Lists and Notable Articles

The Most Anticipated Books of 2008

By posted at 5:35 am on January 4, 2008 16

With 2007 in the rear view mirror, we now look ahead to a new year of reading, one packed with intriguing titles.

Let’s kick off with a pair that Garth was already pining for a year ago:

coverJonathan Littell’s Les Bienveillantes (The Kindly Ones) won the Prix Goncourt and was a runaway bestseller in France. Not bad for a novel that runs over 900 pages. The Kindly Ones has been generating buzz on this continent for a while now, with Forbes asking “2008′s Hottest Book?” back in 2006. The delay, of course, is the translation, which many have suggested is quite an undertaking for this complex volume. Literature-in-translation headquarters, The Literary Saloon, meanwhile, has been following the progress, and recent accounts indicate that the going is slow. Many readers are hoping to get their hands on this one in 2008, but my sources at HarperCollins tell me 2009 is a likelier bet. Of course, you could read it in French.

The other book, Roberto Bolano’s 2666 (we were 600 years off when we wrote about it last year), also lacks a release date, but its arrival seems somewhat more tangible in that the translator has at least been identified – it’s Natasha Wimmer. Late last month she told the Times’ book blog that she was just finishing up. She added, “Long stretches of the novel are set on the Mexico-U.S. border and inside a prison. And that’s not all. Bolano really gives the translator a workout. I also researched Black Panther history, pseudo-academic jargon (actually, some of that came naturally), World War II German army terminology, Soviet rhetoric, boxing lingo, obscure forms of divination and forensic science vocabulary, among other things. If that makes the novel sound like a hodgepodge, I promise it’s not. Even the most obscure detours are thoroughly Bolano-ized – filtered through his weird, ominous, comic worldview.” The Spanish speakers among us can already have this one in hand if they want.

coverAlready out or coming soon: 2006′s surprise Pulitzer winner for March, Geraldine Brooks, has another novel out that draws from both literary and literal history. Last time it was the Civil War and Little Women, with The People of the Book, it’s World War II and the Sarajevo Haggadah. If you want to learn more about the famed Haggadah and the real-life events that inspired Brooks’ novel, there was a recent New Yorker story on the topic (which is sadly not available online.)

coverRoddy Doyle’s new collection of stories, The Deportees, includes one that revisits characters from his iconic novel The Commitments. Of the collection, The Independent writes, “Charm and animation are the qualities that count with Doyle’s deportees, as he goes about sticking up for disparaged incomers in a context of Dublin demotic exuberance.”

coverAdam Langer decamps Chicago, the stomping ground of his last two novels, for his new book Ellington Boulevard, “an ode to New York” according to the catalog copy. The book, says The Daily News, “tells the story of one apartment before, during and after the boom years in city real estate. 2B is on W. 106th St. and a new landlord is looking to make a killing.”

coverFebruary: Lauren Groff’s debut, The Monsters of Templeton arrives on the scene with a nice boost from Stephen King, who way back last summer had this to say about the book in Entertainment Weekly: “The sense of sadness I feel at the approaching end of The Monsters of Templeton isn’t just because the story’s going to be over; when you read a good one – and this is a very good one – those feelings are deepened by the realization that you probably won’t tie into anything that much fun again for a long time.” That taken together with novel’s first line – “The day I returned to Templeton steeped in disgrace, the fifty-foot corpse of a monster surfaced in Lake Glimmerglass.” – is enough to pique the interest of many a reader, I’d imagine.

coverIn keeping with the theme of debut novels with impressive backers, Ceridwen Dovey, who grew up in South Africa and Australia, scored blurbs from J.M. Coetzee and Colum McCann for Blood Kin, which PW describes as “a parable of a military coup as told by the ex-president’s barber, portraitist and chef.” It sounds like it may share some territory with Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s Wizard of the Crow. Another novel of a regime and its hangers on.

coverIn The Invention of Everything Else, Samantha Hunt has crafted an “imagining of an unlikely friendship between the eccentric inventor Nikola Tesla and a young chambermaid in the Hotel New Yorker where Tesla lives out his last days,” according to the publisher’s catalog description. Hunt was one of the National Book Foundation’s “5 under 35” in 2006. We can report that, anecdotally at least, the book is generating some interest. When we requested a galley from Houghton Mifflin a few weeks ago, we were told they were all gone.

March: Tobias Wolff has a handsome volume of “New and Selected” stories on the way, Our Story Begins. The title story appeared in a 1985 collection, Back in the World, reviewed here by Michiko Kakutani.

coverApril: Interesting coincidence: Richard Bausch recently told Washington Post readers about his new novel, “It’s called Peace, and is set in Italy, near Mt. Cassino, in the terrible winter of 1944. Based on something my father told me long ago.” Over the last couple weeks, I’ve been reading about the battles that raged around Cassino in the winter of 1944, in Rick Atkinson’s excellent history of the liberation of Italy, Day of Battle. I would imagine there’s much for Bausch to draw from there.

coverKeith Gessen, of n+1 fame will see his debut novel, All the Sad Young Literary Men, published in April. The LA Times, naming Gessen a “writer to watch,” offers back handed half-compliments, calling the book “a novel about, well, other bookish, male, Ivy League-schooled bohos in New York — their burning literary, academic and journalistic ambition, their pain. It’s a powerfully intelligent book that stylistically falls somewhere between a narcissistic wallow and a Tom Perrotta-style satire.” That may or may not be too harsh, as Gessen and company seem to inspire snark wherever they tread, but if anything, the discussion surrounding the book may be as fun to read as the book itself.

Esteemed host of The Elegant Variation and friend of The Millions, Mark Sarvas will deliver his long awaited debut, Harry, Revised in April. He’s been keeping us up to date on his blog.

Andrew Sean Greer also has a new book out in April, The Story of a Marriage. It’s set in 1950s San Francisco.

You may have read Jhumpa Lahiri’s “Year’s End” in the year end New Yorker fiction issue. It’ll be collected with several other stories in Unaccustomed Earth

coverMay: James Meek blew me away in 2006, with his odd and fantastical historical novel, A People’s Act of Love, which immersed readers in a world of post World War I Czech soldiers marooned in Siberian Yazyk among a mystical sect of castrati who lurk through the town like ghosts. And let’s not forget the escaped convict who claims he is being pursued by a cannibal. Meek is back in May with a much more conventional sounding effort, We Are Now Beginning Our Descent, about a journalist in the Afghan mountains covering the post-9/11 war and then back, trying to make sense of the “real” world upon his return.

Tim Winton is a big name among Australian readers but not so much in the States. However, his rough-edged characters and windswept, lonely landscapes will transport nearly any reader to the remoter parts of Australia with ease. His latest, Breath, coming in May, offers big-wave surfers “on the wild, lonely coast of Western Australia.”

coverJune: Regular New Yorker readers may recognize the name Uwem Akpan. The Nigerian-born native of Zimbabwe landed a coveted spot in the Debut Fiction Issue in 2005 for his story “An Ex-Mas Feast,” and he was back again 2006 with “My Parents’ Bedroom.” Both stories appear in his forthcoming debut collection, Say You’re One of Them, which seems likely to fit in well with the mini-boom of African literature that we’ve seen over the last few years.

Salman Rushdie’s forthcoming novel The Enchantress of Florence sounds very ambitious. Here’s a description from the Guardian: “Machiavellian intrigues of international high politics are scarcely the preserve of our century alone and in Salman Rushdie’s The Enchantress of Florence, the original master of unscrupulous strategy takes a starring role. This seductive saga links the Mughal empire with the Renaissance by way of an Indian princess, Lady Black Eyes, who finds herself central to the power struggles of 16th-century Florence. A virtuoso feat of storytelling, Rushdie’s novel also reflects on the dangers that come when fantasy and reality grow too intertwined.”

July: Chris Adrian wowed readers in 2006 with his post-apocalyptic novel The Children’s Hospital. That novel’s ardent fans will be pleased to get their hands on a new collection of stories called A Better Angel. The collection’s title story appeared in the New Yorker in 2006.

Western Haruki Murakami fans may have heard that another of his books has been translated. This one is a memoir titled – with a casual reference to another literary giant Raymond CarverWhat I Talk About When I Talk About Running. On his blog Ted Mahsun notes, “The book is about his experience running in marathons. He’s quite the accomplished runner, having run in the Boston, New York and Tokyo marathons, amongst others. I didn’t think it would get translated into English since a lot of Murakami’s non-fiction which have been published in Japan gets ignored by his translators.” It’s Murakami’s only other non-fiction to appear in English besides Underground

August: Paul Theroux is ready to tell us about another of his epic train rides in Ghost Train to the Eastern Star: 28,000 Miles in Search of the Railway Bazaar. “Thirty years after his classic The Great Railway Bazaar, Paul Theroux revisits Eastern Europe, Central Asia, India, China, Japan, and Siberia.”

Date undetermined: Garth enjoyed Gregoire Bouillier’s “refreshingly odd voice” in his quirky memoir The Mystery Guest. Another memoir, Report on Myself, which won the Prix de Flore in France is forthcoming in spring 2008, but a release date has not yet been indicated.

Tell us about your most anticipated books in the comments.





Share this article

More from the Millions

16 Responses to “The Most Anticipated Books of 2008”

  1. MBR
    at 7:00 am on January 4, 2008

    I asked about the release date of 2666 over at Three Percent and they said it will have a November release date, although I can't confirm that anywhere.

  2. Poornima
    at 7:21 am on January 4, 2008

    I was really looking forward to this post, Max. Thanks!

    I am eagerly awaiting Chang-Rae Lee's "The Surrendered" which originally was to release in April but now Riverhead doesn't have a fixed date.

    Aleksandar Hemon's "The Lazarus Project" is another one I have my eyes set on. Both Lee and Hemon are among my favorite authors.

  3. Tony S.
    at 7:34 am on January 4, 2008

    Siri Hustvedt has a book coming out in April, 2008, called "The Sorrows of an American Woman". I read her "The Blindfold" which was a wonderful read; haven't read "What I Lived For" yet.

  4. The Modesto Kid
    at 7:42 am on January 4, 2008

    Well I hadn't really been anticipating any books, to speak of; but now all of a sudden that Enchantress of Florence sure sounds like something to look forward to.

  5. Cabin Fever
    at 9:26 am on January 4, 2008

    Hi Max! Thanks for your great list–I'm looking forward to these too:

    "Willing" by Scott Spencer, novel; March

    "The Plague of Doves" by Louise Erdrich, novel; April

    "While They Slept: An Inquiry in the Murder of a Family" by Kathryn Harrison, nonfiction; June

    "Size of the World" by Joan Silber, novel; June (Her previous book, nominated for NBA, "Ideas of Heaven" is marvelous)

    "Home" by Marilynne Robinson, novel; September (I think…)

  6. Colleen
    at 3:44 pm on January 4, 2008

    This is a great list Max – thanks!

    On the YA side I'm looking forward to Jenny Davidson's The Explosionist due out in July from Harper Collins. From her site:

    "It is the story of a 15-year-old girl growing up in an alternate version of 1930s Edinburgh, one where the legacy of Napoleon's victory a century earlier at Waterloo is a standoff between a totalitarian Federation of European States and a group of independent northern countries called the New Hanseatic League. This world is preoccupied with technology (everything from electric cookers to high explosives) but also with spiritualism, a movement our world largely abandoned in the early twentieth century; Sigmund Freud is a radio talk-show crank, cars run on hydrogen and the most prominent scientists experiment with new ways of contacting the dead."

    I also can't wait to read Samantha Hunt's novel!

  7. Edan
    at 5:58 pm on January 4, 2008

    Pauper that I am, I'm looking forward to some paperback releases of books from 2007!

    …and the new Charles Baxter.

  8. Fausto Maijstral
    at 6:31 am on January 5, 2008

    Good list, but it should read Jonathan Littell, not Robert Littel.

  9. Max
    at 9:58 am on January 5, 2008

    Thanks for the heads up Fausto. That's been fixed.

  10. Laurie
    at 11:11 am on January 6, 2008

    Wolf Totem by Jiang Rong, due out in late March 2008. A huge seller in China, and winner of the first Man Asian Literary Prize in 2007. Partly autobiographical story of Mongolian tribal life, set during the Cultural Revolution.

    The White King by Gyorgy Dragoman, due out in late April 2008. Based on the author's childhood growing up in 1980s Romania under the Ceausescu dictatorship.

    The Seamstress of Hollywood Boulevard by Erin McGraw, August 2008. Novel based on the life of the author's grandmother, who ran away from Kansas in 1901 at age 17 to create a life for herself in the nascent Hollywood film industry.

  11. Lisa
    at 6:06 am on January 7, 2008

    "Deep Dish" by Mary Kay Andrews is due out in late February. After reading some books with serious topics such as "Infidel", by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, I'm ready for a quick, funny read! Mary Kay's books are a riot! If you haven't read any of them, you should pick one up! Her sense of humor is fabulous and the southern charm is refreshing! This one is about 2 rival TV chefs. Should be a hoot!

  12. philq
    at 12:27 pm on January 7, 2008

    Don't forget Javier Marías's final volume of Your Face Tomorrow. I read somewhere that it should be published by New Directions at the end of 2008.

  13. Anonymous
    at 1:39 pm on January 8, 2008

    Accomplished runner…compared to…Jim Harrison? Let's not get carried away with ourselves here. Completing a marathon and being an 'accomplished runner' are worlds apart.

  14. Anonymous
    at 4:11 pm on January 8, 2008

    The new T.C. Boyle; don't know a date, but it's about Frank Lloyd Wright.

  15. Poornima
    at 11:43 am on January 23, 2008

    The Farrar Straus & Giroux Fall catalog confirms that Bolano's 2666 will release in November.

  16. Fashion House
    at 8:49 am on March 14, 2008

    I am also very excited to read Meredith Tresi's book, due out sometime this year!

Post a Response

Comments with unrelated links will be deleted. If you'd like to reach our readers, consider buying an advertisement instead.

Anonymous and pseudonymous comments that do not add to the conversation will be deleted at our discretion.