Thursday, May 26, 2011

Top 10 Most Anticipated Books For the Rest of 2011

Last year at about this time, I was counting down the days to Freedom. This year, by contrast, there's no single to-be-published book that has even close to the pants-wetting anticipation that Franzen's brilliant novel carried. Still, collectively, there are several high-profile novels from big-name writers to be excited about that are coming out later this summer and fall. So, since many of you lucky jerks are at Book Expo America in New York this week, learning first-hand about all the great novels to be published in the second half the year, I figured I'd submit my own list (in ascending order of publication date, not necessarily level of anticipation).

10. A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion, by Ron Hansen (June 14) — I loved Hansen's Mariette in Ecstasy and Hitler's Niece, and Guilty Passion sounds like it continues his oeuvre of lucid novels crafted around a footnote in history. He's a really fun-to-read, under-the-radar novelist — I'd highly recommend checking him out, if you're not familiar.

9. Flashback, by Dan Simmons (July 1) — I will finally read Dan Simmons. I will finally read Dan Simmons. I will finally read Dan Simmons. I will finally read Dan Simmons. This actually sounds really interesting, too — part dystopian, part detective novel, part social commentary. Count me in!

8. Sex On The Moon, by Ben Mezrich (July 12) — Yeah, Mezrich's The Accidental Billionaires was about as big a flop as The Social Network was a success, but I liked Bringing Down the House a lot — which incidentally, was about as big of a success as the movie 21 was a flop (at least in my mind — those floating, slow-motion cards were really irritating!). But I'm willing to give Mezrich another shot, and this sounds like a rather fascinating story. After all, if we learned anything from diaper-wearing Lisa Nowak's love-triangle meltdown, it's that astronauts make for some delightful drama!

7. The Leftovers, by Tom Perrotta (Aug. 30) — The "chronicler of the suburbs" throws a bit of a dystopian twist into this long-awaited follow-up to The Abstinence Teacher — which was a bit of trudge. And, frankly, The Leftovers, has disaster potential written all over it because of its gimmicky plot hinge (lots of people have randomly disappeared). I'm going to give it a try, though. Perrotta's probably best known for the terrific movies made from his novels, including Election and Little Children.

6. Nightwoods, by Charles Frazier (Oct. 4) — I bet I'm not the only one who read the crap out of Cold Mountain, but totally ignored Thirteen Moons. But I'm willing to let Nightwoods be the tie-breaker — though, I have to admit, the premise (a woman in 1950s North Carolina caring for her murdered sister's twins) doesn't exactly get my pulse racing.

5. The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides (Oct. 11) — Here is the mother lode! It's been nine years since Eugenides published Middlesex. Nine years: the exact same interval between Franzen novels. The hype for this won't be as huge, but The Marriage Plot will no-doubt still be a huge hit among book nerds, given that, according to The Millions, which published the first paragraph earlier this week, "the first paragraph sets the stage for what may be a very bookish novel." Woohoo!

4. Zone One, by Colson Whitehead (Oct. 18) — And here we have yet another post-apocalyptic/dystopian novel from a literary novelist. (Biting my tongue to keep cynicism at bay.) Anyway, I first read Whitehead two summers ago — his summer-y novel Sag Harbor is tremendous. And, it's arguable that Whitehead does some of his best writing on Twitter. He's a must-follow. 

3. 1Q84, by Haruki Murakami (Oct. 25) — Published in Japan in 2009, the much, much anticipated English translation arrives in October. It's a brick: 928 pages. I'm making it my goal this summer to become well-acquainted with Murakami's other much-loved books — including Kafka On The Shore, Norwegian Wood and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle — to get geared up for this one.

2. 11/22/63: A Novel, by Stephen King (Nov. 8) — It's true, the man can tell a story. But let's hope this story, which chronicles a time-traveler attempting to stop the Kennedy assassination, is a little better than the abysmal Under The Dome.

1. The Prague Cemetery, by Umberto Eco (Nov. 8) — Ever since I cursed and screamed my way through the damn-near-impossible The Name Of The Rose (I DO NOT care whether Jesus ever laughed or not!), I've wanted to try reading another Eco novel to see if anything else he's written is more accessible. I picked up Foucault's Pendulum and The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana with the best intentions, but they're both still gathering dust. There seems to be a push-back against Eco lately, as some wonder how relevant he (and his massive ego, apparently) is to modern readers.

So there are mine. What did I forget? What's on your rest-of-2011 list?


  1. Many of these are on my list, especially THE MARRIAGE PLOT and ZONE ONE. One other I'd add is CURFEW by Jesse Ball. Ball is poet turned novelist, and his last novel was beautiful, if abstruse. Word is CURFEW keeps the beguiling prose but with a more accessible plot. Comes out in June I think. Look for it.

  2. I actually don't really know any books coming out this year, except Murakami's... I did just buy Erik Larson's new one, though. I hope it's better than Thunderstruck, which I couldn't even finish because it bored me so much.

  3. I am interested in The Marriage Plot-fondly remember picking up an ARC of Middlesex at BEA,which sadly I'm not able to attend this year-and curious about the King book that could go either way in terms of quality.

    However,my big ticket item at the moment is A Dance of Dragons by George R.R. Martin. I got hooked on his Song of Ice and Fire series recently,thanks to HBO making Game of Thrones one of their new shows and even tho I'm only on book two,my addiction to Martin's writing was instant.

    Don't worry,I have some serious fiction on deck such as Faith by Jennifer Haigh,but with all of the craziness in the world at the moment,a touch of smartly written escapism is necessary.

  4. I am about as far out of the "current fiction loop" as one can be, so thank god I now have some idea of what'll be coming out this year. I'm excited to read the new King and Eugenides, curious about Whitehead (mostly because of the twitter feed; I'm suspicious of this dystopian bandwagon thing), though I probably won't be able to get copies till nearly a year after they're published. Sigh. Guess I'll have to depend on your reviews?

  5. I am anxiously anticipating most of these on your list. Murakami, Perrotta, Eugenides, and yes even Eco. I will be watching for your reviews.

  6. 'pants-wetting anticipation' ..LOVE it. :-D

    As many people I'm sure will be I'm particularly excited about Murakami. You must read Kafka on the Shore right away. I also have The Wind Up Bird Chronicle waiting on my shelf.

  7. Great list! I'm eagerly awaiting several of these too, especially the new Tom Perrotta. I hope Fall of 2011 is a great season for publishing!

  8. I'm also waiting for the new books by Murakami and Eco, I've enjoyed their books so much; am also waiting for The Winter Palace: A Novel of Catherine the Great, by Eva Stachniak
    Emma @ Words And Peace

  9. I'm actually waiting for "The Ranger" by Ace Atkins and "The Profession" by Steven Pressfield.

    But what I'm really waiting for is for those little gems that come out of nowhere and make my day.

  10. Oh come on now, Under the Dome wasn't that bad! It was like a remake of The Stand but it was entertaining! I could definitely get excited about Dan Simmons and Jeffrey Eugenides, having loved some of their previous stuff.

    And yes, lucky jerks indeed. I say that with love in my heart of course. (From Sandy, as Google isn't letting me log in.)

  11. You have me interested in Flashback and Zone One now. I've been waiting for IQ84 for some time now. I'm hoping someone will have a midnight release party for it.

    I hate to tell you but Name of the Rose is probably the only 'accessible' book Eco will ever write. If you didn't enjoy that one, you should just move on with you life, as we say in our house.

  12. I was right there with you last year with the exuberant anticipation for Freedom.

    I'm not too hyped about any single book being published this year .

    Im sure ill read the new Jeffrey Eugenides book but most likely not this year.

    I agree with what C.B. James said ; referring to Umberto Eco. Foucault's Pendulum was hardy read.

  13. so.excited.for.the.marriage.plot.

    It's hard for me to even put it into words. Mostly because I just finished Middlesex, the glory that is Eugenides is still so fresh in my mind.

  14. Great list and I would say my pants are also wet over most of the titles you mentioned. Other titles which have me changing my underwear:

    The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan
    American Masculine by Shann Ray
    We the Animals by Justin Torres
    The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma
    Jamrach's Menagerie by Carol Birch
    Men in the Making by Bruce Machart

  15. @the Ape - I've heard bits and pieces about Curfew - definitely will give it higher priority now. Thanks for the heads up!

    @Katie - I just bought that Larson book, too - it's getting pretty good reviews so far. I didn't bother with Thunderstuck, but Devil In The White City is, obviously, awesome.

    @lady T - I just can't talk myself into those GRR Martin books (or watching Game of Thrones, either). I know people love them, just can't press 'start' for me. Thanks for the recommendation on the Haigh book - off to check it out!

    @Ellen - I'm also suspicious of the dystopian bandwagon, but I feel like I've also turned a little bit of a corner. A year or so ago, I would've dismissed those books out of hand - now, if novelists as talented as Whitehead are writing them, too, I'm willing to give them a shot.

    @A Journey - Even Eco? Wow! ;) You might be the only commenter to publicly admit that.

  16. @Relish X - I can't wait to try Murakami - he's probably the most often recommended novelist I've never read. Kafka's first...

    @nomareader - It looks like it will be - especially October!

    @wordsandpeace - Thanks for recommendation - I have to admit to not knowing a tremendous amount about Catherine the Great, so that novel is intriguing.

    @Man - Haven't heard of either of those two writers, but I'll definitely check 'em out. Thanks for the recs.

    @Anonymous Sandy - Oh, it was that bad! ;) Hopefully this one's better!

  17. @CB - I'm not in a position of authority here, but I've always heard the opposite - that Foucault's Pendulum is much more accessible. It's still tough, but at least it doesn't want to make you kill yourself. Which of Eco's novels have you read?

    @Charlie - But was it good?

    @Brenna - I hear ya - I read Middlesex several years ago, but that doesn't diminish any of the excitement for his new one.

    @David - Thanks for the great recommendations. I'm off to check 'em out!

  18. I am going to read IQ94 like a f---ing Harry Potter novel, from the time I get home til the time I am done with that sucker, Wind-up Bird, NorWood, and Kafka are all great Murakami starters, esp the first two because they hold bookend places on his spectrum. I also love East of the Sun West of the Moon and Sputnik Sweetheart. Who am I kidding, I love every grocery list and post it note the man has written.

    Have ARCS of Zone One and Leftovers, need to get hands on Marriage Plot and Curfew.

  19. I mean IQ84, that was a typing mistake, not a brain mistake.

  20. nice list -the Leftovers and the Marriage Plot are both on my list!

  21. I agree with most of your list of anticipated reads--especially Eco, Murakami, and Simmons. For me, I would add Reamde by Neal Stephenson--his Anathem was an unbelievably creative and intelligent book (and should have won the Hugo award in 2009--Gaiman's Graveyard Book was good, but Anathem was on another level as far as I'm concerned).

  22. I noticed that all your anticipated selections were written by men. Got any women you like to read? Here's an interesting article from The Nation about gender bias in what makes "serious literature" - just some food for thought. By the way, I like your picks - I just wondered if there were any women authors whose work you might be anticipating as well (because I'd read your recommendations). Thanks.

  23. @booksaremyBFs - Thanks for the further Murakami recs - it is def. gonna be a Murakami-filled summer!

    @Sam - Stephenson's one of those writers whose always been on my radar, but who I've never read. Anathem's really good, eh? I'm guess Reamde is a sequel?

    @Book Phantom - Four things: 1) Your link doesn't work, but that's okay, because I think I've read (and guffawed at) that article already anyway. 2) Perhaps before judging me a sexist reader (in so many words), you may want to have taken a gander at my previous four reviews - all books written by women. 3) Perhaps you'd like to suggest some women-authored novels coming out later this year? 4) I'm glad you like my picks. Thanks for the comment!

  24. Hey Greg. I'm really sorry I came across as pointing the finger of sexism at you. I used bad commenting form. I confess: My three favorite books (so far) this year were written by men, and some of my blog posts are a little snotty towards anything that smells remotely of "chick lit". So, I guess I'm pointing the finger at the collective readership of literary fiction (including myself) - your list just set that off, not you personally. I hope this link with pub industry statistics is less guffaw-worthy (Your "guffaw" comment stung but I guess I deserve that - it was presumptuous of me to assume you were unaware of the gender divide in lit world; I thought others might be as surprised by the info as I was). Okay, I'll just shut up now and go read some Jennifer Egan. :)

  25. I can't wait for Eugenides. I absolutely loved Middlesex, and the Virgin Suicides.

  26. I haven't looked into Reamde enough yet, but my sense is it isn't going to be a sequel--it'd be a shame if it were. I'd rather see Stephenson keep forging ahead into new territory. The Baroque Cycle was just too much for too long for me. I really appreciated your post about The Pale King--my copy is sitting on the shelf right now, waiting for when I'm done with school and have the time it deserves, and your post only made me more excited to get started.

  27. I received an ARC of Flashpoint this week and I'm looking forward to it. Zone One I think I would pick up for the cover alone.