October Preview: The Millions Most Anticipated (This Month)

We wouldn’t dream of abandoning our vast semiannual Most Anticipated Book Previews, but we thought a monthly reminder would be helpful (and give us a chance to note titles we missed the first time around).  Here’s what we’re looking out for this month. Find more October titles at our Great Second-Half Preview, and let us know what you’re looking forward to in the comments! Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan: Six years after her quirkily brilliant novel-in-stories A Visit from the Goon Squad won the Pulitzer, Egan is back with a noirish historical novel set in wartime Brooklyn. At the Brooklyn Naval Yard, Anna Kerrigan becomes the nation’s first female diver, repairing ships that will help America win World War II. Through a chance encounter, she meets nightclub owner Dexter Styles, who she hopes can help her solve the riddle of her father’s disappearance years before. Longlisted for the National Book Award. (Michael) Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado: Machado is a talented essayist; particularly notable are her pieces for The New Yorker, including “O Adjunct! My Adjunct!,” one of the finest examinations of the adjunct crisis in America. Her fiction deals with more surreal fears, with sharply-drawn pieces like “Horror Story” in Granta: “It started so small: a mysteriously clogged drain; a crack in the bedroom window.” Stories like “The Husband Stitch” are marvels of language and experimentation. This fiction debut is a longlister for the National Book Award. (Nick R.). Fresh Complaint by Jeffrey Eugenides: Surprisingly, this is Eugenides’s first collection of short fiction—a debut of sorts from an author best known for his novels, especially his sprawling, Pulitzer Prize-winning saga, Middlesex. The stories in this collection span Eugenides’s 25-year career, and many were originally published in The New Yorker, including the story “Baster,” which was adapted into the 2010 romantic comedy The Switch. (Hannah)   Dogs at the Perimeter by Madeleine Thien: After the massive success of Man Booker Prize shortlisted Do Not Say We Have Nothing, the world has realized that Thien is one of the most gifted and powerful novelists writing today. Her ​previous ​novel, Dogs at the Perimeter, set in Cambodia during the regime of the Khmer Rouge and in present day Montreal, explores the aftermath of war. It was published in Canada 2011 and will now ​be released in the U.S. for the first time. Welcome to the party. (Claire)   We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates: A collection of new and previously published essays on the Obama years, from the writer whose access to and insights about the former president were beautifully documented in The Atlantic essay “My President Was Black.” The new collection includes an interview with Obama. (Lydia)     A Field Guide to the North American Family by Garth Risk Hallberg: A decade after it first appeared, Hallberg’s debut illustrated novella is being reissued in a newly designed edition. It arrives two years after Hallberg, a contributing editor at The Millions, published his breathtaking first novel, City on Fire.  Field Guide consists of 63 interlinked vignettes with accompanying photographs and annotations, which probe the inner workings of two families in the New York suburbs. The book’s subtitle would have delighted John James Audubon: “Concerning chiefly the Hungates and Harrisons, with accounts of their habits, nesting, dispersion, etc., and full descriptions of the plumage of both adult and young, with a taxonomic survey of several aspects of family life.” Taxonomic is the perfect word for this gorgeously executed little marvel. (Bill) A Moonless, Starless Sky: Ordinary Men and Women Fighting Extremism in Africa by Alexis Okeowo: New Yorker staff writer Okeowo explores the lives of people feeling--and struggling against--the complex and ongoing effects of extremism, in stories taking place mostly in Uganda, Mauritania, Nigeria, and Somalia. Read a fantastic excerpt from the book, about young women playing basketball in Somalia, here at The New Yorker. In a starred review, Kirkus calls the book "reportage at its finest." (Lydia)   The King Is Always Above the People by Daniel Alarcón: Award-winning writer Alarcón returns with a new short story collection that features a wide range of memorable characters. Longlisted for the National Book Award, The King Is Always Above the People examines immigration, Latin American families, Los Angeles, and much more. Alarcón has received much critical acclaim for his previous books and his most recent novel, At Night We Walk in Circles, was a finalist for the 2014 Pen-Faulkner Award. (Zoë)   An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon: A debut work of speculative fiction features a spaceship with a white supremacist cult at the helm, making a generations-long trip to a new world via the labor of a group of enslaved black people living belowdeck. Publishers Weekly called it "worldbuilding by poetry" and "stunning" in a starred review (Lydia).     Catapult by Emily Fridlund: Fridlund's 2017 novel History of Wolves was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize (our review). With Catapult, a collection selected by Ben Marcus for the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction, Fridlund gives us what Kirkus calls "bracing, often brilliant stories" to "deliver a shock to the routine narratives we tell." (Lydia)     Dunbar by Edward St. Aubyn: The master of grim family scenes pens the latest in the Hogarth Shakespeare series, retelling King Lear for a modern audience. St. Aubyn's Lear, a Scottish media mogul who is losing his marbles, has been shut up in an expensive facility by his scheming daughters, and breaks loose to wander the moors. Lear, says Publishers Weekly, is the “perfect vehicle for what this author does best, which is to expose repellent, privileged people and their hollow dynasties in stellar prose.” (Lydia)   Ferocity by Nicola Lagioia (translated by Antony Shugaar): Ferocity is the latest from Europa Editions, which also publishes Elena Ferrante (as well as gems like Treasure Island!!! and The Elegance of Hedgehog). Pitched as Gillian Flynn meets Jonathan Franzen, Ferocity won the 2015 Strega Prize, Italy’s preeminent fiction prize, and concerns a dead woman, her brother who’s set on figuring out what happened to her, and Southern Italy in the 1980s. Sign me up. (Edan)  

2017 National Book Award Longlists Unveiled

Book award season enters high gear as the National Book Award finalists have been released in a series of four longlists consisting of ten books apiece. Five finalists in each category will be announced on October 4, and winners will be announced in New York City on November 15. The fiction list includes an eclectic mix and features eight women, including Jennifer Egan for her long-awaited new novel. You read about nearly all of the books on the Fiction longlist here first, of course, as they appeared in our indispensable first-half and second-half previews. Here’s a list of the finalists in all four categories with bonus links and excerpts where available: Fiction: Dark at the Crossing by Elliot Ackerman(excerpt) The King Is Always Above the People: Stories by Daniel Alarcón  Miss Burma by Charmaine Craig (excerpt) Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan (Egan's Year in Reading) The Leavers by Lisa Ko (excerpt) Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (People Without a Home: On Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko) Her Body and Other Parties: Stories by Carmen Maria Machado  A Kind of Freedom by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton (excerpt) Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward ("Haunted by Ghosts: The Millions Interviews Jesmyn Ward", "Literature’s Inherited Trauma: On Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing") Barren Island by Carol Zoref Nonfiction: Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge by Erica Armstrong Dunbar (excerpt) The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America by Frances FitzGerald (excerpt) Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America by James Forman, Jr. (excerpt) The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia by Masha Gessen (read our interview with Gessen) Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the F.B.I. by David Grann (excerpt) No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need by Naomi Klein (excerpt) Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America by Nancy MacLean (read our interview with MacLean) The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein (excerpt) The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy B. Tyson (excerpt) Bunk: The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts, and Fake News by Kevin Young Poetry: Half-Light: Collected Poems 1965-2016 by Frank Bidart When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities by Chen Chen The Book of Endings by Leslie Harrison Magdalene by Marie Howe Where Now: New and Selected Poems by Laura Kasischke Whereas by Layli Long Soldier (Nick Ripatrazone on Layli Long Soldier) In the Language of My Captor by Shane McCrae Square Inch Hours by Sherod Santos Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith (Nick Ripatrazone on Danez Smith; excerpt) Afterland by Mai Der Vang Young People's Literature: What Girls Are Made Of by Elana K. Arnold Far from the Tree by Robin Benway All the Wind in the World by Samantha Mabry You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (excerpt) Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia American Street by Ibi Zoboi

Booker Prize Offers Up Eclectic 2017 Shortlist

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The Booker Prize has whittled down its longlist to an intriguing shortlist, and none of the authors tapped has previously won the Prize. This year, three Americans make the shortlist: Paul Auster, George Saunders, and Emily Fridlund. They are joined by the UK's Ali Smith and Fiona Mozley, and UK/Pakistani writer Mohsin Hamid. The bookies suggest that Saunders is the favorite to win. All the Booker Prize shortlisters are below (with bonus links where available): 4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster (Free Speech Is a Black-and-White Issue: The Millions Interviews Paul Auster) History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (A Classic Nightmare: On Emily Fridlund’s History of Wolves) Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (The World-Spanning Humanism of Mohsin Hamid) Elmet by Fiona Mozley Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (In the Between: Lincoln in the Bardo) Autumn by Ali Smith (Wordsmith: The Beguiling Gifts of Ali Smith)

The Millions Top Ten: August 2017

  We spend plenty of time here on The Millions telling all of you what we’ve been reading, but we are also quite interested in hearing about what you’ve been reading. By looking at our Amazon stats, we can see what books Millions readers have been buying, and we decided it would be fun to use those stats to find out what books have been most popular with our readers in recent months. Below you’ll find our Millions Top Ten list for August. This Month Last Month Title On List 1. 3. Ill Will 5 months 2. 2. American War 5 months 3. 4. Men Without Women: Stories 4 months 4. 7. Exit West 2 months 5. 10. The Idiot 2 months 6. 8. What We Lose 2 months 7. - The Seventh Function of Language: A Novel 1 month 8. - The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake 2 months 9. - Eileen 2 months 10. - The Changeling 1 month   Lots of action this month as our Hall of Fame absorbs three mainstays from the past six months: Lincoln in the Bardo, A Separation, and Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living. This marks George Saunders's third entry into the Hall of Fame. He'd previously reached those hallowed halls for Tenth of December and Fox 8. Meanwhile, The Nix dropped from our list after two months of solid showings. If he's reading this (because who isn't?) then hopefully Nathan Hill can look to two other titles on this month's list for solace. Both The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake as well as Otessa Moshfegh's Eileen are examples of books that have graced our monthly Top Ten one month (June, in this case) only to drop out for another (July), and then reappear (August). If they can do it, so you can you, Nix fans! The remaining two spots were filled by new novels from Laurent Binet and Victor LaValle. The Seventh Function of Language: A Novel, which was highlighted in both installments of our Great 2017 Book Preview, was expected to provide "highbrow hijinks." In her review for our site this month, Shivani Radhakrishnan confirms that it delivers in this respect. Calling Binet's novel "a madcap sharply irreverent French theory mash-up that’s part mystery and part satire," Radhakrishnan goes on to contextualize it among other works in detective fiction and theory, which, she writes, have a good deal in common and which, she writes, intertwine to great effect here: The new book turns Roland Barthes’s accidental death in 1980 into a murder investigation set against French intellectual life. With a cast of characters that includes Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, and Julia Kristeva with guest appearances by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Umberto Eco, and John Searle, it’s no surprise Binet’s book is way more dizzying than most detective stories. What is shocking, though, is how it manages to respect the theories and mock the theorists all at once. The Changeling, too, was highlighted on this site in one of our monthly mini-previews. At the time, Lydia Kiesling implored readers to check out LaValle's second novel, which she described as "a book that somehow manages to be a fairy tale, an agonizing parenting story, a wrenching metaphor for America’s foundational racist ills, and a gripping page-turner to usher in the summer." If you're still not sold, you can check out an excerpt from the book, or read our interview with the author from last year. Skulking just beyond our list – like some expectant, lovelorn dolphin admiring a human home-wrecker as he swims – is Alissa Nutting's Made for Love, which I reviewed a month ago, and which I encourage you all to buy and read so that this sentence makes sense. This month's other near misses included: The Art of Death: Writing the Final StoryHillbilly Elegy, Made for Love, Enigma Variations, and The Night Ocean. See Also: Last month's list.

September Prevew: The Millions Most Anticipated (This Month)

We wouldn’t dream of abandoning our vast semiannual Most Anticipated Book Previews, but we thought a monthly reminder would be helpful (and give us a chance to note titles we missed the first time around).  Here’s what we’re looking out for this month. Find more September titles at our Great Second-Half Preview, and let us know what you’re looking forward to in the comments! Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward: Ward returns with her first novel since her National Book Award-winning Salvage the Bones. Ward’s two books between, a memoir (Men We Reaped) and a book of essays she edited (The Fire This Time), deal head-on with racism in America and the woeful ways it’s still deeply embedded in our society. In Sing, Unburied, Sing, Ward’s southern-steeped voice is just as keen and continues to take on the South’s murky history, this time through the young Jojo as he travels with his drug-addicted mother and baby sister as they go to pick up his father just released from prison. (Anne) Forest Dark by Nicole Krauss: Krauss’s fourth novel follows the lives of two Americans in Israel in alternating chapters. The first character, Jules Epstein, is a recently-divorced, retired lawyer drawn to a rabbi; the second, a novelist named Nicole, is recruited by a mysterious literature professor working on a project about Franz Kafka. Krauss’s novel A History of Love has been rightly praised, but this new book might send people back to her equally intriguing debut, Man Walks into a Room, another investigation of what happens when our lives are radically transformed. (Nick R.)   Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng: With her 2014 debut, Everything I Never Told You, Ng proved she is a powerful storyteller of multifaceted families and the women within them forced to make difficult decisions. Her sophomore effort tangles multiple families in a drama of class and race in a Cleveland suburb. When single mother and artist Mia Warren moves to Shaker Heights, she rents from the well-off Richardson family. Of course, the initial fascination with the Warrens turns sour when they are pitted against the Richardsons in a town rift about a family adopting a Chinese-American child. (Tess)   Five-Carat Soul by James McBride: McBride returns to fiction for the first time since winning the National Book Award for The Good Lord Bird, his masterly novel about the exploits of the doomed abolitionist John Brown and his entourage. McBride’s new book, Five-Carat Soul, is a collection of stories told through the eyes of an antique toy dealer who makes the score of a lifetime; the poor kids in a neighborhood band called the Five-Carat Soul Bottom Bone Band; a mixed-race child who believes he’s the son of Abraham Lincoln; a boxer; a lion; a doctoral student who uncovers a beautifully complicated war story. Five-Carat Soul will thrill fans of McBride’s unmistakable fictional voice. (Bill) Dinner at the Center of the Earth by Nathan Englander: Though the latest by Englander takes place on three different continents, at heart it’s a novel about the conflicts of modern Israel. Z, or rather Prisoner Z, has been held at a black site in the desert for close to 12 years, where the only company he’s allowed is a single guard. The one official who knows about him is a comatose figure named The General. Through a series of flashbacks, we learn who Z really is: an American operative who compromised Israeli state secrets. (Thom)   Katalin Street by Magda Szabó (translated by Len Rix): Why does writing this vivid take so long to find its way West? Equal parts lament, paean, and family saga, Szabó’s 1969 novel (and 2007 Prix Cévennes winner) in Len Rix’s legato English translation captures handily the “double tragedy of eastern Europe”—razed by Nazis and rebuilt by Communists. The unquiet spirits of post-war Budapest put meat on the bones of the Soviet joke that “only the past is unpredictable,” and one less-than-silent witness of the sins and slights of a shattered community harbors no illusions about permitting the living to exist peaceably in the soft-focus sentimentality of their survival. (Il’ja) Letters to Memory by Karen Tei Yamashita: The author of Brazil-MaruThrough the Arc of the Rain Forest, and Tropic of Orange mines her family's history with archival materials from a Japanese internment camp, creating a hybrid work of fiction, nonfiction, and memoir that features recreated correspondence between composite characters from a range of academic disciplines. (Lydia)   Sourdough by Robin Sloan: If Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore was any indication, Sloan has a knack for putting the weird and wonderful back into the tech world. Protagonist Lois Clary is a San Francisco software engineer who find herself given the responsibility of keeping a secret sourdough starter alive. The addled coder soon turns into the most sought-after baker in the Bay Area, ruffling a few industry feathers along the way, until she's invited to join an emerging food and tech scene. It all sounds too wacky to be good, but Sloan's signature humor makes it a promising second novel. (Tess) Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke: I heard Locke—award-winning author of Pleasantville, a writer on Fox’s Empire, and a native of Texas—say that she wanted to write something about the black experience in the South that wasn’t only about prejudice, but showed that complexity and love and joy exist even in oppressive systems. I may be paraphrasing poorly, but I’m excited to read her book, which is about a black Texas Ranger trying to solve the murders of a black lawyer from Chicago and a local white woman. (Janet)   Affections by Rodrigo Hasbún (translated by Sophie Hughes): A work of historical fiction based on the life and family of Hans Ertl, cameraman to Leni Riefenstahl and photographer of Rommel, who settles in Bolivia after the war. The novel is set in the 1950s and 60s, and follows Ertl and his children on a disastrous mission into the Amazon. Kirkus calls it "A one-sitting tale of fragmented relationships with a broad scope, delivered with grace and power." (Lydia)   A Loving, Faithful Animal by Josephine Rowe: Rowe’s two previous books—How a Moth Becomes a Boat and Tarcutta Wake—were collections that walked the line between short fiction and prose poetry. A Loving, Faithful Animal, her exquisite first novel, is concerned with the long shadow of war across generations. Rowe tells the story of a fractured family in 1990s Australia after the father, a Vietnam War veteran, leaves home. (Emily)   After the Flare by Deji Bryce Olukotun: The sequel to Nigerians in Space, the afrofuturist novel The Guardian described as “an exquisite blend of unpredictable twists and lightening-speed plot.” After the Flare finds the world plunged into chaos following a devastating solar storm, after which only the Nigerian space program is functional. A group of scientists have to contend with looming space disaster and Boko Haram in a sequel that a starred Kirkus reviews calls "spectacularly imagined." (Lydia)   Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck (translated by Susan Bernofsky): German author Erpenbeck’s fiction takes deep root in personal history. To research her first novel she re-enrolled in high school. Visitation followed the history of a piece of land in her family, as it was divided and passed between past owners, as a lens for looking at the travails faced during WWII. With Go, Went, Gone Erpenbeck turns to the current refugee crisis—in the book a retired professor becomes involved assisting refugees and spends his evenings documenting their stories. Erpenbeck’s own work with refugees inspired the stories woven into her narrative; “the fusion of the found and the invented yields an indistinguishable amalgam,” according to the Goethe Institute. (Anne) Border by Kapka Kassabova: When Kassabova was a child growing up in Iron Curtain-era Bulgaria, the country’s isolated southern borderland—where Bulgaria meets Turkey and Greece—was rumored to be a relatively easy crossing point into the West, and so the region swarmed with migrants, soldiers, and spies. In Border, a work of narrative reportage, Kassabova returns to a region whose natural beauty is matched only by the complexity of its political and cultural landscapes: the Communist-era spies have long since departed, but the borderland, Mark Mazower wrote recently in The Guardian, remains “an environment that does not spare the unlucky or the vulnerable.” (Emily)   A Legacy of Spies by John le Carré: The first George Smiley novel in a quarter of a century, from the master of spy fiction. Enough said. (Lydia)            

31 Writer Dreams: A List

By the time September rolls around, the publicity cycle for my latest novel, Woman No. 17, will be over. That means, unless something totally unexpected happens for the book, there won't be any more press opportunities. It's a little sad (Wait? It's over? I'm already yesterday's news?!) and also: Phew, what a relief. As anyone who's published a book knows, the process can make you feel exposed and vulnerable. You're fragile. Your ego is in overdrive, as is your shame. Once a friend of mine was interviewed on Fresh Air about his novel. I was like, "OH MY GOD! YOU TALKED TO TERRY GROSS! ARE YOU DYING OF HAPPINESS?" He shook his head. He said he'd been doing a lot of weeping. I understood his pain; even when my first novel was a bestseller lauded by a famous TV host, I felt weird and confused. Publishing doesn't feel like writing does, and no matter how your book's doing, you kind of just want to crawl into a cave and pretend it isn't happening. Since Woman No. 17 has been published, I've wondered what would have to occur for me to feel 100 percent satisfied with the book's performance and reception. Here's what I came up with: 1.The book is a New York Times Bestseller for at least eight weeks in a row, but preferably 767 weeks in a row. 2. My Amazon ranking vacillates between #1 and #2 for those 767 weeks. 3. Oprah calls. 4. Terry Gross wants to interview me, and on Fresh Air we have a super deep conversation about my upbringing and my writing process that's better than any therapy. Plus, I make her laugh twice. "Thanks for having me, Terry," I say in a smoky, wise voice. 5. There’s a Triple Crown situation that throws the literary world in a tizzy: the book wins the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Pulitzer Prize. Someone stuffy writes an essay about my wins, which basically boils down to: “Since when did FUN books win awards?” 6. I’m asked to pose in a couture gown, holding a baby goat, for a profile in Vogue. 7. I do events across the nation, all of them packed to the gills, and there is not a single person in the audience asking me to read their as-yet-unpublished paranormal romance. 8. It’s named a best book of the year by every publication that makes lists of best books of the year. 9. The Los Angeles Times decides to review it. 10. My husband pours me a glass of wine (Vinho Verde, maybe?), and begs me to read some of my writing aloud to him, just so he can “hear the words pour over my soul.” 11. It’s adapted for the screen in a collaboration by Nicole Holofcener, Christopher Nolan, and Jill Soloway. Reese Witherspoon is definitely involved, and she keeps texting me, just to say hi. We send Bitmojis back and forth. (Cue to me chuckling privately every time my phone dings.) 12. The movie-version is a huge hit and I get to go to the Oscars and the Globes, where I befriend Chrissy Teigen and Terrence Malick. 13. My daughter realizes I’m an Important Author and stops throwing her smoothie across the room with an evil cackle. 14. Stephen King tweets rapturously about my writing. Lauren Groff retweets his tweet and adds something like, “Oh. My. God. SAME!” 15. I’m invited to do a Beauty Uniform, House Tour, and a Week of Outfits on Cup of Jo. However, it turns out readership for all blogs has gone down in recent weeks, because everyone is too busy reading my book to look at their phones. 16. The Obamas are photographed on vacation somewhere and Michelle’s got my book under one of her perfectly toned arms. When asked about it, she says, “Oh Barry said I had to read it.” 17. My book, or my name, appears in a New York Times Crossword Puzzle. I'm thinking something like, "2 across, four letters, American Author, _____ Lepucki" 18. All of my former lovers find ways to tell me they've never forgotten about my miraculous pussy. This is done in a non-creepy, non-threatening manner. (Maybe friends of friends tell me? Or: One of them (the rich one) hires a sky-writer above Malibu?) 19. No one ever spells my name Eden ever again. 20. I’m invited on The Ellen DeGeneres show. She and I do a little dance routine together in matching white suits and Converse. 21. The New Yorker reaches out. Can I write 200 words about Ocean Isle Beach, or chocolate rugelach, or Negronis, or unicycles, for their upcoming issue? Of course, they’ll take a short story if I have one ready. 22. The Iowa Writers’ Workshop calls to apologize for never offering me a Teaching-Writing Fellowship. 23. That mean British lady who reviewed my first novel on NPR issues a formal apology for not understanding how essential my work is to the next generation of writers and readers. 24. The next generation of writers and readers—in their jean-shorts that show their butt cheeks, with their mysterious internet acronyms—photograph my book with crystals, with bowls of cherries, with pottery they threw themselves. They post these photos with various hashtags, #edanlepucki #thenextjoandidion #butreally #read #it #now, and tag me. 25. My son tells me it’s fine if I go away for book events and artist retreats because he finally understands how difficult it is to be a writer and a mother. He also stops asking me to wipe his butt after he’s “tried” to wipe it himself. 26. George Saunders emails. He has my 2004 application to Syracuse’s MFA program in front of him. He knows they rejected me then, but would I want to come now? Full scholarship, etc. 27. Everyone who reads this list goes out and buys my novel. 28. In the rare event that someone posts a one-star review of the book on Goodreads, an angel dies somewhere. The reviewer understands this angel-loss intuitively. Also, physically: there is a loud, uncomfortable buzzing in their left ear, then a pain in the gut, possibly diarrhea, followed by a loss of hope more extreme than anything felt on November 9, 2016. They decide to re-read Woman No. 17 and it’s on this second read that they get it, the book is actually, really, truly good! Four stars! 29. The Trump pee tape is finally released. It turns out the women are pissing on a copy of my novel. 30. My mom calls to tell me I’m her favorite. 31. Time stops—literally stops moving forward—until everyone has read my book, and loved it, and told me so, and all my suffering is erased forever and ever amen. Modest dreams, no? Image: Envy Plucking the Wings of Fame, Wikimedia

The Millions Top Ten: July 2017

  We spend plenty of time here on The Millions telling all of you what we’ve been reading, but we are also quite interested in hearing about what you’ve been reading. By looking at our Amazon stats, we can see what books Millions readers have been buying, and we decided it would be fun to use those stats to find out what books have been most popular with our readers in recent months. Below you’ll find our Millions Top Ten list for July. This Month Last Month Title On List 1. 1. Lincoln in the Bardo 6 months 2. 2. A Separation 6 months 3. 3. Ill Will 4 months 4. 4. Men Without Women: Stories 3 months 5. 5. American War 4 months 6. 6. Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living 6 months 7. - Exit West 1 month 8. - What We Lose 1 month 9. 8. The Nix 2 months 10. - The Idiot 1 month   Otessa Moshfegh learned Icarus's lesson this month. A few weeks ago, she boasted not one but two titles on our Top Ten list – a feat that had never before been accomplished. But come July? Nada. How quickly things change. One month, you're 1/5 of our list; the next month, one of your books has graduated to our Hall of Fame and another has dropped out of the running entirely. Meanwhile, much of this month's list remains unchanged. The books in the first six positions didn't budge. Instead, three newcomers entered our ranks in the seventh, eighth, and tenth slots. Mohsin Hamid's Exit West is one of those new books. "Tracing the fissures in human community and global space, and reflecting on the possibility of their transcendence," wrote Eli Jelly-Schapiro in his review for our site, the book "maps the divides that structure the current global order." Next, in seventh position, we welcome What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons. In our recently published Great Second-Half 2017 Book Preview, our own Claire Cameron observed that "the buzz around this debut is more like a roar," and based on the book's immediate ascendance onto our list, that seems accurate. Finally, Elif Batuman's The Idiot fills tenth position in this month's list. To that development, Millions staffers would likely say: about time. Having earned not one, but two full-length reviews for our site, The Idiot has been lauded for the way its "layered truths and fictions...compounded so that everything in the novel became true and real in a deep, shining way that cannot be achieved through essays." (It's also been examined in the context of sexual power dynamics.) Next month, we can expect to see at least three openings on our Top Ten, and likely considerably more as the long tail of the Book Preview does its job. This month's other near misses included: Hillbilly Elegy, The Night Ocean, Void Star, Dunkirk: The History Behind the Motion Picture, and Blind Spot. See Also: Last month's list.

August Preview: The Millions Most Anticipated (This Month)

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We wouldn’t dream of abandoning our vast semiannual Most Anticipated Book Previews, but we thought a monthly reminder would be helpful (and give us a chance to note titles we missed the first time around).  Here’s what we’re looking out for this month. ("Phew, it's a hot one," etc.) Find more August titles at our Great Second-Half Preview, and let us know what you’re looking forward to in the comments! The Burning Girl by Claire Messud: Following The Woman Upstairs, Messud’s new novel tells the story of lifelong friends Julia and Cassie. Their paths diverge and the result is a story about adolescence that contrasts a childhood’s imaginary world against adult reality. Messud, who will always have my heart for her response to a question about an unlikeable female character, tackles big questions with complex and nuanced novels. It looks like this will deliver. (Claire)   Sour Heart by Jenny Zhang: Sour Heart is Lena Dunham’s first pick for her imprint at Random House, which is a delight since Zhang is a powerful fiction writer who offers an intimate look at girlhood. Karan Mahajan says that the book, which is narrated by daughters of Chinese immigrants, “blasts opens the so-called immigrant narrative.” And Miranda July reveals that Sour Heart will come to “shape the world—not just the literary world, but what we know about reality.” (Zoë)   New People by Danzy Senna: The fifth book from Senna, whose previous work includes the best-selling novel Caucasia and a memoir, Where Did You Sleep Last Night?, about her parents’ marriage. Like her earlier work, New People explores complex issues of race and class, following two light-skinned black Americans who marry and attempt to have it all in Brooklyn in the 1990s. In her review for The New Republic, Morgan Jerkins writes “What this novel succeeds in is creating a dense psychological portrait of a black woman nearing the close of the 20th century: inquisitive, obsessive, imaginative, alive.” (Lydia) Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie: Described as “a modern-day Antigone,” Home Fire follows Isma Pasha, a British woman who comes to America in pursuit of her Ph.D., her beautiful younger sister, and their brother, who’s haunted by the legacy of their jihadi father. Add in a rival London family, an increasingly tense political climate, an impossible romance, and remorse in Raqqa, and perhaps you can begin to see the Grecian similarities. The latest novel from Shamsie, whose Burnt Shadows was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction, Home Fire should prove moving and thought-provoking, even for those who never cared much for Antigone. (Kaulie) The Talented Ribkins by Ladee Hubbard: The Ribkins are quite the talented family. Johnny Ribkins, now 72, can make a precise map of any space, whether he’s been there or not. Johnny’s father could see colors no one else could see. His brother could scale walls. His cousin belches fire. This black American family once used their powers to advance the civil rights movement, but when disillusionment set in, Johnny and his brother turned their talents to a string of audacious burglaries. Now Johnny’s got one week to come up with the money he stole from a mobster—or he’ll swim with the fishes, as they say. Praised by Toni Morrison and Mary Gaitskill, Hubbard arrives on the scene with an auspicious bang. (Bill) Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo: This debut was described by The Guardian as a “clever and funny take on domestic life and Nigerian society.” Set in the 1980s, the story centers around the familial—and family planning—struggles of a young woman trying to conceive. She does everything she can, including ascending the Mountain of Jaw-Dropping Miracles, goat in tow, only to have her in-laws foist a second, and presumably more fertile, wife, upon her feckless husband. Published earlier this year in Britain, the novel was shortlisted for the Bailey’s Women Prize for Fiction. (Matt)   The Future Won’t Be Long by Jarett Kobek: Kobek had a surprise hit on his hands with 2016’s I Hate The Internet, his self-published satirical novel that lambasted the tech industry’s distortion of San Francisco. After that novel published to favorable reviews—including one from Dwight Garner in The New York Times—and strong sales, Kobek is returning with The Future Won’t Be Long.The forthcoming novel is a prequel to Internet that finds a younger version of Internet’s protagonist, Adeline, as a struggling young artist in New York. Written before Internet, Won’t Be Long tracks Adeline and her friend Baby as they navigate, in Kobek’s words, “the decaying remnants of Punk New York.” We can expect this novel to observe that decay with the same wit that characterized Internet. (Read our interview with him.) (Ismail) How to Behave in a Crowd by Camille Bordas: The first novel in English by the French novelist describes a bereaved family of precocious siblings who pass the time dissecting "prime-time television dramas in light of Aristotle’s Poetics." Bordas's novel comes with blurbs from George Saunders and Zadie Smith, who called the novel "charm itself!" (Lydia) The Hidden Light of Northern Fires by Daren Wang: A story of rebellion and danger, forbidden attraction, and a young woman’s solitary stand against the forces of slavery and violence, this historical novel is personal for debut author Daren Wang, whose parents bought the property in Town Line, NY—the only northern town to secede from the union—where the story takes place.  Wang, 50, kept telling the unlikely story to writers coming through the Decatur Book Festival, of which he is executive director, hoping someone would bite—until finally he realized he had to write it himself. While he fictionalized the heroine’s story, apparently “the most improbably parts are true.” (Sonya) Motherest by Kristen Iskandrian: Iskandrian’s debut is a coming-of-age story that mines key relationships—mother-daughter, father-daughter, siblings, new romance, female friendship—all in the context of a particular experience of fracture and loss.  Agnes is a college student who is both stunted and startlingly mature; her voice is sharp and winning and sad.  Iskandrian is a 2014 O’Henry Prize Juror Favorite and was called a “writer to watch” by PW (starred review). Motherest also received a starred review from Kirkus, who pronounced it “A powerfully perceptive story written with love, realism, and humor and that feels fresh despite the familiar terrain.” (Sonya) The Grip of It by Jac Jemc: With her second novel, The Grip of It, Jemc delivers a riveting tale of haunted houses and deteriorating relationships that’s drawing comparisons to Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves. Within The Grip of It a couple finds refuge in a new home, only to discover it’s haunted: their real estate agent is nowhere to be found as a decay sets into its structures and permeate the lives it touches. In this “stark and unsettling” tale, Amelia Gray says, “every page … is a shingle laid over the dark heart of a couple in quiet crisis.” (Anne) The World Broke in Two by Bill Goldstein: A non-fiction offering by the books editor of the New York Times on the Web, who argues that 1922 was a definitive year for literature. The book is a group biography of Virginia Woolf, T.S. Eliot, E.M. Forster, and D.H. Lawrence, all of whom published groundbreaking work that year. The book uses primary sources to provide a glimpse at the lives of these literary figures, including some spicy diary entries: "Again and again, [Goldstein] highlights the disconnect between their public praise of another's work and their private dismissal of it," a piece about the book on NPR reports. (Lydia) Eat Only When You're Hungry by Lindsay Hunter: A road trip novel about hunger, addiction, and fractured family set against the landscape of central Florida, from the author of Ugly Girls. Roxane Gay called it "utterly superb." (Lydia)

Put Down the Controller: Five Novels About Video Games

I’ve recently been seeing more fiction writers like myself turning to video games for inspiration. The ways that books and video games can tell us stories aren’t as different as I used to think. Both require intense concentration and thoughtful interaction, albeit in different ways. Both also insist upon our willingness to escape from the workaday world in order to step into one built word by word or bit by bit by somebody else. Now, with summer fully upon us, it’s time to—however reluctantly—step away from our video games and head to the beach or the local pool. For those gamers willing to put down the controller for a few hours and pick up a book, I’ve compiled a list of five novels that gamers are likely to enjoy. Jason Rekulak’s enjoyable debut novel The Impossible Fortress actually includes a video game. I know that sounds implausible, but each chapter begins with a line of BASIC code. It looks like this: 200 REM *** ESTABLISHING DIFFICULTY *** 210 PRINT “{CLR}{15 CSR DWN}” 220 PRINT “SELECT SKILL LEVEL” And so on. If you have an old Commodore 64 in the attic, you could type it all in and play a simple game. A more contemporary version of the same game can be found on Rekulak’s website. His story, set in 1987, features 14-year-old Will Marvin, whose commitment to coding a C=64 game of his own is causing him to flunk the ninth grade. He collaborates with his friend Mary to enter a game design contest, but his other friends’ increasingly desperate attempts to score a copy of Playboy becomes distracting. Those of us who grew up in the 1980s will appreciate the nostalgic recollections of cassette tapes and floppy diskettes. A video game also sits at the heart of another recent debut novel, Nathan Hill’s The Nix. In, it, World of Elfscape—an obvious stunt double for the massively popular World of Warcraft—features prominently. Having spent more time than is probably reasonable playing WoW, one passage in particular about the game’s weekly maintenance downtime hit close to home for me. A character by the name of Pwnage is waiting for the game servers to restart: And not knowing exactly when the servers would come back online made Pwnage feel stressed out, which was a bit of a paradox because the ostensible reason he played Elfscape was because it so effectively relieved his stress. It was where he turned when he felt too encumbered by the wearying details of his life. Nix’s writing rings true to my own gaming experiences and to a discussion I had with a clinical psychologist about the nature of video-game addiction while I was researching a nonfiction book. So too does Lucky Wander Boy by D.B. Weiss, which also features a fictional gamer’s determined efforts to keep playing no matter what. Before working on the Games of Thrones television series, Weiss wrote a book that reads like both a love letter to early arcade-cabinet video games and a purposely pompous dissertation on their supposed meanings. Our bro hero, Adam Pennyman, is planning the ultimate guide to video games, the Catalogue of Obsolete Entertainments. “It is difficult to ignore the similarities between Donkey Kong (the creature) and the demiurge of the Gnostic heresies,” Pennyman writes. “After imprisoning the true creator and occupying her harmonious creation, Donkey Kong defiles it, knocks it out of whack, making it as imperfect as the material world we are compelled to live in.” Pennyman wants to find and play a fictional and scarce arcade game from his childhood, Lucky Wander Boy. His quest sends him on every variety of misadventures and provides Weiss the opportunity to wax philosophic. It’s a riot, but Pennyman does make a compelling case for the importance of video games: “The Classic games were Classic because, like classical music or architecture, they strove to give life and weight to ideals of order and proportion, to provide a vision of timelessness.” One of the storylines in the magisterial Plowing the Dark by my former MFA professor Richard Powers involves a startup company’s efforts to create an immersive virtual reality environment known as the Cavern. The developers, it turns out, take inspiration not only from Plato’s famous allegory of the cave in The Republic, but also the classic text-based game Colossal Cave Adventure. One of the characters experiences a twinge of nostalgia that will sound very familiar to many of us who still play those old text-based games: He stared at the sentences and saw his father, one Saturday morning in 1977 when young Jackie had been acting out, taking him to the office and parking him in front of a gleaming Televideo 910, hooked up to a remote mainframe through the magic of a Tymeshare 300-baud modem. Many longtime gamers know that Colossal Cave Adventure directly inspired what is arguably the most influential video game of all time, Adventure for the Atari 2600. That was the first graphic adventure game and it included the first known Easter egg in video game history. At the time, video game designers didn’t receive much in the way of public credit for their work. In Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, the fictional game designer James Halliday described what happened next: “‘So the guy who created Adventure, a man named Warren Robinett, decided to hide his name inside the game itself. He hid a key in one of the game’s labyrinths. If you found this key, a small pixel-sized gray dot, you could use it to enter a secret room where Robinett had hidden his name.” This is a true story. I spoke to Robinett while writing my own book. “I called it my signature,” he told me. “Like down in the corner of the painting.” Robinett’s sneaky Easter egg was central to Cline’s epic of geek literature. In Ready Player One, Halliday created a massively multiplayer online game called OASIS that grew so large it became a kind of virtual reality. Inspired by Adventure, upon his death, he made it known that he hid an Easter egg in OASIS. Cline’s story details the exploits of the teenage Wade Watts, who dreams of discovering Halliday’s secret and inheriting his vast fortune. True to form, Cline buried an Easter egg of his own deep in Ready Player One and in 2012 he gave a DeLorean to the first person who found it. (Perhaps this would be a good time to admit that my own novel included an Easter egg—a hidden reference to a particular, well-known video game—that to the best of my knowledge no one has yet discovered. Good luck finding it. Sorry, though: I will not be buying anyone a sports car.) Video games have played important roles in many other novels, of course, like God Jr. by Dennis Cooper, United States of Japan by Peter Tieryas, and JPod by Douglas Coupland. One detail that jumps out about this reading list, though, is that these are all written by men. That might be consistent with the unfortunate public stereotype about gamers, but in reality, according to the Pew Research Center, “equal numbers of men and women play video games" and "there are no differences by race or ethnicity in who plays video games." I’ve discovered many short stories about video games by women, including Kit Reed, Kelly Link, and Amber Sparks, but strangely few novels. I know that my friend Natalie Mesnard is writing a novel about video games, and I have every reason to suspect it will be awesome. Holly Jennings’s Arena looks promising, and there are some licensed tie-in books, but please use the comments section to tell me what else I’m missing out on. Perhaps the apparent paucity of novels about video games by writers of color and women has something to do with the fact that their many contributions to video game history have been overlooked for too long. In the years to come, I’m eager to see that change, and for this list to grow and diversify. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

The Booker’s Dozen: The 2017 Booker Longlist

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In the fourth year that the Booker Prize has been open to U.S. authors, four American authors again make the longlist, including National Book Award and Pulitzer-winner Colson Whithead. Arundhati Roy is the lone former winner on the list. Notable names like George Saunders, Paul Auster, Zadie Smith and Mohsin Hamid make for formidable competition alongside three debut novels. All the Booker Prize longlisters are below (with bonus links where available): 4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster (Free Speech Is a Black-and-White Issue: The Millions Interviews Paul Auster) Days Without End by Sebastian Barry History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (A Classic Nightmare: On Emily Fridlund’s History of Wolves) Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (The World-Spanning Humanism of Mohsin Hamid) Solar Bones by Mike McCormack Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor Elmet by Fiona Mozley The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (In the Between: Lincoln in the Bardo) Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie Autumn by Ali Smith (Wordsmith: The Beguiling Gifts of Ali Smith) Swing Time by Zadie Smith (Nameless and Undefined: On Zadie Smith’s Swing Time) Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (Scars That Never Fade: On Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad)

Ten Ways to Organize Your Bookshelf

I recently moved to a new apartment, which gave me an excuse to pursue, without guilt, my favorite procrastination activity: reorganizing my bookshelf. It also forced me to go through each and every one of my books and ask hard questions like, am I really ever going to read The Forsyte Saga? (Answer: It’s been up there for 10 years, but maybe? I kept it.) Or: will I ever reread Middlemarch, and if so, will I want to use this yellowed paperback with a taped spine that I got for free off of a stoop? (Answer: No. If a person returns to Middlemarch, they deserve a fresh copy, possibly a reissue with interesting new cover art.) On my old shelves, my books were organized into four broad genres: fiction, nonfiction, plays, and poetry. Fiction was arranged by date published, nonfiction by subject area, and plays and poetry were not in any particular order. On my new shelf, I stuck with my broad genres, and within each one, I kept things simple and organized everything alphabetically. Boring, but effective. But part of the fun of reorganizing your books is considering all your options, so here are 10 organizational strategies for the next time you find yourself in the throes of moving, decluttering, or, if you’re anything like me, procrastinating. 1. Chronologically, by Date Published As I mentioned above, this is how I have arranged the majority of my books for the past decade. It’s kind of a pretentious way to shelve your collection, and to make it even more pretentious, I got the idea secondhand, from a literary memoir. (I can’t remember whose memoir anymore.) But this method ended up working for me for two reasons: 1) the act of putting my books on the shelf in order helped me to remember history, and to get a better sense of which writers were writing and publishing at the same time, and perhaps influencing one another; and 2) when I add books to my collection, they’re usually brand-new, published recently, and it's easier to just plunk them down on the end of the shelf rather than finding a place for them alphabetically. 2. By Color If you have a large number of books, this is an extremely silly way to organize your bookshelf. I know, because I tried it once. I have a good memory for covers and I thought it would be an intuitive way to find my books—and would look pretty, too. What I didn’t realize is that the spines of books are sometimes a different color from the front covers. I found myself spending a lot of time looking for, say, a book I was certain was red, only to discover that its spine was blue. But, if you really love putting things in rainbow order, and you have a small number of books that you know well, this could be a visually striking way to arrange your shelves. 3. Artful Piles I’ve seen this in design magazines and once when I was visiting a fancy Nolita loft, where tall stacks of art books were arranged in uneven piles on a long bench. It reminded me—not unpleasantly—of the scene in The Great Gatsby when Nick Carraway visits Gatsby’s library and discovers that none of the pages of the books have been cut for reading. So if you have a lot of beautiful books that are just for show, artful piles might be the way to go. 4. By Subject/Genre If you’re a collector of books on a particular subject, or a big fan of a particular genre, this is probably the most satisfying way to arrange your books. It’s also a good way to organize your books if you don’t have a good memory for titles and authors. I group my nonfiction books by subject because I don’t always remember nonfiction authors and titles as readily as writers of fiction. My subjects are: History, Criticism/Literary Interest, New York City, and Art/Design. (I debated giving memoirs, letters, and journals their own nonfiction subject area but ultimately decided to shelve them with fiction, since in many cases, I’m most interested in the memoirs of authors whose fiction I admire.) A handful of my books don’t fit into any of those categories, and they are stacked up vertically in a miscellaneous pile, near the art books. 5. Geographically I’ve never seen anyone organize books this way, but why not? The question is, when you’re organizing geographically, do you go by the author’s place of birth or the particular place that an author is associated with? For example, would Joseph Mitchell be a New York writer or a southern writer? What about Ernest Hemingway? The Midwest, Florida Keys, or Spain? Another option would be to organize by the geographical setting of a particular book, which is somewhat more definitive, though many books are located in multiple locations and/or fictional places. A compromise might be to devote a section on your bookshelf to one particular geographical area. 6. In Order of Importance and/or Goodness This could be a good way to start debates among guests. It also could be a good way to kill a rainy afternoon. 7. Secretively If you don’t want anyone to know what you’re reading and/or if you don’t care about being able to find your books, you can place them on the shelves so that the spines are facing the wall. This will give your shelves a soothing, monochromatic look. It will also make it difficult for people to borrow books from you. 8. Alphabetically This is the obvious, most boring method, but it might be the friendliest, too. Anyone looking for a book in your library will be able to find it. It’s kind of interesting, too, to see who ends up next to each other. 9. Randomly You don’t have to organize your books at all. You can shelve them in no particular order, like Pamela Paul, New York Times Book Review editor: “What I like about that disorder is that it allows that element of surprise and serendipity.” Personally, I couldn’t stand to do this at home, but I do enjoy perusing the strange mix of books that you find in beach houses and summer cottages, for the way it always leads to an unexpected choice. 10. Autobiographically Credit for this idea must be given to the film High Fidelity (based on the Nick Hornby’s novel by the same name). Post break-up, a lovelorn record store owner, Rob, decides to reorganize his record collection autobiographically. He arranges his records in an order that only he can understand, the key to which are his life experiences and personal obsessions. He explains to a friend, “If I want to find the song “Landslide,” by Fleetwood Mac, I have to remember that I bought it for someone in the fall of 1983 pile, but didn’t give it to them for personal reasons.” It could be argued that every bookshelf, like every piece of writing, is autobiographical, even with its veneer of objective organization, but I admit I can see the nostalgic appeal in consciously organizing my books according to the stages of my life. I’m not sure how I would end up grouping my books, but it would be interesting to think back on all the people—family members, teachers, friends, writers—who have influenced my reading, the classes I’ve taken, the authors I’ve met, the booklists I’ve clipped, and the summers I’ve whiled away. I’d also have to reckon with some of the less flattering aspects of my bookshelf, like the fact that a certain number of books will always remain unread, and another, larger percentage will never be reread because my hope of returning to them “one day” has nothing to do with a desire to reengage with the author, but instead, to return to a certain period of my life, a frame of mind, or even a particular person or place. To shelve autobiographically is to embark on a journey of self-examination, which is why I’m saving it for when I undergo a midlife crisis—or maybe when I move to a bigger apartment. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.