It's official: We can knock one title off our list of long-awaited second novels. Helen Simonson is returning on March 22 with a follow-up to Major Pettigrew's Last Stand. Set in 1914, The Summer Before the War is also set in the English countryside, during a summer so beautiful that no one can quite believe that the rumbles of war will come to anything. The small town of Rye is more bothered by the new Latin teacher, who turns out to be not only a woman (which is controversial enough) but also attractive and, even worse, assertive.
Though set in the modern day, Major Pettigrew was full of old-fashioned charm, so Simonson's writing style should be an excellent fit for historical fiction. I'm looking forward to seeing what she does with this one. Will you read it?
Historical writer extraordinaire Tracy Chevalier (Girl with a Pearl Earring; Remarkable Creatures) continues to explore America's past in her new novel, At the Edge of the Orchard, which will be published on March 16.
Chevalier, who is American but has lived in London for years, began her career writing about Western Europe and England. Her last book, The Last Runaway, was her first to be set in her home country. With At the Edge of the Orchard, she moves from 1830s Ohio to Gold Rush-era California to tell the story of two generations of the Goodenough family, whose search for a better life is as turbulent as the times that surround them. Including real-life figures like the legendary Johnny Appleseed, this sounds like an engrossing American drama. Will you read it?
It's Jane Austen week on the paperback aisle, with a sparkling new edition of one of her classic novels and a charming new story about young Jane herself:
By Charlie Lovett
Penguin • $16 • ISBN 9780143127727
In two parallel narratives, Lovett portrays Jane Austen's friendship with a young clergyman in Hampshire in 1796 and a modern-day bookseller in Oxfordshire who begins to suspect that Austen was not the actual author of Pride and Prejudice. This inventive novel is a treat for Austen fans and readers who enjoy literary mysteries.
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
By Caitlin Doughty
Norton • $15.95 • ISBN 9780393351903
As Doughty points out, we all die, so there's no use shrouding the process in secrecy. In this thoughtful and engaging memoir, the licensed mortician pulls back the curtain to reveal all the details of what happens to a corpse between death and burial (or cremation).
By Jane Austen
Penguin • $17 • ISBN 9780143107712
This Penguin Classics Deluxe edition honors the 200th anniversary of the original publication of Jane Austen's beloved novel in 1815. The paperback has a new cover by illustrator Dadu Shin, an introduction by Austen scholar Juliette Wells, maps of England, a glossary of 18th-century words and other materials to provide context for today's readers.
I haven't done much research into this, but I'm going to declare that this is a first: Harlequin, the book publishing house known for its romance novels, is launching a line of wines called Vintages by Harlequin today.
Developed with the Northern California-based Vintage Wine Estates, the line will feature three varietals: a chardonnay, a cabernet sauvignon and a red wine blend. Available exclusively on Amazon.com now, the wines are available to U.S. customers only.
Considering the fact that I do most of my reading with a glass of wine in hand, this may be a match made in heaven. Because what goes better with romance than wine?
What do you think of Harlequin's new business venture?
It's awards season, and the full longlist for the National Book Awards has been announced. The shortlist will be announced Oct 14, and the winners will be announced Nov 18. Winners will
be crowned with gold and honey receive $10,000 and a bronze sculpture. Here's the whole shebang!
A Cure for Suicide by Jesse Ball
Refund: Stories by Karen E. Bender
Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg
The Turner House by Angela Flournoy
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
Fortune Smiles: Stories by Adam Johnson
Welcome to Braggsville by T. Geronimo Johnson
Honeydew by Edith Pearlman
Mislaid by Nell Zink
Rain: A Natural and Cultural History by Cynthia Barnett
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Mourning Lincoln by Martha Hodes
Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs by Sally Mann
The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration Into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery
Paradise of the Pacific: Approaching Hawai’i by Susanna Moore
Love and Other Ways of Dying by Michael Paterniti
If the Oceans Were Ink: An Unlikely Friendship and a Journey to the Heart of the Quran by Carla Power
Ordinary Light: A Memoir by Tracy K. Smith
Travels in Vermeer: A Memoir by Michael White
Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude by Ross Gay
Scattered at Sea by Amy Gerstler
A Stranger's Mirror by Marilyn Hacker
How to Be Drawn by Terrance Hayes
The Beauty by Jane Hirshfield
Voyage of the Sable Venus by Robin Coste Lewis
Bright Dead Things by Ada Limón
Elegy for a Broken Machine by Patrick Phillips
Heaven by Rowan Ricardo Phillips
Mistaking Each Other for Ghosts by Lawrence Raab
YOUNG PEOPLE'S LITERATURE
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Symphony for the City of the Dead by M.T. Anderson
The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin
Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson
This Side of Wild: Mutts, Mares, and Laughing Dinosaurs by Gary Paulsen
Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz with Kekla Magoon
Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin
Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
See anyone you hope brings home the prize?
It's a brutally beautiful Man Booker shortlist for 2015! The shortlist—composed of novels deemed by a panel of judges to be among the best written in English this year—is filled with novels that touch on some pretty grim topics. Michael Wood, Chair of judges for the prestigious prize, admits that there is a “tremendous amount of violence in them. What’s quite interesting is trying to work out how one can have such pleasure in books with such terrible stuff.” Indeed.
Man Booker 2015 shortlist:
Satin Island by Tom McCarthy (UK)
The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria)
The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota (UK)
A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler (US)
Are you rooting for any of these authors to win the £50,000 prize?
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Elizabeth Strout returns in January with a new novel, My Name Is Lucy Barton.
Strout explored the complicated relationships of three brothers in her last book, The Burgess Boys, but in her new novel, she once again explores the mother-daughter bond—the relationship that powered her knockout 1999 debut, Amy & Isabelle.
Lucy Barton and her mother are long-estranged, but when Lucy needs help after surgery, her mother comes for a visit. Their reunion brings years of tension and longing to the surface, as Lucy reflects on her difficult childhood and her relationship with her own two daughters.
Will you read it?
Canadian writer Yann Martel hit a home run with Life of Pi, an international bestseller and Man Booker Prize winner—even the film ended up with a handful of Academy Awards. His second novel, Beatrice & Virgil, was a bestseller but didn't quite reach the same level as his debut (allegories about the Holocaust are not necessarily an easy sell).
Will his third novel be more successful in capturing readers' imaginations? We will find out in February, when The High Mountains of Portugal is published by Spiegel & Grau. As with his previous work, the premise is anything but usual: Blending three storylines that cover most of the 20th century, the novel is set both in Lisbon and the mythical mountains of the title, which just might contain an artifact that will change the way the world thinks about religion. Oh, and there's also a chimpanzee involved. We have to admit, we're curious! How about you?
Sadly, summer—and summer reading—are officially over, but that doesn't mean it's time to cut back on reading! These six paperbacks, on sale today, are an excellent way to kick off the fall reading season. Leading the list are two books that are being adapted into highly anticipated films:
By Bruce Cook
Grand Central • $15.99 • ISBN 9781455564989
Almost 40 years after it was first published, Grand Central is bringing out two new paperback editions of Bruce Cook's 1977 biography of Dalton Trumbo, the Hollywood screenwriter blacklisted after refusing to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee. The two new editions, this trade paperback and a movie tie-in, are linked to the November 6 release of Trumbo, a film version with a star-studded cast that includes Bryan Cranston in the title role, along with Helen Mirren, Louis C.K. and Elle Fanning.
By Mitchell Zuckoff
Twelve • $16.99 • ISBN 9781455582280
A #1 bestseller in hardcover, Zuckoff's account of the controversial 2012 attack on the American Embassy in Benghazi, Libya, is told from the perspective of the Annex Security Team—six Americans who attempted to avert the tragedy that claimed the life of the ambassador and a foreign service officer. A movie adaptation by director Michael Bay (Armageddon, Transformers) is set to premier in January.
Liar Temptress Soldier Spy
By Karen Abbott
Harper Perennial • $16.99 • ISBN 9780062092908
In a history book that reads like a suspense novel, Abbott portrays four women who operated as spies during the Civil War—two for the Union and two for the Confederacy. Abbott's vivid writing earned the book slots on best books of the year lists from Library Journal and the Christian Science Monitor.
By Kim Zupan
Picador • $16 • ISBN 9781250074782
This arresting debut novel from Montana native Zupan captures the unexpected bond that develops between a lonely Montana sheriff's deputy and a convicted killer locked in the county jail. When their friendship leads to an act of violence, the poignant story takes a harrowing turn.
By Alix Christie
Harper Perennial • $15.99 • ISBN 9780062336026
Christie offers a masterful portrait of the brilliant inventor through the eyes of a reluctant apprentice in Gutenberg's workshop. It is young Peter who must oversee the printing of Bibles on a secret printing press—an act that will shock the world and change the course of history.
The Paying Guests
By Sarah Waters
Riverhead • $17 • ISBN 9781594633928
When a financially strapped London widow and her daughter take a young couple into their home as boarders, it changes their lives in ways they never imagined. Waters' tense psychological novel ranked #48 on the BookPage list of Best Books of 2014.
The latest from Iain Pears—author of the worldwide bestseller An Instance of the Fingerpost—is an ambitious literary work with a sci-fi twist. Actually, "ambitious" might be an understatement: This book is so complex that there's an app to help unravel it. (Is that a first? I'm pretty sure that's a first.)
Arcadia follows several different characters—including an Oxford professor, a teenager, a mathematician and a scholar's assistant—through 10 storylines that span decades and maybe even centuries. Knopf will publish it in the US on February 16.
Pears wrote in the Guardian that he decided to build an app to make it easier to play with narrative structure, and to allow readers to leave out any threads that "may displease." But it also taught him new ways to write: "Most peculiarly of all, I found that the story was most easily structured by looking at it visually; whole strands were expanded or even deleted simply to create a more pleasing shape in the writing program I was using. On every occasion, the more satisfactory the appearance, the better the story read, and I still haven’t quite figured out how that works."
The book has just gone on sale in the UK, so I guess we'll have a chance to see whether readers there embrace reading via app before Arcadia lands on US shores. Will you look for it in February?