2013 is about half over, and the books editors at Amazon have already chosen their top 10 books of the year so far, just in time for you to make a few additions to your beach bag. Unlike the film industry, there isn’t a clearly defined “prestige” season for book releases, so it wouldn’t be surprising if a lot of these titles popped up on year-end best lists as well — although there are still many highly touted titles yet to come in the fall, including ones from Donna Tartt, Amy Tan, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Marisha Pessl. Check out Amazon’s picks and snippets from EW reviews below:
1. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson: What if you could be born again and again? This brilliant, multi-layered novel answers that question as Atkinson’s protagonist moves through multiple lives, each one an iteration on the last, flirting with the balance between choice and fate. (EW Grade: A. Leah Greenblatt wrote, “Atkinson’s domestic vignettes and wide-screen portraits of wartime resonate with startling physical and emotional clarity, and even her repetitions find fresh revelations.”)
2. The Son by Philipp Meyer: A multigenerational Western spanning the 1800s Comanche raids in Texas to the 20th century oil boom, The Son is a towering achievement. (EW Grade: A. Keith Staskiewicz wrote, “Meyer intercuts these three stories deftly and assuredly, and his period prose is tremendously rich in detail. It may not be the Great American Novel, but it certainly is a damn good one.”)
3. Frozen in Time by Mitchell Zuckoff: Two adventures in one… recounting the 1942 crash (and subsequent struggle to survive) of a U.S. cargo plane crew in Greenland, and describing the author’s own participation in a modern day mission to uncover the mystery behind their disappearance. (EW Grade: A. Tina Jordan wrote, “In this true-life nail-biter — as nimbly paced as a novel — Zuckoff toggles between the events of 1942–43 and 2012, when he documented a quest to locate the Duck’s wreckage.”)
4. The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer: The characters in this novel pulse with life as Wolitzer follows a group of teenagers who meet at a summer camp for artsy teens in 1974 and work to maintain their friendship through the competitions and realities of growing up. (EW Grade: A. Melissa Maerz wrote, “She’s every bit as literary as Franzen or Eugenides. But the very human moments in her work hit you harder than the big ideas. This isn’t women’s fiction. It’s everyone’s.”)
5. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini: Following The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, Hosseini has written another masterwork, one that moves through war, separation, birth, death, deceit, and love — illustrating how people’s actions, even the seemingly selfless ones, are shrouded in ambiguity. (EW Grade: A. I wrote, “While it hits all the Hosseini sweet spots — nostalgia, devastating details, triumph over the odds — And the Mountains Echoed covers more ground, both geographically and emotionally, than his previous works. It’s not until Hosseini makes the novel small again, for the poignant conclusion, that you fully appreciate what he’s accomplished.”)
6. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell: This young-adult novel about two kids who fall in love on a bus is sweet without being saccharine. And it’s a story adults can love, too. (Read Breia Brissey’s interview with the author).
7. Gulp by Mary Roach: Roach is about as entertaining a science writer as you’ll find, and this book about how we ingest food will make you think, laugh, and wince as she covers all things alimentary. (EW Grade: A–. Keith Staskiewicz wrote, “As with Roach’s whole body of work, Gulp is as engrossing as it is gross.”)
8. After Visiting Friends by Michael Hainey: Unfolding like a novel, this nonfiction gem starts with journalist Hainey uncovering inconsistencies within his own journalist father’s obituary — and while the truth behind the death will eventually be uncovered, greater truths await for Hainey, ones that will change the way he views the past and the present. (Read Rob Brunner’s interview with the author.)
9. Tenth of December by George Saunders: Saunders’ first collection of short stories in six years introduces his ironic, absurd, profound, and funny style to an army of new readers. (EW Grade: A. Rob Brunner wrote, “While some fans might miss the demented brilliance of ”orange/Grammy/man-briefly-involved-with-a-Ding-Dong/piles-of-mush/penisless-man coalition”-style Saunders in the book’s more reality-grounded tales, Tenth of December still offers an irresistible mix of humor and humanity.”)
10. The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker: This enchanting debut, set mostly in turn-of-the-century Manhattan, is both a well-researched historical novel and a spectacular work of fantasy. (EW Grade: A. Tina Jordan wrote, “The book’s magic, filtered through the old-time hustle and bustle of the Lower East Side, lingers long after the final page.”)
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