In October 2013, ten years after publishing her last novel, Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch took the publishing world by storm. Every reviewer had something to say, everyone proudly tweeted that they had bought or finished the book, and no one passed on the opportunity to discuss Tartt’s greatest achievement to date. The last time the US had such an extreme and unanimous opinion on a beloved author was when JK Rowling completed the Harry Potter series with The Deathly Hollows (even Rowling’s Cuckoo’s Calling wasn’t at that level of obsession).
And then in February 2015, it was announced that Harper Lee, one-time author and creator of America’s most loved lawyer, was publishing her second novel Go Set a Watchman this summer, and the book skyrocketed to #1 on the Amazon Best Sellers list. Months later, it is still at the top of the list.
To Kill a Mockingbird has been a staple of literature at schools across the nation for decades, and I’ve never personally met a person who has hated—or even mildly disliked—the novel. In discussions on favorite books and online “all-time best” lists, To Kill a Mockingbird is always in the top ten (usually alongside the likes of The Great Gatsby). The decision is hardly subjective: To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the best.
Every year, publishers push out what they hope to be that year’s biggest book. This year, I’ve seen Girl on a Train, A Little Life, and Hausfrau making their rounds across best spring titles. Among last year’s bestsellers, Marilynne Robinson’s Lila, David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks, and Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See were discussed by book reviewers and appeared in the charts. But while these are all great novels, none of them are extreme stand outs by way of 2013’s The Goldfinch.
Readers had to wait two years between events in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and The Deathly Hollows. We had to wait ten years for Tartt to bring us The Goldfinch. It’s still unknown when George R.R. Martin will be releasing The Winds of Winter, a book that fans have been dying to read since A Dance of Dragons came out four years ago. And now, after 55 years, Harper Lee will publish her second novel. The announcement of Lee’s book is making us all itch in anticipation; from past experience, Rowling, Martin, and Tartt have all been worth the wait. I hope Harper Lee’s is, too.