So here’s a quick rundown of the ten new books that, from my vantage point, have gotten the most buzz as we head toward the back half of 2013. This isn’t a scientific effort; there’s really no data to be had. Well, maybe there is, but Amazon/Google keep it in an underground locker with the Kindle sales data and the secret SEO tricks.
In alphabetical order:
1. All That Is by James SalterThe first new novel in thirty years from a living literary legend? And it’s damn good? I’ve been thrilled to see a bunch of new passengers aboard the James Salter train this year. This is kind of an old-school, mid-century novel, and if it is the last Salter we get, man what an endcap on a dazzling career. If you haven’t read Salter before, this is a good example of what he does best: the sentences, kid, the sentences.
2. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi AdichieIf All That Is represents the twilight of Salter’s literary era, Americanah represents the literary world we live in today. A funny, complicated, and resonant novel, it captures something that feels true about America as it is right this moment. Adichie reminds us that the most vital, difficult, and American stories have been, and still are, the stories of race and immigration, of being new in a country that for centuries has thought of itself as the New World. It’s the kind of work that feels important, while being a joy to read. I’d say watch for it in award season, but even that feels sort of small compared to what this novel does.
3. The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling)A new J.K. Rowling novel would have been enough. But a new J.K. Rowling that is already out and published under a pseudonym with sudden, shocking reveal? Buzz gold. Rowling’s little experiment in anonymity turned into a larger scale experiment about literary celebrity. The book was positively, but not widely, reviewed and apparently only sold about 1500 copies before the big reveal. That number is likely to change…by several orders of magnitude. Fascinating stuff.
4. Inferno by Dan BrownIt’s a new Dan Brown novel. It’s almost exactly what you’d expect. A little less church-stuff, a little more literary stuff. If you like Dan Brown, you are going to like Inferno. It’s silly and implausible, but it’s also fun. Don’t ask why a criminal mastermind would leave a modified artistic masterwork behind filled with clues literally only one man in the world could figure out. Don’t question the sci-fi level technical and biological engineering that is supposed to exist in this world. Just sit back and let Robert Langdon tell you about murals and hidden passageways and recite entire passages from Dante on demand. And as only Dan Brown can do, Inferno unleashed the seething literary snobbery of those who find him and his success unbearable (which is almost as fun as the book).
5. Lean In by Sheryl SandbergThe mid-year award for the book that started the most online flame wars goes to Lean In. Heck, I’ve even added the phrase “having it all” to my list of things never to talk to anyone about, ever. I’d say something more about what Sandberg has to say about women and work, but I am just going to let the 2342345 other articles, essays, and response posts do the heavy lifting. Sandberg’s arguments in Lean In were probably enough on their own to get tongues a-wagging, but her position as COO of Facebook, the social network everybody loves to hate, made the book seem somehow a book of the moment even beyond its actual content.
The rest at Book Riot