Happy St. Patrick's Day! When you raise a (green) beer to honor an Irish saint for his brave 5th-century snake-banishing (via Riverdance, perhaps?) take a moment to consider Ireland's rich literary legacy. Here are a few of our favorites from today's best Irish authors:
A Death in Summer by Benjamin Black
Black's atmopheric mysteries are as full of twists as they are elegantly written (Black is a pseudonym for prize-winning author John Banville). We love his take on 1950s Ireland and his savvy amateur detective Garret Quirke.
Nora Webster by Colm Tóibín
This quiet story of the life of an everywoman in 1970s Ireland turns into a wider exploration of the country's past, present and future in the capable hands of Tóibín, one of today's most accomplished Irish writers.
Faithful Place by Tana French
No list of Irish writers would be complete without Tana French, whose textured mysteries have taken the suspense world by storm since she made her debut in 2007. In Faithful Place, she brings the Liberties—a housing project in Dublin—into the spotlight, uncovering the truth behind a decades-old disappearance.
An Evening of Long Goodbyes by Paul Murray
Murray is best known for his excellent second novel, Skippy Dies, but his charming, Wodehous-ian debut, set in a crumbling Irish mansion, is a social satire for the ages.
At the Edge of Ireland by David Yeadon
In the tradition of classics like Under the Tuscan Sun, big-city reportor David Yeadon recounts his adventures and attempts to fit in with the locals after moving to the most isolated outpost in Ireland he could find—the Beara Peninsula.
My Dream of You by Nuala O'Faolain
This novel blends past and present in a time-tested formula. It's the story of modern-day Irishwoman Kathleen de Burca, who becomes obsessed with the story of an ancestor who escaped Ireland during the potato famine.
A Greyhound of a Girl by Roddy Doyle
Roddy Doyle is best known for his novels for adults, but in this magical middle-grade novel has an Irish setting that shines, a tough heroine and, best of all, a ghost.
Valentine's Day is coming up this weekend, and regardless of how you're celebrating (wine and Netflix, natch) it's a great time to read a romantic book. If traditional Romance isn't your cup of tea, then check out Roger Rosenblatt's short and playful look at love through a series of fictional vignettes in The Book of Love. The best-selling author (Making Toast and Unless It Moves the Human Heart) offers an often poetic and captivating exploration of the subject without running into cliché or sappy territory. This just might be the book on love for the cynics and romantics alike.
I thought of you tonight, as the moon was turning its face, the way you turn away at one of my contrived displays of wit. Embarrassed for me, who lacks the wite to be embarrased for myself. What is that? Why are you prepared to bear my slightest burden? I, the tropical ceiling fan, wheeling in my faux aristocratic self-confidence. You, with the serene sense to look beyond the slats of the casa shutters to the mango trees, the bougainvillea, and beyond those, to the sea. So steady, you eyesight. But tonight was different. The past had changed, as it does sometimes, and instead of the self-regard I have worn like a white linen suit, I saw only you, and the strawberries, and the windfall of light on your hair.
What are you reading today?
Get excited: 2015 is going to be a terrific year for readers. For those of you who love to count down the days to the release of that book you can't wait to get your hands on, we've compiled a list of 15 books that we think will be among the most beloved—and most talked-about—releases of the year.
It's been way too long since Link released a story collection, but the wait is almost over—Get in Trouble will be published in just a couple of weeks. This collection of stories finds ordinary people getting mixed up with superheroes, fairies and far-future playboys. (Our reviewer compares her writing to "Buffy the Vampire Slayer.") In other words, get ready for deliciously creepy, completely magical fun. read more>>
The Japanese-born and English-bred author of Never Let Me Go and The Remains of the Day—who never writes the same book twice—returns in March with his first novel in 10 long years. It's a fable-like story set in a vaguely medieval world that is actually the near future—sounds complicated, but we have faith that this much-lauded writer will pull off something magical.
Among current writers of narrative nonfiction, none can top Larson’s skill for weaving parallel story lines into a gripping account of a historical event. The sinking of the luxury liner the Lusitania on May 7, 1915, by a German U-boat seems tailor-made for the Larson treatment, with a cast of characters ranging from Winston Churchill and Woodrow Wilson to the ship’s many notable passengers.
Condé Nast Travel editor and novelist Yanagihara returns with a second novel, following her breakthrough 2013 debut, The People in the Trees. A powerful story of friendship, loyalty and the difficulty of overcoming your past, A Little Life may be the best book you read this year—and it will almost certainly be the most heartbreaking. Fans of Lionel Shriver or Ian McEwan, meet your new favorite writer. read more>>
The Water for Elephants author returns to historical fiction in her fifth novel, which is set in 1942. In the height of World War II, a spoiled Philadelphia socialite sets out with her husband and their best friend to find the Loch Ness Monster. Once there, she discovers some hard truths about life and the people she loves. read more>>
The author of the mega-bestseller Born to Run returns with another fascinating story sure to make runners want to lace up their shoes and hit the road—and sure to give armchair travelers another setting to dream about. This time, McDougall's story begins on the island of Crete, where a daring band of WWII Resistance fighters pulled off the astonishing feat of kidnapping a heavily guarded Nazi general.
Could a book about forgoing marriage possibly deliver the same kind of jolt as Bolick’s 2011 Atlantic cover story on the subject? Why, yes — yes it could. Based on what we’ve seen, her unapologetic (and wonderfully readable) look at living life on her own terms as a single woman will spur a whole new round of debate about the personal and social consequences of plummeting marriage rates.
No one writes about the complicated history of the black experience in America with more clarity and authority than Morrison, and she has the prizes to show for it: She's won a Pulitzer and a National Book Award, not to mention the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Her 11th novel centers on the relationship between a light-skinned black woman and her dark-skinned daughter, whose different skin tones create a divide between them. read more>>
The latest work of popular history from reader favorite and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner McCullough sounds irresistible: Two bicycle mechanics who grew up in a house without plumbing or electricity (but plenty of books) manage to create one of the greatest inventions in human history—the first flying machine. Assisting the brave and ingenious Wright brothers was their sister Katharine, whose contributions have been heretofore mostly overlooked.
Kate Atkinson's stellar Life After Life was one of the best books of 2013. So the news that the Scottish author is returning with a companion story is most welcome. She's exploring the life of Teddy, Ursula's flyboy younger brother—both his adventures in the RAF and the life he returns to after those wartime experiences, which contains even greater challenges. read more>>
Accomplished storyteller Kent Haruf died last December, but readers can look forward to one more trip to Holt, Colorado, this summer. Haruf continues to chronicle the lives of extraordinary, ordinary people in his new work, which finds a widow and widower forging an unlikely friendship. read more>>
The author of Summer Sisters and YA classics like Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret will release a new novel for adults in June. It's based on the true story of three unexplained airplane crashes that took place in her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey, in the early 1950s. It's a storyline that reads as all too timely after the Malaysian Air disaster last spring. read more>>
Paula McLain's second novel, The Paris Wife, chronicled the life of Hemingway's first wife, Hadley Richardson—and was one of the standouts amid the wave of stories about the wives of famous men that followed on the heels of Nancy Horan's 2007 bestseller, Loving Frank. McLain returns this year with the story of a woman who had no trouble standing on her own two feet: 1920s aviator Beryl Markham. read more>>
The author who inspires more schauedenfreud than perhaps any other returns in September with a family drama that spans decades and continents as it follows Purity Tyler's quest to find her father. read more>>
Judging from the response to her Ted talks on creativity, there’s a huge audience awaiting Gilbert’s in-depth look at how inspiration and imagination can combine to unleash the “strange jewels” within us all. The author of Eat, Pray, Love will offer advice on how we can conquer our fears and lead a creative life—whether we’re authors, artists or accountants. read more>>
As part of our Best Books of 2014 coverage, our editors weigh in on some of their personal favorites from the list.
F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, John Cheever, Tennessee Williams, John Berryman and Raymond Carver—each a genius writer, each a self-destructing alcoholic. In pursuit of some explanation for the tragic connection between the writing life and booze, Olivia Laing traverses the U.S. by train, visiting each of these writers’ haunts and homes. She explores their childhoods and relationships, digs into their works and searches for clues to their addictions. There’s so much to enjoy in this provocative, moving exploration of literary history.
Drumroll, please—here's the moment you've all been waiting for: the first half of our Best Books of 2014 list. (Disagree with our picks? Vote in our reader poll and let us know your favorite book of 2014!)
1. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
2. Some Luck by Jane Smiley
3. Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi
4. Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast
5. Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead
6. To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris
7. Lila by Marilynne Robinson
8. In Paradise by Peter Matthiessen
9. In the Kingdom of Ice by Hampton Sides
10. Bark by Lorrie Moore
11. Internal Medicine by Terrence Holt
12. A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
13. California by Edan Lepucki
14. The Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai
15. The Untold by Courtney Collins
16. Little Failure by Gary Shteyngart
17. Updike by Adam Begley
18. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki
19. Remember Me Like This by Bret Anthony Johnston
20. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty
21. Mermaids in Paradise by Lydia Millet
22. The Prince of los Cocuyos by Richard Blanco
23. The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh
24. Rebel Yell by S.C. Gwynne
25. Tibetan Peach Pie by Tom Robbins
As part of our Best Books of 2014 coverage, our editors weigh in on some of their personal favorites from the list.
Journalist and novelist Joanna Rakoff perfectly captures the anxiety and uncertainty of young adulthood in a memoir about her experiences working at an odd, stodgy literary agency in the late 1990s. All the unfortunate trappings of your early 20s are here: the lame boyfriend, the money problems and the aching hope for something better.
We're in the last stretch of 2014 (no, we can't believe it either)—which means it's time to start our annual look back at the year's best books. The full list of 50 will debut in our December issue, available online on December 1—but here's a sneak peek at the second half. Agree with our choices? Let us know in the comments!
26. Under Magnolia by Frances Mayes
27. The Betrayers by David Bezmozgis
28. Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler
29. Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 by Francine Prose
30. All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld
31. The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henríquez
32. The Vacationers by Emma Straub
33. Us by David Nicholls
34. The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
35. Living with a Wild God by Barbara Ehrenreich
36. The Bees by Laline Paull
37. Frog Music by Emma Donoghue
38. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
39. The Trip to Echo Spring by Olivia Laing
40. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
41. What Is Visible by Kimberly Elkins
42. Blood Will Out by Walter Kirn
43. Evergreen by Rebecca Rasmussen
44. Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey
45. Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan
46. My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff
47. My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead
48. The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
49. The Wind Is Not a River by Brian Payton
50. Natchez Burning by Greg Iles
Much more coverage of the Best Books of 2014 to come!
So, Gone Girl (or The Goldfinch, or Wild) was a hit with your book club, and you're looking for more books like it. Our Read it Next posts are here to help! Click on the jacket of your latest great read to find suggestions that will make you a star at your next meeting:
Today marks the one-year anniversary of legendary singer, songwriter and guitarist Lou Reed's death. Victor Bockris, best known for his biographies of William S. Burroughs and—perhaps Reed's most influential patron and collaborator—Andy Warhol, has updated his 1995 biography, Transformer: The Complete Lou Reed Story with new interviews from Reed's innermost circle (most notably with his wife, Laurie Andersen) along with an array of previously unseen photographs.
Beginning with Reed's childhood in Long Island, New York, and the harrowing details of his electroshock therapy that was meant to "cure" him of his bisexuality, Bockris goes on to chronicle the artistic and personal milestones in his life. From The Velvet Underground's initial conception in the mid '60s and Warhol's enthusiastic mentorship to his thriving, multifaceted solo career—Bockris digs deep, past Reed's intentionally difficult public persona, and reveals the layers behind the incredibly complicated and deeply conflicted icon.
For the big-time music nerds, this is a must-read biography of "the godfather of punk," as very few musicians can be accredited with the deep and far-reaching influence that Reed's career inspired, and still continues to inspire today.
In the mood for a scary story, but want to keep it real this Halloween? You're in luck, because sometimes, reality is far more terrifying than fiction. Check out the most terrifying novels of the year here.
Walter Kirn used to have a friend. This friend, he slowly discovered over the course of their 15-year friendship, was a murderer. It's a fact that could float this bizarre, dark memoir, but Kirn goes deeper, drawing disturbing parallels between himself and the psychopathic charlatan who became his friend.
It's like an apocalypse novel about the destruction of humanity! Except it's real. Ackerman explores just what humans have done to this fair planet of ours and what it all means for our future.
This account of a doomed Arctic exploration is filled with icy suspense and dread, despite the fact that you already know how this tragic tale ends.
Want to be terrified of the direction humanity is heading? Read this book. At least you won't be looking at your phone!
What could be creepier than trusting someone, only to find out they are not remotely who you thought they were? This book details the life of CIA double agent Kim Philby, as well as the lives of his friends and colleagues. Those closest to Philby never quite recovered from the incredible shock of discovering his true identity.
Religion and the terrifying corrupting capabilities of power are explored in this detailed account of the strange life and brutal death of Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon Church.
In 1961, 23-year-old Michael Rockefeller capsized his canoe in New Guinea. He was never heard from again. No one knows what happened to him, but Hoffman has a theory. And it involves cannibalism.
Did we miss any? Tell us in the comments!