Today’s Top Ten (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish)—Top Ten 2015 releases we anticipate most—was a tough one, because I am still thinking about all the great books I never got around to in 2014. Last year I probably read fewer books for leisure than since graduate school, when Eighteenth century British epistolary novels and literary criticism took up all.my.reading.time. The good thing is that even though I only completed 32 books last year, over half of them were favorites (even though I only listed ten), and that’s remarkable for any reading year.
So even though I’m struggling to catch up with last year’s releases, I decided to look ahead and see what’s coming in the new year. Some new releases, such as books from Kazuo Ishiguro, Toni Morrison, and Kate Atkinson, probably excite most readers of literary fiction, so I’m not going to include those here. Instead, I’ve picked some less obvious choices that look intriguing. I give you books I am anticipating in 2015 (but will probably read in in 2016):
The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins. Okay, so this one is getting talked about all over the place, but it is a debut and the description is so compelling (to me, at least). I can already confirm I’ll be buying this one as soon as my self-imposed book buying ban is lifted, probably as one of my (2016) summer reads:
“Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.
And then she sees something shocking. Its only a minute until the train moves on, but its enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?”
Watch Me Go, Mark Wisniewski. Deesh is asked to move some barrels. He needs money. He doesn’t know or care what they contain, until he realizes just exactly what he’s moving, and who will take the blame. I’ve seen this compared to A Simple Plan, one of my favorite books of 2014. I tend to enjoy these “ordinary man pulled into a life of crime” stories:
“Jan, a young female jockey aspiring to win at horse racing and love, breaks her silence about organized crime to try to save the life of Deesh, an imprisoned black man she doesn’t know, whos been falsely accused of three murders. As Deesh and Jan recount the events that sent their lives spiraling out of control, they piece together the whole story and understand how they each fit into it. Suspenseful yet compassionate, Watch Me Go is a heart-stopping tour de force that examines how we love, leave, lose, redeem, and strive once more for love—and, ultimately, how regardless of how fast or how far we run, there is no escaping the daring impulses and human vulnerability in all of us.”
The Devil You Know, Elizabeth de Mariaffi. This sounds like another fun read in the vein of Gillian Flynn, Laura Lippman, or Megan Abbott. I suspect this will be another summer fun book:
“The year is 1993. Rookie crime beat reporter Evie Jones is haunted by the unsolved murder of her best friend Lianne Gagnon who was killed in 1982, back when both girls were eleven. The suspected killer, a repeat offender named Robert Cameron, was never arrested, leaving Lianne’s case cold.
Now twenty-one and living alone for the first time, Evie is obsessively drawn to finding out what really happened to Lianne. She leans on another childhood friend, David Patton, for help—but every clue they uncover seems to lead to an unimaginable conclusion. As she gets closer and closer to the truth, Evie becomes convinced that the killer is still at large—and that he’s coming back for her.”
Find Me, Laura van den Berg. Is it just me, or are dystopia/epidemic novels the new black? Many of the new releases seem to fit those descriptions. (Or else, Gone Girl—I’m waiting for the description that says, “This novel is Station Eleven meets Gone Girl.” It’s coming soon, I promise you.) Still, something about this description drew me, and I expect it might be a knockout:
“Joy has no one. She spends her days working the graveyard shift at a grocery store outside Boston and nursing an addiction to cough syrup, an attempt to suppress her troubled past. But when a sickness that begins with memory loss and ends with death sweeps the country, Joy, for the first time in her life, seems to have an advantage: she is immune. When Joy’s immunity gains her admittance to a hospital in rural Kansas, she sees a chance to escape her bleak existence. There she submits to peculiar treatments and follows seemingly arbitrary rules, forming cautious bonds with other patients;including her roommate, whom she turns to in the night for comfort, and twin boys who are digging a secret tunnel.
As winter descends, the hospitals fragile order breaks down and Joy breaks free, embarking on a journey from Kansas to Florida, where she believes she can find her birth mother, the woman who abandoned her as a child. On the road in a devastated America, she encounters mysterious companions, cities turned strange, and one very eerie house. As Joy closes in on Florida, she must confront her own damaged memory and the secrets she has been keeping from herself.”
Suspended Sentences, Patrick Modiano. Modiano won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2014. Do I need more of a reason than that?
“Although originally published separately, Patrick Modiano’s three novellas form a single, compelling whole, haunted by the same gauzy sense of place and characters. Modiano draws on his own experiences, blended with the real or invented stories of others, to present a dreamlike autobiography that is also the biography of a place. Orphaned children, mysterious parents, forgotten friends, enigmatic strangers — each appears in this three-part love song to a Paris that no longer exists. In this superb English-language translation of Afterimage, Suspended Sentences, and Flowers of Ruin, Mark Polizzotti captures not only Modiano’s distinctive narrative voice but also the matchless grace and spare beauty of his prose.
Shadowed by the dark period of the Nazi Occupation, these novellas reveal Modiano’s fascination with the lost, obscure, or mysterious: a young person’s confusion over adult behavior; the repercussions of a chance encounter; the search for a missing father; the aftershock of a fatal affair. To read Modiano’s trilogy is to enter his world of uncertainties and the almost accidental way in which people find their fates.”
The Half Brother, Holly LeCraw. It’s a campus novel. Enough said.
“When Charlie Garrett arrives as a young teacher at the Abbott School, he finds a world steeped in privilege and tradition. The school’s green quads are lined by gothic stone halls, students dart across campus in blazers and bright plaid skirts. Fresh out of college and barely older than the students he teaches, Charlie longs to find his place in the rarefied world of Abbottsford. He is particularly drawn to the school chaplain, Preston Bankhead, and Preston’s beautiful daughter, May. Then, Charlie’s younger half brother, Nick, arrives on campus. Nick is, quite literally, the golden child, with sandy blond hair and a dazzling smile. Teachers welcome him warmly, students stay late to talk after class, and May Bankhead proves susceptible to his magnetic draw. As Charlie sees the unmistakable connection between his first love and his half brother, he struggles with emotions far more complicated than mere jealousy. A terrible secret threatens to surface, and Charlie’s peaceful campus life is shattered.”
The World Before Us, Aislinn Hunter. This just sounds like all kinds of dark, twisted fun. (Yes, I just described the idea of reading about Victorian asylums and museum archivists as “fun.”)
“Deep in the woods of northern England, somewhere between a dilapidated estate and an abandoned Victorian asylum, fifteen-year-old Jane Standen lived through a nightmare. She was babysitting a sweet young girl named Lily, and in one fleeting moment during their outdoor adventure, she lost her. The little girl was never found, leaving her family and Jane devastated.
Twenty years later, Jane is an archivist at a small London museum that is about to close for lack of funding. As a final research project—an endeavor inspired in part by her painful past—Jane surveys the archives for information related to another missing person: a woman who disappeared some 125 years ago in the same woods where Lily was lost. As Jane pieces moments in history together, a compelling portrait of a fascinating group of people starts to unfurl. Inexplicably tied to the mysterious disappearance of long ago, Jane finds tender details of their lives at the country estate and in the asylum that are linked to her own presently heartbroken world, and their story from all those years ago may now help Jane find a way to move on.”
A Hand Reached Down to Guide Me, David Gates. Because David Gates. You don’t need to wait for this book to read his work. Check out his short story collection The Wonders of the Invisible World or his novel Preston Falls. If you like Richard Russo or Richard Ford (“The Richards”), then you’ll like David Gates.
“Gates’s characters, young or old or neither, are well educated, broadly knowledgeable, often creative and variously accomplished, whether as a doctor or a composer, an academic or a journalist. And every one of them carries a full supply of the human condition: parents in assisted-living–or assisted-dying–facilities, too many or too few people in their families and marriages, the ties that bind a sometimes messy knot, age an implacable foe, impulses pulling them away from comfort into distraction or catastrophe. Terrifyingly self-aware, they refuse to go gently–even when they’re going nowhere fast, in settings that range across the metropolitan and suburban Northeast to the countryside upstate and in New England.”
There’s Something I Want You to Do, Charles Baxter. I have a soft spot for Charles Baxter because his collection A Relative Stranger was an early favorite of mine. If you like Tobias Wolff (or again, The Richards—or David Gates!), then put Charles Baxter on your list as well. Read the story collections first, because that’s where he really shines.
“These interrelated stories are arranged in two sections, one devoted to virtues and the other to vices. They are cast with characters who appear and reappear throughout the collection, their actions equally divided between the praiseworthy and the loathsome. They take place in settings as various as Tuscany, San Francisco, Ethiopia, and New York, but their central stage is the North Loop of Minneapolis, alongside the Mississippi River, which flows through most of the tales. Each story has at its center a request or a demand, but each one plays out differently: in a hit-and-run, an assault or murder, a rescue, a startling love affair, or, of all things, a gesture of kindness and charity. Altogether incomparably crafted, consistently surprising, remarkably beautiful stories.”
Our Souls at Night, Kent Haruf. Favorite author, final book. RIP, Mr. Haruf.