Featured List

Ayelet Waldman

Ayelet Waldman’s imaginative and clever new novel, Love & Treasure, hinges on a fraught historical event: the Hungarian Gold train which carried a horde of Jewish treasure stolen by the Nazis.

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The Book: The Top Ten

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Elizabeth Spencer

Writers are not like wine; most do not improve with age. For many, their first book is their best; others hit their height mid-career. The number who reach their peak – or rediscover it – in old age is vanishingly small.

Wally Lamb

Wally Lamb is back with an “ultra-contemporary novel” that deploys his gift for empathy to explore love, sadness, sexuality, ethnicity and art across two decades among a group of upper-middle class resident of Connecticut.

Paul Auster

Top Ten contributor Paul Auster earns a rave from Sarah Manguso in tomorrow’s New York Times Book Review.

Here’s the opening: “Writing multiple novels is generally considered a triumph, writing multiple memoirs a somewhat shameful habit. Still, I’ve never heard anyone sniff about Paul Auster’s autobiographical recidivism; perhaps his 16 acclaimed novels compensate for it. In any case, on the basis of his five memoirs alone, Auster should be recognized as one of the great American prose stylists of our time.

Roxana Robinson

Literature allows us to enter another person’s mind. Often, it is the same one – the writer’s, refracted and bent through characters who, nevertheless, often have too much in common.

Roxana Robinson’s work is an effort to shatter the constraints of consciousness, bringing readers inside the head of radically different characters, from the artist Georgia O’Keeffe in a nonfiction biography to a young heroin addict and his parents in her 2008 novel, Cost.

Andrea Barrett

Top Ten contributor Andrea Barrett is receiving strong reviews for her ninth book, an “elegant new story collection” titled Archangel.

John Freeman says the five interlaced stories feel “like a dispatch from the moving front of scientific discovery, [spanning] the wake of Darwin’s theory to the aftermath of Einstein’s discovery of relativity.”

The Physics of Communication

(This is the slightly revised text of the speech I gave at North Carolina State University to kick off its annual Communication Week).

When I was invited to speak at N.C State’s Communication Week I wondered – what do they do the other 51 weeks of the year? Is State, in fact, a monastery where everyone takes an oath of silence? Or maybe it’s just preparing students for marriage.

Edwidge Danticat

Top Ten contributor Edwidge Danticat is featured in this Sunday’s New York Times Book Review. Here are some select questions (read the entire piece here) as well as her Top Ten List and brief appreciation of one of her favorite books, Masters of the Dew by Jacques Romain.

Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how).

Cathleen Schine

Top Ten contributor Cathleen Schine has received a warm review for her latest novel, Fin & Lady, in the New York Times Book Review.

Andrew Hudgins

I was going to start this item by describing an anecdote from Andrew Hudgins’s terrific new memoir, The Joker. But Kyle Minor did this so well in Salon, I’ll let him do the work:

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New List

Cathleen Schine

1. Emma by Jane Austen (1816).
2. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman (1855–91).
3. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (1869).
4. Phineas Finn: The Irish Member by Anthony Trollope (1869).
5. Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens (1864–65).
6. Quartet in Autumn by Barbara Pym (1977).
7. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1884).
8. The stories of  Alice Munro (1931– ).
9. The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki (1943–48).
10. Pictures from an Institution by Randall Jarrell (1954).

Classic List

George Saunders

1. Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol (1842).
2. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1884).
3. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (1869).
4. Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne (1759–67).
5. Hamlet by William Shakespeare (1600).
6. The stories of Isaac Babel (1894–1940).
7. The stories of Anton Chekhov (1860–1904).
8. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (1969).
9. Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett (1953).
10. On the Road by Jack Kerouac (1957).