Author Tony Earley's 2000 debut novel, Jim the Boy, was a national bestseller, but he is also known for his short stories, which serve up satisfying slices of life. On August 26, he'll release his third short story collection—and his first in 20 years—Mr. Tall (Little, Brown).
The seven tales—one of which is novella length—have varied Southern settings, from the Outer Banks to contemporary Nashville (Earley is an English professor at Vanderbilt University).
From the publisher:
Earley indelibly maps previously undiscovered territories of the human heart in these melancholy, comic, and occasionally strange stories. Along the way he leads us on a journey from contemporary Nashville to a fantastical land of talking dogs and flying trees, teaching us at every step that, even in the most familiar locales, the ordinary is never just that.
Will you read it?
March is Women's History Month—which means it's time for our third annual "women to watch" list. We've pored over galleys to come up with 14 women writers whose ambitious debuts—or accomplished breakthrough books—are sure to make waves among book lovers this spring and summer.
The Weight of Blood (Spiegel & Grau, March)
There's a new face on the literary suspense beat: Missouri author Laura McHugh, who drew on her experience of moving to the rural Ozarks as a preteen for her astonishing debut, The Weight of Blood. Two generations of disappearances haunt the small town of Henbane, but only 17-year-old Lucy seems interested in solving the mysteries. Will she learn that some secrets are better left buried?
Astonish Me (Knopf, April)
Iowa Writer's Workshop graduate Shipstead saw her 2012 debut, Seating Arrangements, become a national bestseller, but this accomplished second novel is certain to secure her place as a major literary voice. Spanning decades in less than 300 pages, this is the polished story of a ballerina whose passion for dance—and for her Russian instructor—shapes her life in surprising ways. Full of insight into the artistic mind and the human condition, this is a story that readers will embrace.
KAUI HART HEMMINGS
The Possibilities (Simon & Schuster, May)
It has been seven years since the publication of Kaui Hart Hemmings' debut, The Descendants, which became an Alexander Payne film starring George Clooney. In her second novel, Hemmings eschews the lush setting of her native Hawaii for the ski resort town of Breckenridge, but she's continuing her exploration of family bonds and the weight of grief. We expect readers will be just as enthralled by this honest, heart-tugging story about parents and children, about growing up and letting go.
The Untold (Amy Einhorn, June)
Fans of Peter Carey's True History of the Kelly Gang and Gil Adamson's The Outlander will thrill to Collins' debut, which introduces a bold new voice in Australian fiction. Inspired by the true story of Jessie Hickman, a notorious Australian outlaw, The Untold is set in the 1921 Outback, where Jessie is attempting to escape her past and atone for her crimes, all amid the terrible beauty of the landscape.
The Book of Unknown Americans (Knopf, June)
Chicago author Henríquez has earned praise from the likes of Sandra Cisneros and Ben Fountain for her previous novel and short story collection, but she's yet to become as well known to readers. She's poised for a breakthrough with The Book of Unknown Americans, the tale of two immigrant families in Delaware. The Toros, from Panama, are relatively established in the neighborhood when the Riveras arrive from Mexico. When the Toros' son falls in love with the Riveras' beautiful daughter, Maribel, their fates become intertwined.
Everything I Never Told You (Penguin, June)
Ng is a winner of the Pushcart Prize—and of the University of Michigan's Hopwood Award, which counts Mary Gaitskill, Frank O'Hara and Elizabeth Kostova among the past winners. Her elegant first novel follows the Lee family in 1970s Ohio after their favored daughter, Lydia, is found drowned.
The Quick (Random House, June)
Owen is just 28 years old and in the middle of pursuing her Ph.D. in English literature—but her first novel could be one of the biggest hits of the summer. Set in 1892 London, it has the same balance of historical/literary/supernatural that marked past bestsellers like Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian. Siblings James and Charlotte Norbury drift apart after James leaves their moldering Yorkshire estate to become a poet in London. But when James disappears without a trace, Charlotte must travel to the city to find him, and she uncovers a supernatural conspiracy in the process.
My Salinger Year (Knopf, June)
Poet Rakoff follows up her 2009 novel, A Fortunate Age, with a memoir of the mid-1990s year she worked as an assistant at one of the most storied literary agencies in NYC. After learning how to turn on her decades-old Selectric typewriter and adjust the playback speed on her boss' Dictaphone, Rakoff learns that she'll be in charge of answering the fan mail of the agency's top client: the reclusive J.D. Salinger. While it may be the Salinger cameo that initially draws readers in, it's Rakoff's effortlessly elegant, unhyperbolic prose and poignant coming-of-age story that will keep them engrossed through the very last word.
Life Drawing (Random House, July)
Mature marriages don't get a lot of play in fiction, but Robin Black brings one vividly to life in Life Drawing, the debut that follows her acclaimed 2010 story collection, If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This. Authors like Karen Russell and Alice Sebold have already praised this tale of an artistic couple—Augusta ("Gus") is a painter, while Owen is a writer—who find that the secrets and betrayals of their decades-long marriage are stirred up by the beautiful divorcée who moves in next door.
Friendship (FSG, July)
Former Gawker editor Emily Gould (who now is the co-proprietor of Emily Books) is known for her frank-to-a-fault writing—and the much-written-about (by Gould as well as others) flop of her 2010 memoir/essay collection, And the Heart Says Whatever. Fans and foes alike will be waiting to see what happens with her first novel, Friendship, the sharply observed story of Bev and Amy, longtime best friends who have just hit their 30s. When Bev becomes pregnant, the divide that had been gradually opening between their two lifestyles suddenly seems stark and unbridgeable.
The Queen of the Tearling (Harper, July)
The female George R.R. Martin? That's the buzz on newcomer Erika Johansen, a graduate of, you guessed it, the Iowa Writers' Workshop. The 36-year-old writer sold her trilogy for seven figures early last year, and Warner Brothers has optioned the film rights. It's the story of Kelsea Glynn, heir to the throne of Tearling, who, after years living in hiding, must return and challenge the Red Queen for her rightful place as leader. Though the setting feels medieval, The Queen of the Tearling is actually set 300 years in the future, in a world where technological advancement has been destroyed.
Land of Love and Drowning (Riverhead, July)
One of the "5 Under 35" authors chosen by the National Book Foundation, Yanique draws from the rich history of her native Virgin Islands for this multigenerational saga that begins in the early 1900s. Two sisters are orphaned after a shipwreck and must make their way from rags to riches with only their wits—and their remarkable ability to make men fall at their feet.
CARRIE LA SEUR
The Home Place (Morrow, August)
A Montana environmental attorney might seem like an unlikely novelist, but La Seur, who has studied at Oxford and Yale, draws on her seven-generations-deep Montana background to create the immersive setting of her first novel. Alma Terrebonne thinks she has escaped her small-town past, but finds herself called back to Montana when her sister dies in what appears to be an accident. Once Alma returns, however, she finds that there may be more to the story.
Small Blessings (St. Martin's, August)
Described as "one part Maeve Binchy, one part Woody Allen," this debut from a 66-year-old NPR feature reporter is set in a Southern academic community, where professor Tom Putnam and his wife, Marjorie, are going through a marital rough patch. Things get more complicated when Tom gets introduced to the 10-year-old son he never knew he had.
Photo of Maggie Shipstead by Michelle Legro
Photo of Courtney Collins by Lisa Madden
Photo of Celeste Ng by Kevin Day Photography
Photo of Joanna Rakoff by Elena Seibert
Photo of Robin Black by Nina Subin
Today readers learned that John Darnielle, the man behind the indie group The Mountain Goats, will become the author of more than some memorable songs: FSG announced that they will publish his first novel on September 30.
The Wolf in the White Van is the story of video game artist Sean Phillips, whose RPG "Trace Italian" has captured the imaginations of people worldwide. But when two fans find their obsession has real-world consequences, Sean must deal with the reality of his fictional creation.
Darnielle joins such indie greats as Josh Ritter, John Wesley Harding and Willy Vlautin in making the transition from song to page. On his tumblr, Darnielle wrote that "I'm currently writing a novel for the same house that publishes Frank Bidart, which I totally cannot even believe, I mean honestly."
And his editor and publisher Sean MacDonald, is even more effusive, saying of the novel "the greatest and perhaps most unexpected satisfaction is the quality that encompasses all these things, that this is simply a magnificent novel, weird and dark and wonderful, adventurous and spellbinding in the way of any great piece of literary art."
Here's the full publisher description:
Isolated by a disfiguring injury since the age of seventeen, Sean Phillips crafts imaginary worlds for strangers to play in. From his small apartment in southern California, he orchestrates fantastic adventures where possibilities, both dark and bright, open in the boundaries between the real and the imagined. As the creator of “Trace Italian”—a text-based, role-playing game played through the mail—Sean guides players from around the world through his intricately imagined terrain, which they navigate and explore, turn by turn, seeking sanctuary in a ravaged, savage future America.
Lance and Carrie are high school students from Florida, and are explorers of the Trace. But when they take their play into the real world, disaster strikes, and Sean is called on to account for it. In the process, he is pulled back through time, tracing back toward the moment of his own self-inflicted departure from the world in which most people live.
Book jacket designed by Rodrigo Corral
Books published posthumously are so bittersweet. They're such a treasure, because we get to enjoy more of our favorite writer's work, but they're such a tragedy, because we have no way to share our delight (or, perhaps, displeasure) with the author.
But I'm going to go with "treasure" when it comes to two books coming in April, when middle grade readers can enjoy new books from two celebrated children's book authors, published posthumously: Ice Whale by Jean Craighead George and The Islands of Chaldea by Diana Wynne Jones. Both books were left unfinished at the time of the author's death and were completed by talented family members.
Coming April 3 from Penguin, Ice Whale (ages 9 to 11) was Jean Craighead George's final novel and was completed by her children, Craig and Twig, after her passing in 2012. George, the author of more than 100 books, won the 1972 Newbery Medal for Julie of the Wolves and a 1959 Newbery Honor for My Side of the Mountain.
Ice Whale is yet another epic nature adventure set in northern Alaska, but this one unfolds with a surprising twist: It alternates between voices of Eskimos and a bowhead whale, and chapters featuring the whale include squiggly symbols, invented by George to represent whale sounds.
Ice Whale also has some especially sweet acknowledgements from Craig and Twig:
"We especially thank our mother, Jean, for leaving us with this "homework assignment," which pulled us all together after she died."
Dianna Wynne Jones, author of more than 40 fantasy novels, including Howl's Moving Castle and the Chrestomanci series, died in 2011 before she could finish The Islands of Chaldea (ages 10 and up). Jones' sister, novelist and actress Urusla Jones, completed the unfinished manuscript, which will be published April 22 by Greenwillow Books. This standalone fantasy has all the makings of a classic Jones novel. The publisher shares more:
"Aileen comes from a long line of magic makers, and her Aunt Beck is the most powerful magician on Skarr. But even though she is old enough, Aileen's magic has yet to reveal itself. When Aileen is sent over the sea on a mission for the King, she worries that she'll be useless and in the way. A powerful (but mostly invisible) cat changes all of that—and with every obstacle Aileen faces, she becomes stronger and more confident and her magic blooms."
Ice Whale and The Islands of Chaldea definitely sound like two treasures.
• Flavorwire rounded up some fantastic video and audio clips of authors reading their own works. We're talking Joan Didion (at right), Zadie Smith, William Faulkner, Truman Capote . . . and 11 others!
• Hold onto your hats, Robert Galbraith fans, because J.K. Rowling has announced that her Cormoran Strike crime fiction series will not end with June's publication of The Silkworm. Five additional novels will follow!
• Brit Tim Martin has started a new 26-part weekly Telegraph series he's referring to as an "A to Z of forgotten books" that deserve to be remembered. First up: A is for Ariel by André Maurois, first published in 1923.
• Yes, Valentine's Day is over, and everyone's experiencing some internet-quiz fatigue these days, but no self-respecting bibliophile could pass up BuzzFeed's Which Classic Author Is Your Soulmate? (I, for one, can't wait to watch Before Sunset with my dreamily handsome match, Anton Chekov, at left.)
With just a few days left in February, let's take a look at the March LibraryReads list, which features the 10 books coming out next month that librarians across the country are the most excited about sharing with their patrons.
Coming in at #1 is Laura McHugh's The Weight of Blood, which our reviewer describes as "a tense, taut novel and a truly remarkable debut. . . . a suspenseful thrill ride that satisfies in all the right ways." (Read our full review here, and our interview with McHugh about the book here.)
What do you think, readers? Will any of the March LibraryReads books be going on your TBR list?
• A literary treasure brought to our attention by Open Culture: The British Library has posted a digital copy of Jane Austen's simply delightful parody, "The History of England," which she hand-wrote and illustrated when she was just 15 years old.
• HuffPost presents 8 female characters who deserve their own book. (My addition to the list: Mrs. Danvers from Rebecca.)
• Ever wondered what sorts of books Bill Gates likes to read? (Some might be a little surprising!)
• J.K. Rowling recently admitted to having a few regrets about the ending of the Harry Potter books, inspiring the folks over at The Millions to round up a slew of other infamous literary second thoughts.
• Stein by Picasso, Zola by Manet—Book Riot offers up 9 portraits of great authors painted by great artists.
Listen up! The Audio Publishers Association has announced the nominees for the 2014 Audie Awards across 29 categories. Two of our own here at BookPage—Julia Steele, our associate publisher, and Sukey Howard, contributing editor who writes our Audio column—will be serving as judges this year, and we certainly don't envy their having to select just one winner from all of the nominees, which include:
Doctor Sleep by Stephen King (read by Will Patton)
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker (read by George Guidall)
The Good House by Ann Leary (read by Mary Beth Hurth)
The Imposter Bride by Nancy Richler (read by Tavia Gilbert)
Jacob's Oath by Martin Fletcher (read by Ari Fliakos)
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (read by Neil Gaiman)
Amy Falls Down by Jincy Willett (read by Amy McFadden)
The Curiosity by Stephen P. Kiernan (read by Kate Udall, George Guidall, Jason Culp, Erik Bergmann)
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (read by David Pittu)
The Son by Philipp Meyer (read by Will Patton, Scott Shepherd, Kate Mulgrew, Clifton Collins Jr.)
The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín (read by Meryl Streep)
White Dog Fell From the Sky by Eleanor Morse (read by Carla Mercer-Meyer)
Beyond Belief by Jenna Miscavige Hill (read by Sandy Rustin)
David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell (read by Malcolm Gladwell)
The End of Nature by Bill McKibben (read by Jeff Woodman)
The Telling Room by Michael Paterniti (read by L.J. Gasner)
Thank You for Your Service by David Finkel (read by Arthur Bishop)
C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race by Geoff Williams (read by Robertson Dean)
Devil in the Grove by Gilbert King (read by Peter Francis James)
Frozen in Time by Mitchell Zuckoff (read by Mitchell Zuckoff)
The Hour of Peril by Daniel Stashower (read by Edoardo Ballerini)
Nero's Killing Machine by Stephen Dando-Collins (read by Robert Fass)
One Summer by Bill Bryson (read by Bill Bryson)
See the full list of nominees here. Winners will be announced at a gala in New York City on May 29. Which books will you be rooting for?
A couple of weeks ago, we shared our favorite recent literary love stories . . . and asked you to share yours. Hundreds of you participated in the poll, and, after careful tabulation, we are thrilled to present the five books that garnered the most votes:
#1 Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
#2 Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
#3 The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon
#4 Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
#5 Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
What do you think about the results? Did your favorite literary love story make the list?
How popular was Shirley Temple among Americans in the 1930s? "Within a year of her breakthrough in 1934, hers was the second most popular name in the country," John F. Kasson writes in his upcoming book, The Little Girl Who Fought the Great Depression: Shirley Temple and 1930s America (Norton, April). In fact, Shirley Temple was popular not only in America, but around the world, becoming a global sensation on a scale that could make even Justin Bieber envious. From 1935 through 1938, Kasson reports, "she was the most popular star at the box office both within the United States and worldwide, a record never equaled." Among the countless fans who treasured portraits of Temple was Anne Frank, who kept a picture of the child star in the room where she hid from the Nazis.
Shirley Temple Black's death last week at the age of 85 will likely prompt a re-evaluation of her life and legacy, and Kasson's timely volume is a first step in that process. A professor of history and American studies at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, he focuses on Temple's boundless optimism and its effect on the Depression-weary public. Both insightful and filled with interesting details about Temple's career (her "preternatural talents" fostered persistent rumors that she was an adult midget), The Little Girl Who Fought the Great Depression is a case study of the interplay between celebrity and culture. Look for it in bookstores and libraries on April 14.