Modern First Editions 2000-2009
White Teeth by Zadie Smith
This debut novel, written and published when Smith in her early twenties, became a bestseller and won numerous awards. It focuses on the later lives of two wartime friends - the Bangladeshi Samad Iqbal, and the Englishman Archie Jones - who fought together during WWII and have since married and had children. Through the lives of Archie and Samad, along with their families, the novel explores Britain's relationships with people from formerly colonised countries in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean. Grappling with interweaving cultures amidst immigrants is also a major theme of the book, and 'white teeth' are something that unifies all characters beyond borders and appearances. First editions include a complete number line and "First Published 2000".
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
The central premise of American Gods is that gods and mythical creatures exist because people believe in them, so as people's beliefs change so do the gods - namely in America reflecting obsessions with media, celebrity, technology and drugs etc... The novels blends Americana, fantasy, and various strands of ancient and modern mythology while centering on a mysterious and taciturn protagonist, Shadow, who finds his world turned upside down after being released from prison. . Released from prison, Shadow finds his world turned upside down, and soon finds himself in a battle for the very soul of America. American Gods was Gaiman's fourth prose novel, being preceded by Good Omens (a collaboration with Terry Pratchett), Neverwhere, and Stardust. Several of the themes touched upon in the book were previously glimpsed in The Sandman graphic novels. Nominated for virtually all the major genre awards it won the 2002 Hugo, Nebula, Locus and Bram Stoker awards. First published in 2001 by William Morrow, first editions will have the complete number line.
Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
This first novel by Jonathan Safran Foer was an expansion of his senior thesis for Princeton University, which he graduated from in 1999, about his grandmother Louis Safran, a holocaust survivor. Foer himself traveled to the Ukraine to research his family history, including that of the small Jewish town in eastern Poland that was eradicated by the Nazi's during WWII. The novel centers around his search for the woman who saved his grandfather's life during WWII, along with his adventures with his young tour guide Alex, who is obsessed with American culture, and Alex's 'blind' grandfather and seeing eye 'bitch' Sammy Davis Jr. Jr. Everything is Illuminated won many awards and was well received critically upon its release. It sold 100,000 copies in the first year, and was adapted into a film starring Elijah Wood.
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
While working as an internist at a hospital in California Hosseini learned through the news that kite-flying had been banned by the Taliban in Afghanistan. Troubled by the report, he wrote a short story centered around a young boy kite-flying. After being rejected by Esquire and The New Yorker the manuscript sat in his garage a few years before he picked it back up and reworked it into a novel centering on the friendship between a wealthy boy and his father's servant's son, set against the backdrop of Afghanistan as it was torn apart over 3 decades by Soviet and Taliban rule. The Kite Runner was published in 2003 by Riverhead books in an initial print run of 50,000 hardback copies. Community-wide reading programs, book clubs, and a book tour in 2004 led to a surge in popularity that kept Kite-Runner on the best-seller list for 101 weeks. It was adapted into a film of the same name in 2007.
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
Cloud Atlas is the third book by British author David Mitchell, and consists of six nested stories that span from the 19th century into a distant post-apocalyptic future. Each story within the book is read or observed by the main character of the next story, and as the first five stories are interrupted at a pivotal moment, the last part of the novel ties everything together and closes each story in reverse chronological order. The melding of wildly different stories is often praised by critics, who claim it makes the work fantastic and complex, and the challenge of the text puts into the 'puzzle book' genre. Cloud Atlas won the British Book Awards Literary Fiction Award and the Richard & Judy Book of the Year award, and was short-listed for the 2004 Booker Prize, Nebula Award, Arthur C. Clarke Award, and other awards, placing it among the most-honored works of fiction in recent history. A film adaptation of the same name was released in 2012.
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
Kostova worked on this debut novel for 10 years before selling it to Little, Brown & Company for a reported $2 million dollars. Inspired by the stories her father told her as a child of Dracula, The Historian weaves the history and folklore of Vlad the Impaler and his fictional counterpart Dracula, along with the quest of a young woman to find out the truth behind the myth. When it was released in 2005 it became the fastest selling debut hardback in publishing history, with 70,000 copies sold in the first week
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
The Road is a post-apocalyptic tale about the journey of a father and a son through a harrowing landscape of a devastated world where life is a constant battle for survival against elements, hunger, and cannibals. The father is ill and knows he is dying but hopes to get the boy to the sea where he imagines there is a kind of safety. The idea for the novel came to McCarthy while on a trip in 2003 with his young son to whom the book is dedicated. Many of the conversations between father and son in the book are based on conversations between the author and his own son, so much so that he claims his son is co-author of the book. The Road won the 2007 Pulitzer for literature and was also adapted into a movie. McCarthy, who is known as a reclusive writer, gave an unexpected and rare interview to Oprah in 2007 following the inclusion of the book in sales boosting book club. The book has now sold nearly a 1.5 million copies.
The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron
Published by Simon & Schuster in 2005, The Higher Power of Lucky won the Newbery Award in 2007. Believing that her guardian is going to abandon her to an orphanage and return to France, ten-year-old Lucky runs away with her beagle. There are references to drugs, and Lucky gets inspiration from 12-step meetings, but the book has been banned mainly based on the use of a word describing a boy dog’s anatomy. The Higher Power of Lucky is the first in the Hard Pan trilogy written by Susan Patron. The other two books in the series are Lucky Breaks (2009) and Lucky for Good (2011). Good for readers ages 10 and up.
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao chronicles the life of Oscar, an overweight Dominican boy growing up in Paterson, New Jersey. He is obsessed with science fiction and fantasy novels, falling in love, and the fukú curse that has plagued his family for generations. The novel, told mainly through the omniscient narrator, integrates magic realism, the use of footnotes, science fiction and fantasy references, comic book analogies and various Spanish dialects and integrates themes of story-telling, Dominican diaspora and identity, masculinity and oppression. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Literature and the National Book Critics Circle Award.
The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt
Published by Clarion Books, New York, in 2007, The Wednesday Wars was written by American author Gary Schmidt. Set in suburban Long Island during the 1967-68 school year against the background of the Vietnam War, the story follows Holling Hoodhood as he struggles beneath his father’s expectations and the pressures of seventh grade. Wednesday afternoons, Holling, a Presbyterian, has nowhere to go while his Catholic and Jewish classmates go to religious studies. He is forced to stay behind and read Shakespeare with his teacher Mrs. Baker, whose husband is in Vietnam. The Wednesday Wars was awarded a Newbery Honor in 2008, and the sequel, Okay for Now, published in 2011, was a finalist for the National Book Award. Best for readers ages 10 and up.
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
Described as a retelling of Shakespeare's Hamlet in rural Wisconsin, the title refers to the name of the main character, a young mute boy who runs away from home after his father is killed, but later returns to prove his suspicions that his uncle was responsible for the death. Edgar, although mute, has a gift for communicating with the dogs whom his family breeds. This debut novel from David Wroblewski was written over a decade and quickly became a New York Times best-seller as well as being selected for Oprah's book club.
The Help by Kathrynn Stockett
The Help centers around African American maids working in white households in Jackson, Mississippi during the early 1960s, told from the perspective of three characters: Aibileen Clark, Minny Jackson, and Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan. Skeeter has just returned to her family's cotton farm after graduating from college, with hopes of becoming a writer, although her mother wants her to focus on marrying. Realizing the inequalities faced by the black maids that work for her and other white families in town, most notably through the story of her own childhood maid Constantine, Skeeter begins to write a book about their lives but is faced with reservation and suspicion from the black community. Eventually gaining their trust she partners with the women to expose the deplorable conditions faced by the domestic workers and the brutal characters found in what was thought to be the polite white society. Stockett's first novel, it took her five years to complete and was rejected by 60 literary agents over three years. After publication by Penguin Books in 2009 it has sold over seven million copies and spent more than 100 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list. It was adapted into a film released in 2011.
Author Bio: Amy C. Manikowski is a writer, bookseller, trail-diverger, history buff, and pitbull lover. She graduated from Chatham University with an MFA a while ago, and after wandering aimlessly settled in Asheville NC.