Synopses of the New York Times Best Seller List Based Solely on Their Titles

Brian Warfield


The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

Before wings were invented, birds had to walk everywhere just like the rest of us. This book goes through the history of wing invention, from the first time anyone thought to tape two pieces of cardboard onto the back of a duck to Icarus to the Wright brothers taping pieces of cardboard onto their aeroplane. In each scenario, Kidd deftly portrays the foibles of those with lofty goals and the tragedies which befall them. “Reach for the skies,” she writes, “and you’ll bump into the ceiling.”



The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

This may well be literature’s first meta James Bond fan fiction. It certainly is the most celebrated. It starts on the set of the most recent Bond film, Ghosts Never Die, where an anonymous terrorist who calls himself The Goldfinch embroils Craig Daniels in a series of cat and mouse games. What is amazing about this novel is the way in which it pits Daniels against his Bond character and creates a thread to the other actors who have previously portrayed Bond (Sean Connery and Roger Moore playing crucial roles), tying them all neatly together in an existential quandary of what is real and what is the portrayal. Who is James Bond? Who is The Goldfinch?



The First Phone Call from Heaven by Mitch Albom

The first phone call from heaven is a wrong number. The first phone call from heaven is coming from inside the house. The first phone call from heaven is from Paul Auster, but not the Paul Auster. The first phone call from heaven is on a pay phone. It is collect. The first phone call from heaven is a telemarketer who wants to tell you about a wonderful opportunity… The first phone call from heaven is with the Mystery Man from Lost Highway. The first phone call from heaven is from Mitch Albom, what? The first phone call from heaven is from Hitler. He has bad news.



Sycamore Row by John Grisham

John Grisham returns to his taut lawyer thriller territory with this narrative about one row of sycamores that is being threatened by a large corporation’s chainsaw. Tanya grew up looking out upon the vista of this row of sycamores and playing in their arms, and now that she has become the lawyer representing PftEToE (People for the Ethical Treatment of Everything), it is her privilege to take those motherfucking greedy chainsaw-slinging corporate bastards to the cleaners. But here’s the twist: the corporation’s subsidiary manufactures chainsaws and it’s all a marketing ploy for publicity. (Defense attorney: “And exactly how sharp would you say those chainsaws are?”) Take that, Tanya!



First Love by James Patterson and Emily Raymond

Patterson continues his career of being ghost-written outside of his genre with this psychological thriller about a young couple in a fast-paced race to see who can love the other first. Replete with car chases, foreign espionage, and calf-deep wading in shark-infested oceans, the potential lovers are in a fight for their lives. And their hearts.




The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley

Have you ever wondered what exactly the dead do in their vaulted arches? Alan Bradley has. He was so curious he studied the dead in the natural habitat of their vaulted arches for ten years compiling an exhaustive account of the different kinds of dead and how each inhabits their respective vaulted arch. He also describes, in forensic detail, the vaulting nature of their arches and the specifications to which they are arched.




Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

This exquisitely crafted novel is split into equal portions right down the middle. The first half sets about establishing the nature of its protagonist, focusing primarily on gender. Spoiler: she is a girl. But Flynn takes pages to probe and define what that assignation might possibly mean. The second half of the novel peers into the existential question of spatial designation. Where is the girl? She is gone.




Standup Guy by Stuart Woods

We’ve seen the serial killer dressed as a clown before. But what if he was a stand-up comic, touring the nation leaving a trail of guffaws and entrails in his path? And what if that stand-up comic was Bobcat Goldthwait?




Command Authority by Tom Clancy

This book is a light-hearted romp through the adventures of a family of circus clowns, the Authoritys. Told from the father Command’s point of view, we see how the family lives within the larger society of circus folk. We see the loving way that Command relates to his wife, Port, and his daughter, Undermine, to develop clowning routines which they perform to the delight of audiences everywhere.



Fear Nothing by Lisa Gardner

“The only thing to fear is fear itself,” someone once said. “Or not,” Gardener says in her new book. If you were in space, floating around in your space suit, the only thing separating you from the vast vacuum of (almost) infinite nothing, what do you think you might be afraid of? Not fear. Nothing is something to be afraid of. But, thankfully, there aren’t too many places in nature where absolute nothing can be found. Except in Gardner’s speculative fiction where Nothing lurks under every bed, inside 1 out of 7 fridges, below 35% of toupees, inside Cracker Jack boxes and behind any turn of the page of the very book you are reading. Do you dare? Or are you afraid?

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