Key Summer Titles | Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers

It may be snowing in New York City as I write, but the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers program is already announcing its top summer picks. Pay attention, because this IMG_scally1program is excellent at spotting worthy and big-breaking books. The titles most likely to make tracks, maybe to some best sellers lists, include Smith Henderson’s Fourth of July Creek (Ecco. Jun. 2014. ISBN 9780062286444. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062286444), a “significant debut” (forthcoming LJ review) about a beleaguered Montana social worker dealing with a near-feral child; Justin Go’s The Steady Running of the Hour (S. & S. Apr. 2014. ISBN 9781476704586. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781476704609), a “page turner and an impressive first work” (LJ 1/14) featuring a young man chasing down his past; and PEN USA Rosenthal Fellow Cynthia Bond’s Ruby (Hogarth. Apr. 2014. ISBN 9780804139090. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780804139106), about a young woman’s risky return to her small hometown in Texas.

Two other likely contenders for stardom include Lauren Owen’s The Quick (Random. Jun. 2014. ISBN 9780812993271. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780679645054), whose heroine searches for her missing brother through a darkening 1890s London, and Elise Juska’s The Blessings (Grand Central. May 2014. ISBN 9781455574032. $24; ebk. ISBN 9781455574018.), about a close-knit Irish Catholic clan.

And here are some personal favorites I’d love to turn into hits: Granta Best Young British Novelist Evie Wyld’s beautifully written All the Birds, Singing (Pantheon. Apr. 2014. ISBN 9780307907769. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9780307907776), whose heroine confronts strange wynnwarhappenings on a remote British isle; National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 honoree Bret Anthony Johnston’s Remember Me Like This (Random. May 2014. ISBN 9781400062126. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780812996166), “ultimately uplifting despite the dark subject matter” (LJ 3/1/14); Aaron Gwyn’s taut, heart-of-darkness Wynne’s War (Houghton Harcourt. May 2014. ISBN 9780544230279. $25; ebk. ISBN9780544230323), in which “Gwyn stakes his claim” to producing the “memorable fiction about the Iraq-Afghanistan wars” we’ve been anticipating (LJ 2/15/14); and Mira Jacob’s The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing (Random. Jul. 2014. ISBN 9780812994780. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780812994797), about one family’s worldwide search for meaning.

Fiction features a few sleeper hits: Darragh McKeon’s All That Is Solid Melts into Air (Harper Perennial. May 2014. ISBN 9780062246875. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062246875), which filters a love story through the Chernobyl disaster; Boris Fishman’s A Replacement Life (Harper. Jun. 2014. ISBN 9780062287878. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062287892), a bitterly funny tale of forging Holocaust restitution claims that “cleverly ties the loose ends of truth, justice, morality, and family into a tidy bow” (forthcoming LJ review); and Eve Harris’s The Marrying of Chani Kaufman (Black Cat: Grove. Apr. 2014. ISBN 9780802122735. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9780802192660), a tale of Jewish marriage in contemporary London.

Then there’s Arna Bontemps Hemenway’s Elegy on Kinderklavier (Sarabande. Jul. 2014. ISBN 9781936747764. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781936747856), a story collection considering the consequences of war. I haven’t seen this book yet, but a quick online survey of Hemenway’s stories reveal award-winning tendencies and a liquid but densely packed writing style, and Sarabande’s recent publication of books like Caitlin Horrocks’s This Is Not Your City, Laura Kasischke’s If A Stranger Approaches You, and Thomas Heise’s Moth; Or How I Came To Be with You Again othersidesuggests an eye for telling fiction.

The list isn’t all fiction, with several memoirs standing out as vote getters. Two are harrowing. Lacy M. Johnson’s The Other Side: A Memoir (Tin House. Jul. 2014. ISBN 9781935639831. pap. $15.95; ebk. 9781935639848) recounts Johnson’s captivity by a former boyfriend intent on raping and killing her and her escape and eventual healing, while Sean Madigan Hoen’s Songs Only You Know (Soho. Apr. 2014. ISBN 9781616953362. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781616953379) details his dysfunctional family (drug abuse was rampant) against the welcome backdrop of Detroit’s hardcore punk scene.

Nina Stibbe gives us a lighter memoir with Love, Nina (Little, Brown. Apr. 2014. ISBN 9780316243391. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780316243407), an account of her nannying in 1980s literary London that draws on letters she sent home. Meanwhile, the science-minded can be absorbed in Will Harlan’s Untamed: The Wildest Woman in America and the Fight for Cumberland Island (Grove. Jun. 2014. ISBN 9780802122582. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780802192622) and Dave Goulson’s A Sting in the Tale (Picador. Apr. 2014. ISBN 9781250048370. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781250048387), from the founder of Britain’s Bumblebee Conservation Trust and a finalist for the Samuel Johnson Prize. Now there’s a title with buzz.

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.