Q&A with Moyes about the book.)
Lucky for us, we won't have to wait very long for Moyes' next novel. The Girl You Left Behind is coming out on August 20!
Curious about what she likes to read, we asked Moyes to recommend three books that she's enjoyed reading. Here they are, in her own words:
I picked this up last summer when I heard people whose opinion I trust discussing it on Twitter. (I've found Twitter is a useful place for book recommendations, especially as so little commercial fiction gets reviewed.) This book was one of the few books to make me actually gasp out loud (the last was Atwood's The Blind Assassin). I love the way she writes about male/female relationships, and the fact that I genuinely couldn't work out how it was going to end.
I read this as part of the Women's Book Prize (formerly the Orange), which I'm helping judge this year. It has won pretty much every British book prize going—but it is up against five equally wonderful books on our shortlist. The prize, however, gave me the excuse to finally pick up a book I'd meant to read for a very long time. Bring Up the Bodies looks "heavier" than it is. It takes a tiny period in royal history and brings the court of Henry VIII—with all its intrigue, politics and characters—alive. It is an awesome achievement; entertaining, gripping and brilliant on human psychology.
I have read everything Kate Atkinson has ever written; she's one of my "buy for the author's name alone" writers. And she never disappoints. This book takes a simple idea—what would happen if you could live parts of your life over and over again?—and uses it to weave a story that is audacious, profoundly moving and beautifully written. It is also on the Women's Prize shortlist.
TIME has just released its annual list of the 100 most influential movers and shakers around the globe, and we were delighted to see the inclusion of a couple of writers alongside the likes of Jay Z, Malala Yousafzai, Gabrielle Giffords, and, of course, Barack Obama.
" src="http://www.bookpage.com/the-book-case/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/mantel-100x150.jpg" width="100" height="150" /> Hilary Mantel
Congrats are in order for Hilary Mantel for making the list. Mantel also picked up a nomination earlier this week for the prestigious Women's Prize for Fiction for Bring Up the Bodies, which came in at #9 on our Best Books of 2012.
" src="http://www.bookpage.com/the-book-case/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Saunders-122x150.jpeg" width="122" height="150" /> George Saunders
Also on the list is George Saunders, whose collection of short stories, Tenth of December, was predicted by the New York Times—on January 3, no less—to be the "Best Book You'll Read This Year." We, ourselves, predict that the book will be on our list of the Best Books of 2013.
What do you think? Are there other writers you feel deserved a spot on the list?
Though they may have been a bit overshadowed in the U.S. by yesterday's Pulitzer announcement, this week has also brought two important literary news items from the UK.
First, the shortlist for the prize formerly known as the Orange Prize and now known simply as the Women's Prize for Fiction. It's an incredible list—Hilary Mantel seems to be up against her toughest competition yet. Will she sweep all three of the U.K.'s major awards?
Speaking of Zadie Smith, she also figures in the second item of literary news from the U.K: She's one of the 2013 "20 under 40" list from Granta magazine. Created every 10 years, the list honors the most promising 20 British writers under the age of 40. It's Smith's second time on the list, which for the first time contains a majority of female authors—12/20. It's also the most international list yet.
Click on the author's name to see their author page on BookPage.com.
Reader name: Larry
Hometown: Acton, MA
Favorite genres: historical fiction, history
Favorite books: Caleb’s Crossing (Geraldine Brooks); Sarah’s Key (Tatiana de Rosnay); Those Who Save Us (Jenna Blum); Truman (David McCullough); Mayflower (Nathaniel Philbrick)
Ah, historical fiction. There are so many wonderful choices! Chief among any list of recommendations should be the four historical novels written by Hilary Mantel—with a particular emphasis on Wolf Hall, a portrait of Thomas Cromwell. Both this novel and its sequel, Bring Up the Bodies, won the Booker Prize. Read these books and be fully immersed in Henry VIII’s court.
Another good bet is The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer, a novel set in France and Hungary during the 1930s and ’40s. Though a 600-plus-page story of the Holocaust may sound like difficult reading, Orringer’s old-fashioned epic is beautifully written and a powerful tale. We also loved The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean, a story of trauma, love and hope set during the 1941 siege of Leningrad. In the story, a museum docent takes refuge in the Hermitage and creates a “memory palace” in her mind.
Finally, readers interested in American history should not miss two recent books about our third president. Master of the Mountain by Henry Wiencek confronts Jefferson’s relationship with slavery and Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power is an elegant biography by Jon Meacham. BookPage reviewer Roger Bishop wrote that it is “surely one of the best single volumes about him written in our time.”
For a chance at your own book fortune, email bookfortunes (at) bookpage (dot) com with your name, hometown and your favorite genre(s), author(s) and book(s). Also, visit bookpage.com/newsletters to sign up for Book of the Day, our daily book recommendation e-newsletter.
As part of our Best Books of 2012 coverage, our editors weigh in on some of their personal favorites from the list.
Hilary Mantel is a genius, full stop. Sequels often disappoint, but Bring Up the Bodies, which follows charismatic Thomas Cromwell through the waning years of Henry VIII’s ill-fated marriage to Anne Boleyn, is as spellbinding as its groundbreaking predecessor, Wolf Hall. In a remarkable act of literary ventriloquism, Mantel has created a singular hero: a man wholly of his time who is nonetheless relatable in ours.
BookPage's author page for Hilary Mantel.
The New Yorker profile of Mantel.
As the general fiction editor here at BookPage, most every novel published eventually makes its way across my desk (or at least spends time piled on it). So it's easy to spot trends. Some are extremely transitory (cover trends, Amish vampires); others, part of a publishing shift (other cover trends, regular vampires). One thing that seems to be firmly in the latter category is the rise of historical fiction.
Of course, this is not a new genre, but the number of hopeful historical fiction bestsellers has gone up exponentially over the past few years. Many of this fall's most touted debuts and literary releases? Historicals. The favorite for this year's Man Booker Prize? A historical. Some of 2012's biggest bestsellers were the type of book I like to call "novels—now starring real people," which, with their stories of the inner lives of historical figures (usually involving romantic intrigue), have won over readers of contemporary commercial fiction. It's starting to feel like a writer has to be a colossus—or at least some sort of preternaturally talented literary phenom—to get noticed for a book set in the present day. (Writing about the future also gives you a pretty decent chance, but that's for another post.)
I have a few theories about why this genre is especially popular with today's authors, publishers and readers.
Our multi-tasking lifestyle. No one wants to be doing just one thing when they could be doing two. These novels offer readers an escape—but they're also teaching you something!
Gravitas. It's hard to shake 200+ years of criticism of the novel as a frivolous waste of time. Reading historical fiction calms these anxieties for readers. And that added dose of seriousness—these authors probably read other books in order to write their novel! none of this daydreaming over Starbucks nonsense—also gives writers and publishers a better chance at the Holy Grail: a novel that sells well, yet isn't completely cut off from critical praise.
Reality TV. Today we are accustomed to having "real" lives served up as entertainment. See also: the rising popularity of memoirs. Please note that both these things came into their own just before the "novels featuring real people" trend really took off. Coincidence?
It's a "hook." Having a factual angle gives book clubs something to chew on and media types something to probe into. And lord knows the only thing better than selling your book to 10 people at the same time is getting your author five minutes with Matt Lauer.
Today's world is not that great, but it could be worse. Reading historical fiction lets us get lost in the past (That dress sounds gorgeous! I wish I had a butler.), while at the same time letting us feel slightly superior about modern advancements (cell phones, indoor plumbing, more progressive attitudes toward women and minorities—you know, the important things). A win-win.
But those are just my theories. What are yours? Do you have a favorite historical novel from 2012? (I'm going to go with The Lifeboat.)
A month ago, we highlighted 15 superstar story collections. Now, it's time to move in the opposite direction. Here are 15 doorstop novels we love, in a variety of genres. We're defining "doorstop" loosely as a long book that will keep you occupied for a long time (without losing your attention!)—maybe even the duration of your entire vacation.
What are your favorite hefty novels? Let us know in the comments!
11/23/63 by Stephen King (849 pages)
The buzz on Stephen King’s 11/22/63 is that it’s about a man who goes back in time to save JFK. It’s true; that is the mission undertaken by King’s hero, 35-year-old high school teacher Jake Epping. But to a careful reader, it quickly becomes clear that this is actually a novel about falling in love: first with a time period, and then with an awkward, tall librarian named Sadie. Read more>>
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (528 pages)
You don’t have to like baseball to savor Chad Harbach’s sumptuous debut novel, a wise and tender story of love and friendship, ambition and the cruelty of dashed dreams, featuring an appealing cast of characters.
Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith (439 pages)
Leo Demidov's personal hell has truly been paved with the best of intentions. The Soviet war hero and rising star within Stalin's State Security force has ordered the execution of thousands of his countrymen, or worse, dispatched them to the infamous gulags, all in service to the greater good of communism. Read more>>
The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt (688 pages)
The heft of A.S. Byatt’s latest work, The Children’s Book, promises a detailed, sprawling story. But the actual scope of this ambitious novel has to be experienced to be believed. The story of an age more than anything else, it encompasses 25 years (1895-1919) and has at least that many main characters, which leaves the reader wondering how they can all come to such vivid life in just 700 pages. Read more>>
Fall of Giants by Ken Follett (985 pages)
To complete his hugely ambitious trilogy of historical novels about the 20th century, Ken Follett has set himself a punishing writing schedule. Lucky for us. Because readers who compulsively turn all 985 pages of Fall of Giants, the gripping first book in the Century Trilogy, will not want to wait long for its sequel. Read more>>
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (944 pages)
A scan through reviews of Japanese writer Haruki Murakami’s work repeatedly yields such words as “surreal” and “alienation”—and these are certainly apt markers for his much-anticipated new novel, 1Q84. Originally published as a trilogy in Japan, where the first volume sold more than a million copies in just two months, this dystopian epic weighs in at more than 900 pages and required the services of two translators to speed the process of getting it into the hands of his many English-speaking fans. Read more>>
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke (782 pages)
What kind of magic can make a nearly 800-page novel seem too short? Whatever it is, debut author Susanna Clarke is possessed by it, and her astonished readers will surely hope she never recovers. Her epic history of an alternative, magical England is so beautifully realized that not one of the many enchantments Clarke chronicles in the book could ever be as potent or as quickening as her own magnificent narrative. Read more>>
The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall
Golden Richards is in a bad way. He has four wives but is flirting with another woman. He has 28 children but can’t stop thinking about the accidental death of his handicapped daughter, Glory. His floundering construction company has taken a job remodeling a brothel, though he tells everyone at church he’s working on a senior center. And he is trying desperately to remove chewing gum from a place where no gum should ever get stuck. Read more>>
Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes (640 pages)
First-time author Karl Marlantes tackles some tough subjects—racism among the troops, for one—in his Vietnam novel, Matterhorn.What makes this novel so irresistible is Marlantes’ skill at peeling away the many layers of truth in combat. Read more>>
The Passage by Justin Cronin (784 pages)
The vampire craze sweeping literature is not unlike the virus that decimates the world in Justin Cronin’s The Passage. Sure, there are isolated enclaves of holdouts, defending literature as they know it from the onslaught of supernatural beings, but most of the reading public seems to have developed an insatiable thirst for stories featuring the undead, from writers like Charlaine Harris and Stephenie Meyer. A note to those who thought they were immune: I dare you to crack open The Passage and read page one. Read more>>
Roses by Leila Meacham (640 pages)
Roses traces nearly 70 years in the history of the Toliver family, owners of a cotton plantation in a fictional Texas town. When patriarch Vernon Toliver dies, he entrusts the land to his daughter, Mary, because he knows she will love and care for it. His wife and son are outraged. That decision and the stubborn love that motivated it determine the course of Mary Toliver’s life. Read more>>
Skippy Dies by Paul Murray (672 pages)
Does anyone really ever get over adolescence? Maybe some, but even if you're one of the lucky ones, reading Paul Murray's new novel will bring all the roiling, churning madness of being a teenager right back into focus. The book claws into you right away, and its vividness never fades—impressive, considering it's nearly 700 pages long. Read more>>
South of Broad by Pat Conroy (528 pages)
Pat Conroy’s lush, remarkable South of Broad is set in Charleston, South Carolina, and spans some 20 years from the late 1960s to the 1980s. Following a memoir (My Losing Season) and a homespun recipe collection (The Pat Conroy Cookbook), South of Broad is Conroy’s first novel in 14 years. And lucky for us, it’s another big, sprawling, heartbreaking novel, sure to please seasoned Conroy fans and new readers alike. Read more>>
West of Here by Jonathan Evison (496 pages)
Set in fictional Port Bonita, on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state, West of Here is no less than epic. The narrative covers a timeline that is split between the late 1800s and the early 2000s, two periods that are united by the sublime power of the wilderness that surrounds the novel’s characters. Read more>>
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (560 pages)
Hilary Mantel sets a new standard for historical fiction with Wolf Hall, a riveting portrait of Thomas Cromwell, chief advisor to King Henry VIII and a significant political figure in Tudor England. Mantel’s crystalline style, piercing eye and interest in, shall we say, the darker side of human nature, together with a real respect for historical accuracy, make this novel an engrossing, enveloping read. Read more>>
Do you have any books to add to the list? We'd love to hear about them!
Amidst all our "Best of 2011" coverage, we're still keeping an ear to the ground to find out about the most anticipated releases of 2012. Today Henry Holt president and publisher Stephen Rubin announced that the sequel to Hilary Mantel's Booker prize-winning Wolf Hall (2009) would be among them.
“I share in the enthusiasm and anticipation of the many ‘Wolf Hall’ readers who eagerly await the return to Cromwell’s life in the tangled web of Tudor England and Hilary’s vast imagination," said Rubin, citing a fall 2012 release for the novel. Readers in Mantel's native U.K. have an advantage on us here—Fourth Estate will publish the book in Britain in May 2012.
Previously, Mantel had said the book would be called The Mirror and the Light, but apparently that was axed in favor of the slightly more gruesome Bring Up the Bodies. Apropos for the time period, especially since the timeline for Bodies will encompass the downfall of Anne Boleyn. I can't wait for this one. How about you?