Christopher Tilghman is the author of two short-story collections, In a Father’s Place and The Way People Run, and two novels, Mason’s Retreat and Roads of the Heart. His next novel, The Right-Hand Shore, will be published by FSG in May 2012. Currently the director of the MFA program at the University of Virginia, he lives with his wife, the writer Caroline Preston, in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson
The story of lost souls, especially a sixteen-year-old named Jude, wandering through the punk and straight-edge scene of the late 1980s. Beautifully and relentlessly written.
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
Along with Henderson’s Ten Thousand Saints, one of the debuts of the year, and deservedly so. A ruminative and gracefully told novel of small colleges and baseball.
1861: The Civil War Awakening by Adam Goodheart
A series of extended vignettes about some of the players at the opening of the war. Rather spookily redolent of our own era: intransigent ideologies, dysfunctional Congress, absurd tragical thinking.
Eat the Document by Dana Spiotta
Very much the best retelling of the lives of ’70s radicals, in this case, two misguided bombers who have successfully gone underground and whose reward is to live in a very much unchanged America.
Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson
Read it in 2011 and felt like a fool to have missed it when it came out. In my mind, the masterwork on the Vietnam era.
Paradise Lost by John Milton
In college I majored in French literature under the airy assumption that I would read all of English literature on my own. It took forty-five years, but I have finally followed through with Milton. A page-turner! Why didn’t anybody tell me that?