Each season, Barnes & Noble’s Discover Great New Writers program offers good insights into just-popping books that people will be reading and discussing. Many of the books on this fall’s list will have already hit your radar—e.g., Edan Lepucki’s California, famously praised by Stephen Colbert, and Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist and Malcolm Brooks’s Painted Horses, which buzzed mightily at both BookExpo America and the American Library Association conference. Check out the entire list if you’re interested in a good reading experience.
Two debut novels featuring young heroines include Marie-Helene Bertino’s 2 AM at the Cat’s Pajamas (Crown. Aug.), a little charmer that opens with spunky nine-year-old Madeline Altimari’s hunt for the famed Philly jazz club on Christmas Eve, and Angela Pneuman’s Kentucky-set Lay It on My Heart (Houghton, Jul), about 13-year-old Charmaine Peake’s tough transition as her visionary father is committed to a mental institution and her mother moves them to a trailer camp. The American West gets its due with Brian Hart’s Bully of Order (Harper, Sept.) and Malcolm Brooks’s Painted Horses (Grove, Aug.), both historicals backdropped by tumultuous change, and Kim Zupan’s contemporary Ploughmen (Holt, Aug.), featuring tension between a jailed killer and a deputy sheriff.
More fiction in historical mode: Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist (Ecco, Aug.), about a young wife troubling new life in 17th-century Amsterdam, redeemed by a doll house; and Vanessa Manko’s The Invention of Exile (Penguin Pr., Aug.), about a Russian immigrant to America forced into exile and separated from his family. Fiction with a contemporary setting: Michael Pitre’s Fives + Twenty-Fives (Bloomsbury USA. Aug.), a former marine’s blunt take on the dangers of war in Iraq; Craig Davidson’s Cataract City (Graywolf, July), featuring two Canadian friends bound by a dark childhood secret; and Jack Livings’s Dog: Stories (Farrar. Aug,), energized tales about contemporary China.
Fiction in translation includes Daniel Kehlmann’s F (Pantheon. Aug.), about three young brothers whose eccentric father disappears after undergoing hypnosis, and Edgar Cantero’s Supernatural Enhancements (Doubleday. Aug), about a young man of undefined European descent who inherits a Virginia estate from a cousin he never knew he had and gets a lot more than he bargained for. Finally, in more fantastical mode, there’s Stephanie Feldman’s The Angel of Losses (Harper, Jul.), whose heroine discovers her grandfather’s cache of notebooks filled with stories about a miracle worker named the White Rebbe and the enigmatic Angel of Losses, and Edan Lepucki’s California (Little, Brown, July), about a couple looking for a little security in a post-apocalyptic world loaded with zombies.
The Discover program is good about boosting nonfiction as well as fiction newbies, and this season’s list includes Will Boast’s Epilogue. (Liveright: Norton, Sept), the Iowa Short Fiction Award winner’s shocking discovery of his deceased father’s secret; Caitlin Doughty’s Smoke Gets in Your Eyes (Norton, Sept.), both a chronicle of the author’s work at a crematory and a meditation on how we avoid facing death; and Adam Rackley’s Salt Sweat and Tears: The Men Who Rowed the Oceans (Penguin. Sept.), which features the author’s intrepid 70-journey rowing across the Atlantic (with a partner) while celebrating the daring pioneers who did it before them.
And more nonfiction, in a sociopolitical vein: Jeff Hobbs’s heartbreaking The Short & Tragic Life of Robert Peace (Scribner, Sept.), about Hobbs’s roommate at Yale, a brilliant student from the Newark ghettos who faced the stress of living in two very different worlds and finally cracked from feeling at home in neither; Jenny Nordberg’s Underground Girls of Kabul (Crown, Sept.), about the Afghan practice of bacha posh, raising girls as boys in a culture that devalues the female sex; and Gail Gutradt’s In a Rocket Made of Ice: Among the Children of Wat Opat (Knopf, Aug.), featured at Day of Dialog’s Editors’ Picks panel and focusing a Cambodian orphanage for children with or orphaned by HIV/AIDS.