We're counting down Joyce Carol Oates's best books, including her newest novel.
Joyce Carol Oates is having a moment. The writer is a force on Twitter, where followers are treated to underappreciated Canadian painters and sharp political commentary. Her classic novel Blonde, the story of Marilyn Monroe, heads to Netflix Sept. 23 starring Ana de Armas. And last month, after releasing her crime and suspense anthology Extenuating Circumstances ($40, The Mysterious Press), Oates published her latest novel, Babysitter ($30, Knopf), a haunting story inspired by a real-life serial killer in 1970s Detroit. It features all the thrills of a crime novel, including an ignored trophy wife, an orphan and errand boy for criminals who is desperate to be loved and a serial killer (dubbed Babysitter by the press) on the hunt for children he considers “not loved and not deserved.”
“A lot of the novel takes place in that breathless space between right now and what’s waiting, which could be so awful that you almost can’t think about it,” says Oates, 84. “Is this really happening to me? Am I really having this experience? I try to get those experiences in my novel.”
If you’re wondering where to start in the author’s long collection of bestselling books, here’s our guide.
Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? Stories of Young America (1974): “It’s an entirely ominous, gripping and timeless collection of short stories that will stick with you long after you finish reading,” says author Karin Slaughter. The title story is dedicated to Bob Dylan and remains one of the most anthologized short stories in the modern era.
Blonde (2000): A brilliant imagining of the inner life of actress Marilyn Monroe, it’s one Oates often recommends when asked where to start—and with good reason.
Black Water (1992): This novella is a dark reimagining of the 1969 Chappaquiddick incident in which Sen. Ted Kennedy crashed a car, left the scene and lost any hope of ever becoming president when passenger Mary Jo Kopechne drowned.
The Wonderland Quartet: A series of books encompassing America (from rural poverty to racial uprisings) with a scope rarely seen since John Dos Passos’ U.S.A. trilogy.
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