Like the group of college students who, in 1974, were given an early screening of Star Wars to determine if lightsabers and Death Stars would indeed enthrall the young masses (and indeed it did), we booksellers are given heaps of books in advance of release so we might read and be (or not be) enthralled. Here are three that enthralled me:

 

Purchase

The Purchase

Linda Spalding

Release date: Aug. 6, 2013

 

This is a good one, readers. Think Louise Erdrich’s multi-generational, decade-spanning family sagas, set in the unforgiving landscape of 1798 frontier Virginia. After the death of his wife, Daniel Dickinson, a Quaker, marries his young servant. That, it turns out, was a very bad decision, and Daniel and his young children are kicked out of the community. His troubles start there, grow, and multiply as the family travels to Virginia and settle. The most shocking event, which sets most of what follows in motion, is Daniel’s purchase of a young slave, an action that surprises Daniel himself most of all. Throughout, The Purchase is beautiful, violent, touching, honest, and very real. Big recommendation.

 

PeopleTrees

The People in the Trees

by Hanya Yanagihara

Release date: Aug. 13, 2013

 

Conceive, if you will, a delirious brew of H.P. Lovecraft, Gothic horror, and Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow – the encounter of the Other, gone hideously wrong – and you start to get a taste of The People in the Trees. This book knocked me out like nothing in recent memory – wildly unique, haunting, well-made and carefully written. Between shudders, I remembered fondly Ellen Ullman’s overlooked novel By Blood and how unreliable narrators make horror all the more horrifying. People in the Trees, while a throwback in style, is wholly original – Yanagihara makes a strange, astonishing debut here, and it’s one of my absolute favorites of recent years.

 

doomed-us

Doomed

Chuck Palahniuk

Release Date: Oct. 8, 2013

 

If you haven’t read Chuck’s Damned, read Chuck’s Damned. Then just try and tell me you aren’t itching to know what happens next in Madison’s adventure. As someone who read Chuck Palahniuk in high school – Invisible Monsters on through to, approximately, Lullaby – then fell off, reading these two entries of his in-progress trilogy have made me wish I had kept pace with him throughout the years. There is something special about these books. Madison is one of the most humane, generous, and plucky protagonists to navigate such a bizarre, (literally) hellish landscape as contained here. She does, however, drive a spear through contemporary pretension, privilege, and social posturing with merciless derring-do – this time, though, the point is less about outrage, and more about…love. Who would of thought?