Upcoming Books To Read In 2014

NPR's Arun Rath talks to Daniel Alarcon, the author of At Night We Walk in Circles, about the new books he is most excited about for 2014.

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ARUN RATH, HOST:

It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR West. I'm Arun Rath.

2014 has just begun, and this week, NPR is looking forward to some of the most anticipated movies, music, theater and books of the next year. Today, books.

We turn to Daniel Alarcon. His 2013 novel, "At Night We Walk in Circles," was one of the best books of last year. I asked him, which new titles he's most excited about?

DANIEL ALARCON: There's a lot, actually. You know, a few years ago - I think it might've been 2009 - I read an excerpt - an essay, I should say, by a woman named Maria Venegas. And I thought it was just really, really, really beautiful. It was about a relationship with her father and a murder in Chicago and eventually a murder back in Mexico and is tracing the life and relationship between, you know, kind of an Americanized daughter and her father and his past and his moods and his violent history.

And so I was really happy to discover that that was part of a memoir that's coming out. It's called "Bullet Proof Vest: The Ballad of an Outlaw and His Daughter" by Maria Venegas.

RATH: So what else are you looking forward to you can get us excited for for 2014?

ALARCON: Well, there's a writer named Rabih Alameddine, and he has a new book out, which I read over the summer, that's called "An Unnecessary Woman." And the unnecessary woman is named Aaliyah Sohbi. She's in her late middle age. She's an obsessive reader. She's living alone in an apartment in Beirut translating books into Arabic.

RATH: And it sounds like the lives of sort of people that he's writing about, it might be a side of the Arab world that we're not as familiar with.

ALARCON: Yeah. You know what, I spoke with Rabih about this book when he gave it to me because, you know, he was telling me that in some ways, the book that his publishers wanted him to write or that he felt he was expected to write was more topical, was more sort of, you know, ripped from the front pages, a book about the Arab Spring or something like that. And he said that he found it really impossible to write that book.

You know, he just wanted to write this particular character who's at the periphery of great social upheaval by design, you know, someone who has by design chosen a different kind of life. And, you know, I think that that's part of the Middle East, too, this whole idea of like one unified voice on the street of any country or any culture or any region is absurd. And, you know, maybe we should be hearing from the Aaliyah Sohbis of the world - of the Arab world too.

RATH: Hmm. Are there any other novels that you're excited about coming up this year?

ALARCON: There's one that I'm - I can't believe it's taken this long to get into English - by the Mexican novelist Yuri Herrera. Yuri has written, I think, just a masterpiece. It's an allegory about the drug war. It's a novel about art in the face of terrible violence. It's about the narco culture of northern Mexico. It's all those things. I think Yuri, with that book, has really created a new diction to talk about violence and about the drug war. The translation of the title, "Senales Que Precederan Al Fin Del Mundo" is a really, really beautiful title in Spanish. It's kind of a mouthful.

RATH: "Signs Preceding the End of the World" is nice but it doesn't have that - doesn't scan like that.

ALARCON: Yeah, yeah, I know. You've got to - we should all learn Spanish and read Yuri and (unintelligible).

RATH: Daniel Alarcon is an author. His latest novel is called "At Night We Walk in Circles." Daniel, thank you.

ALARCON: Thank you, Arun.

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