I have been holding out on you. I have had this list for at least two weeks and haven’t shared yet. I’m sorry. I have been savoring the information, with a mix of giddy happiness about all the possibilities and nervous, can-I-possibly-read-everything? worry. It’s flat-out weird that I worry about books, but we’ve talked about my dream (everyone’s dream?) to manufacture or find more reading time in my (not that busy) schedule. I meet once a month or so with my beloved book friend, D, and lament with her over coffee about all the books we just don’t have time to read– what if? But enough about the downside of a detailed, seemingly tailored for me, book list; let’s get back to the good part. As always, the list of most-anticipated forthcoming books published by The Millions makes me happier than… many other things. I can’t even quantify how I feel. I was shaking and oohing and shouting out things to my husband he has no clue about, no interest in hearing. But you might, so here are some of the books I put immediately into my library queue, onto my birthday wishlist and/or onto my to-read list on Goodreads. I’ll stay in order of listed publication date, just because.
But first, here is the link to the full list, so you can peek and then compare and contrast our reading preferences: http://www.themillions.com/2013/01/most-anticipated-the-great-2013-book-preview.html
Tenth of December by George Saunders. This is actually out now, a short story collection getting more buzz than I have seen since The Marriage Plot— well, maybe not that, but LOTS of buzz. I am going to say now that I make it a rule not to read reviews of books I plan to read, and I will be reading this, so I am not sure exactly what the hype is about, but talk of Tenth is everywhere. Really. Pastoralia was my introduction to Saunders and I greatly enjoyed that, so I am ready. Saunders is wry, witty and incredibly intelligent, a pleasure to read. You may laugh.
Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell. It’s Karen Russell! Swamplandia!, a novel, is the book most people think of when Russell is mentioned, but her first book of short stories, St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, is the reason why I am extra-excited for new stories from Russell. She is quirky and brave and frank in a way that many authors just can’t be. Vampires should be pretty awesome.
Benediction by Kent Haruf. Remember Plainsong? I sure do! Benediction takes us back to the familiar town and promises a reintroduction to some of the characters I know and love. I love Haruf’s spare, almost matter-of-fact writing style and his ability to draw me through a story. If you haven’t read him before, start with Plainsong, but take a look at other backlist titles as well.
See Now Then by Jamaica Kincaid. In college, I studied anthropology and was introduced to A Small Place in a Caribbean lit class I took with a professor of whom I was terrified. I remember sitting at my desk at home, staring into space and imagining that he was home plotting how to fail me. Ridiculous, I know, but I can still recall the joy and relief that came after a class discussion of A Small Place during which he and I connected over our mutual admiration for Kincaid. That book remains a favorite and I always enjoy reading her novels and memoirs; she has gardening books, as well. See Now Then is set in Vermont, an intriguing change of setting as many of Kincaid’s books are set in Antigua.
The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout. Strout is from Maine, reason enough for me to read her books, but I genuinely enjoyed Olive Kitteridge and Amy and Isabelle. This new novel is set in Maine and Brooklyn and deals with tragedy and family drama surrounding the death of a father. Strout does drama and tension very well.
The Book of My Lives by Aleksandar Hemon. It is possible that Hemon is the smartest man alive, or at least the most clever. His books are almost unclassifiable, skirting the line between short story and memoir in an almost musical way. I know that doesn’t make a ton of sense, but reading his books to me is like listening to a symphony– you don’t like all the parts, some are prettier than others, but they are necessary and they fit together and draw you along. Hemon’s books are tough to read and confusing and brilliant and highly, highly recommended. I can not wait to read this.
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. She is just so good. Case Histories, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, what more could you ask for? This book of connected stories takes us through the life of Ursula Todd, sometimes in parallel stories. If it’s half as good as her other novels it will be grand.
The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud. Yesterday I got to read the first page of this forthcoming novel– holy cow. Spectacular, in an energetic, unapologetic, I-need-to-see-what’s-going-to-happen-next-NOW kind of way. The narrator is a woman who lives next door to a family in crisis and somehow gets drawn into their troubles. I really enjoyed The Emperor’s Children and think this new novel from Messud is going to be ten times better.
And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini. Fans of The Kite Runner, rejoice! There isn’t much known about this new novel from Hosseini, but it’s almost sure to be a bestseller once it hits the stores in May.
Transatlantic by Colum McCann. I haven’t stopped thinking about Let the Great World Spin since I finished reading it and have been desperate for something new from McCann. Well, my wish will come true in June with this new novel, featuring three distinct narrators and set in Ireland.
The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert. D and I felt for a while that Liz (yes, I go there) was our author. We read Stern Men because it was a good novel, and I was extra-excited because it is set in Maine. We sat in a tiny cafe with maybe a dozen other people and heard her speak about The Last American Man, chatted with her for a while after the event. We sighed a bit but were happy for her at the success of Eat Pray Love. I am very happy to see that her next book will be a novel and hope that it is reminiscent of what I loved about Stern Men.
So, there are my personal highlights from this jam-packed list. There are others on there I plan to read, but these are definitely the ones that made me shout. My fingers are crossed that the “date unknown” books from Jonathan Safran Foer and Helen DeWitt come out this year. What are you excited for in 2013? Are there books and authors not on this list that are notable omissions, in your opinion? After a rough end to my reading year in 2012, and a resulting absence of book talk on this very cook.can.READ blog, this list gives me hope for a resurgence in available reading material and a desire to share my finds with you all… As always, happy reading!