The mistletoe has been put away, the presents unwrapped, the New Year’s Champagne uncorked, and you still haven’t quite finished Franzen’s Freedom. But new books on how to run the world, turn around Starbucks, deal with a famous father, and even join a club are all coming out in the next few months. So get ready for the new literary season.
Here is The Daily Beast’s picks of the most controversial, intriguing, and just best reads for the first few months of 2011.
From the author of Second World comes a guide to the future of international relations in an increasingly chaotic and fractured world. Khanna, a New America Foundation strategist and former Brookings fellow, depicts a 21st century that politically resembles the Middle Ages in its plethora of competing institutions, but that, like the original epoch, has the potential to turn into a Renaissance.
Destiny and Desire: A NovelBy Carlos Fuentes
He may not have won the Nobel last year, but this new novel makes clear that Fuentes is one of the boldest writers today. The personal and political become dangerously intertwined in this tale of a decapitated head that washes ashore but goes on to recount the life of its former owner and his friend who was close to the president.
My Father at 100: A Memoir By Ron Reagan
An intimate portrait of President Reagan by his son, Ron. To mark what would have been his father’s 100th birthday on February 6, Ron, a political commentator for MSNBC, looks back on the horseback rides and football games he shared with his father growing up—and on the side of his father he never knew.
Caribou IslandBy David Vann
From the acclaimed author of Legend of a Suicide, a dark, moving novel about an Alaskan couple who try to save their marriage by building a cabin on Caribou Island—and their daughter caught in the terrible middle.
J.D. Salinger: A LifeBy Kenneth Slawenski
The fullest, most nuanced biography of Salinger yet will change how we view America’s favorite enigmatic author—but it won’t answer the question every obituary asked: What was he writing all of those years?
O: A Presidential NovelBy Anonymous
A written novel by someone with “vast personal experience in this realm” about just what President Obama will do to win in 2012. What Primary Colors did for the Clinton administration, this book will do for Obama. Could it be Joe Klein again?
A Widow’s Story: A MemoirBy Joyce Carol Oates
The novelist and essayist pens her most intimate book about the death of her husband of 46 years. Judging by the excerpt in The New Yorker Oates’ memoir will join Antonia Fraser and Joan Didion on the shelf of essential works on loss.
Known and UnknownBy Donald Rumsfeld
With W’s memoir a surprising bona fide blockbuster, all eyes are on his Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s own account of his service. His memoir promises previously undisclosed details on the inner-workings of the Bush administration, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the 9/11 attacks. Get ready for another round of debate about the Bush administration’s legacy.
Open CityBy Teju Cole
A lyrical and mesmerizing ode to our recent past through the eyes of Julius, a psychiatric resident who wanders the streets of New York ruminating on Goya and bedbugs, and digging up memories of his youth in Nigeria.
The Secret SoldierBy Alex Berenson
Former New York Times reporter Berenson is quickly establishing himself as the most exciting and perceptive thriller writer on global terrorism. This latest dispatch from the frontlines follows his hero John Well as he goes undercover in Saudi Arabia to help the monarchy.
Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life Without Losing Its SoulBy Howard Schultz
In his first memoir, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz confessed that he was afraid his company might "become another soulless big chain." In this followup, written a decade later, Schultz explains why he decided to return to the top spot at Starbucks in 2008 and steer the company out of its financial and moral drift.
The Tiger’s WifeBy Tea Obreht
One of the bright stars included in The New Yorker’s best writers under 40, Tea Obreht’s debut novel centers on a post-war Balkan country where a young doctor helping at an orphanage finds herself entangled in village secrets and her own memories of her grandfather.
Unfamiliar FishesBy Sarah Vowell
Check out the latest salvo in Sarah Vowell’s witty, lively alterna-history of America. After sorting out the Pilgrims in The Wordy Shipmates, she now turns her attention to the 50th state, Hawaii, and the year 1898, which she says was when the U.S. became a superpower.
The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell SimBy Jonathan Coe
A wry book for and of our times from acclaimed author of The Rotters’ Club about a man, Max, who fails to establish interpersonal connections in a world of instant communication.
Join the Club: How Peer Pressure Can Transform the WorldBy Tina Rosenberg
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Tina Rosenberg spots a brewing social phenomenon: the power of groups to motivate positive changes. Using stories to illustrate this premise in action, Rosenberg describes how positive peer pressure reduced teen smoking in the U.S., improved the health and prosperity of Indian villages, helped minority students earn the highest grades, and hastened the fall of Slobodan Milosevic.
The Pale KingBy David Foster Wallace
The most eagerly anticipated posthumous literary release since the kerfuffle over Nabokov’s The Original of Laura, David Foster Wallace’s unfinished novel promises fans and critics a final chance to savor, debate, and wrestle with this unparalleled genius.
Reading My Father: A MemoirBy Alexandra Styron
The daughter of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist William Styron ( The Confessions of Nat Turner, Sophie's Choice) gives an unvarnished look at the cost of her father's brilliance on his family. A successful novelist herself, Styron describes her childhood in a literary home, her relationship with her parents, and watching a deep depression swallow the final days of her celebrated father's life.
The Uncoupling: A NovelBy Meg Wolitzer
A teacher’s staging of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata (in which the women stop having sex with the men to end a war) unleashes sexual chaos at a high school. Wolitzer’s latest will provoke and amuse in equal measure.
The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French RevolutionBy Francis Fukuyama
From the man who declared the end of history comes a sweeping, erudite history (the first of two volumes, actually) that charts the rise of political institutions and democracy from our tribal roots to modern day nation-states.
On ChinaBy Henry Kissinger
The sage of American foreign policy offers up his lengthy take on China. Unlike the shrill calls from neophyte commentators, Kissinger was there when China began its great opening to the world, so his opinions will be essential reading to understanding its long rise.
A Grand Pursuit: A History of Economic GeniusBy Sylvia Nasar
The author of A Beautiful Mind tells the sweeping story of the birth of modern economics, going on a journey with the men and women who changed the lives of every single person on the planet.