Your Primer To The 2013 National Book Award Finalists

Too busy to read ten books by November? Here’s a guide to the fiction and nonfiction finalists so at your next literary cocktail party, you can blurt out something vaguely knowledgeable before running to the bar for a refill.

1. James McBride, The Good Lord Bird

In which the beloved author of The Color of Water delivers a romping suspense story: a young slave boy must pass as a girl in order to escape and survive.

ID: 1827082

2. Rachel Kushner, The Flamethrowers

In which there are many motorcycles, performance artists, and radical political trouble makers.

ID: 1827118

3. Jhumpa Lahiri, The Lowland

In which things do not turn out so well for two brothers from Calcutta.

ID: 1827123

4. Thomas Pynchon, Bleeding Edge

In which there are foot fetishists, hip hop gangsters, and sentient computers; in other words everyone you’d expect to meet in a Pynchon novel. Just don’t expect to meet Pynchon at the actual awards dinner.

ID: 1827134

5. George Saunders, Tenth of December

In which a master of the blazingly odd and original short story gathers together tales of love, loss and misfits.

ID: 1827143

6. Jill Lepore, Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin

In which the long-forgotten sister of Ben Franklin is meticulously and vividly restored to the historical record.

ID: 1827146

7. Alan Taylor, The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832

In which we learn that the British played an important role in ending American slavery.

ID: 1827173

8. George Packer, The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America

In which a leading thinker of our time confirms that, yes, America is doomed.

ID: 1827154

9. Wendy Lower, Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields

In which we feel even worse, learning how many German women were complicit in World War II genocide.

ID: 1827161

10. Lawrence Wright, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & the Prison of Belief

In which we feel a touch better, when a New Yorker writer reveals that Scientologists are EVEN CRAZIER THAN YOU THOUGHT.

ID: 1827169

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