Runaway Hits of 2013

Americanah
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

By turns tender and trenchant, Adichie’s third novel takes on the comedy and tragedy of American race relations from the perspective of a young Nigerian immigrant. From the office politics of a hair-braiding salon to the burden of memory, there’s nothing too humble or daunting for this fearless writer.

The Flamethrowers
Rachel Kushner
Politics, art and motorcycle racing all spring to life in Kushner’s radiant novel of the 1970s, in which an aspiring artist moves to New York, only to get involved in the revolutionary protest movement that shook Italy. The novel deploys mordant observations to explore how individuals are swept along by social forces.

The Goldfinch
Donna Tartt
Tartt’s intoxicating third novel follows the travails of Theo Decker, who emerges from a terrorist bombing motherless, but in possession of a prized Dutch painting. The novel is packed with incident and populated with vivid characters. At its heart is the unwavering belief that  art can save us by lifting us above ourselves.

Life After Life
Kate Atkinson
Demonstrating the agile style and theatrical bravado of her much-admired Jackson Brodie mystery novels, Atkinson takes the evils of mid-20th-century history and the nature of death as she moves back and forth in time, fitting together versions of a life story for a heroine who keeps dying, then being resurrected.

Tenth Of December Stories
George Saunders
Saunders’s entertaining stories veer from the deadpan to the flat-out demented: Prisoners are force-fed mood-altering drugs; ordinary saps cling to delusions of grandeur; third-world women become bourgeois lawn ornaments. This collection advances his abiding interest in questions of class, power and justice.

After The Music Stopped — The Financial Crisis, the Response, and the Work Ahead
Alan S Blinder
Blinder’s terrific book on the financial meltdown of 2008 argues that it happened because of a “perfect storm,” in which many unfortunate events occurred simultaneously. Blinder criticises both the Bush and Obama administrations for letting Lehman Brothers fail, but he also praises them for taking steps to save the country from falling into a serious depression.

Days Of Fire — Bush and Cheney in the White House
Peter Baker
Baker succeeds in telling the story of the several crises of the Bush administration with fairness and balance, which is to say that he is sympathetic to his subjects, acknowledging their accomplishments but excusing none of their errors. Baker is fascinated by the mystery of the Bush-Cheney relationship, and even more so by the mystery of George W. Bush himself.

Five Days At Memorial —Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital
Sheri Fink
In harrowing detail, Fink describes the hellish days at a hospital during and after Hurricane Katrina, when desperate medical professionals were suspected of administering lethal injections to critically ill patients. Masterfully and compassionately reported, the book poses reverberating questions about end-of-life care, and how individuals and institutions break down during disasters.

The Sleepwalkers — How Europe Went to War in 1914
Christopher Clark
Clark manages in a single volume to provide a comprehensive, highly readable survey of the events leading up to World War I. He avoids singling out any one nation or leader as the guilty party. The participants were, in his term, “sleepwalkers,” not fanatics or murderers, and the war itself was a tragedy, not a crime.

Wave
Sonali Deraniyagala
On the day after Christmas in 2004, Deraniyagala called her husband to the window of their hotel room in Sri Lanka. “I want to show you something odd,” she said. The ocean looked foamy and closer than usual. Within moments, it was upon them. Deraniyagala lost her husband, her parents and two young sons to the Indian Ocean tsunami. Her survival was miraculous, and so too is this memoir.

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