- A good introductory paragraph 1. gets your reader’s attention, 2. introduces your topic, and 3. presents your stance on the topic (thesis).
Right after your title is the introductory paragraph. Like an appetizer for a meal, the introductory paragraph sets up the reader’s palate and gives him a foretaste of what is to come. You want start your paper on a positive note by putting forth the best writing possible.
Like writing the title, you can wait to write your introductory paragraph until you are done with the body of the paper. Some people prefer to do it this way since they want to know exactly where their paper goes before they make an introduction to it. When you write your introductory paragraph is a matter of personal preference.
Your introductory paragraph needs to accomplish three main things: it must 1. grip your reader, 2. introduce your topic, and 3. present your stance on the topic (in the form of your thesis statement). If you’re writing a large academic paper, you’ll also want to contextualize your paper’s claim by discussing points other writers have made on the topic.
There are a variety of ways this can be achieved. Some writers find it useful to put a quote at the beginning of the introductory paragraph. This is often an effective way of getting the attention of your reader:
“Thomas Jefferson’s statement in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal” seems contrary to the way he actually lived his life, bringing into question the difference between the man’s public and private lives…”
Hmm. Interesting…Tell me more. This introduction has set off the paper with an interesting quote and makes the reader want to continue reading. How has Jefferson’s public life differed from his private life? Notice how this introduction also helps frame the paper. Now the reader expects to learn about the duality of Thomas Jefferson’s life.
Another common method of opening a paper is to provide a startling statistic or fact. This approach is most useful in essays that relate to current issues, rather than English or scientific essays.
“The fact that one in every five teenagers between the ages of thirteen and fifteen smokes calls into question the efficacy of laws prohibiting advertising cigarettes to children…”
The reader is given an interesting statistic to chew on (the fact that so many children smoke) while you set up your paper. Now your reader is expecting to read an essay on cigarette advertising laws.
When writing English papers, introducing your topic includes introducing your author and the aspect of the text that you’ll be analyzing.
“Love is a widely felt emotion. In The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas uses the universality of love to develop a connection with his reader…”
Here, the reader is introduced to the piece of text that will be analyzed, the author, and the essay topic. Nice.
The previous sample introduction contains a general sentence at the beginning that bring up a very broad topic: love. From there, the introductory paragraph whittles down to something more specific:
how Dumas uses love in his novel to develop a connection with the reader. You’d expect this paragraph to march right on down to the thesis statement,
which belongs at the end of the introductory paragraph. Good introductory paragraphs often have this ‘funnel’ sort of format–going from something broad (such as love) to something more specific until the thesis is presented.
Try to avoid the some of the more hackneyed openers:
- “Have you ever wondered why…”
- “Webster’s dictionary defines…”
- “X is a very important issue facing America today…”
Most Anticipated: The Great Second-Half 2012 Book Preview
2012 has already been a rich year for books, with new novels from Toni Morrison, Richard Ford, and Hilary Mantel and essay collections from Marilynn Robinson and Jonathan Franzen, to name just a fraction of what we've featured, raved about, chewed on, and puzzled over so far. But the remainder of this year (and the hazy beginning of next year) is shaping up to be a jackpot of literary riches. In just a few short months, we'll be seeing new titles from some of the most beloved and critically lauded authors working today, including Martin Amis, Zadie Smith, Michael Chabon, Junot Díaz, Alice Munro, Ian McEwan, George Saunders, and David Foster Wallace. Incredibly, there's much more than that to get excited about, but, were we to delve into it further up here, we would risk this introduction consuming the many previews that are meant to follow. The list that follows isn't exhaustive - no book preview could be - but, at 8,700 words strong and encompassing 76 titles, this is the only second-half 2012 book preview you will ever need. Enjoy. July:Broken Harbor by Tana French: In French's fourth Dublin Murder Squad mystery, Mick "Scorcher" Kennedy — the big jerk detective from Faithful Place — is assigned to a triple homicide in a half-built housing development in a north suburb of Dublin where (inevitably) he spent his summers as a child. As he waits for the fourth victim — who is alive but in a coma — to wake up, he deals with his rookie cop of a partner, a neighborhood of tight-lipped witnesses, and his younger sister's fraught reaction to the case. French is known for creating detectives that are as complex as the mysteries they solve, and then showing the one case that could tear them apart. This is Kennedy's case. (Janet) Dare Me by Megan Abbott: Set in the fiercely competitive world of high school cheer-leading, Megan Abbot's new novel Dare Me is already being hailed as “a mesmerizing piece of prose” by The Independent and “truly menacing” by The Wall Street Journal. Taking her cue from the power politics of Shakespearean drama and the adrenal intensity of teenaged life, Abbott's latest thriller should make for entirely captivating—dare I say, criminally compelling—reading. After last year's The End of Everything, it seems like this book marks Abbot as a very strong contender in the role of head honcho of Suburban Noir. (Emily K.) A Million Heavens by John Brandon: Brandon’s first two novels — Arkansas and Citrus County — both focused on criminals, but with his third he turns his attention to a comatose piano prodigy. Lying in a hospital bed in New Mexico, he is visited by his gruff father while a band of strangers assemble outside, vigilants for whom he is an inspiration, an obsession, or merely something to do. They in turn are watched over by a roaming wolf and a song-writing angel (who can't quite get to Heaven). In Brandon's darkly hopeful and deadpan voice, this collection of the downtrodden become a community. (Janet) Office Girl by Joe Meno: Joe Meno set out to write about falling in love — void of angst, political uncertainty, tragedy, or the march of history. The result is Office Girl, a book (with illustrations and photographs) about Odile and Jack. Odile is an art school dropout, Jack is lazy 25-year-old who loves his tape recorder. They decide to start an art movement to counterpoint the banality of modern culture, and perhaps to make the fleeting feeling of being in your 20s and capable of anything last a little bit longer. (Janet) Sorry Please Thank You by Charles Yu: Yu, the author of the short story collection Third Class Superhero and the novel How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, provides more meta-science-fiction fun with this new collection. Sorry Please Thank You includes such stand-outs as “Standard Loneliness Package,” about a firm where employees earn money for suffering other people’s pain, and “Inventory,” about a hypothetical version of Charles Yu. Yu’s work has been compared to that of Kurt Vonnegut, George Saunders and Gary Shteyngart. (Edan) Our Kind of People by Uzodinma Iweala: In 2007, Uzodinma Iweala made Granta’s list of the 20 Best Young American Novelists for his debut novel, Beasts of No Nation. Deserved praise indeed, but doubly so considering Iweala’s not a full-time writer; instead, like Chris Adrian today and Anton Chekhov long ago, Iweala is also a practicing physician. In Our Kind of People, Iweala draws from his medical experience to craft a nonfiction on-the-ground account of the HIV/AIDS crisis in Nigeria. A well-known critic of what fellow Nigerian-American writer Teju Cole calls “The White Savior Industrial Complex,” Iweala focuses his book on the stories of the ill and the healthy alike to relay the honest, personal narratives—not the sensationalist headlines—of the people dealing with this unprecedented epidemic. (Nick) You & Me by Padgett Powell: Padgett Powell's eighth work of fiction is a novel called You & Me that consists of a conversation between two middle-aged men sitting on a porch chewing on such gamey topics as love and sex, how to live and die well, and the merits of Miles Davis, Cadillacs and assorted Hollywood starlets. Since his 1984 debut, Edisto, Powell has won comparisons to Faulkner and Twain for his ability to bottle the molasses-and-battery-acid speech of his native South. One early reader has described You & Me as "a Southern send-up of Waiting for Godot." Which is high praise indeed for Samuel Beckett. (Bill) The Investigation by Philippe Claudel: French author Phillipe Claudel and translator John Cullen, the team that won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and the Translation Award for their work on 2010's Brodek, return with The Investigation. This, Claudel's sixth novel, set in the not-so-distant future, follows the Inspector, a balding everyman, in his search to uncover the cause of a string of suicides in the Enterprise. Before the Inspector can enter, he is dragged through a beurocratic hell of places and characters bearing names capitalized for genericism: the Psychologist, the Guard. Equal parts Kafka and Huxley, Claudel paints a nightmarish vision of a technocratic, dystopic future. (Matt) August:Lionel Asbo: The State of England by Martin Amis: The late Christopher Hitchens would have been pleased to know that his partners in literary bromance Martin Amis, Salman Rushdie, and Ian McEwan all have major work coming out this fall. First up to bat is Amis, whose last novel, The Pregnant Widow, signaled something of a return to form. The eponym of his new one, Lionel Asbo, is a classic Amis creation - an id-addled criminal who takes his last name from a British court document called an Anti-Social Behavior Order. In a Dickensian twist of fate, the novel shackles Asbo together with a more sensitive nephew, Desmond. The subtitle is "The State of England." What more do you need to know? Oh, yes: the jacket design is one of the best of the fall. (Garth) Winter Journal by Paul Auster: The title of novelist Paul Auster’s second work of memoir refers to the author’s sense that, at age 64, he has entered the winter of his life. This is Auster’s second memoir (his first, The Invention of Solitude was published 30 years ago) and Publisher’s Weekly, in a starred review, describes it as a “quietly moving meditation on death and life.” The PW review goes on to say, “From the vantage point of the winter preceding his 64th birthday, Auster lets his body and its sensations guide his memories. There is no set chronology; time and place bleed from one year to another, between childhood and adulthood.” (Kevin) The Devil in Silver by Victor LaValle: In a mental institution in Queens, a motley crew of four inmates, led by a mostly sane, rabble-rousing “big man” named Pepper, sets out to kill the devil-monster that all four of them swear is stalking the halls. Other characters include “Dorry, an octogenarian schizophrenic who’s been on the ward for decades and knows all its secrets; Coffee, an African immigrant with severe OCD, who tries desperately to send alarms to the outside world; and Loochie, a bipolar teenage girl who acts as the group’s enforcer.” In this fourth book, LaValle – who, among other honors like the Guggenheim and the Whiting, was given the key to Southeast Queens – is sure to break our hearts, make us laugh, and freak us out, as he has with his previous two novels and story collection. (Sonya) Aftermath: On Marriage and Separation by Rachel Cusk: Aftermath has been positioned as kind of sequel to A Life’s Work, Cusk’s controversial memoir about motherhood, which she published over ten years ago. Her new book examines the breakdown of her marriage: “My husband believed that I had treated him monstrously," she writes. The Telegraphadmires the book very much, saying, “If her probing is sometimes clinical, it is also full of beauty – the beauty of language struggling to reveal an experience which is complex and scored with doubts and pain.” The Guardiansays: “It's not a congenial place, this Cuskland, with its low mephitic cloud of complex melancholia…What detains us is her cool, clinical examination of the remains, the truths that are returned when she scrapes at the marrow of experience.” (Edan) The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison: Evison follows up his bestselling West of Here with a tale of an unusual roadtrip. There is nothing that you cannot lose, and Benjamin has lost most of it: his wife, his family, his home, and his livelihood. Short on options, he enrolls in a night class called The Fundamentals of Caregiving and finds himself responsible for nineteen-year-old Trev, an angry and stubborn boy in the advanced stages of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. A friendship develops, and they set out together across the American west to visit Trev’s ailing father. (Emily M.) September:The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling: Oh me! Oh my! J.K. Rowling has a new book out—a novel for adults. Publisher Little, Brown describes the book as “blackly comic” and offers this glimpse of the plot: “When Barry Fairweather dies unexpectedly in his early forties, the little town of Pagford is left in shock. Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty facade is a town at war. Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents…Pagford is not what it first seems. And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?” (Kevin) NW by Zadie Smith: Smith's first novel since On Beauty (2005), NW follows a group of people from Caldwell--a fictional council estate in northwest London whose buildings are named for English philosophers--and documents the lives they build in adulthood. Smith (who since 2005 has become a mother, NYU professor, and Harper's columnist) has variously called this a novel of class and a "very, very small book" (highly unlikely). Smith's own deep roots to London, and this particular corner of London, were most recently aired in her stirring defense of London's local libraries for the New York Review of Books blog. (Lydia) Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon: Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Chabon turns his verbal dexterity to the left coast with this novel set in 2004 in the Flatlands neighborhood of Oakland, California. The tale centers on two families, one white, one black, whose fathers jointly own a small used-record shop threatened by a new music megastore on Telegraph Avenue. Called “High Fidelity for smart people” in one early review, the book features pop culture riffs on Kung Fu, '70s Blaxploitation films, vinyl LPs, jazz and soul music, and a certain newly elected senator from Illinois headed for higher office. See our excerpt. (Michael) This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz: Díaz, who made readers wait eleven years between his first book of stories, Drown, and his Pulitzer-winning novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, now returns after only five years with a new book of stories, many of which first appeared in the New Yorker. According to his publisher, the stories “capture the heat of new passion, the recklessness with which we betray what we most treasure, and the torture we go through – ‘the begging, the crawling over glass, the crying’ – to try to mend what we’ve broken beyond repair.” Word is Díaz is also working on a new novel, titled Monstro. If he keeps to his usual pace, we only have six more years to wait. (Michael) The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver: Silver, author of the political prognostication blog FiveThirtyEight.com (which now makes its home on the New York Times site), knows more than most on prediction. Before turning his attention to politics and pretty much acing the 2008 election, he developed the groundbreaking PECOTA system for forecasting baseball talent while at Baseball Prospectus. With his first non-baseball book, Silver broadens his scope to look at the science and art of predictions, visiting "the most successful forecasters in a range of areas, from hurricanes to baseball, from the poker table to the stock market, from Capitol Hill to the NBA." (Patrick) Nice Weather by Frederick Seidel: Frederick Seidel, age 76, belongs to the last generation of poets who could assume that people cared what they had to say. Late in life, he's turned that into a self-fulfilling prophecy. His singular voice - urbane, seductive, nostalgic, lucid, lusty, rich, visionary, and ruthless - has as much to tell us about the way we live now as the best novels. For those of us who couldn't afford his Collected Poems in hardcover, Nice Weather offers a more manageable selection of new work. (Garth) Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: The Life of David Foster Wallace by D.T. Max: Six months after David Foster Wallace’s suicide, The New Yorkerpublished a novella-length piece by journalist D.T. Max on Wallace’s last difficult years and his encompassing effort to surpass Infinite Jest. That article started the drumbeat for two books: The first, The Pale King, was released last April; the second, Max’s biography of Wallace, debuts this August. The biography was written with the cooperation of Wallace’s family and promises to be the first definitive treatment of the author’s life. (Kevin) San Miguel by T.C. Boyle: Boyle follows his 2011 novel, When the Killing’s Done, with a second novel set on the Channel Islands off the California coast, focusing this time on the most remote of the eight islands, San Miguel. In an interview last year with Untitled Books, Boyle, known for his fondness for narrative bells and whistles, called his new book “a straightforward, non-ironic, historical tale of two families who lived in different periods alone on this particular island, the farthest one out, the most wind-blown, the most difficult.” (Michael) Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie: The iconic figure Salman Rushdie cuts owes more to early triumphs, bravery in the face of death threats, celebrity antics, and sheer chutzpah than to recent brilliance. Since about The Moor's Last Sigh, his work has been hit or miss - almost always within the same book. In this doorstopper-sized memoir, however, Rushdie turns his eye on the fatwa itself, and on his own years in hiding. The title comes from the code name he chose for himself: Joseph (after Conrad), Anton (after Chekhov). Neither of those writers were known to substitute substance for flash, and if their spirits preside over the book, it's may well mark a turning point in Rushdie's career. (Garth) Reinventing Bach by Paul Elie: Paul Elie knows how to pick ‘em: his first book The Life You Save May Be Your Own, winner of the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction, and a NBCC nominee, delved into the intertwined lives of four famous Catholics – Flannery O’Connor, Dorothy Day, Walker Percy, and Thomas Merton. His second book is a study of Bach; specifically, “the ways that numerous musicians have rendered Bach’s music through the years through various technologies.” From PW’s starred review: “Reading Elie’s stately and gorgeous prose is much like losing oneself in Glenn Gould’sGoldberg Variations, for his study convincingly demonstrates that the music of Bach is the most persuasive rendering of transcendence there is.” (Sonya) May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Homes: Jason Rice of the book blog Three Guys, One BookcallsMay We Be Forgiven Homes’s “triumph, her masterpiece, and crowning moment.” Dennis Haritou, of the same blog, says it’s “about 480 pages of suburban insanity.” There’s a Nixon scholar, there’s an F-ed up family, there’s an act of terrible violence, there’s that dark, vicious suburbia that Homes depicts so well. (Edan) Canvas by Benjamin Stein: Benjamin Stein's novel, translated from the German by WNYC fixture Brian Zumhagen, involves a mysterious suitcase, a missing psychoanalyst, and a Holocaust memoir that might be a fake. Equally compelling is the structure, which recalls Mark Z. Danielewski'sOnly Revolutions. It consists of two different versions of the story, told by two competing narrators. Each starts from one end of the book, and they meet in the middle. To switch from one to the other, the reader flips the book over and upside down. (Garth) Scientists: A Family Romance by Marco Roth: “The contemporary memoir is a bastard genre, neither truth nor art,” claims n+1 editor, literary critic, and reluctant memoirist, Marco Roth, whose first book--a memoir--debuts from FSG this fall. In spite of the short shrift he gives the genre, Roth’s material doesn’t stray terribly far from his usual terrain as a literary and cultural critic. In Scientists: A Family Romance he meditates on loss, of the Jewish intellectual tradition he was raised within and of his father, who died of AIDS in the early ‘90s, and he speaks of coming to the world through books. Despite his protestations, Roth might just make an art of the form. (Anne) Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures by Emma Straub: Bookcourt Bookseller and Rookie contributor Emma Straub debuts this fall with her decades-spanning novel about a young woman from Wisconsin who becomes a movie star. Barnes and Noble has selected the book for their Discover Great New Writers program, and Jennifer Egan says, “At once iconic and specific, Emma Straub's beautifully observed first novel explores the fraught trajectory of what has become a staple of the American dream: the hunger for stardom and fame.” Now you can pre-order a signed and personalized copy from WORD Bookstore. (Edan) The Forgetting Tree by Tatjana Soli: Tatjana Soli broke out with The Lotus Eaters, her sad and emotionally resonant debut novel from 2010. Now in The Forgetting Tree, Soli traces many of the same themes such as love, loss, and darkness to conjure the story of Claire Nagy, a young woman who marries into a notable California ranching family. Quickly, Nagy settles into her new life on the farm, peacefully adapting to its particular charms, but it’s not long before fate intervenes, followed closely by tragedy. Riven, Claire finds herself disconnected from her family, her husband, and the life she’s come to know, and when she’s finally at her most vulnerable, tragedy strikes again. Soli demonstrated her gift for emotional storytelling in her debut, so when critics describe this effort as “haunting” and “triumphant,” you should pay attention. (Nick) My Heart Is an Idiot by Davy Rothbart: FOUND Magazine began in 2001 after Davy Rothbart found a note to some dude named Mario on his car windshield. “I fucking hate you,” it began, and Rothbart was hooked. Each year since, Rothbart (a contributor to This American Life) has released a new magazine of “found” items that captures the raw, honest emotion of everyday life, and he’s traveled far and wide in order to promote it. Such rapid obsession is also emblematic of Rothbart’s sudden infatuations with women, and the “terminally romantic” Rothbart has pursued with gusto his share of (often uninterested) flames—so many, in fact, that in 2011, a documentary was made about his journeys. Now, in his collection of essays, Rothbart describes his feelings in a comic, honest, and altogether relatable way. (Nick) Between Heaven and Here by Susan Straight: In the final novel of her Rio Seco trilogy, Straight explores the aftermath of the murder of Glorette Picard, found dead in the alley behind a taqueria. Ms. Straight is beloved for her soulful, lyrical, unflinching and compassionate evocation of place: namely, the Inland Empire (and its fictional town of Rio Seco), and this book, which Publisher’s Weekly billed as a “novel-in-stories,” should be no exception. For a literary amuse-bouche, read Straight’s moving piece in the Los Angeles Times about giving away her books. (Edan) October:The Twelve by Justin Cronin: 2010's The Passage told of a North America 100 years after it had been destroyed by deadly "virals" (the virus in question being one that makes you a vampire), and the colonists who had managed to survive. The Twelve, the second installment of the planned trilogy, picks up the characters of The Passage where we left them, goes back in time to the virus's outbreak, and introduces other pockets of survivors around the continent. As it turns out, scrappy survivalism isn't the only way to go about a post-apocalyptic life, and attacks by the virals aren't the only threat to the colonists' life. (Janet) Building Stories by Chris Ware: Big-time American comics and cartoon artist Chris Ware (RAW contributor, anthologizer, anthologizee, creator of the Acme Novelty Library series which produced Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth), is collecting the entirety of his Building Stories strip in a volume for publication by Pantheon. The strip first appeared as a monthly feature in Nest Magazine, and wound up as a weekly strip in The New York Times Magazine from 2005-2006. (Lydia) Back to Blood by Tom Wolfe: Wolfe does Miami in his new book Back to Blood--not the "wet" kind, according to Wolfe, but like the (questionable) term "bloodlines." The ones in question are those of the immigrant population of Miami, which Wolfe told those assembled at a Little, Brown party "is the only city...in the whole world where people from another country, speaking another language and from another culture have taken over a vast city at the ballot box in one generation." Wolfe can be seen cruising the city in the trailer to Blood Lines, a documentary about Wolfe's research stint in Miami set to release concurrently with the book. (Lydia) In Sunlight and In Shadow by Mark Helprin: Mark Helprin's 1991 novel A Soldier of the Great War may be the most swashbuckling tale ever inspired by the First World War. For his sixth novel, In Sunlight and In Shadow, Helprin shifts to the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, when paratrooper Harry Copeland returns to New York and falls in love with a ravishing young actress, singer and heiress named Catherine Thomas Hale. Skipping from Sicily to Maine to the Sacramento Valley to London during the blitz, this is, first and last, a love story drawn in broad strokes against the dawn of our age. (Bill) Elsewhere: A Memoir by Richard Russo: Richard Russo won the Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for his novel Empire Falls, which was suffused with the claustrophobia and sweet sorrows of life in a small, fading New England mill town. For his first work of non-fiction, Russo takes us back to his boyhood in Gloversville, the small, fading New York mill town where he grew up in the 1950s. (For another take on this once-thriving glove-manufacturing hamlet, see Philip Roth's novel American Pastoral.) As economic decline and illness shadow Russo's childhood, his mother, an affectionate echo of Grace Roby from Empire Falls, urges her son to train his gaze beyond Gloversville's confining horizon. (Bill) The Fifty Year Sword by Mark Z. Danielewski: House of Leaves author Mark Z. Danielewski returns with another bout of suspenseful storytelling coupled with innovative formatting, with the wide release of his novella The Fifty Year Sword. He’s also a master of limited editions, as volumes from the novella’s initial print run sold for up to $1,000 apiece. The Fifty Year Sword is an homage to oral storytelling and ghost stories. Five narrators retell the story of a man telling five orphans the tale of an invisible sword whose wounds appear suddenly in the victim’s fiftieth year. Danielewski has held readings of the novella on Halloween for the past two years in L.A. This new edition will be available in October, making for perfect Halloween reading that won’t break the bank. (Anne) Heroines by Kate Zambreno: Intensity and intelligence forge the baseline current that runs through and characterizes most of Kate Zambreno’s written work. Zambreno, who was just named one of Jezebel’s 25 “game-changing women,” has already published two novels, Green Girl, which as Jezebelsays, “has been almost universally praised in thinky literary circles,” and O Fallen Angel, a book that Bookslut’sJessa Crispinsays should have been nominated for the Guardian First Book Award. Zambreno’s third book, Heroines, is a critical memoir, borne from her blog Frances Farmer Is My Sister, that takes on myths of modernist writers and their silenced wives, mistresses, and muses. (Anne) Ancient Light by John Banville: Like most of his novels, John Banville’s latest book forms part of a larger subgroup of works within his oeuvre. Although it can be read as a standalone narrative, it belongs to a trilogy that includes 2000’s Eclipse and 2002’s Shroud. It revisits Eclipse’s narrator, the aging actor Alexander Cleave, as he recalls an affair he had at age fifteen with the mother of his best friend – a plot/narrative combo that might be described as The Reverse Lolita. It’s a much lighter affair than its dark and sometimes inscrutable predecessors. Banville’s trademark self-reflexivity, though, is at its most elaborately involuted here. A subplot involves Cleave’s playing the starring role in a film essentially modeled on the story of Shroud, the screenwriter of which is “a somewhat shifty and self-effacing fellow” referred to as JB. (Mark) The Silent House by Orhan Pamuk: Orhan Pamuk's second novel The Silent House, published in Turkey in 1983, is finally slated to appear in English. The novel describes a week in the lives of three siblings who visit their grandmother in the fictional village-turned-spa town of Cennethisar on the outskirts of Istanbul. It is told from the perspective of five separate characters--the grandmother, her manservant, and the three children--and details their various family intrigues and the turbulent Turkish sociopolitical climate in the months leading up to the 1980 coup. Upon its publication in Turkey, this sophomore effort won the prestigious Madaralı Award, whose previous recipients included literary lights like Yaşar Kemal and Adalet Ağaoğlu. (Lydia) The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg: Jami Attenberg’s fourth novel concerns Edie and Richard Middlestein, who have charted a steady course through suburban married life for three decades. But Edie has become enormous. She is obsessed with food—eating it, dreaming of it—and if she doesn't change, she won’t live for much longer. Attenberg explores the nuances of marriage, the strength and the limits of family bonds, and our culture’s dangerous, fascinating obsession with food. (Emily M.) The Round House by Louise Erdrich: Continuing on with the trilogy she began with A Plague of Doves, which Michiko Kakutani called “supple and assured” in the New York Times back in 2008, Louise Erdrich's The Round House promises to be among the highlights of the fall literary season. The book follows a young man coming of age in trying times on an Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota. Judging from the beauty of Erdrich's previous novels—Tracksis one of my personal all time favorites—you can expect The Round House to deliver a heart-breaking story through brutally gorgeous prose. (Emily K.) Have You Seen Marie? by Sandra Cisneros: The author of The House on Mango Street and Caramelo returns with a "an illustrated fable for grown-ups," a story about a grieving middle-aged woman's search for a friend's cat, lost following the death of her mother. The book is illustrated in color by the San Francisco artist Ester Hernández, and depicts the two protagonists' journey through the San Antonio streets, looking for the wayward Marie. (Lydia) There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra by Chinua Achebe: The focus of Chinua Achebe's long-awaited memoir is the Nigerian Civil War of 1967-1970, when the Biafran people of Nigeria attempted to form their own state in the southeast of the country. Achebe, who was an established novelist when the war began (Things Fall Apart was published in 1958 and swiftly became the major "African novel" known to American students), was an itinerant representative of the Biafran people during the war years. He spent the subsequent decades in the United States, and this is his first published comment on the horrors he witnessed during this painful interlude in Nigerian history. (Lydia) Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan Three years after its inception as on Sloan's website, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore has blossomed into a full-length novel. First time novelist and media-guru Robin Sloan tells of Clay Jannon, a web-designer recently out of work, who finds a new job working at a mysterious bookstore. Soon, Clay discovers that behind the unassuming titles on the shelves lie a cult and a code and a bizarre cast of characters. With his wildly imagined libraries and playful take on the future of books, Sloan brings to mind an online Borges. (Matt) We Are What We Pretend to Be and Letters by Kurt Vonnegut: In the league table of posthumous productivity, Kurt Vonnegut ranks somewhere between Biggie and Bolaño; for a dead guy, he’s no slouch. Since he passed away in 2007, we’ve had three collections of unpublished fiction, and we’re about to get a fourth. We Are What We Pretend to Be is a volume that yokes together two texts unpublished in his lifetime: Basic Training (already available as an ebook), an early satirical novella which is thought to date from the 1940s, and If God Were Alive Today