Several years ago Han Kang, the South Korean author of the beautiful and disquieting new novel The Vegetarian, gave up driving and sold her car. Why? “To be honest,” she writes drolly during an email discussion about her life and her novel, “when I used to drive, it was sometimes dangerous because I had too many thoughts in my head.”
It is impossible to explain fully the beautiful, haunting emotional power of Elizabeth Strout’s new novel, My Name Is Lucy Barton. Magic? Genius? Certainly much of its power arises from the mesmerizing voice of Lucy Barton, teller of this tale. And much of it comes from the details of the story she slowly unfolds.
Sunil Yapa, author of the gripping, profoundly humane first novel Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist, used to hide his laptop in the oven of the beach house he was renting in Chile.
In John Irving’s 14th novel, aging Mexican-American novelist Juan Diego Guerrero travels from his home in Iowa to the Philippines. He plans to fulfill a decades-old promise he made to a Vietnam draft dodger to honor a father killed during World War II, and takes a former writing student as his tour guide. En route to Manila, he is overtaken and seduced by a ghostly mother-daughter duo: fans of Juan Diego’s novels, who will reappear in unexpected, -sexually-charged moments throughout his journey. Going on and off his blood pressure medications, he travels in an almost hallucinatory state. He dreams.
Stacy Schiff, author of The Witches, a brilliant, exceptionally well-researched account of the 1692 Salem witch trials, says her number one requirement when writing her prize-winning nonfiction books is “a big desk, an enormous desk!”
Golden Age, the third and final volume of Jane Smiley’s splendid The Last Hundred Years trilogy, opens during a 1987 family reunion at the Langdon family farm in Iowa. Gathered are the surviving children and a number of grandchildren of Walter and Rosanna Langdon, the progenitors and subject of the trilogy’s first volume, Some Luck, which began in 1923.
James Holland’s The Rise of Germany, 1939-1941, the first of a planned three-volume series called The War in the West, is a great example of how a re-examination of historical accounts leads to new insights that urge us to reconsider the common wisdom about one of the most well-documented wars in history.
Beginning with the 1981 publication of his first novel, A Good Man in Africa, winner of the prestigious Whitbread Award, William Boyd has been astonishingly prolific—14 novels, four story collections, four plays, countless film and television scripts, essays and reviews.
Jonathan Franzen is a writer who swings for the fences, an ambition that attracts terabytes of online derision. Hold the derision. Franzen’s fifth novel, Purity, is quite simply his best, most textured, most plot-driven and, oddly enough, most optimistic novel to date.
Never heard of Jacob Fugger? That’s probably because he was born in Augsburg in 1459, the grandson of a Swabian peasant. But by the time he died in 1525, Fugger had become, according to author Greg Steinmetz (who compared the net worth of wealthy people with the size of the economy in which they operated), the richest man who ever lived.