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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

2011 in Preview: Books

Jonathan Frazen’s Freedom. Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Suzanne Collins’s Mockingjay.

Each of these books helped to shape the literary landscape of 2010. But what publications will make their mark on 2011?

Welcome to the second installment of News & Views’ 2011 preview. In the first installment, music expert Mike Rankin discussed hot upcoming albums. Here, I tackle the big books of the New Year.

In 2010, W. hit a surprise slam dunk with his memoir Decision Points; now it’s time for Donald Rumsfeld to dish. Known and Unknown “promises previously undisclosed details on the inner-workings of the Bush administration, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the 9/11 attacks.”¹ Will 2011 mark the beginning of the literary dissection of the Bush administration?

Veering from the political lane on the avenue of nonfiction, we venture to the land of travelogues with Sarah Vowell’s Unfamiliar Fishes, a historical examination of Hawaii and a discussion of the year the U.S. truly became a superpower. Known for her sarcastic wit and quirky reporting, Vowell has staked a claim in the nonfiction genre and gotten people excited about historical travelogues, achieving both comedic and captivating narratives on topics often overlooked or forgotten. Both The Daily Beast and The Millions Magazine listed this book on their 2011 previews.

During my freshman year of undergrad, I read the short story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” and while creepy, it resonated with me. It made me want to write, and it definitely made me remember the name Joyce Carol Oates. Making pretty much every preview I’ve encountered, Oates’s new release is far different from anything she’s written before—it isn’t fiction. It’s a memoir about coping with loss. After nearly half a century of marriage, Oates lost her husband, and A Widow’s Story is her narrative on widowhood.

Several other nonfiction titles—mostly memoirs—garnering a lot of buzz include:
  • True You: A Journey to Finding and Loving Yourself by Janet Jackson
  • Bossypants by Tina Fey
  • J.D. Salinger: A Life by Kenneth Slawenski
  • Townie: A Memoir by Andre Dubus III
  • How to Run the World: Charting a Course to the Next Renaissance by Parag Khanna
USA Today, The Millions Magazine, The National Post, and The Daily Beast all listed Tea Obreht’s debut novel The Tiger’s Wife as one of the most anticipated books of 2011. Why all the buzz? As The Millions explains, “Of all The New Yorker’s choices for the “20 Under 40″ list, none was more surprising than Obreht, the youngest on the list and the only author chosen who had not yet published a book.” The novel, which is about a young doctor working at an orphanage in the Balkans, is literary fiction, but mainstreamers may find themselves pleasantly surprised with this gem.

With True Grit reviving America’s love of the Western genre, it’s not surprising that The National Post listed The Sisters Brothers on their 2011 book preview. Set in 1850s California, this novel stars a pair of outlaw brothers who are hired to track down and kill Hermann Kermit Warm. Chock full of gunslingin’, killin’, and humor, this book has received plenty of advance praise and “looks ridiculously cool.”⁵

In her ninth novel, The Uncoupling, Meg Wolitzer uses the ancient Greek play Lysistrata ("wherein the women withhold sex from their menfolk until they agree to end their war”) as her inspiration.² After a New Jersey high school performs the play, the women of the town lose interest with their male partners. As proven with her previous novels, Wolitzer’s narratives definitely entertain, and The Millions and The Daily Beast are both expecting this one to truly shine.

“The final, posthumous novel from the post-modern genius,” David Foster Wallace, The Pale King is about a man named David Foster Wallace who goes to work at the IRS Regional Examination Center in Peoria, Illinois.³ Wallace’s longtime editor Michael Pietsch delicately arranged the original manuscript into the final novel, and USA Today, The Millions Magazine, The National Post, and The Daily Beast are all labeling this quixotic tome as the most anticipated book of 2011.

Here are some other fiction titles hitting several book preview lists:
    Children’s & Young Adult
    This year is hereby the year for Cassandra Clare! She’ll release two monumental titles in 2011: City of Fallen Angels, which is the fourth installment of her Mortal Instruments series, and The Clockwork Prince, the second installment of her Infernal Devices series. Both of these fantasy series have already been optioned for movies, and the fan base is expected to grow to Twilight proportions.

    In the midst of vampire-fever, Maggie Stiefvater emerged with a big win for werewolves. Shiver and its sequel Linger both performed remarkably well, were optioned for movies, and received high praise for not only chronicling the romance from Grace and Sam’s point of view, but also flipping the script on some clichés of the genre. The trilogy wraps up in 2011 with Forever.

    Who doesn’t love a good dose of steampunk? Scott Westerfeld revived the genre with Leviathan and he’ll wrap up the entertaining trilogy in 2011 with Goliath.

    Now let’s journey away from fantastical young adult books to a children’s adventure series that truly gets audiences involved through online gaming. The 39 Clues unleashes its eleventh (or is it first?) installment in 2011. For this transitional piece entitled Vespers Rising, authors Rick Riordan, Peter Lerangis, Gordon Korman, and Jude Watson combined efforts to connect the original series to the new secondary series, Cahills vs. Vespers.

    Here are some additional much-anticipated kids and YA titles:
    Stay tuned for my list of most anticipated films, and be sure to post comments here. What book are you most anticipating? Did it make my preview?

    ¹ 2011's Most Anticipated Books (The Daily Beast)

    Additional Lists:

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