John Sayles, Burning Bright

The prolific indie auteur and author John Sayles—who over a four-decade career has directed 17 feature films, published three novels, and been nominated for two Academy Awards and one National Book Award—is a storyteller with a talent for illuminating political themes through probing character studies. Though his fourth novel, the 1,000-page opus A Moment in the Sun, spawned his Philippine-American War film Amigo (opening in August), the manuscript itself sat dormant since it was completed in 2008, until Dave Eggers and Jordan Bass selected it for McSweeney’s. An ambitious survey of U.S. imperialism on the eve of the 20th century, Sayles’s novel follows one brigade in the Philippines, interweaving stories of other fringes of American society, from the Yukon to the back streets of Manhattan, to shine light on the compromises that people and countries make in their quest to survive.