We Second That: The Slate/Whiting Second Novel List
Second chances. A second wind. Seconds on dessert. All good things. So why are second novels often overlooked? Slate and the Whiting Foundation have banded together to celebrate some of the most brilliant second novels of the last five years. Five exacting readers picked them: Whiting Award winners Yiyun Li and Colson Whitehead; bookseller Sarah McNally; NewYorker.com literary editor Sasha Weiss; and Slate culture editor Dan Kois.
Here they are, to astound and amuse and move you. They will take you from the sublime grunge of 70s New York to the brutal slave plantations of 18th-Century Jamaica, from Delhi to immigrant life in Queens, from a hilariously bland and sinister corporate America to a guerrilla theater troupe in a troubled South American country.
These are books to be read, passed along, remembered.
To read the judges’ essays celebrating their favorites, visit Slate’s Second Novel List coverage. Have a favorite second novel of your own? Tweet it: #2ndNovels
Daniel Alarcón, At Night We Walk in Circles
"Poignant, fascinating.... During the rioting of the Paris Commune, Turgenev wrote to Flaubert: 'Oh we have hard times to live through, those of us who are born spectators.' What’s the price one pays to escape that fate? That seems a central question in At Night We Walk In Circles."
--Yiyun Li, novelist
Helen DeWitt, Lightning Rods
"A demented sex comedy.... Lightning Rods skewers American capitalism with a purer, more invigorating hatred than any novel I remember."
--Dan Kois, Culture Editor, Slate
Marlon James, The Book of Night Women
"A big, masterful novel like this raises questions without answering them — it raises questions that stay raised... epic, beautiful, complicated, enthralling."
--Sarah McNally, McNally Jackson Books
Eileen Myles, Inferno
"Inferno feels like it was put down in gusts of inspiration, between drinking and sex and poetry readings…the streets are its true territory; its weather is the storm of language."
--Sasha Weiss, Literary Editor, NewYorker.com
Akhil Sharma, Family Life
"Mesmerizing... But if this novel is tragedy, why do I remember the jokes with such fondness? It contains a deep, nourishing reservoir of grim humor."
--Colson Whitehead, novelist