Curl up with a good book: Winter brings a variety of titles
The death of the written word has been forecast endless times. Film, radio, television and the Internet were all supposed to diminish the appetite for books.
Despite those gloomy prognostications, the dawn of 2014 finds writers still penning new books, and readers with a seemingly unquenchable thirst for new material. Here's a look at new releases for the new year, by writers of promise, of reputation and of interest.
“The Invention of Wings” (Viking, Jan. 7) by Sue Monk Kidd. Set in Charleston, S.C., at the turn of the 19th century, the book tells the story of an 11-year-old girl who is given her own slave. Kidd is the author of “The Secret Life of Bees,”
“A Star for Mrs. Blake” (Knopf, Jan. 14), by April Smith. The author of the Ana Grey thriller series takes a different tack with this historical novel set in the 1930s about five American mothers who travel to France to visit the graves of their sons killed in World War I.
“Saints of the Shadow Bible” (Little, Brown, Jan. 14) by Ian Rankin. Rankin resurrects his most-beloved character, detective John Rebus, in juxtaposition to new characters from “The Complainants” series, with the referendum on Scotland's independence serving as a backdrop.
“Carthage” (HarperCollins, Jan. 21) by Joyce Carol Oates. The prolific writer's latest novel is about a decorated Army veteran of the war in Iraq who is connected to the disappearance of a girl.
“An Officer and a Spy” (Knopf, Jan. 28) by Robert Harris. Harris' new novel is a retelling of Alfred Dreyfus' imprisonment for treason in Paris in 1895 via Georges Picquart, the counterintelligence officer who exonerates him.
“Ripper” (HarperCollins, Jan. 28) by Isabel Allende. The Chilean writer is known for atmospheric and evocative tales such as “The House of Spirits” and “City of the Beasts,” but “Ripper” is a mystery set in San Francisco about a teenager tracking a serial killer.
“One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories” (Knopf, Feb. 4) by B.J. Novak. Known for his acting work on “The Office,” debuts with a collection of 60 very short short stories. Early reviews for the collection, which features stories about Tony Robbins and a hare bent on vengeance, are good.
“The Sun and Other Stars” (Simon & Schuster, Feb. 4) by Brigid Pasulka. This novel about a young Italian man who falls in love with the sister of a soccer star is being compared to Jess Walters' “Beautiful Ruins.” Pasulka won a PEN/Hemingway Award in 2010 for the novel “A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True.”
“After I'm Gone” (HarperCollins, Feb. 11) by Laura Lippman. The Baltimore-based writer, whose novels transcend the mystery label, returns with a character-driven story about a man who disappears in 1976, and a retired detective who finds his trail 26 years later.
“The Forever Girl” (Pantheon, Feb. 11) by Alexander McCall Smith. Every six months, it seems, McCall releases a book. This one, set in the Grand Cayman Islands and Scotland, is a stand-alone about “unrequited love and the unexpected places it takes us,” according the publisher's blurb.
“Half World” (Simon & Schuster, Feb. 18) by Scott O'Connor. Based on a true 1950s clandestine CIA operation, Project MKULTRA, in which American citizens were experimented on with drugs without their knowledge. In O'Connor's novel, an agent associated with MKULTRA and ridden by guilt disappears and is sought by another agent, 20 years later.
“Free Falling, As If in a Dream: The Story of a Crime” (Pantheon, Feb. 25) by Lief GW Persson. The latest novel by Swedish writer Persson, a noted crime expert in his homeland, is about the unsolved murder of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme in 1986.
“Bark: Stories” (Knopf, Feb. 25) by Lorrie Moore. The first short-story collection by Moore since “Birds of America” 15 years ago features atypical and illuminating stories about musicians, divorce, 9/11 and a fundraiser.
“The Blazing World” (Simon & Schuster, March 11) by Siri Hustvedt. A female artist, tired of being ignored by the art world, convinces three male artists to present her work as their own. From the author of “The Summer Without Men.”
“The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover's Secret FBI” (Knopf, Jan. 7) by Betty Medsger. In 1971, a cache of secret documents was stolen from the FBI's office in Media, Pa. Medsger, who covered the story for The Washington Post, tracks down the activists who masterminded the heist four decades ago.
“Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War” (Knopf, Jan. 14) by Robert Gates. Gates' service as secretary of defense in the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama — he's the only person in American history asked to remain in the office by a newly elected president — should give this biography a unique perspective.
“e. e. cummings: A Life” (Pantheon, Feb. 11) by Susan Cheever. The author of “My Name Is Bill” (about Bill Wilson, founder of Alcoholics Anonymous) and “Home Before Dark” (a memoir about her father, John Cheever) takes a new look at one of the most renowned poets of the 20th century.
“John Wayne: The Life and the Legend” (Simon & Schuster, April 1), by Scott Eyman. Eyman, who has penned books about Hollywood icons Cecil B. DeMille, Louis Mayer and John Ford, takes on one of the biggest figures in American cinema.
“A View from a Broad” (Simon & Schuster, April 1), by Bette Midler. Expect the Divine Miss M's autobiography to be just like her: bold, brassy and larger than life.
Hillary Rodham Clinton also has an as-yet-unnamed biography coming out. Simon & Schuster is the publisher for the scheduled June 1 release.
Rege Behe is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.