The Throwback Special by Chris Bachelder: ‘Wistful and elegantly written’ according to the New York Times, Bachelder’s fourth novel follows 22 men for a weekend, during their annual reenacting of American Football history’s most famous play. It is a ritual centered around the moment when Redskins player Joe Theisman had his leg broken the NY Giants’ Lawrence Taylor. Is it any surprise the book has been hailed for its observations about manhood?
What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell: This is the first novel from renowned poet and critic Garth Greenwell, who’s already had the pleasure of being published in The Paris Review, and has written regularly for The New Yorker and The Atlantic. Set in Bulgaria — where the author lived for a couple of years — it is a development of his most successful novella, ‘Mitko’ (which comprises the first third of the story), and follows the author’s infatuation with a local hustler by the name of (you guessed it!) Mitko.
Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett: This is the writer’s third book, following novel Union Atlantic (2010) and short story collection You Are Not a Stranger Here (2002), the latter having secured him a place as finalist of both the National Book Awards and Pulitzer Prize. Imagine Me Gone recounts the struggles of a family afflicted by mental illness.
News of the World by Paulette Jiles: Veteran San Antonio-based Canadian writer Paulette Jiles returns to the prize with a historical novel set in Northern Texas immediately after the Civil War. In it, an old paid newspaper-reader, Jefferson Kyle, is hired to rescue a young orphan captured by Kiowa raiders, a Native American tribe then based in the Southern Plains.
The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan: American-born and Delhi-raised, Karan Mahajan has written a second novel set at the heart of very modern tragedy. It follows the aftermath of a bomb attack in a Delhi market, and how said carnage affected both the terrorist cell which perpetrated it, as well as the family and best friend of two brothers aged 11 and 13 who were killed.
The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie: Forget the usual sober professionalism of the form; for a philosophical novel, The Portable Veblen certainly packs quite a lot of humor. A quick glimpse at the premise should make for enough convincing: Veblen, a ‘squirrel obsessive’, is about to marry Paul, a brilliant neurologist. That is, in any case, what is supposed to happen, if one discounts the hypochondriac mother, interned father, and psychotic boss.
Sweet Lamb of Heaven by Lydia Millet: Former NBA finalist and PEN Fiction Award winner Lydia Millet makes a marked return to the National Book Awards with a novel that manages to veer from domestic thriller to psychological horror in a little more than 200 pages. Ostensibly about a woman leaving her cold and distant husband, the story slowly evolves towards, well, stranger things — so to speak.
Miss Jane by Brad Watson: Already nominated in 2002 for his debut The Heaven of Mercury, Brad Watson returns with a Southern Pastoral drawn from his great aunt’s actual life — a woman born in Mississippi some 100 years ago with a genital birth defect. A work of ‘complexity and drama‘, then, according to The New York Times.
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead: Colson Whitehead, the former MacArthur Fellow, finalist of more than half a dozen literary awards, and author of a couple of bestsellers, had this novel picked up by both Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey and put on their reading lists. Already well decorated, then, this is about a former slave’s escape through the eponymous network — yet it would be a mistake to think of it as a straight historical novel: Filled with fantastical and allegorical elements, this promises to be much, much more.
Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson: Children and young adult fiction writer Jacqueline Woodson was nominated for her first adult novel in 20 years. The book begins in early 1970s Brooklyn, when an 11 year-old girl named August moves to the borough following the death of her mother, and blossoms into an elegiac tale about girlhood, and the plight of New York’s poorest areas.