Armchair BEA: My “Best of 2012” Featuring Books From Barbara Kingsolver and Zadie Smith

Posted June 5, 2012 by in Miscellaneous / 49 Comments

Armchair BEA bannerBanner design: Nina of Nina Reads; Featured image design: Sarah of Puss Reboots

Well, due to some pretty p*ss-poor planning on my part (and some awesome alliteration), I already listed my favorite books of 2012 in yesterday’s introduction post. Womp.

However, I can tell you that the book I’m most looking forward to–and one of many being featured at BEA this year–is Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior. A new novel from Barbara Kingsolver? Yes, please! I called my mother as soon as I heard about this (Kingsolver is one of our favorite authors) and we did little happy dances together over the phone. THIS IS EXCITING NEWS. We have been waiting patiently for a new novel from Ms. Kingsolver, and now our patience has finally paid off. Here is a synopsis of Flight Behavior from the publisher (HarperCollins):
Flight Behavior, by Barbara Kingsolver

Set in the present day in the rural community of Feathertown, Tennessee, Flight Behavior tells the story of Dellarobia Turnbow, a petite, razor-sharp 29-year-old who nurtured worldly ambitions before becoming pregnant and marrying at seventeen. Now, after more than a decade of tending to small children on a failing farm, oppressed by poverty, isolation and her husband’s antagonistic family, she has mitigated her boredom by surrendering to an obsessive flirtation with a handsome younger man.

In the opening scene, Dellarobia is headed for a secluded mountain cabin to meet this man and initiate what she expects will be a self-destructive affair. But the tryst never happens. Instead, she walks into something on the mountainside she cannot explain or understand: a forested valley filled with silent red fire that appears to her a miracle.

After years lived entirely in the confines of one small house, Dellarobia finds her path suddenly opening out, chapter by chapter, into blunt and confrontational engagement with her family, her church, her town, her continent, and finally the world at large.

My mother’s favorite Kingsolver novel is Prodigal Summer, with The Poisonwood Bible taking a close second. My favorite was The Poisonwood Bible until The Lacuna was published, and I absolutely fell in love with that book and its protagonist. I still recommend The Lacuna to everyone I know who likes to read literary fiction, and I think I might re-read it soon. Flight Behavior will be released on November 6, 2012, and I can’t wait to read it.

Another book that I’m looking forward to is NW by Zadie Smith, being released on September 4, 2012. I haven’t read any of her writing (yeah, yeah, I just heard that very audible GASP), but so many folks whose reading tastes I respect do quite a bit of raving about her work. I’d like to read her first three novels–and even some of her nonfiction–before I read NW, but let’s face it: my reading is backed up enough as it is and my TBR pile is out of control, so NW will be the first and the rest will follow.

Synopsis from the publisher’s website (Penguin Press):
NW, by Zadie Smith

Somewhere in Northwest London stands Caldwell housing estate, relic of 70s urban planning. Five identical blocks, deliberately named: Hobbes, Smith, Bentham, Locke, and Russell. If you grew up here, the plan was to get out and get on, to something bigger, better. Thirty years later ex-Caldwell kids Leah, Natalie, Felix, and Nathan have all made it out, with varying degrees of success—whatever that means. Living only streets apart, they occupy separate worlds and navigate an atomized city where few wish to be their neighbor’s keeper. Then one April afternoon a stranger comes to Leah’s door seeking help, disturbing the peace, and forcing Leah out of her isolation. . . .

From private houses to public parks, at work and at play, in this delicate, devastating novel of encounters, the main streets hide the back alleys, and taking the high road can sometimes lead to a dead end. Zadie Smith’s NW brilliantly depicts the modern urban zone—familiar to city dwellers everywhere—in a tragicomic novel as mercurial as the city itself.

What new books being featured at BEA this year are you most excited about?


  • I’ve never read any books by Barbara Kingsolver, but I keep hearing that “The Poisonwood Bible” is a must read. What book would you recommend I start with?

    • You could start with any of them, really–I’m not sure she has written a book that I haven’t liked. THE POISONWOOD BIBLE would probably be a fine place to start. Then, of course, I highly recommend THE LACUNA. 😉

      • I’ll add both to my TBR list! I’m trying to alternate between adult books and YA in order to read a larger variety of books. Seems like a good place to start once I finish the second book in ASOIAF!

        • Great! Let me know what you think when you get to them.

  • I haven’t read anything by Ms. Kingsolver, but Zadie Smith I love 🙂 looking forward reading both these novels as they sound so intriguing!

    • Everyone (I know) who has read Zadie Smith refers to her with the word “love” somewhere in the sentence, so I can’t wait to start reading her books. I looked up a list of her nonfiction, and I’m looking forward to that, as well.

    • also, do visit sometime!

  • No gasps here. I haven’t read either of these authors. I have The Poisonwood Bible does that count

    • Sure, it counts! Haha! It’s a good book–I hope you enjoy reading it.

  • I haven’t heard of either of these, but they sound really interesting! I also keep hearing The Poisonwood Bible mentioned as a must-read though. I should give them a shot!

    Great list! Here’s my Best of 2012!

    • Thanks for the link to your list! I will be sure to check it out when I get back on the PC later (it’s Breakfast Date Day with my husband).

  • I haven’t heard of these titles before. Thanks for sharing them with us though!

    Here’s my Armchair BEA Best of 2012 post and my giveaway post for today!

    • Thanks for stopping by to check them out!

  • Did you get to see Barbara Kingsolver speak this morning? I watched the stream and I’ve only read one of her books, back in high school. Now I want to pick up more by her. And I’ve yet to read anything by Zadie Smith but I hear her books are AMAZING!

    • Oh no, I missed it! Darn it. I forgot all about checking the streaming schedule. Crud.

  • bookpics4alba

    ~hides~ I don’t know these books :'(

    I have to look her up :'(

    Here’s my Best of 2012-> If you’d like to drop by 😀

    • No need to hide here–this is a judgment-free zone. 🙂 But yes, look them up. Kingsolver is a very good author, and a million people can’t be wrong about Zadie Smith. 🙂

      Thanks for the link!

      • bookpics4alba

        I’ll really look them up…see if they’re my style 😀

      • bookpics4alba

        oh my GOD! I just checked…the other day a friend was trying to clean her shelves and asked if I’d like some books…she didn’t tell me which ones she’d be sending…just took some random pics and stuff…AND
        O_______O she sent the Poinsonwood Bible!!! I’ll have to check that one then!!! I LOVE the edge of the pages of that book but it is HUGE!

        • Awesome!

          • bookpics4alba

            😀 thanks for dealing with my stalking 😀 hehehe

          • If that’s what you call stalking, you may stalk my blog any time. Haha!

          • bookpics4alba

            oooh I am a really fierce blog stalker..that’s why I try to follow as few as possible, to fail miserably hhehehe 😀

  • I’m excited for Flight Behavior too. I have an e-galley of it and am trying to make myself wait awhile to read it. I’m also really looking forward to NW. Enjoy!

    • I actually teased my mom by telling her I had access to the egalley. She wasn’t as amused by that as I was. Hahaha!

  • I have yet to read either author, though I do have books by both. The Zadie Smith books sounds great!

    • Doesn’t it? Not that I’ll have time to read it as soon as it comes out, but anyway…

  • Never heard of Barbara Kingsolver though I have heard of Zadie Smith. I think a fellow Ghanaian blogger reviewed a book she had written. Can’t remember which, though. You could check out for the review. Thanks for sharing.

    • If you can get your hands on a Kingsolver novel or two, I think you’d like them. She has written a couple of nonfiction books as well.

    • And thank you for the link.

  • I read “The Poisonwood Bible” and didn’t really enjoy it that much. Maybe I’ll give this Barbara Kingsolver a try.

    • Did you try THE LACUNA? As much as I love THE POISONWOOD BIBLE, I loved THE LACUNA even more. I absolutely fell in love with it.

  • I had no idea that Zadie Smith had a new book coming out! While I did read her essay collection, I only enjoy a few of the essays. I’m still willing to give her latest a try. Have you read Kingsolver’s non-fiction? Her essay collection, Small Wonder, is one of my favorite books ever.

    • YES! Small Wonder is a very good book. I really don’t think I’ve read anything by her that I haven’t liked.

    • gilles

      LOL. Only enjoying a few ? Well, she only wrote three essays so it means (if “a few” means more than one) that you enjoyed the majority of her worK 🙂

      For me :
      #1 – The autograph man
      #2 – White teeth
      #3 – On beauty

      – A zadie smith fan from france.

  • I’m sitting here trying to figure out I haven’t read more Barbara Kingsolver. I loved the Bean Trees, which I read entirely by accident. I think, after I re-read the LotR series this summer, I will do a Kingsolver marathon leading up to her new book. (P.S., it is starting to panic me a little that my to-read shelf is quickly outpacing my read shelf. See what you do to me?!? 🙂 )

    • As far as your TBR pile growing exponentially, I’m just paying it forward. Hahaha! You should see how many unread books I own.

      I read the Bean Trees when I was a teenager? I think? My mom either read it for pleasure or for a class she was taking and recommended it to me. I remember that I really liked it. I think she became one of my favorites when I read The Poisonwood Bible.

  • I really, really want to read the new Barbara Kingsolver even though I have all her previous books on my shelf and haven’t yet read them! My husband loves her and is always gently pushing me to get to them and I want to…just too many books, not enough time! This new one does sound like something I’d love though.

    • I’m glad your husband likes her so much. The new one sounds excellent.

  • Now following you here and on Twitter thanks to Bea. “Flight Behavior” sounds tight; I need to go check it out further. Thanks.

  • Heather, I am happy to nominate you for the Beautiful Blogger Award. Please check for rules on acceptance.

    • Thank you for the award, Celestine! That means a lot to me. 🙂

  • I haven’t read anything by these others but I think I have a copy of White Teeth by Zadie Smith somewhere around! I like the covers for these. 🙂

    • I like the covers, too–I like the colors and the simplicity.

  • Okay I seriously need to read some Barbara Kingsolver! I listed her on my “top ten authors I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never read” list this week and after reading this post, I want to read something of hers even more!

    • I really think you’d like her books.

  • Ooh, NW sounds fantastic! I’m pretty excited that I have books by both Kingsolver and Smith on my shelf, waiting to be read (The Poisonwood Bible and On Beauty, respectively)!