An edgy, fantastical short story collection and three novels are among the highlights of this week's new paperbacks:
By Rachel Cusk
Picador • $16 • ISBN 9781250081544
Cusk’s eighth novel landed on many “best of” lists in 2015, including the New York Times’ top 10 books of the year. Through 10 conversations, we learn the painful background story of the unnamed narrator, an author heading to Greece to teach a summer writing course.
Get in Trouble
By Kelly Link
Random House • $16 • ISBN 9780812986495
The acclaimed, award-winning short story writer returns with new weird and wonderful worlds in her fourth collection, which ranked #21 on BookPage's Best Books of 2015.
By Eddie Joyce
Penguin • $16 • ISBN 9780143107873
Joyce taps his hometown of Staten Island as the setting for his memorable first novel, the story of an Italian-American family still struggling with the death of their firefighter son on 9/11.
A Small Indiscretion
By Jan Ellison
Random House • $16 • ISBN 9780812985429
Ellison took a break from college at the age of 19 to travel and work in Europe for a year, an experience that inspired her riveting debut novel about a young (and foolish) American woman whose experiences in London echo through her life two decades later. The paperback includes a reader's guide with discussion questions for book clubs.
Two acclaimed memoirs, a Nick Hornby novel and a sizzling psychological thriller are available in new paperback editions today:
By George Hodgman
Penguin • $17 • ISBN 9780143107880
A publishing industry veteran leaves New York to care for his aging mother in tiny Paris, Missouri, in this warm and wise memoir about family secrets and finding forgiveness.
Publishing: A Writer's Memoir
By Gail Godwin
Bloomsbury • $16 • ISBN 9781620408254
The novelist and three-time finalist for the National Book Award reflects on her 45-year career as a writer, from her early struggles to find her voice to the often frustrating ups-and-downs of the publishing business.
By Nick Hornby
Riverhead • $16 • ISBN 9781101983355
In his engaging seventh novel, the author of High Fidelity and About a Boy chronicles a beauty queen's rise to TV stardom in 1960s London.
By Mary Kubica
Mira • $15.99 • ISBN 9780778318743
When a Chicago woman offers shelter to a homeless teen and her baby, her generous act sets the stage for a tense family drama in this powerful followup to Kubica's bestselling debut, The Good Girl.
Emma Straub is quickly making a name for herself as an author who can deftly toe the line between literary and popular writing—her books are easy to breeze through, but there's also food for thought for the discerning reader. Her 2014 novel, The Vacationers, was one of the biggest beach reads of the year, and we think the same might be said a few months from now about novel #3, Modern Lovers, which will be published on May 31 by Riverhead Books.
Elizabeth, Andrew and Zoe have been friends ever since college, when they were 3/4 of a moderately successful rock band. Now in their 50s, they've settled in Brooklyn with families and real jobs, but it's not until their own children leave for school (and start sleeping together) that the trio is forced to confront the "shock of middle age"—and the truth about what happened to the fourth member of their group.
Our editors' choice for the top book of 2015 leads the list of new paperbacks on sale today:
A Little Life
By Hanya Yanagihara
Anchor • $17 • ISBN 9780804172707
Ranked #1 on the BookPage list of Best Books of 2015 and a finalist for the National Book Award, this harrowing and unforgettable portrait of childhood trauma and lasting friendship vaulted Yanigihara into the ranks of America’s top novelists.
A Reunion of Ghosts
By Judith Claire Mitchell
Harper Perennial • $15.99 • ISBN 9780062355898
Mitchell’s second novel is the darkly humorous story of three New York City sisters determined to follow their forebears down the path of suicide. Loosely inspired by the real-life experiences of a German chemist and his family, this is a crisply told, compelling tale.
The Brain's Way of Healing
By Norman Doidge, M.D.
Penguin • $18 • ISBN 9780143128373
The doctor who captured the emerging science of neuroplasticity in the 2007 bestseller The Brain That Changes Itself returns to demonstrate the healing power of our adaptable brains. These case studies—of neurological conditions ranging from Parkinson's disease to blindness—offer "tangible treatment ideas for patients who may have thought they were out of options," according to reviewer Sheila Trask.
The Hogarth Shakespeare series continues on June 21, as Pulitzer Prize winner Anne Tyler tackles The Taming of the Shrew. In Vinegar Girl, she brings Kate, Bianca (here called Bunny) and their father into the modern era by casting Kate Battista as a preschool teacher who is popular with her students but occasionally a bit too abrasive when it comes to managing their parents. At home, she's running things for her father, a scientist, and the rather flighty Bunny.
So far, so good, but a forced marriage plot is hard to swing for an adult woman in 2016. Enter the complexities of the U.S. immigration system, which is attempting to deport Dr. Battista's invaluable lab assistant, Pyotr. Can Battista convince Kate to make the ultimate sacrifice?
With more than 20 novels under her belt, Tyler is an accomplished chronicler of family dynamics. It will be interesting to see if she can also capture the comic spirit of her source material. Will you read it?
We're still reveling in the best teen books of 2015, both award winners and our personal favorites, but 2016 YA lit is looking promising. It's almost impossible to cover them all, so first, a list of series continuations we're excited about (so far!):
Now that that's out of the way, read on for the most-anticipated 2016 YA books:
Passenger by Alexandra Bracken (Disney-Hyperion, 1/5)
The Darkest Minds author kicks off a new time-traveling series this month, starring a violin prodigy who suddenly finds herself on a wooden ship in the 1700s. She's carrying on the time-traveling legacy of her mother, Rose, who's on the run from a power-hungry, wealthy old man named Cyrus Ironwood who wants her to return something he believes she’s stolen. Read our interview with Bracken about Passenger.
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys (Philomel, 2/2)
A new book from Sepetys is exciting for readers of all ages, not just teens. (Check out the February 2016 LibraryReads list!) Her new World War II drama spotlights the greatest maritime disaster in history—not the Titanic—the Wilhelm Gustloff, a German military ship evacuating civilians and wounded soldiers at the tail end of the war. View all our reviews of Sepetys' previous books.
Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina (Candlewick, 3/8)
Medina, author of the Pura Belpré Author Award winner Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, takes readers to New York City in the hot summer of 1977, full of blackouts and arson, when a serial killer named Son of Sam has been shooting young women on the streets. Medina grew up in Queens during this dangerous era, so we're excited for her to fill our minds with hazy days, disco and electrified feminism.
The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle (Simon & Schuster, 3/29)
Better Nate Than Never author Federle makes his YA debut with another story about a youngster who dreams of having his name in lights. Sixteen-year-old Quinn Roberts had plans for Hollywood before his sister, Annabeth, was killed in an accident. As sad as this sounds, we know Federle will take it in a direction that will have us laughing and dreaming those starry-eyed dreams.
This Is the Story of You by Beth Kephart (Chronicle, 4/12)
We fall in love with Kephart more and more every year, with novels like Going Over and Small Damages tapping into the joy and pain of the complex teenage experience. We're looking forward to her poetic writing and thoughtful plotting in this story of life after a superstorm destroys one girl's island home. View all our reviews of Kephart's previous books.
Saving Montgomery Sole by Mariko Tamaki (Roaring Brook, 4/19)
Tamaki is part of the team that brought us the Caldecott Honor and Printz Honor-winning This One Summer, which was one of our favorite YA books of 2014 and one of our all-time favorite YA graphic novels. In this new novel, 16-year-old outcast Montgomery, along with her two BFFs, creates the Mystery Club for investigating paranormal activity. View all our reviews of Tamaki's previous books.
The Outliers by Kimberly McCreight (Harper, 5/3)
McCreight (Reconstructing Amelia) was apparently inspired to write her YA debut as a warning to her daughters. This first book in a new series is about a troubled teenage girl trying to overcome her fears and find her missing best friend via some cryptic clues. View all our reviews of McCreight's previous books.
Whisper to Me by Nick Lake (Bloomsbury, 5/3)
The latest novel from Printz Award winner Lake is one girl's letter to the boy whose heart she broke, examining the summer when everything went wrong. Love is such a mess. Sing us the blues, Lake. View all our reviews of Lake's previous books.
Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley (Dial, 5/10)
It's like a recent offshoot of YA "sick lit": friendships and romances that feature one character who will not, or cannot, leave their house. They're agoraphobic, allergic to the sunlight, suffer from immune deficiencies, etc. Printz Award winner Whaley's new book features an agoraphobic 16-year-old who becomes the pet project of ambitious, wannabe psychologist Lisa. View all our reviews of Whaley's previous books.
Summer Days and Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories, edited by Stephanie Perkins (St. Martins Griffin, 5/19)
Perkins (Isla and the Happily Ever After) brings together summery love stories from 12 bestselling YA authors, including Leigh Bardugo, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare and more. Summer reading has never sounded so fun.
You Know Me Well by David Levithan and Nina LaCour (St. Martin's Griffin, June 7)
Levithan seems to always be whipping up something great with other authors (John Green, Rachel Cohn), and we're ridiculously excited to see that he's collaborating with LaCour. Told in alternating points of view, You Know Me Well is the tale of an unlikely friendship between two high-schoolers who have sat next to each other all year but never spoken, until one fateful night.
This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab (Greenwillow, 7/5)
Schwab kicks off a new series with this high fantasy, set in the city of Verity, which has been overrun with monsters, born from the worst of human evil. Schwab has said it's the "strangest book [she's] ever written." Sign us up. View all our reviews of Schwab's previous books.
Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor (Little, Brown, 9/27)
Originally announced on Taylor's website as a standalone titled The Muse of Nightmares, this new book will be the first in a duology about a war between gods and men, mythic heroes and epic librarians, alchemy and monsters and magic. View all our reviews of Taylor's previous books.
Heartless by Marissa Meyer (Feiwel & Friends, 11/8)
Meyer wrapped up her Lunar Chronicles with Winter last November, though she's releasing a selection of Lunar Chronicles stories in February, titled Stars Above. Coming next fall, Meyer's first standalone YA novel is being called a prequel to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, with a young Queen of Hearts who just wants to fall in love.
Tales of the Peculiar by Ransom Riggs (Dutton)
Ahead of Tim Burton's film adaptation of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, Riggs will publish a new illustrated collection of fairy tales set within the world of the bestselling Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series.
What YA books are you most looking forward to this year? Share in the comments below.
The Porch, founded in 2015 by Katie McDougall and BookPage's new Lifestyles columnist Susannah Felts (look for her first column in the upcoming February issue!), is a Nashville-based nonprofit focused on providing writers with classes and resources in order to help them connect and better their work, both artistically and professionally.
The Porch is holding its second annual fundraising event on February 6. Last year's event, featuring the two Tim O'Briens, was a night to remember and we suspect this year's will be, too. If you're interested in seeing acclaimed writer Mary Karr perform some of her original songs—yes, she's a songwriter, too!—with Rodney Crowell and supporting a literary organization, to boot, then this is an event for you.
Click here for more information and to purchase tickets.
And if you're curious about Karr and Crowell's 2012 album, KIN, take a listen here.
With so many fascinating books scheduled for publication this year, it wasn't easy to pare our list of highly anticipated titles down to 15. Here are the books that our editors—and readers everywhere—will be most eager to get their hands on.
The mother of Columbine shooter Dylan Klebold tells her family’s story in full for the first time. Drawing on her own journals and her son's writings and videos, Klebold reconstructs the events leading up to the horrific 1999 school shooting and its aftermath. Profits from the book will be donated to mental health research and charitable foundations.
The author of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand makes a much anticipated return and branches out into historical fiction, with stellar results. It's the summer of 1914, the last peaceful summer that Europe would see for many years, but the tiny village of Rye is more shaken up by the arrival of its first female Latin teacher. Simonson's comedy of manners charms with its lovable and very human characters, as well as its wry wit and wisdom. (read more)
A jazz musician as well as a memoirist (The Color of Water) and National Book Award-winning novelist (The Good Lord Bird), McBride idolized Brown in his youth and was puzzled to see the multi-million-selling soul singer fade into musical history soon after his death in 2006. This biography/cultural journey seeks to right that wrong and place Brown's life and music in the broader context of the South's racial struggles.
Saying that a DeLillo novel is his "wisest, richest, funniest and most moving" in years is a strong claim, but the early buzz for this new book, the author's 17th, backs up his publisher's assertion. Though a somewhat typically surreal work that contains DeLillo's signature ruminations on humanity and its foibles, the book is also a thoughtful exploration of the relationship between a father and a son—and of our responsibilty to future generations. It's sure to be one of the most talked-about releases of the year.
Hamilton presents the inspiring true story of what happened to Scottish track star Eric Liddell after the events depicted in the Oscar-winning film Chariots of Fire (Liddell refused to compete in a Sunday race at the 1924 Olympics, citing his Christian beliefs). Like his parents, Liddell went on to become a missionary in China. During World War II he was captured by the Japanese and held in an internment camp, where his grace and unselfishness became a source of support to his fellow internees. The book is being compared to another moving WWII story, Unbroken.
The Revolutionary War appears to be the hot “new” topic for authors of popular history. Exhibit A: this gripping depiction of the relationship between Washington and Arnold, by the author of Mayflower and In the Heart of the Sea. Contemporary readers will find some familiar elements in this 18th-century story: corrupt politicians and a dysfunctional Congress, both of which played into Arnold's fateful decision to switch sides.
The Twelve—the initial clutch of scientifically created vampires who infected the world in The Passage—have been defeated, but danger still lingers in this 600-page-plus finale to the bestselling Passage series, which promises thrills and chills, plus some resolution to the stories of Amy, Peter, Alicia and Michael. The first two volumes in the trilogy have sold more than 1.2 million copies, and a Ridley Scott-helmed movie version is in production.
What happens to the 1 percent when the U.S. economy takes a serious tumble? Lionel Shriver investigates in her new novel, which follows the youngest generation of an American dynasty after the dollar plunges and pulls their cushy inheritances with it. This won't be the first time that Shriver, a National Book Award finalist, has skewered our society through fiction, and we can't wait to see her let loose on the foibles of the rich and mighty. (read more)
An Atlanta attorney writes about his father’s defense of a black man charged with raping a white woman in Alabama in the 1930s and draws parallels between this true story and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Lee reportedly acknowledged some similarities between this real case and her fictional one in a letter to the author.
Australian author Moriarty is setting American bestseller lists aflame with her irresistable novels, which combine page-turning plots with pinpoint-accurate observations on the absurdities of modern life. Hollywood stars like Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon count themselves among her fans; filming for an HBO limited series of Moriarty's second U.S. bestseller, Big Little Lies, began this month.The only details available so far about her seventh novel come from Moriarty herself: In an interview she revealed that "it's about the consequences of something that happens at a neighbourhood backyard barbecue."
Woodson, whose books for young readers have sold more than a million copies, folllows up her National Book Award-winning Brown Girl Dreaming with her first novel for adults. Set in 1970s Brooklyn, it's a story about "the promise and peril of growing up" that begins when August finds long-buried childhood and teenage memories emerging after a surprise encounter with a long-lost friend. Friendship and coming-of-age are common themes in Woodson's work; seeing how she reframes them for an adult audience is something to look forward to indeed.
The only debut on our list was acquired by legendary editor (and novelist!) David Ebershoff at the 2014 Frankfurt Book Fair, and buzz has been building ever since. When Jonde, an African immigrant, gets a job driving for Clark Edwards, a Lehman Brothers executive, he believes he's on his way to achieving the American dream. He and his wife become more and more invested in the lives of the Edwards family, even as the economic collapse of 2008 hovers on the horizon. Mbue, a Cameroonian writer living in Brooklyn, is already being compared to novelists like Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie and Jhumpa Lahiri.
Nashville's own Ann Patchett returns this fall with a seventh novel, her first since the 2011 bestseller State of Wonder. The story centers on a two families "broken apart and brought together by marriage and divorce," according to the deal announcement. Patchett has written at least one moving essay about her own marriage; we bet that her fictional take on the topic will be equally perceptive and engaging.
Author image courtesy of Parnassus Books.
Foer's third novel—and his first in 10 years—is sure to be one of the literary events of the season. Though the plot description ("a Jewish family with three sons falls apart after the parents’ marriage falters") and setting (Washington D.C., where Foer himself grew up with two brothers) makes the novel sound autobiographical, Foer has long used the personal as a jumping-off point for stories that end up being completely original (see Everything Is Illuminated). His editor at FSG likens the book to Portnoy's Complaint. All we know for sure is we can't wait to read it.
We loved The Love Song of Jonny Valentine, a humorous yet heartfelt story of a teenage heartthrob, so news of Wayne's third novel was extremely welcome. The title refers to David Federman, a high school outcast who hopes that he'll find his tribe at Harvard. Instead, he becomes obsessed with a smart, popular and beautiful female classmate, and his pursuit of her takes over his life and school career. S&S promises that the book "turns the traditional campus novel on its head"—we're intrigued.
What happens to the 1 percent when the U.S. economy takes a serious tumble? Lionel Shriver investigates in her new novel, coming from Harper on June 21, 2016. The Mandibles: A Family, 2029–2047 follows, well, the Mandibles, an American dynasty (think the Vanderbilts or Hiltons) led by a 97-year-old patriarch. With cushy inheritances ahead, most of the Mandible clan haven't bothered to worry about finding practical or lucrative employment. But when the dollar falls, they have to start making some changes.
This won't be the first time that Shriver, a National Book Award finalist, has skewered our society through fiction. Novels like So Much for That and Big Brother showcase her ability to make discerning and, at times, scathing, observations on human nature. She also has a deep understanding of family dynamics, a strength that should be on full display in a family saga like The Mandibles. Anyone else looking forward to this one?
This week, the Library of Congress appointed graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang as the 2015-2016 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. The son of Chinese immigrants, Yang is the first graphic novelist to hold the position since it was created in 2008. Yang's 2006 graphic novel, American Born Chinese, received the Printz Award, an Eisner Award for best graphic album, and was the first graphic novel to be a finalist for the National Book Award.
It seems so fitting that Yang would hold this position of encouraging kids all over America to read, at a time when graphic novels are finding more and more recognition as a credible literary form and as a useful way to encourage young people to read. We spoke with Yang about his platform Reading Without Walls, the future of graphic novels, book recommendations and much more.
Congratulations on being named the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature! What does this position mean to you?
Thank you! I’m so excited and honored to be appointed the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature! I’m now a part of a larger mission. The Library of Congress, Every Child A Reader and the Children’s Book Council want to get more kids reading and kids reading more. The post is a part of that mission. My predecessors Kate DiCamillo, Walter Dean Myers, Katherine Paterson and Jon Scieszka have established a legacy. I’m going to do everything I can to carry on that legacy.
What is your personal goal as ambassador? What will be your greatest challenge?
I have two goals. First, I want to encourage kids to explore the world through reading. Second, I want to figure out how to use technology to promote reading.
I’m not sure what my greatest challenge will be. This first year, I’m sure everything will be a challenge.
Tell us a bit about your platform "Reading Without Walls."
Every ambassador chooses a platform. A couple months ago, I met with First Second Books and the Children’s Book Council. Together, we came up with the platform “Reading Without Walls.” We want kids to go outside their comfort zones.
For a kid who doesn’t read for fun, this means picking up a book and giving it a try.
For kids who are already reading, we want to challenge them in three ways. First, pick a book with someone on the cover who doesn’t look like you or live like you. Second, pick a book about a topic that you find intimidating. I’m actively pushing STEM-related books. I think stories are a great way to introduce STEM to kids. And third, pick a book in a format you’ve never tried before. If you only read prose novels, give a graphic novel a try. If you’re the opposite, if you only read graphic novels, give a words-only book a try.
How do you think your ambassadorship will affect the future of graphic novels and comics?
The fact that they were willing to consider a graphic novelist for the post shows how far comic book culture has come in America. When I was a kid, graphic novels were hard to find at my local library. We were never allowed to read them in class. Now, librarians and teachers are using graphic novels to engage students. They recognize the value of the medium.
My hope is that this just the beginning. Actually, it’s not just a hope. I KNOW this is just the beginning of a wonderful, fruitful era for American comics.
What books do you most often recommend to young readers?
I recommend a lot of different books for a lot of different readers. Here are some of my favorites:
For young readers, any words to live by?
Read. Write. Draw.