Is there anything more personal than selecting a favorite book? OK, the answer is obviously yes, but for a true book lover, maybe not by much. Releases from seasoned pros as well as exciting new voices made for a competitive, thrilling 2015—and a “best” list that we’re proud of. Look for the full list in our December issue; for now, here's a sneak peek at the back 25 . . .
31. Ghettoside by Jill Leovy
32. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
33. The Wright Brothers by David McCullough
34. Make Your Home Among Strangers by Jennine Capó Crucet
35. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
46. Emma and Otto and Russell and James by Etta Hooper
47. The Blondes by Emily Schultz
48. Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie
49. Russian Tattoo by Elena Gorokhova
50. Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart
RELATED CONTENT: Read all our "Best of 2015" coverage on the blog.
In the wake of yesterday's Booker Prize announcement, awards season rolls on today with the announcement of the finalists for the National Book Award. Drum roll, please . . .
Karen E. Bender, Refund (Soft Skull)
Angela Flournoy, The Turner House (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Lauren Groff, Fates and Furies (Riverhead)
Adam Johnson, Fortune Smiles (Random House)
Hanya Yanagihara, A Little Life (Doubleday)
Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me (Spiegel & Grau)
Sally Mann, Hold Still (Little, Brown)
Sy Montgomery, The Soul of an Octopus (Atria)
Carla Power, If the Oceans Were Ink (Holt)
Tracy K. Smith, Ordinary Light: A Memoir (Knopf)
Ali Benjamin, The Thing About Jellyfish (Little, Brown Children's)
Laura Ruby, Bone Gap (Balzer + Bray)
Steve Sheinkin, Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War (Roaring Brook Press)
Neal Shusterman, Challenger Deep (HarperTeen)
Noelle Stevenson, Nimona (HarperTeen)
Who are you rooting for?
From humor to memoir to history, the fall publishing season promises an exciting slate of new books for nonfiction readers. Elizabeth Gilbert and Patti Smith will deliver their latest musings, while figures as diverse as former Fed chair Ben Bernanke and musician John Fogerty plan to release their first memoirs. Here are 10 upcoming nonfiction titles we can't wait to dive into:
Kaling's fans at BookPage are dying to get their hands on this one, described by her publisher as an account of "her ongoing journey to find contentment and excitement in her adult life." But, alas, no advance copies are available. We've tried to glean what we can from Kaling's appearance at BookCon, but we'll have to wait along with the rest of you to find out if her second effort is as funny and charming as book one (Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?).
We've come to expect big things from the author of Eat Pray Love, and Gilbert promises something very big indeed in her inspirational new book: "Creative Living Beyond Fear." Using examples from her own life, she offers sincere and concrete advice on "bring[ing] forth the treasures that are hidden within you." (read more)
Leave it to The Bloggess to find humor in such decidedly downbeat topics as severe depression, crippling anxiety and the coming zombie apocalypse. Lawson's 2012 memoir, Let's Pretend This Never Happened, soared to the number-one spot on the New York Times bestseller list, earning her legions of new fans and a 300,000-copy first printing for this follow-up.
As he did so masterfully in April 1865, Winik focuses on one crucial period and illuminates the ways in which that time affected the course of American history. Here he looks at FDR and his wartime decisions, in particular whether the ailing president failed to react to mounting evidence of the Holocaust.
The former chair of the Federal Reserve, who now works at the Brookings Institution and has taken up blogging, recalls the perilous days of the 2008 financial crisis and the Fed's unpopular decision to rescue some of Wall Street's biggest firms.
In a long-awaited memoir, the former frontman for Creedence Clearwater Revival looks back on a career marked by memorable hits ("Proud Mary," "Born on the Bayou") bitter and prolonged litigation with his record label and bandmates, comeback efforts and finally (we hope) a measure of peace.
Since her first book, Just Kids, was a stunning success that won the National Book Award for nonfiction, it's safe to say that Smith's second memoir is one of this fall's most anticipated releases. On this trip, she takes readers around the world, offering impressionistic portraits of 18 places that have played an important role in her life.
The best-selling author (Unfamiliar Fishes, Assassination Vacation) brings her unconventional and entertaining style to the story of the French aristocrat who joined forces with General Washington and the Continental Army—and returned for a sentimental tour of America almost 50 years later. Expect to find Vowell's trenchant comments on our current political problems tucked into the historical narrative.
The Salem witch trials are an evergreen topic in American culture, with writers from Arthur Miller to Kathleen Kent finding fictional inspiration in the hysteria that swept the Puritan community in 1692. Schiff, author of a best-selling biography of Cleopatra, digs into the everyday details of colonial life to determine what sparked this infamous cataclysm of paranoia and retribution.
Stiles, who won both the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award for The First Tycoon, his 2009 biography of Cornelius Vanderbilt, offers a deeply personal portrait of George Armstrong Custer, the enigmatic and controversial figure who has long been more caricature than man.
A celebrity-studded BookCon started out with a bang on Saturday morning: The very first panel featured Mindy Kaling in conversation with best friend (not to mention sometimes boyfriend, past co-writer on "The Office" and future co-author of an as-yet-to-be-titled project) B.J. Novak. From the moment the doors opened at 10am, crowds wound through the basement of Manhattan's Javits Center, hoping to snag a coveted entrance bracelet.
Whatever their current relationship status, Kaling and Novak had an easy chemistry throughout the 45-minute discussion, which kept the capacity crowd laughing. Though the two dodged any questions about their upcoming project, which reportedly sold for $7.5 million, Kaling dished plenty on her life, her career and of course, her new book, Why Not Me?, which comes out September 29.
On the differences between her first book and her second
“[For the first book] I was just excited to be writing a book and hope that anyone would read it. . . . I wanted people to like me. The thing with this book is that . . . I wanted people to really know who I was. So I’m incredibly honest and vulnerable in this book. And it’s a little scary, actually. But I think it makes the book funnier.”
Kaling dictates first so that she can strike the conversational tone she’s seeking. “The biggest compliment that I can get about my writing, particularly in essay form, is that it’s like you’re talking to your friend or listening to your friend talk to you.”
“I have found in the past four years that I want a friend, a female friend. It’s much harder to find someone you want to talk to than a man you want to sleep with.”
According to Kaling, her closest local female friends (Lizzy Caplan, Lena Dunham and Ellie Kemper were mentioned) are also busy and successful, so it’s hard to find time to get together. Her goal for the next five years is to “make a good female friend.” Judging by the applause at Javits to that statement and the almost unanimous prefacing of audience questions with “I love you, Mindy,” there’ll be plenty of applicants.
On being a boss
“Surprisingly, I like it a lot.” [laughter] “You get things done the way you want to get things done. But the sad thing is . . . there’s so much fun in a job about complaining about the job. It’s like, that’s 40% of what’s fun about the job. . . . My writing staff is largely comprised of people who were my friends before I hired them to come work on the show, but I do miss that aspect of it. I can’t really sit there and complain about the hours with them, because they’re like, you set the hours.”
To Novak’s question of “What do you say to someone who looks at you and thinks, why not me?” Kaling responded with “Back off, it’s not your time yet, I’m still trying to get this going.”
On a more serious note, she added that people should focus on listening to others and not merely expressing themselves. “I feel like we don’t talk about that a lot, because the only way to show that we’re empowered is by speaking it. . . .'I Feel This and I Should Say This' would be a really popular TV show. Not like, 'I Am Listening and I Understand What You’re Feeling.' Which I think is a little more important.”
On what she has learned from Mindy Lahiri
“Mindy Lahiri has dated more men than I’ve ever met in my life, and I think that it’s been interesting fake-dating so many great guys, because as an actor, when you’re dating someone on screen, a little bit of their actual courtship rituals come to life.”
She also talked about the two sides to the character—accomplished OB-GYN and celeb-stalking girly-girl—and how playing them has helped her accept some of the contrasting facets of her own personality. “It’s been very interesting being able to flip those in the character, and also in the way that it seems like realistic to people’s real lives.” To which Novak added that he has noticed the way that’s changed her: “You’ve become more comfortable being yourself, and being excellent, and not thinking of those two things being in conflict.”
On B.J. Novak
“You’re like the baddest of the good boys. Like at space camp, you’re the kid who goes, wanna smoke weed? And the other kids are like, that guy’s cool.”
“One of the things that makes you such a good best friend is whenever I want to steer into stuff that could get us into trouble . . . you definitely steer us back.” Novak: “It’s a full-time job.”
“My first crush that I can remember, the kind that keeps you up at night, when I was 11 years old, was Dana Carvey,” whom she described as “the Bill Hader of 1992 'SNL.' ” Her Carvey fantasies? “Living next door to my family with him in our house.” To which Novak responded, “Parents love Dana Carvey.”
On dream ‘Mindy Project’ guest stars
Reese Witherspoon, Tom Hanks and Dave Chapelle.
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.