here are so many new books to read in a given year that it can be almost impossible to know where to begin. 2014 has barely started, and there are already at least a dozen new books, readily available on store shelves, that are well worth your consideration.
But you shouldn't let the ocean of options stop you from tracking down a few highlights. With so many books slated for release in 2014, where should you begin? Let The Week be your guide:
On Such a Full Sea, by Chang-Rae Lee (Jan. 7)
For his fifth book, Korean American novelist Chang-Rae Lee branches out into dystopian fiction. The book follows Fan, a Chinese-American laborer who lives in a class-stratified city called B-Mor (which you probably know better under its current name, Baltimore). When her boyfriend mysteriously disappears, Fan decides to journey into unknown parts of the country to find him. In On Such a Full Sea, Lee uses science-fiction to comment on current political, economic, and environmental problems, painting a dark image of America's possible future.
My Life in Middlemarch, by Rebecca Mead (Jan. 28)
The New Yorker's Rebecca Mead pens this intriguing literary hybrid, which doubles as a tribute to George Eliot's Middlemarch and a personal memoir. Mead discovered Middlemarch at a young age and routinely revisited the novel at important junctions in her life, drawing new lessons and insights each time. Though Mead's regard for Eliot is obvious, you don't need to be a Middlemarch fan to appreciate My Life in Middlemarch. If a book has ever truly spoken to you, you'll be able to relate to the way a piece of 19th century literature shapes Mead's perspectives and actions as she moves through life in the 21st century.
Also noteworthy in January: Little Failure, by Gary Shtyengart; Leaving the Sea: Stories, by Ben Marcus; Silence Once Begun, by Jesse Ball; Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of The Great Gatsby, by Sarah Churchwell; Andrew's Brain, by E.L. Doctorow; Still Life with Bread Crumbs: A Novel, by Anna Quindlen; Gods Like Us: On Movie Stardom and Modern Fame, by Ty Burr.
At first glance, a history of American public transit might sound like something you'd be forced to read in an engineering class. But the Boston Globe's Doug Most has come at the potentially dry subject from a unique and engaging angle: The story of two brothers — one in New York City and one in Boston — who each dreamed of creating America's first subway system in their respective cities. Most's narrative chronicles tackles the enormous undertaking at every level, from the high-powered political figures at the top to the "sandhogs" who created the tunnels, offering an intriguing top-down look at American transit.
Kinder Than Solitude, by Yiyun Li (Feb 25)
PEN/Hemingway Award-winning author Yiyun Li's latest novel splits its narrative between Ruyu, Moran, and Boyang — a trio of friends linked by a mysterious crime they experienced as children in China. When a young woman was poisoned, it was written off as an accident — but there's a good chance at least one of the friends knows more than they've let on. The novel leaps between the 1990s, when the crime was committed, and the present day, where each of the long-separated friends is coming to terms with what really happened.
The Black-Eyed Blonde: A Philip Marlowe Novel, by Benjamin Black (Mar. 4)
Legendary mystery author Raymond Chandler left some impossibly big shoes to fill, but his most famous creation — the hard-boiled Los Angeles detective Philip Marlowe — has managed to live on in film, television, and radio for decades after his creator's death. The Black-Eyed Blonde is the first authorized Marlowe mystery since Robert Parker's so-so Perchance to Dream hit shelves in 1991, and the Edward Award-nominated Benjamin Black seems like a solid choice to revive Chandler's famed literary detective for one last case.
Blood Will Out: The True Story of a Murder, a Mystery, and a Masquerade, by Walter Kirn (Mar. 10)
Up in the Air author Walter Kirn turns to nonfiction to tell the bizarre true story of his 15-year friendship with a man who claimed to be a Rockefeller — and who was, in actuality, a psychopathic con man and murderer. Kirn uses Blood Will Out to document the nature of the friendship, and explore why he was so easily taken in by someone who proved to be so dangerous. Early reviews have compared Kirn's story to Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley, with one chilling asterisk: This story actually happened.
Also noteworthy in March: Every Day is for the Thief, by Teju Cole; Sleep Donation, by Karen Russell; Boy, Snow, Bird, by Helen Oyeyemi; All Our Names, by Dinaw Mengetsu; Flash Boys, by Michael Lewis.
Vernon Downs, by Jaime Clarke (Apr. 15)
Jaime Clarke's Vernon Downs, which has earned early praise from writers like Tom Perrotta and Gary Shteyngart, offers a deliberately meta tale of literary obsession. Between the death of his parents and a bad breakup, the life of aspiring novelist Charlie Martens has been characterized by instability — but when he manages to insinuate himself into the life of his literary idol, Vernon Downs, his happiness and gratitude eventually devolves into obsession.
Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace, by Nikil Saval (Apr. 22)
You probably spend a fair amount of time in your office — in fact, there's a pretty good chance you're reading this article there right now — but how did such a strangely regimented workplace structure become normalized, anyway? Author Nikil Saval dives into the history of the white-collar office, exploring how the accounting offices once looked down on by "real workers" became the business standard — and how the workplace will continue to evolve in the years to come.
Also noteworthy in April: No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, The NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State, by Glenn Greenwald; The Revolutions, by Felix Gilman; Casebook, by Mona Simpson; Lovers at the Chameleon Club: Paris, 1932, by Francine Prose; Can't and Won't: Stories, by Lydia Davis; In Paradise, by Peter Matthiessen; Living with a Wild God: A Nonbeliever's Search for the Truth About Everything, by Barbara Ehrenreich.
To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, by Joshua Ferris (May 13)
Then We Came to the End author Joshua Ferris returns with a satirical novel about the increasingly important role that technology plays in the way the world understands us. Protagonist Paul O'Rourke is surprised when he discovers that a mysterious identity thief has created both a Facebook page and a Twitter account under his name. But as his other self's online footprint begins to spread, Paul is forced to confront the idea that this other self is better at being Paul O'Rourke than he is.
Lost for Words: A Novel, by Edward St. Aubyn (May 20)
After concluding his Patrick Melrose series with 2012's At Last, Edward St. Aubyn aims his satirical lens onto the world of literary puffery with Lost for Words. The novel's sprawling narrative chronicles the mad grab for the (fictional) Elysian Prize for Literature, in which a series of shortlisted authors desperately vie for the press, celebrity, and book sales that come when a book has a little gold stamp affixed to its cover.
I'll Be Right There, by Kyung-Sook Shin (June 3)
South Korean author Kyung-Sook Shin has been popular in her native country for decades, but her novels weren't available in the United States until 2012, when her Man Asian Literary Prize-winning Please Look After Mom was released to widespread acclaim. Expect her profile to rise even higher with I'll Be Right There, which traces the memories of protagonist Jung Yoon. When Jung Yoon receives an unexpected phone call from an ex-boyfriend, she reflects on her tragic, tumultuous life in mid-1980s South Korea.
Summer House with Swimming Pool, by Herman Koch (June 3)
Dutch author Herman Koch's cynical The Dinner — which was set entirely at a meal between four repulsive people — polarized critics and readers alike on its way to becoming a bestseller in 2013. Summer House with Swimming Pool promises a similarly grim appraisal of humanity: A doctor who specializes in celebrities is forced to explain the death of a famous actor who died on his operating table less than a year after their families spent an eventful vacation together.
Also noteworthy in June: The Book of Unknown Americans, by Cristina Henriquez; The Most Dangerous Book: the Battle for James Joyce's Ulyssses, by Kevin Birmingham; Hillary Rodham Clinton's as-yet untitled new memoir.
California: A Novel, by Edan Lepucki (July 8)
Edan Lepucki's debut novel follows Cal and Frida, a couple that flees the wreckage of a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles for a solitary life in the wilderness. When Frida becomes pregnant, they reluctantly rejoin society and begin what they assume will be a safer life in a heavily guarded settlement — only to discover that society might be more dangerous after all.
Seconds, by Bryan Lee O'Malley (July 15)
We don't know much about Bryan Lee O'Malley's upcoming graphic novel Seconds yet — but given that it's O'Malley first full-length project in a decade that's not called Scott Pilgrim, it's easy to be excited anyway. O'Malley has revealed that the "funny and weird and kind of big and crazy" story will follows a young woman named Katie who works in a restaurant called Seconds, which exists in a "fairy tale version of reality."
Also noteworthy in July: Nobody is Ever Missing: A Novel, by Catherine Lacey; Last Stories and Other Stories, by William T. Vollmann; The Hundred-Year House, by Rebecca Makkai; Shadows in the Vineyard: The True Story of a Plot to Poison the World's Greatest Wine, by Maximillian Potter.
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage, by Haruki Murakami (August 12)
Murakami's latest novel is already a smash success in Japan, where it debuted in April 2013. Since then, translator Philip Gabriel — who was also responsible for the English-language versions of Murakami books like Kafka on the Shore and South of the Border, West of the Sun — has been working away on the novel, which follows a man who reflects on the pain of a rejection from many years earlier.
The Fame Lunches: On Wounded Icons, Money, Sex, the Importance of Handbags, and Other Cultural Inquires, by Daphne Merkin (August 19)
Daphne Merkin's cultural essays — which have appeared in The New Yorker, New York Times Magazine, and The New Republic, among other places — tend to tackle questions of celebrity and fame. This new collection takes that interest head-on with essays that promise to approach everything from the Bronte sisters to Marlon Brando, all under Merkin's critical lens.
Consumed: A Novel, by David Cronenberg (Sep. 2)
Director David Cronenberg built his name on the visceral body horror of films like Videodrome and The Fly — and if he can successfully translate his penchant for the grotesque to the written page, there's no reason he can't leave a stamp in the literary world as well. Consumed follows two yellow journalists whose investigation into the death of a controversial philosopher leads them into a surreal world of illness and depravity.
The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell (Sep.)
Cloud Atlas author David Mitchell returns with another sprawling novel chronicling the life of protagonist Holly Sykes, who runs away from home in 1984 and spends the subsequent decades hopping from places like Switzerland and Ireland. The novel traces her story all the way to 2044, as the world's climate nears collapse.
Also noteworthy in September: A Load of Hooey, by Bob Odenkirk.
Stay tuned as more fall 2014 releases are announced in the next few months.
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