Ask any of our booksellers what they love most about their jobs, and you’ll hear a chorus of voices say, “Recommending books we love to other readers.” Our booksellers read deep into specific categories or widely across genres; they never stop talking about the books that broke their minds wide open, the stories they can’t stop thinking about, the ones that made them cry. The booksellers who sit on our Discover Great New Writers program selection committee read voraciously, and with a specific mandate: find the best and the beautifully written, indelible stories and unforgettable characters, in fiction and nonfiction, created by authors who have not yet become household names. The titles our booksellers chose for the Discover Great New Writers program are the books we can’t wait to press into the hands of other readers, with a simple admonition: You’ve got to read this. (Our submission guidelines are here and our Fall 2015 Selections are here.)
So we’re terrifically pleased to announce the extraordinary 20 books on our Spring 2016 Discover Great New Writers list—ten novels, one short story collection, and nine nonfiction titles covering current affairs, social science, history, science, essays, and biography/memoir (including our first graphic memoir selection from a writer/artist). These titles will be landing in stores and on Nook devices between January and April 2016.
Appearances are everything for the young couple at the heart of Andria William’s tense and atmospheric debut novel The Longest Night, but there’s so much more at stake (as there was for The Wives of Los Alamos). Fiction fans will be delighted by the family drama of The Nest—a perfect companion to Maggie Shipstead’s Seating Arrangements and Emma Straub’s The Vacationers or J. Courtney Sullivan’s Maine. Abby Geni’s sense of place in her magnificent novel The Lightkeepers reminded us of Eowyn Ivey’s Alaska in The Snow Child; Geni’s prose reminded us of last year’s Discover Award winner (fiction), All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld. The exquisitely poignant debut novel Spill Simmer Falter Wither had readers in tears and desperate to talk to
one another about what they had just read. Jung Yun’s dark, dark novel, Shelter, is a page-turning must-read for anyone who compulsively read Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin or Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You, both bestsellers. We’re always looking for what we like to call One A.M. Reads in the Discover meeting room; Bill Beverly’s Dodgers is exactly that, a noir novel that reminded us of Richard Price and George Pelecanos. Sunil Yapa’s debut, Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist is an ambitious and compassionate novel about fathers and sons and politics and power that evokes Colum McCann’s National Book Award winning bestseller Let the Great World Spin.
“Poor Moose,” we said, shaking our heads while reading Jonathan Lee’s High Dive, a novel set at a seaside hotel in Britain that is by equal turns laugh-out-loud funny and poignant. Lauren Groff, Ayana Mathis and Joshua Ferris are as wildly impressed by Lee’s debut as we were.
The First Book of Calamity Leek built a world so vividly that we didn’t want to leave, much like we felt when reading previous Discover pick, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. Family mythologies are center stage in Idra Novey’s zingy novel, Ways to Disappear. Helen Maryles Shankman’s story collection, In the Land of Armadillos, blends mythology and history into a single, unforgettable voice.
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It’s not all fiction on the Spring 2016 list, starting with the world’s largest refugee camp in City of Thorns. Like Katherine Boo, Philip Gourevitch and Peter Godwin did in their critically-acclaimed bestsellers, Ben Rawlence balances personal stories with big-picture sociopolitical investigative journalism—and kept us reading until deep into the night.
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City also kept us turning pages and talking, like previous Discover picks Ghettoside by Jill Leovy or Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink. Evicted stands beside Adrian Nicole LeBlanc’s masterpiece Random Family or Alex Kotlowitz’s modern classic There Are No Children Here.
Hope Jahren is a female scientist at the top of her game and reading her memoir, Lab Girl, made us want to drop everything and re-enroll in school. Rob Roberge is losing his mind, but he’s been taking notes, and our readers were astonished by the raw power of his memoir, Liar. Tom Hart’s toddler daughter died unexpectedly and his graphic memoir of life before and after profound grief, Rosalie Lightning, belongs on the shelf next to Sonali Deraniyagala’s Wave. “Of course I’m going to jump into the abyss,” writes Rob Spillman in his gorgeous memoir of his unsettled youth and search for home, All Tomorrow’s Parties.
Also on this list is Consequence, in which Eric Fair attempts to reconcile his faith and morality with the choices he’s made both in and out of wartime. It is a harrowing and thought-provoking read, a book that we believe will spark discussion nationwide.
Fans of essays by John Jeremiah Sullivan, Geoff Dyer, and Leslie Jamison won’t want to miss Shame and Wonder. David Searcy languidly unspools riffs on everything and nothing and we couldn’t get enough of his sharp, and often very funny, prose.
We had a ton of fun reading Dead Presidents: An American Adventure into the strange deaths and Surprising Afterlives of Our Nation’s Leaders, an engaging mix of history, biography and travelogue (There was lots of yelling “who knew?” around the office) Brady Carlson’s serious research, love for his subject and breezy tone reminded us of the fun we have reading bestsellers by Tony Horwitz and Sarah Vowell.
We’ll have more for readers in the coming weeks; look for us here on B&N Reads.