Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Best Books of 2011...Looking forward to the Second Half

The Millions is back with its preview of forthcoming books, this time looking at the best books of the second half of 2011.

Looks like a terrific six months of reading (with October being a particular gutbuster).

Setting aside the absolute must reads for a lit fic nut (Eugenides, Whitehead, DeLillo, Didion, Ondaatje, Murakami), here's what I am most looking forward to getting my opposable thumbs on:

We Others: New and Selected Stories by Stephen Millhauser

By my scorecard, Millhauser is 2 for his last 2 with Dangerous Laughter and Martin Dressler, We and Others is a pretty good bet. Millhauser assembles eclectic, compelling stories and characters just about as well as anyone, so this new collections promises to be a smorgasbord of setting and stories.

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harback

This is a debut novel about baseball and college with magnificent blurbs by Ape favs Franzen and Evison. Harback is also the found of n+1, so the literary nerd factor here is set to 11.

I Married You for Happiness by Lily Tuck

Tuck won the 1983 National Book Award for the great The News from Paraguay and then....didn't write a new book. Until now. That alone gets my fingers ready for page-turning, but it also stalks one of the hardest fictional game: portraying the relationship that develops between two people after a lifetime lived together. This, combined with the title, has my tear ducts building up inventory right now.

The Stranger's Child by Allan Hollinghurst

I admired The Line of Beauty more than I liked it; I could appreciate Hollinghurst's portrayal of 1980s England, but I couldn't get myself to care about it. This is my fault, not the works, but summoning my attention won't be a problem for The Stranger's Child, as World War I is a pet and professional interest. This promises a little more action and a little less decadence than The Line of Beauty, which is all to the good.

Nanjin Requiem by Ha Jin
In many ways, this is the book I've been wanting, and fearing, Ha Jin would write. Jin is a master of the finely observed domestic story, with a particular gift for silence, longing, and sadness. Here, the canvas is broadened considerably; the 1937 Japanese invasion of Nanking could not a be a more harrowing setting for Jin's narrative refinement. I am anxious to see how he manages.


  1. Franzen mentioned The Art of Fielding in this week's issue of Time - said it's a "terrific first novel" and it "left a hole in my life the way a really good book will." And it's about baseball. There is a 100 percent chance I'm going to love that book, methinks.

  2. Loved your "tear ducts building up inventory right now" comment on I MARRIED YOU FOR HAPPINESS.  I'm adding Millhauser to my to-read.  Coming in mid-August, it looks to be a great option to finish the summer.

  3. I can't wait for Eugenides new book either! Thanks for the books you chose to highlight--they are all new to me!

  4. I'm crying for happiness and sadness. Let me start budgeting my money. LOL. I really need to hit the lottery so I can spend the next 80 years of my life reading.