The coming year is full of long-awaited sequels, promising debuts, not-so-secret pseudonyms, and several books involving bloody murder. Read more on what notable authors in both fiction and non-fiction are up to in 2014.
E. L. Doctorow
At the outset of Doctorow’s psychological puzzle Andrew’s Brain, cognitive neuroscientist Andrew explains—to what appears to be his therapist—that when his ex-wife died, he was too crippled by depression and self-doubt to take care of his baby daughter, and he describes leaving her with his ex-wife. Later, however, Andrew insists he’s actually incapable of feeling, and he proceeds to tell and retell his story, retooling its sequence of events, adding and recycling and reimagining details as he goes. But is it Andrew’s worldview that keeps shifting, or is it the world itself? Doctorow, author of the National Book Award-winning World’s Fair, offers a tantalizing riddle.
When 70-year-old Peter Els’s dog dies, 911 responders arrive at his home and discover a room converted into an amateur biochemical engineering lab. Orfeo, National Book Award winner Powers’s novel inspired by the Greek myth of Orpheus, follows Els, a onetime adjunct professor, as he flees from the ensuing federal investigation and along the way visits his estranged family members; in flashbacks, Powers tells the story of a man so entranced by the act of creation—first of music, then of biochemical processes—that it has isolated him from much of the world.
Joyce Carol Oates
When Zeno Mayfield’s daughter goes missing one night in the wilderness near the Adirondack mountains, his entire town of Carthage pitches into the effort to find her. All evidence, however, points to foul play on the part of a well-respected Iraq War veteran closely associated with the Mayfields. Oates, a National Book Award winner and Pulitzer Prize nominee, promises a deep-probing study of PTSD, family loyalty, and forgiveness.
Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of The Great Gatsby
Shortly before F. Scott Fitzgerald died in obscurity, he scribbled down a list of the real-life inspirations for his then-ignored novel, The Great Gatsby. Using those clues as a jumping-off point, Churchwell reconstructs histories of Prohibition, organized crime, celebrity culture, and bacchanalian Long Island weekends to tell the story behind one of America's greatest works of fiction and its decadent portrait of the 1920s.
The last time 1993 Booker Prize winner Roddy Doyle wrote about the cocky young musician Jimmy Rabbitte and his wild adventures in Dublin, the result was 1987’s beloved, soulful The Commitments (which later became an equally beloved and soulful film of the same name). Twenty-seven years later, Doyle has decided to revisit Rabbitte—who’s now a cocky older musician with kids, a wife, and newly diagnosed bowel cancer. With his mortality now in mind, Rabbitte reconnects with his old Commitments bandmates, reunites with his estranged brother, and rediscovers the awkward, humiliating delights of family life.
Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor
The first novel from the renowned Kenyan writer—her short story about Rwandan refugees, “Weight of Whispers”, won the African equivalent of the Booker Prize in 20013—opens with a murder. After Ajany Oganda's brother is shot and killed in Nairobi, their difficult mother flees, leaving Ajany and her grieving father to pick up the pieces of their broken family. Their loss is complicated by an out-of-town Englishman, a mysterious merchant, and a steeled policeman who all flesh out the novel’s depiction of post-election unrest in a country working to make sense of the horrors of its past.
After a decade-and-a-half-long wait, readers can finally look forward to another set of tragicomic vignettes from Moore. Unlike the young mothers and daughters of Moore’s earlier works, many of the main characters in Bark are divorced, depressed parents in the throes of the often-demoralizing process of raising teenagers. And yet, though the tales themselves deal bleakly with themes of failure and emotional disconnect, Publishers Weekly calls the stories in Moore’s first short story collection in 15 years “laugh-out-loud funny.”
A Nice Little Place on the North Side: Wrigley Field at One Hundred
George F. Will
“Every player should be accorded the privilege of at least one season with the Chicago Cubs,” legendary shortstop and MLB manager (and one-season Cubs player) Alvin Dark once said. “That’s baseball as it should be played—in God’s own sunshine.” Lifelong Cubs fans, like syndicated columnist George Will, would probably say the Cubs’ storied home stadium offers baseball as it should be watched, too. On the eve of Wrigley Field’s centennial anniversary, Will applies his trademark wit and warmth to the history—the real, folklore-free version—of the Chicago Cubs franchise and their home field.