I don’t know about the rest of you, but I have been thoroughly enjoying browsing publisher catalogs for 2013 over the last few weeks. There are some really intriguing books coming out this year! Actually, the sheer number of books coming out is a little bit overwhelming!
If you’re likewise overwhelmed, and the thought of looking through one more publisher catalog makes you break out in hives, pause and take a few deep breaths. It’s going to be okay. I’ve browsed many a catalog (okay, not really that many compared to how many publishers are out there, but more than five) and compiled a list of the cream of the crop, the most exciting (to me) books of 2013!
This list is by no means comprehensive, and the books I’ve chosen are not necessarily the ones most anticipated by the literary world at large. They are simply the books I am the most excited to read in the new year, and I hope you will find some titles that pique your interest!
1. White Dog Fell From the Sky by Eleanor Morse (Viking): Eleanor Morse’s rich and intimate portrait of Botswana, and of three people whose intertwined lives are at once tragic and remarkable, is an absorbing and deeply moving story. Like the African terrain that Alice loves, Morse’s novel is alternately austere and lush, spare and lyrical. She is a writer of great and wide-ranging gifts.
2. Crossing the Border of Time by Leslie Maitland (Other Press): The daughter of a German Jewish refugee who was parted from the Catholic Frenchman she loved while escaping Marseille just before the Nazis choked off France’s ports in 1942, investigative reporter Leslie Maitland grew up enthralled by her mother’s accounts of forbidden romance and harrowing flight from the Nazis. Her book is both a journalist’s vivid depiction of a world at war and a daughter’s pursuit of a haunting question: what had become of the handsome Frenchman whose picture her mother continued to treasure almost fifty years after they parted?
3. Mad Girl’s Love Song: Sylvia Plath and Life Before Ted by Andrew Wilson (Scribner): From an award-winning author comes a groundbreaking biography of Sylvia Plath, focusing on her childhood, adolescence, and early years of writing, creating a new portrait of this iconic yet still mysterious literary legend.
4. Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Thompson Walker (Knopf): From the author of the instant New York Times best seller Swamplandia!, this is a dazzling new collection of stories that showcases Karen Russell’s gifts at their inimitable best. These wondrous new pieces display a young writer of superlative originality and invention coming into the full range and scale of her powers.
5. The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards by Kristopher Jansma (Viking): An inventive and witty debut about a young man’s quest to become a writer and the misadventures in life and love that take him around the globe. As much a story about a young man and his friends trying to make their way in the world as a profoundly affecting exploration of the nature of truth and storytelling, The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards is an elegantly constructed exploration of the stories we tell to find out who we really are.
6. Woke Up Lonely by Fiona Maazel (Graywolf Press): Thurlow Dan is the founder of the Helix, a cult that promises to cure loneliness in the twenty-first century. With its communes and speed-dating, the Helix has become a national phenomenon—and attracted the attention of governments worldwide. But Thurlow, camped out in his Cincinnati headquarters, is lonely. And his ex-wife, Esme, is the only one he wants. For Esme’s part, she’s a covert agent who has spent her life spying on Thurlow, mostly in an effort to protect him from the law. Now, with her superiors demanding results, Esme recruits four misfits to botch a reconnaissance mission in Cincinnati. But when Thurlow abducts them, he ignites a siege of the Helix House that could keep him and Esme apart forever. Woke Up Lonely is a sprawling and original novel that reminds us our Nation’s deepest problems cannot be fixed by the simple formulas that so frequently beguile us.
7. The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner (Scribner): From the bestselling author whose debut novel, Telex from Cuba, was nominated for a National Book Award and reviewed on the cover of The New York Times Book Review comes an extraordinarily ambitious new novel about a young artist and the worlds she encounters in New York and Rome in the mid-1970s—by turns underground, elite, dangerous.
8. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (Little, Brown): What if you could live again and again, until you got it right? On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born to an English banker and his wife. She dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in a variety of ways, while the young century marches on towards its second cataclysmic world war. Does Ursula’s apparently infinite number of lives give her the power to save the world from its inevitable destiny? Wildly inventive, darkly comic, startlingly poignant—this is Kate Atkinson at her absolute best.
9. In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods by Matt Bell (Soho Press): In this epic, mythical debut novel, a newly-wed couple escapes the busy confusion of their homeland for a distant and almost-uninhabited lakeshore. They plan to live there simply, to fish the lake, to trap the nearby woods, and build a house upon the dirt between where they can raise a family. But as their every pregnancy fails, the child-obsessed husband begins to rage at this new world: the song-spun objects somehow created by his wife’s beautiful singing voice, the giant and sentient bear that rules the beasts of the woods, the second moon weighing down the fabric of their starless sky, and the labyrinth of memory dug into the earth beneath their house.
10. The Silver Star by Jeanette Walls (Scribner): From one of the bestselling memoirists of all time, a stunning and heartbreaking novel about an intrepid girl who challenges the injustice of the adult world—a triumph of imagination and storytelling. The author of The Glass Castle, hyper-alert to abuse of adult power, has written a gorgeous, riveting, heartbreaking novel about triumph over adversity and about people who find a way to love the world despite its flaws and injustices.
(The descriptions of the books in this list are taken directly from the publishers’ catalogs, although many of the synopses have been shortened; as I have not read any of these books yet, I thought it would be best to leave the descriptions to the people who have. In some cases, wording was changed in the interest of brevity)