Open City: A Novel

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Most Anticipated: The Great Spring 2024 Preview

April April 2 Women! In! Peril! by Jessie Ren Marshall [F] For starters, excellent title. This debut short story collection from playwright Marshall spans sex bots and space colonists, wives and divorcées, prodding at the many meanings of womanhood. Short story master Deesha Philyaw, also taken by the book's title, calls this one "incisive! Provocative! And utterly satisfying!" —Sophia M. Stewart The Audacity by Ryan Chapman [F] This sophomore effort, after the darkly sublime absurdity of Riots I have Known, trades in the prison industrial complex for the Silicon Valley scam. Chapman has a sharp eye and a sharper wit, and a book billed as a "bracing satire about the implosion of a Theranos-like company, a collapsing marriage, and a billionaires’ 'philanthropy summit'" promises some good, hard laughs—however bitter they may be—at the expense of the über-rich. —John H. Maher The Obscene Bird of Night by José Donoso, tr. Leonard Mades [F] I first learned about this book from an essay in this publication by Zachary Issenberg, who alternatively calls it Donoso's "masterpiece," "a perfect novel," and "the crowning achievement of the gothic horror genre." He recommends going into the book without knowing too much, but describes it as "a story assembled from the gossip of society’s highs and lows, which revolves and blurs into a series of interlinked nightmares in which people lose their memory, their sex, or even their literal organs." —SMS Globetrotting ed. Duncan Minshull [NF] I'm a big walker, so I won't be able to resist this assemblage of 50 writers—including Edith Wharton, Katharine Mansfield, Helen Garner, and D.H. Lawrence—recounting their various journeys by foot, edited by Minshull, the noted walker-writer-anthologist behind The Vintage Book of Walking (2000) and Where My Feet Fall (2022). —SMS All Things Are Too Small by Becca Rothfeld [NF] Hieronymus Bosch, eat your heart out! The debut book from Rothfeld, nonfiction book critic at the Washington Post, celebrates our appetite for excess in all its material, erotic, and gluttonous glory. Covering such disparate subjects from decluttering to David Cronenberg, Rothfeld looks at the dire cultural—and personal—consequences that come with adopting a minimalist sensibility and denying ourselves pleasure. —Daniella Fishman A Good Happy Girl by Marissa Higgins [F] Higgins, a regular contributor here at The Millions, debuts with a novel of a young woman who is drawn into an intense and all-consuming emotional and sexual relationship with a married lesbian couple. Halle Butler heaps on the praise for this one: “Sometimes I could not believe how easily this book moved from gross-out sadism into genuine sympathy. Totally surprising, totally compelling. I loved it.” —SMS City Limits by Megan Kimble [NF] As a Los Angeleno who is steadily working my way through The Power Broker, this in-depth investigation into the nation's freeways really calls to me. (Did you know Robert Moses couldn't drive?) Kimble channels Caro by locating the human drama behind freeways and failures of urban planning. —SMS We Loved It All by Lydia Millet [NF] Planet Earth is a pretty awesome place to be a human, with its beaches and mountains, sunsets and birdsong, creatures great and small. Millet, a creative director at the Center for Biological Diversity in Tucson, infuses her novels with climate grief and cautions against extinction, and in this nonfiction meditation, she makes a case for a more harmonious coexistence between our species and everybody else in the natural world. If a nostalgic note of “Auld Lang Syne” trembles in Millet’s title, her personal anecdotes and public examples call for meaningful environmental action from local to global levels. —Nathalie op de Beeck Like Love by Maggie Nelson [NF] The new book from Nelson, one of the most towering public intellectuals alive today, collects 20 years of her work—including essays, profiles, and reviews—that cover disparate subjects, from Prince and Kara Walker to motherhood and queerness. For my fellow Bluets heads, this will be essential reading. —SMS Traces of Enayat by Iman Mersal, tr. Robin Moger [NF] Mersal, one of the preeminent poets of the Arabic-speaking world, recovers the life, work, and legacy of the late Egyptian writer Enayat al-Zayyat in this biographical detective story. Mapping the psyche of al-Zayyat, who died by suicide in 1963, alongside her own, Mersal blends literary mystery and memoir to produce a wholly original portrait of two women writers. —SMS The Letters of Emily Dickinson ed. Cristanne Miller and Domhnall Mitchell [NF] The letters of Emily Dickinson, one of the greatest and most beguiling of American poets, are collected here for the first time in nearly 60 years. Her correspondence not only gives access to her inner life and social world, but reveal her to be quite the prose stylist. "In these letters," says Jericho Brown, "we see the life of a genius unfold." Essential reading for any Dickinson fan. —SMS April 9 Short War by Lily Meyer [F] The debut novel from Meyer, a critic and translator, reckons with the United States' political intervention in South America through the stories of two generations: a young couple who meet in 1970s Santiago, and their American-born child spending a semester Buenos Aires. Meyer is a sharp writer and thinker, and a great translator from the Spanish; I'm looking forward to her fiction debut. —SMS There's Going to Be Trouble by Jen Silverman [F] Silverman's third novel spins a tale of an American woman named Minnow who is drawn into a love affair with a radical French activist—a romance that, unbeknown to her, mirrors a relationship her own draft-dodging father had against the backdrop of the student movements of the 1960s. Teasing out the intersections of passion and politics, There's Going to Be Trouble is "juicy and spirited" and "crackling with excitement," per Jami Attenberg. —SMS Table for One by Yun Ko-eun, tr. Lizzie Buehler [F] I thoroughly enjoyed Yun Ko-eun's 2020 eco-thriller The Disaster Tourist, also translated by Buehler, so I'm excited for her new story collection, which promises her characteristic blend of mundanity and surrealism, all in the name of probing—and poking fun—at the isolation and inanity of modern urban life. —SMS Playboy by Constance Debré, tr. Holly James [NF] The prequel to the much-lauded Love Me Tender, and the first volume in Debré's autobiographical trilogy, Playboy's incisive vignettes explore the author's decision to abandon her marriage and career and pursue the precarious life of a writer, which she once told Chris Kraus was "a bit like Saint Augustine and his conversion." Virginie Despentes is a fan, so I'll be checking this out. —SMS Native Nations by Kathleen DuVal [NF] DuVal's sweeping history of Indigenous North America spans a millennium, beginning with the ancient cities that once covered the continent and ending with Native Americans' continued fight for sovereignty. A study of power, violence, and self-governance, Native Nations is an exciting contribution to a new canon of North American history from an Indigenous perspective, perfect for fans of Ned Blackhawk's The Rediscovery of America. —SMS Personal Score by Ellen van Neerven [NF] I’ve always been interested in books that drill down on a specific topic in such a way that we also learn something unexpected about the world around us. Australian writer Van Neerven's sports memoir is so much more than that, as they explore the relationship between sports and race, gender, and sexuality—as well as the paradox of playing a colonialist sport on Indigenous lands. Two Dollar Radio, which is renowned for its edgy list, is publishing this book, so I know it’s going to blow my mind. —Claire Kirch April 16 The Notebooks of Sonny Rollins by Sonny Rollins [NF] The musings, recollections, and drawings of jazz legend Sonny Rollins are collected in this compilation of his precious notebooks, which he began keeping in 1959, the start of what would become known as his “Bridge Years,” during which he would practice at all hours on the Williamsburg Bridge. Rollins chronicles everything from his daily routine to reflections on music theory and the philosophical underpinnings of his artistry. An indispensable look into the mind and interior life of one of the most celebrated jazz musicians of all time. —DF Henry Henry by Allen Bratton [F] Bratton’s ambitious debut reboots Shakespeare’s Henriad, landing Hal Lancaster, who’s in line to be the 17th Duke of Lancaster, in the alcohol-fueled queer party scene of 2014 London. Hal’s identity as a gay man complicates his aristocratic lineage, and his dalliances with over-the-hill actor Jack Falstaff and promising romance with one Harry Percy, who shares a name with history’s Hotspur, will have English majors keeping score. Don’t expect a rom-com, though. Hal’s fraught relationship with his sexually abusive father, and the fates of two previous gay men from the House of Lancaster, lend gravity to this Bard-inspired take. —NodB Bitter Water Opera by Nicolette Polek [F] Graywolf always publishes books that make me gasp in awe and this debut novel, by the author of the entrancing 2020 story collection Imaginary Museums, sounds like it’s going to keep me awake at night as well. It’s a tale about a young woman who’s lost her way and writes a letter to a long-dead ballet dancer—who then visits her, and sets off a string of strange occurrences. —CK Norma by Sarah Mintz [F] Mintz's debut novel follows the titular widow as she enjoys her newfound freedom by diving headfirst into her surrounds, both IRL and online. Justin Taylor says, "Three days ago I didn’t know Sarah Mintz existed; now I want to know where the hell she’s been all my reading life. (Canada, apparently.)" —SMS What Kingdom by Fine Gråbøl, tr. Martin Aitken [F] A woman in a psychiatric ward dreams of "furniture flickering to life," a "chair that greets you," a "bookshelf that can be thrown on like an apron." This sounds like the moving answer to the otherwise puzzling question, "What if the Kantian concept of ding an sich were a novel?" —JHM Weird Black Girls by Elwin Cotman [F] Cotman, the author of three prior collections of speculative short stories, mines the anxieties of Black life across these seven tales, each of them packed with pop culture references and supernatural conceits. Kelly Link calls Cotman's writing "a tonic to ward off drabness and despair." —SMS Presence by Tracy Cochran [NF] Last year marked my first earnest attempt at learning to live more mindfully in my day-to-day, so I was thrilled when this book serendipitously found its way into my hands. Cochran, a New York-based meditation teacher and Tibetan Buddhist practitioner of 50 years, delivers 20 psycho-biographical chapters on recognizing the importance of the present, no matter how mundane, frustrating, or fortuitous—because ultimately, she says, the present is all we have. —DF Committed by Suzanne Scanlon [NF] Scanlon's memoir uses her own experience of mental illness to explore the enduring trope of the "madwoman," mining the work of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Audre Lorde, and others for insights into the long literary tradition of women in psychological distress. The blurbers for this one immediately caught my eye, among them Natasha Trethewey, Amina Cain, and Clancy Martin, who compares Scanlon's work here to that of Marguerite Duras. —SMS Unrooted by Erin Zimmerman [NF] This science memoir explores Zimmerman's journey to botany, a now endangered field. Interwoven with Zimmerman's experiences as a student and a mother is an impassioned argument for botany's continued relevance and importance against the backdrop of climate change—a perfect read for gardeners, plant lovers, or anyone with an affinity for the natural world. —SMS April 23 Reboot by Justin Taylor [F] Extremely online novels, as a rule, have become tiresome. But Taylor has long had a keen eye for subcultural quirks, so it's no surprise that PW's Alan Scherstuhl says that "reading it actually feels like tapping into the internet’s best celeb gossip, fiercest fandom outrages, and wildest conspiratorial rabbit holes." If that's not a recommendation for the Book Twitter–brained reader in you, what is? —JHM Divided Island by Daniela Tarazona, tr. Lizzie Davis and Kevin Gerry Dunn [F] A story of multiple personalities and grief in fragments would be an easy sell even without this nod from Álvaro Enrigue: "I don't think that there is now, in Mexico, a literary mind more original than Daniela Tarazona's." More original than Mario Bellatin, or Cristina Rivera Garza? This we've gotta see. —JHM Prairie, Dresses, Art, Other by Danielle Dutton [NF] Coffee House Press has for years relished its reputation for publishing “experimental” literature, and this collection of short stories and essays about literature and art and the strangeness of our world is right up there with the rest of Coffee House’s edgiest releases. Don’t be fooled by the simple cover art—Dutton’s work is always formally inventive, refreshingly ambitious, and totally brilliant. —CK I Just Keep Talking by Nell Irvin Painter [NF] I first encountered Nell Irvin Painter in graduate school, as I hung out with some Americanists who were her students. Painter was always a dazzling, larger-than-life figure, who just exuded power and brilliance. I am so excited to read this collection of her essays on history, literature, and politics, and how they all intersect. The fact that this collection contains Painter’s artwork is a big bonus. —CK April 30 Real Americans by Rachel Khong [F] The latest novel from Khong, the author of Goodbye, Vitamin, explores class dynamics and the illusory American Dream across generations. It starts out with a love affair between an impoverished Chinese American woman from an immigrant family and an East Coast elite from a wealthy family, before moving us along 21 years: 15-year-old Nick knows that his single mother is hiding something that has to do with his biological father and thus, his identity. C Pam Zhang deems this "a book of rare charm," and Andrew Sean Greer calls it "gorgeous, heartfelt, soaring, philosophical and deft." —CK The Swans of Harlem by Karen Valby [NF] Huge thanks to Bebe Neuwirth for putting this book on my radar (she calls it "fantastic") with additional gratitude to Margo Jefferson for sealing the deal (she calls it "riveting"). Valby's group biography of five Black ballerinas who forever transformed the art form at the height of the Civil Rights movement uncovers the rich and hidden history of Black ballet, spotlighting the trailblazers who paved the way for the Misty Copelands of the world. —SMS Appreciation Post by Tara Ward [NF] Art historian Ward writes toward an art history of Instagram in Appreciation Post, which posits that the app has profoundly shifted our long-established ways of interacting with images. Packed with cultural critique and close reading, the book synthesizes art history, gender studies, and media studies to illuminate the outsize role that images play in all of our lives. —SMS May May 7 Bad Seed by Gabriel Carle, tr. Heather Houde [F] Carle’s English-language debut contains echoes of Denis Johnson’s Jesus’s Son and Mariana Enriquez’s gritty short fiction. This story collection haunting but cheeky, grim but hopeful: a student with HIV tries to avoid temptation while working at a bathhouse; an inebriated friend group witnesses San Juan go up in literal flames; a sexually unfulfilled teen drowns out their impulses by binging TV shows. Puerto Rican writer Luis Negrón calls this “an extraordinary literary debut.” —Liv Albright The Lady Waiting by Magdalena Zyzak [F] Zyzak’s sophomore novel is a nail-biting delight. When Viva, a young Polish émigré, has a chance encounter with an enigmatic gallerist named Bobby, Viva’s life takes a cinematic turn. Turns out, Bobby and her husband have a hidden agenda—they plan to steal a Vermeer, with Viva as their accomplice. Further complicating things is the inevitable love triangle that develops among them. Victor LaValle calls this “a superb accomplishment," and Percival Everett says, "This novel pops—cosmopolitan, sexy, and funny." —LA América del Norte by Nicolás Medina Mora [F] Pitched as a novel that "blends the Latin American traditions of Roberto Bolaño and Fernanda Melchor with the autofiction of U.S. writers like Ben Lerner and Teju Cole," Mora's debut follows a young member of the Mexican elite as he wrestles with questions of race, politics, geography, and immigration. n+1 co-editor Marco Roth calls Mora "the voice of the NAFTA generation, and much more." —SMS How It Works Out by Myriam Lacroix [F] LaCroix's debut novel is the latest in a strong early slate of novels for the Overlook Press in 2024, and follows a lesbian couple as their relationship falls to pieces across a number of possible realities. The increasingly fascinating and troubling potentialities—B-list feminist celebrity, toxic employer-employee tryst, adopting a street urchin, cannibalism as relationship cure—form a compelling image of a complex relationship in multiversal hypotheticals. —JHM Cinema Love by Jiaming Tang [F] Ting's debut novel, which spans two continents and three timelines, follows two gay men in rural China—and, later, New York City's Chinatown—who frequent the Workers' Cinema, a movie theater where queer men cruise for love. Robert Jones, Jr. praises this one as "the unforgettable work of a patient master," and Jessamine Chan calls it "not just an extraordinary debut, but a future classic." —SMS First Love by Lilly Dancyger [NF] Dancyger's essay collection explores the platonic romances that bloom between female friends, giving those bonds the love-story treatment they deserve. Centering each essay around a formative female friendship, and drawing on everything from Anaïs Nin and Sylvia Plath to the "sad girls" of Tumblr, Dancyger probes the myriad meanings and iterations of friendship, love, and womanhood. —SMS See Loss See Also Love by Yukiko Tominaga [F] In this impassioned debut, we follow Kyoko, freshly widowed and left to raise her son alone. Through four vignettes, Kyoko must decide how to raise her multiracial son, whether to remarry or stay husbandless, and how to deal with life in the face of loss. Weike Wang describes this one as “imbued with a wealth of wisdom, exploring the languages of love and family.” —DF The Novices of Lerna by Ángel Bonomini, tr. Jordan Landsman [F] The Novices of Lerna is Landsman's translation debut, and what a way to start out: with a work by an Argentine writer in the tradition of Jorge Luis Borges and Adolfo Bioy Casares whose work has never been translated into English. Judging by the opening of this short story, also translated by Landsman, Bonomini's novel of a mysterious fellowship at a Swiss university populated by doppelgängers of the protagonist is unlikely to disappoint. —JHM Black Meme by Legacy Russell [NF] Russell, best known for her hit manifesto Glitch Feminism, maps Black visual culture in her latest. Black Meme traces the history of Black imagery from 1900 to the present, from the photograph of Emmett Till published in JET magazine to the footage of Rodney King's beating at the hands of the LAPD, which Russell calls the first viral video. Per Margo Jefferson, "You will be galvanized by Legacy Russell’s analytic brilliance and visceral eloquence." —SMS The Eighth Moon by Jennifer Kabat [NF] Kabat's debut memoir unearths the history of the small Catskills town to which she relocated in 2005. The site of a 19th-century rural populist uprising, and now home to a colorful cast of characters, the Appalachian community becomes a lens through which Kabat explores political, economic, and ecological issues, mining the archives and the work of such writers as Adrienne Rich and Elizabeth Hardwick along the way. —SMS Stories from the Center of the World ed. Jordan Elgrably [F] Many in America hold onto broad, centuries-old misunderstandings of Arab and Muslim life and politics that continue to harm, through both policy and rhetoric, a perpetually embattled and endangered region. With luck, these 25 tales by writers of Middle Eastern and North African origin might open hearts and minds alike. —JHM An Encyclopedia of Gardening for Colored Children by Jamaica Kincaid and Kara Walker [NF] Two of the most brilliant minds on the planet—writer Jamaica Kincaid and visual artist Kara Walker—have teamed up! On a book! About plants! A dream come true. Details on this slim volume are scant—see for yourself—but I'm counting down the minutes till I can read it all the same. —SMS Physics of Sorrow by Georgi Gospodinov, tr. Angela Rodel [F] I'll be honest: I would pick up this book—by the International Booker Prize–winning author of Time Shelter—for the title alone. But also, the book is billed as a deeply personal meditation on both Communist Bulgaria and Greek myth, so—yep, still picking this one up. —JHM May 14 This Strange Eventful History by Claire Messud [F] I read an ARC of this enthralling fictionalization of Messud’s family history—people wandering the world during much of the 20th century, moving from Algeria to France to North America— and it is quite the story, with a postscript that will smack you on the side of the head and make you re-think everything you just read. I can't recommend this enough. —CK Woodworm by Layla Martinez, tr. Sophie Hughes and Annie McDermott [F] Martinez’s debut novel takes cabin fever to the max in this story of a grandmother,  granddaughter, and their haunted house, set against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War. As the story unfolds, so do the house’s secrets, the two women must learn to collaborate with the malevolent spirits living among them. Mariana Enriquez says that this "tense, chilling novel tells a story of specters, class war, violence, and loneliness, as naturally as if the witches had dictated this lucid, terrible nightmare to Martínez themselves.” —LA Self Esteem and the End of the World by Luke Healy [NF] Ah, writers writing about writing. A tale as old as time, and often timeworn to boot. But graphic novelists graphically noveling about graphic novels? (Verbing weirds language.) It still feels fresh to me! Enter Healy's tale of "two decades of tragicomic self-discovery" following a protagonist "two years post publication of his latest book" and "grappling with his identity as the world crumbles." —JHM All Fours by Miranda July [F] In excruciating, hilarious detail, All Fours voices the ethically dubious thoughts and deeds of an unnamed 45-year-old artist who’s worried about aging and her capacity for desire. After setting off on a two-week round-trip drive from Los Angeles to New York City, the narrator impulsively checks into a motel 30 miles from her home and only pretends to be traveling. Her flagrant lies, unapologetic indolence, and semi-consummated seduction of a rent-a-car employee set the stage for a liberatory inquisition of heteronorms and queerness. July taps into the perimenopause zeitgeist that animates Jen Beagin’s Big Swiss and Melissa Broder’s Death Valley. —NodB Love Junkie by Robert Plunket [F] When a picture-perfect suburban housewife's life is turned upside down, a chance brush with New York City's gay scene launches her into gainful, albeit unconventional, employment. Set at the dawn of the AIDs epidemic, Mimi Smithers, described as a "modern-day Madame Bovary," goes from planning parties in Westchester to selling used underwear with a Manhattan porn star. As beloved as it is controversial, Plunket's 1992 cult novel will get a much-deserved second life thanks to this reissue by New Directions. (Maybe this will finally galvanize Madonna, who once optioned the film rights, to finally make that movie.) —DF Tomorrowing by Terry Bisson [F] The newest volume in Duke University’s Practices series collects for the first time the late Terry Bisson’s Locus column "This Month in History," which ran for two decades. In it, the iconic "They’re Made Out of Meat" author weaves an alt-history of a world almost parallel to ours, featuring AI presidents, moon mountain hikes, a 196-year-old Walt Disney’s resurrection, and a space pooch on Mars. This one promises to be a pure spectacle of speculative fiction. —DF Chop Fry Watch Learn by Michelle T. King [NF] A large portion of the American populace still confuses Chinese American food with Chinese food. What a delight, then, to discover this culinary history of the worldwide dissemination of that great cuisine—which moonlights as a biography of Chinese cookbook and TV cooking program pioneer Fu Pei-mei. —JHM On the Couch ed. Andrew Blauner [NF] André Aciman, Susie Boyt, Siri Hustvedt, Rivka Galchen, and Colm Tóibín are among the 25 literary luminaries to contribute essays on Freud and his complicated legacy to this lively volume, edited by writer, editor, and literary agent Blauner. Taking tacts both personal and psychoanalytical, these essays paint a fresh, full picture of Freud's life, work, and indelible cultural impact. —SMS Another Word for Love by Carvell Wallace [NF] Wallace is one of the best journalists (and tweeters) working today, so I'm really looking forward to his debut memoir, which chronicles growing up Black and queer in America, and navigating the world through adulthood. One of the best writers working today, Kiese Laymon, calls Another Word for Love as “One of the most soulfully crafted memoirs I’ve ever read. I couldn’t figure out how Carvell Wallace blurred time, region, care, and sexuality into something so different from anything I’ve read before." —SMS The Devil's Best Trick by Randall Sullivan [NF] A cultural history interspersed with memoir and reportage, Sullivan's latest explores our ever-changing understandings of evil and the devil, from Egyptian gods and the Book of Job to the Salem witch trials and Black Mass ceremonies. Mining the work of everyone from Zoraster, Plato, and John Milton to Edgar Allen Poe, Aleister Crowley, and Charles Baudelaire, this sweeping book chronicles evil and the devil in their many forms. --SMS The Book Against Death by Elias Canetti, tr. Peter Filkins [NF] In this newly-translated collection, Nobel laureate Canetti, who once called himself death's "mortal enemy," muses on all that death inevitably touches—from the smallest ant to the Greek gods—and condemns death as a byproduct of war and despots' willingness to use death as a pathway to power. By means of this book's very publication, Canetti somewhat succeeds in staving off death himself, ensuring that his words live on forever. —DF Rise of a Killah by Ghostface Killah [NF] "Why is the sky blue? Why is water wet? Why did Judas rat to the Romans while Jesus slept?" Ghostface Killah has always asked the big questions. Here's another one: Who needs to read a blurb on a literary site to convince them to read Ghost's memoir? —JHM May 21 Exhibit by R.O. Kwon [F] It's been six years since Kwon's debut, The Incendiaries, hit shelves, and based on that book's flinty prose alone, her latest would be worth a read. But it's also a tale of awakening—of its protagonist's latent queerness, and of the "unquiet spirit of an ancestor," that the author herself calls so "shot through with physical longing, queer lust, and kink" that she hopes her parents will never read it. Tantalizing enough for you? —JHM Cecilia by K-Ming Chang [F] Chang, the author of Bestiary, Gods of Want, and Organ Meats, returns with this provocative and oft-surreal novella. While the story is about two childhood friends who became estranged after a bizarre sexual encounter but re-connect a decade later, it’s also an exploration of how the human body and its excretions can be both pleasurable and disgusting. —CK The Great State of West Florida by Kent Wascom [F] The Great State of West Florida is Wascom's latest gothicomic novel set on Florida's apocalyptic coast. A gritty, ominous book filled with doomed Floridians, the passages fly by with sentences that delight in propulsive excess. In the vein of Thomas McGuane's early novels or Brian De Palma's heyday, this stylized, savory, and witty novel wields pulp with care until it blooms into a new strain of American gothic. —Zachary Issenberg Cartoons by Kit Schluter [F] Bursting with Kafkaesque absurdism and a hearty dab of abstraction, Schluter’s Cartoons is an animated vignette of life's minutae. From the ravings of an existential microwave to a pencil that is afraid of paper, Schluter’s episodic outré oozes with animism and uncanniness. A grand addition to City Light’s repertoire, it will serve as a zany reminder of the lengths to which great fiction can stretch. —DF May 28 Lost Writings by Mina Loy, ed. Karla Kelsey [F] In the early 20th century, avant-garde author, visual artist, and gallerist Mina Loy (1882–1966) led an astonishing creative life amid European and American modernist circles; she satirized Futurists, participated in Surrealist performance art, and created paintings and assemblages in addition to writing about her experiences in male-dominated fields of artistic practice. Diligent feminist scholars and art historians have long insisted on her cultural significance, yet the first Loy retrospective wasn’t until 2023. Now Karla Kelsey, a poet and essayist, unveils two never-before-published, autobiographical midcentury manuscripts by Loy, The Child and the Parent and Islands in the Air, written from the 1930s to the 1950s. It's never a bad time to be re-rediscovered. —NodB I'm a Fool to Want You by Camila Sosa Villada, tr. Kit Maude [F] Villada, whose debut novel Bad Girls, also translated by Maude, captured the travesti experience in Argentina, returns with a short story collection that runs the genre gamut from gritty realism and social satire to science fiction and fantasy. The throughline is Villada's boundless imagination, whether she's conjuring the chaos of the Mexican Inquisition or a trans sex worker befriending a down-and-out Billie Holiday. Angie Cruz calls this "one of my favorite short-story collections of all time." —SMS The Editor by Sara B. Franklin [NF] Franklin's tenderly written and meticulously researched biography of Judith Jones—the legendary Knopf editor who worked with such authors as John Updike, Sylvia Plath, Elizabeth Bowen, Anne Tyler, and, perhaps most consequentially, Julia Child—was largely inspired by Franklin's own friendship with Jones in the final years of her life, and draws on a rich trove of interviews and archives. The Editor retrieves Jones from the margins of publishing history and affirms her essential role in shaping the postwar cultural landscape, from fiction to cooking and beyond. —SMS The Book-Makers by Adam Smyth [NF] A history of the book told through 18 microbiographies of particularly noteworthy historical personages who made them? If that's not enough to convince you, consider this: the small press is represented here by Nancy Cunard, the punchy and enormously influential founder of Hours Press who romanced both Aldous Huxley and Ezra Pound, knew Hemingway and Joyce and Langston Hughes and William Carlos Williams, and has her own MI5 file. Also, the subject of the binding chapter is named "William Wildgoose." —JHM June June 4 The Future Was Color by Patrick Nathan [F] A gay Hungarian immigrant writing crappy monster movies in the McCarthy-era Hollywood studio system gets swept up by a famous actress and brought to her estate in Malibu to write what he really cares about—and realizes he can never escape his traumatic past. Sunset Boulevard is shaking. —JHM A Cage Went in Search of a Bird [F] This collection brings together a who's who of literary writers—10 of them, to be precise— to write Kafka fanfiction, from Joshua Cohen to Yiyun Li. Then it throws in weirdo screenwriting dynamo Charlie Kaufman, for good measure. A boon for Kafkaheads everywhere. —JHM We Refuse by Kellie Carter Jackson [NF] Jackson, a historian and professor at Wellesley College, explores the past and present of Black resistance to white supremacy, from work stoppages to armed revolt. Paying special attention to acts of resistance by Black women, Jackson attempts to correct the historical record while plotting a path forward. Jelani Cobb describes this "insurgent history" as "unsparing, erudite, and incisive." —SMS Holding It Together by Jessica Calarco [NF] Sociologist Calarco's latest considers how, in lieu of social safety nets, the U.S. has long relied on women's labor, particularly as caregivers, to hold society together. Calarco argues that while other affluent nations cover the costs of care work and direct significant resources toward welfare programs, American women continue to bear the brunt of the unpaid domestic labor that keeps the nation afloat. Anne Helen Petersen calls this "a punch in the gut and a call to action." —SMS Miss May Does Not Exist by Carrie Courogen [NF] A biography of Elaine May—what more is there to say? I cannot wait to read this chronicle of May's life, work, and genius by one of my favorite writers and tweeters. Claire Dederer calls this "the biography Elaine May deserves"—which is to say, as brilliant as she was. —SMS Fire Exit by Morgan Talty [F] Talty, whose gritty story collection Night of the Living Rez was garlanded with awards, weighs the concept of blood quantum—a measure that federally recognized tribes often use to determine Indigenous membership—in his debut novel. Although Talty is a citizen of the Penobscot Indian Nation, his narrator is on the outside looking in, a working-class white man named Charles who grew up on Maine’s Penobscot Reservation with a Native stepfather and friends. Now Charles, across the river from the reservation and separated from his biological daughter, who lives there, ponders his exclusion in a novel that stokes controversy around the terms of belonging. —NodB June 11 The Material by Camille Bordas [F] My high school English teacher, a somewhat dowdy but slyly comical religious brother, had a saying about teaching high school students: "They don't remember the material, but they remember the shtick." Leave it to a well-named novel about stand-up comedy (by the French author of How to Behave in a Crowd) to make you remember both. --SMS Ask Me Again by Clare Sestanovich [F] Sestanovich follows up her debut story collection, Objects of Desire, with a novel exploring a complicated friendship over the years. While Eva and Jamie are seemingly opposites—she's a reserved South Brooklynite, while he's a brash Upper Manhattanite—they bond over their innate curiosity. Their paths ultimately diverge when Eva settles into a conventional career as Jamie channels his rebelliousness into politics. Ask Me Again speaks to anyone who has ever wondered whether going against the grain is in itself a matter of privilege. Jenny Offill calls this "a beautifully observed and deeply philosophical novel, which surprises and delights at every turn." —LA Disordered Attention by Claire Bishop [NF] Across four essays, art historian and critic Bishop diagnoses how digital technology and the attention economy have changed the way we look at art and performance today, identifying trends across the last three decades. A perfect read for fans of Anna Kornbluh's Immediacy, or the Style of Too Late Capitalism (also from Verso). War by Louis-Ferdinand Céline, tr. Charlotte Mandell [F] For years, literary scholars mourned the lost manuscripts of Céline, the acclaimed and reviled French author whose work was stolen from his Paris apartment after he fled to Germany in 1944, fearing punishment for his collaboration with the Nazis. But, with the recent discovery of those fabled manuscripts, War is now seeing the light of day thanks to New Directions (for anglophone readers, at least—the French have enjoyed this one since 2022 courtesy of Gallimard). Adam Gopnik writes of War, "A more intense realization of the horrors of the Great War has never been written." —DF The Uptown Local by Cory Leadbeater [NF] In his debut memoir, Leadbeater revisits the decade he spent working as Joan Didion's personal assistant. While he enjoyed the benefits of working with Didion—her friendship and mentorship, the more glamorous appointments on her social calendar—he was also struggling with depression, addiction, and profound loss. Leadbeater chronicles it all in what Chloé Cooper Jones calls "a beautiful catalog of twin yearnings: to be seen and to disappear; to belong everywhere and nowhere; to go forth and to return home, and—above all else—to love and to be loved." —SMS Out of the Sierra by Victoria Blanco [NF] Blanco weaves storytelling with old-fashioned investigative journalism to spotlight the endurance of Mexico's Rarámuri people, one of the largest Indigenous tribes in North America, in the face of environmental disasters, poverty, and the attempts to erase their language and culture. This is an important book for our times, dealing with pressing issues such as colonialism, migration, climate change, and the broken justice system. —CK Any Person Is the Only Self by Elisa Gabbert [NF] Gabbert is one of my favorite living writers, whether she's deconstructing a poem or tweeting about Seinfeld. Her essays are what I love most, and her newest collection—following 2020's The Unreality of Memory—sees Gabbert in rare form: witty and insightful, clear-eyed and candid. I adored these essays, and I hope (the inevitable success of) this book might augur something an essay-collection renaissance. (Seriously! Publishers! Where are the essay collections!) —SMS Tehrangeles by Porochista Khakpour [F] Khakpour's wit has always been keen, and it's hard to imagine a writer better positioned to take the concept of Shahs of Sunset and make it literary. "Like Little Women on an ayahuasca trip," says Kevin Kwan, "Tehrangeles is delightfully twisted and heartfelt."  —JHM Traveling: On the Path of Joni Mitchell by Ann Powers [NF] The moment I saw this book's title—which comes from the opening (and, as it happens, my favorite) track on Mitchell's 1971 masterpiece Blue—I knew it would be one of my favorite reads of the year. Powers, one of the very best music critics we've got, masterfully guides readers through Mitchell's life and work at a fascinating slant, her approach both sweeping and intimate as she occupies the dual roles of biographer and fan. —SMS All Desire Is a Desire for Being by René Girard, ed. Cynthia L. Haven [NF] I'll be honest—the title alone stirs something primal in me. In honor of Girard's centennial, Penguin Classics is releasing a smartly curated collection of his most poignant—and timely—essays, touching on everything from violence to religion to the nature of desire. Comprising essays selected by the scholar and literary critic Cynthia L. Haven, who is also the author of the first-ever biographical study of Girard, Evolution of Desire, this book is "essential reading for Girard devotees and a perfect entrée for newcomers," per Maria Stepanova. —DF June 18 Craft by Ananda Lima [F] Can you imagine a situation in which interconnected stories about a writer who sleeps with the devil at a Halloween party and can't shake him over the following decades wouldn't compel? Also, in one of the stories, New York City’s Penn Station is an analogue for hell, which is both funny and accurate. —JHM Parade by Rachel Cusk [F] Rachel Cusk has a new novel, her first in three years—the anticipation is self-explanatory. —SMS Little Rot by Akwaeke Emezi [F] Multimedia polymath and gender-norm disrupter Emezi, who just dropped an Afropop EP under the name Akwaeke, examines taboo and trauma in their creative work. This literary thriller opens with an upscale sex party and escalating violence, and although pre-pub descriptions leave much to the imagination (promising “the elite underbelly of a Nigerian city” and “a tangled web of sex and lies and corruption”), Emezi can be counted upon for an ambience of dread and a feverish momentum. —NodB When the Clock Broke by John Ganz [NF] I was having a conversation with multiple brilliant, thoughtful friends the other day, and none of them remembered the year during which the Battle of Waterloo took place. Which is to say that, as a rule, we should all learn our history better. So it behooves us now to listen to John Ganz when he tells us that all the wackadoodle fascist right-wing nonsense we can't seem to shake from our political system has been kicking around since at least the early 1990s. —JHM Night Flyer by Tiya Miles [NF] Miles is one of our greatest living historians and a beautiful writer to boot, as evidenced by her National Book Award–winning book All That She Carried. Her latest is a reckoning with the life and legend of Harriet Tubman, which Miles herself describes as an "impressionistic biography." As in all her work, Miles fleshes out the complexity, humanity, and social and emotional world of her subject. Tubman biographer Catherine Clinton says Miles "continues to captivate readers with her luminous prose, her riveting attention to detail, and her continuing genius to bring the past to life." —SMS God Bless You, Otis Spunkmeyer by Joseph Earl Thomas [F] Thomas's debut novel comes just two years after a powerful memoir of growing up Black, gay, nerdy, and in poverty in 1990s Philadelphia. Here, he returns to themes and settings that in that book, Sink, proved devastating, and throws post-service military trauma into the mix. —JHM June 25 The Garden Against Time by Olivia Laing [NF] I've been a fan of Laing's since The Lonely City, a formative read for a much-younger me (and I'd suspect for many Millions readers), so I'm looking forward to her latest, an inquiry into paradise refracted through the experience of restoring an 18th-century garden at her home the English countryside. As always, her life becomes a springboard for exploring big, thorny ideas (no pun intended)—in this case, the possibilities of gardens and what it means to make paradise on earth. —SMS Cue the Sun! by Emily Nussbaum [NF] Emily Nussbaum is pretty much the reason I started writing. Her 2019 collection of television criticism, I Like to Watch, was something of a Bible for college-aged me (and, in fact, was the first book I ever reviewed), and I've been anxiously awaiting her next book ever since. It's finally arrived, in the form of an utterly devourable cultural history of reality TV. Samantha Irby says, "Only Emily Nussbaum could get me to read, and love, a book about reality TV rather than just watching it," and David Grann remarks, "It’s rare for a book to feel alive, but this one does." —SMS Woman of Interest by Tracy O'Neill [NF] O’Neill's first work of nonfiction—an intimate memoir written with the narrative propulsion of a detective novel—finds her on the hunt for her biological mother, who she worries might be dying somewhere in South Korea. As she uncovers the truth about her enigmatic mother with the help of a private investigator, her journey increasingly becomes one of self-discovery. Chloé Cooper Jones writes that Woman of Interest “solidifies her status as one of our greatest living prose stylists.” —LA Dancing on My Own by Simon Wu [NF] New Yorkers reading this list may have witnessed Wu's artful curation at the Brooklyn Museum, or the Whitney, or the Museum of Modern Art. It makes one wonder how much he curated the order of these excellent, wide-ranging essays, which meld art criticism, personal narrative, and travel writing—and count Cathy Park Hong and Claudia Rankine as fans. —JHM [millions_email]

Most Anticipated: The Great 2023B Book Preview

Hello beloved Millions readers! It feels like only yesterday we were mooning over the most exciting reads of 2023A. But time flies, and new books wait for no one. Before we get into it—and by "it" I mean forthcoming titles by Alexandra Chang, Annie Ernaux, Jon Fosse, Ross Gay, Werner Herzog, Karl Ove Knausgaard, Benjamin Labatut, Jhumpa Lahiri, Yiyun Li, John McPhee, Marie NDiaye, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Sigrid Nunez, Joyce Carol Oates, Zadie Smith, Tracy K. Smith, Gay Talese, Jesmyn Ward, Bryan Washington, Colson Whitehead, Diane Williams, Banana Yoshimoto, C Pam Zhang, Babs herself, and many, many more—a quick note. While we're highly selective about what makes it into our biannual previews, we know the sheer number of books here (171, to be exact) can be overwhelming, so for our 2023B list we've added tags for readers to more quickly distinguish fiction and nonfiction titles. In the future, we can also add more specific tags to distinguish, say, novels and story collections, memoirs and essay collections—if this would be helpful, do let us know! And though we do our best to strike a balance between being both curated and comprehensive, we're bound to miss a few books, not to mention the new titles that are being announced every day. We encourage you to check out our monthly previews for the most up-to-date lists of our most-anticipated fiction and nonfiction titles, and if you're looking for our most-anticipated poetry collections, be sure to check our our quarterly poetry roundups. Last but not least, if you like what we do, and want us to keep doing it sans paywall, consider making a one-time contribution or becoming a sustaining member today. By some miracle, The Millions has been around for 20 years—we'd like to be around for 20 more (or even just through the end of the year). Without further ado, it's my privilege and pleasure to present our Great 2023B Book Preview. —Sophia Stewart, editor July The Light Room by Kate Zambreno [NF] Zambreno—whose previous books include To Write as If Already Dead, Screen Tests, Drifts, and Heroines, all strange and mesmerizing and very good—chronicles her life as the mother of two young daughters amid the pandemic in her latest. As she teeters between exhaustion and transcendence, she finds inspiration in everything from her children's toys to the work of Natalia Ginzburg. Annie Ernaux counts herself as a big Zambreno stan—need I say more? —Sophia M. Stewart How We Do It: Black Writers on Craft, Practice, and Skill, edited by Jericho Brown and Darlene Taylor [NF] Edited by Pulitzer-winning poet Jericho Brown, this anthology features literary titans (and personal faves) Nikki Giovanni, Natasha Trethewey, Rita Dove, and Jamaica Kincaid, among many, many others, to offer a curated, comprehensive look at what it means to be a Black writer today and how Blackness can inform the craft and practice of writing. —SMS In the Act by Rachel Ingalls [F] In this witty, darkly comedic story, a housewife named Helen uncovers a secret her husband keeps locked in the attic. The reveal is too good to spoil, but let's just say deranged hilarity ensues. No one straddles the line between playful and macabre quite like Ingalls (perhaps best known for her 1982 novel Mrs. Caliban, about a lonely housewife who finds companionship in a sea monster named Larry), who always, in the words of critic Lidija Haas, “leaves readers to wonder, of her spouses and siblings, who might push whom off a cliff.” —SMS Promise by Rachel Eliza Griffiths [F] Griffiths, a decorated poet, debuts as a novelist with this tale of two Black sisters growing up in New England amid the Civil Rights movement. Blurbed by Jacqueline Woodson and Marlon James, who calls it a "magical, magnificent novel," Promise explores sisterhood, resistance, and everyday acts of heroism with a poetic sensibility. —Lauren Frank Zero-Sum by Joyce Carol Oates [F] The prolific author and goated tweeter is back with brutally dark story collection, centering on erotic obsession, thwarted idealism, and the lure of self-destruction. The cast of characters include high school girls out for vengeance on sexual predators, a philosophy student bent on seducing her mentor, and a young woman morbidly fascinated by motherhood. Always one to wade into The Discourse, JCO pulls no punches here, touching every nerve she can manage. You can't help but respect it. —SMS All-Night Pharmacy by Ruth Madievsky [F] Madievsky’s electric debut—pitched as Rachel Kushner meets David Lynch—follows an unnamed narrator who is torn between her obsession with her older sister Debbie and her desire to get clean. When Debbie vanishes, our narrator embarks on a kaleidoscopic journey of sex, power, and mysticism. All-Night Pharmacy counts among its fans Kristen Arnett, Isle McElroy, and Jean Kyoung Frazier, who calls the book "a black hole, a force so lively, unfiltered, and pure that you won’t mind being sucked in headfirst." —Liv Albright Thunderclap by Laura Cumming [NF] Art critic and historian Cumming zeroes in on a decisive moment in art history: a massive explosion at a Dutch gunpowder shop that killed the painter of The Goldfinch and almost killed Johannes Vermeer. Thunderclap blends memoir, biography, and history to explore one of art's most fertile periods and probe the intersections of art, memory, and desire. —LF Wittgenstein's Mistress by David Markson [F] Reissued by the extremely cool Dalkey Archive, Markson's 1988 novel—hailed by DFW himself as "a work of genius"—is a philosophical, experimental, and truly wild journey into the mind, narrated by a woman who is convinced that she is the last person on earth. One of the more daunting entries on this list, yes, but also one of the most fascinating. —SMS Tabula Rasa: Vol. 1 by John McPhee [NF] McPhee looks back on his seven-decade career by reflecting on all the people, places, and things he had planned to write about but never got around to. As with any retrospective by a literary icon, there's lots of quality tea in here, from a frosty encounter with Thorton Wilder to how he convinced The New Yorker to publish an entire book on oranges. A curio cabinet of treasures. —SMS Sucker by Daniel Hornsby [F] This book was pitched to me as Succession meets Bad Blood meets vampires—a high-risk combination, narratively speaking, but undeniably tempting. Hornsby's sophomore effort, after the 2020 novel Via Negativa, is undeniably of the moment and sounds like just the sort of biting satire (I'm so sorry) that a lot of us could stand to sink our teeth into (seriously, like, so sorry) right now. —SMS Elsewhere: Stories by Yan Ge [F] Over two decades, Ge, a fiction writer who works in both Chinese and English, has written 13 books in Chinese, several of them translated into English. With Elsewhere, she makes her English-language debut. This will be Anglophone readers' first encounter with Ge as a short-story writer (a form she has lots of experience with; she published her first book—a short story collection—at 17), and if her novels are any indication, we're in for a treat. —LF My Husband by Maud Ventura, translated by Emma Ramadan [F] A woman besotted with an apparently perfect man who does not return her affections—let's just say this one... resonates. The debut novel from France's Maud Ventura, this psychological thriller, a la Gillian Flynn, follows a wife whose passion for her husband, and tests of his love for her, threatens to tear her marriage apart. A delicious addition to the relationship-suspense genre. —SMS After the Funeral by Tessa Hadley [F] The latest collection from Hadley, a master at capturing the emotional gradations of domestic life, comprises 12 characteristically astute stories about the ties that bind. Colm Tóibín counts himself as a Hadley stan, and Lily King calls this, Hadley's twelfth book and fourth story collection, "pure magic." —LF Strip Tees by Kate Flannery [F] Flannery's memoir, set in mid-aughts Los Angeles, centers on the author's stint at American Apparel at the height of the indie sleaze. A record of a bygone era and a bildungsroman about work and sex, the cover alone has me yearning for the days of skater dresses and disco shorts—were we ever so young? —SMS Small Worlds by Caleb Azumah Nelson [F] In the follow-up to his hit debut novel Open Water, beloved by the likes of Katie Kitamura and Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Nelson introduces three young Londoners on the cusp of adulthood and the major life changes it brings. Moving from London to Accra and back again, the novel's scale is both intimate and international, anchored by a timeless story of friendship and growing up. —LF How Can I Help You by Laura Sims [F] Wanting to escape her mysterious past, Margo Finch changes her name and accepts a library job, which she hopes will mask her penchant for violence. But her plan is upended when a dead body shows up in the library bathroom. Mona Awad calls this "a compulsive and unforgettable novel" that is "reminiscent of Shirley Jackson at her eerie best." —LA I Meant It Once by Kate Doyle [F] Doyle's debut story collection plumbs the inner lives of young women faced with the uncertainty, nostalgia, and romantic tribulations that are part and parcel of being alive in your twenties. This one is pitched for readers of Batuman, Moshfegh, and Lockwood—a holy trinity of sharp, searching female characters. Say no more. —SMS Crook Manifesto by Colson Whitehead [F] Whitehead continues his saga of late-20th-century Harlem (beginning with 2021's Harlem Shuffle) with a portrait of the seedy, exuberant world of 1970s New York. The novel takes us to the set of a Blaxploitation set, a standoff between the NYPD and the Black Liberation Army, a bitter Bicentennial celebration—a rich imagining of an inimitable time and place, by one of New York's best. —SMS Every Rising Sun by Jamila Ahmed [F] Ahmed's debut reimagines One Thousand and One Nights by placing its narrator, Scheherazade, at the center of the story. Crafted over 14 years of writing and research, offers a new take on 13th-century folktales, celebrating the richness of the medieval Islamic world while finding fresh and even feminist significance in Scheherazade's voice. Also, that cover—whew! —SMS Country of the Blind by Andrew Leland [NF] I'll cut to the chase—this the best book I've read this year and also one of the best books I've ever read in my life. No descriptor feels capacious enough: an intellectually rigorous memoir, a moving cultural history, an brilliant study of blindness, disability, and adaptation. My love and admiration for this book know no bounds, and I'm beyond excited for the new era in disability writing that its publication portends. Shoutout to one of my favorite living writers and thinkers Chloé Cooper Jones, whose blurb made me pick this book up and subsequently changed my life. —SMS Succession Scripts 1, 2, & 3 by Jesse Armstrong et al [F] My deep love for Succession stems mostly from its utterly brilliant dialogue—slippery and evasive, gestural and oblique, and a showcase for the most remarkable diction I've ever seen on TV. Nobody writes like Jesse Armstrong and his writer's room, and with the way the medium is headed I doubt anyone ever will again. This is mandatory reading for Succession fans, aspiring screenwriters, and anyone who loves good TV.  —SMS Gwen John by Alice Foster [NF] I first discovered John's work in Celia Paul's gorgeous memoir Letters to Gwen John, and she's been one of my favorite artists ever since. Foster's study of John's life and work—the first critical, illustrated biography of the early-twentieth-century painter—is a well-researched account and beautiful tribute to a brilliant and complicated woman artist who has long languished on the margins of art history. —SMS Contradiction Days by JoAnna Novak [NF] Creatively blocked and uneasy with her newly pregnant body, Novak becomes obsessed with painter Agnes Martin. In her debut memoir, she wrestles in real-time with Martin's remarkable body of work, which provides her with a new framework to engage with her changing body, creative impulses, and impending motherhood. Billed for readers of Rachel Cusk and Maggie Nelson, Contradiction Days explores the thorny intersections of art, obligation, and womanhood. —LA Someone Who Isn't Me by Geoff Rickly [F] Rickly's debut novel follows a man seeking psychedelic treatment for heroin addiction in Mexico, and is based on the author's own experience doing the same. Chelsea Hodson literally founded her own press just to publish this book, so it's gotta be bonkers good. Not to mention both Hanif Abdurraqib and Gerard Way are blurbers—the definition of an iconic duo. —SMS Pleasure of Thinking by Wang Xiaobo, translated by Yan Yan [NF] Collecting the essays of one of the foremost Chinese intellectuals of the 1990s, Pleasure of Thinking highlights Xiaobo's remarkable versatility as a critic and thinker. From essays on Calvino and Hemingway, to anecdotes about getting mugged and how shitty American food is, this yet-untranslated collection has it all. —LF August Time's Mouth by Edan Lepucki [F] The latest from Lepucki (a Millions alum!) is a quintessentially California novel, spanning the dense forests of Santa Cruz and the urban sprawl of Los Angeles. Centering on Ursa, who can (sort of) time travel and is drawn early on into an all-women cult (I'm listening), Time's Mouth wrestles with memory, inheritance, and whether we can ever be extricated from our past. —SMS Mobility by Lydia Kiesling [F] The sophomore novel by Kiesling (another Millions alum!) is a story of class, power, and climate change, as well as American complicity and inertia. Kiesling is one of the best writers working today, and the Namwali Serpell calls this latest book a "deeply engrossing and politically astute tale," so this one is especially hotly anticipated over at Millions HQ (by which I mean me). —SMS Owner of a Lonely Heart by Beth Nguyen [NF] This, by Nguyen, is a somewhat meta masterclass in memoir-writing: attuned to the inherent ethical dilemmas that come with writing creative nonfiction, the lapses in memory and changes in perspective, the subjective narration through which reality is filtered. I had the pleasure of speaking to Nguyen about the book a few months ago, and her command of her craft is undeniable—and on full display in her latest. —SMS Tom Lake by Ann Patchett [F] If anyone can pull off an actually-good pandemic novel, it's Patchett. Tom Lake centers on a mother and her three daughters, cooped up at home in early 2020, as the mother tells the story of a famous actor with whom she once shared the stage—and a bed. It's strange to think that our parents were people before we were born, and Patchett's latest covers that fertile narrative ground with aplomb. —LF Anansi's Gold by Yepoka Yeebo [NF] In her first book, Yeebo chases an infamous Ghanian conman, John Ackah Blay-Miezah, who pulled off one of the 20th century's longest-running frauds, living in luxury, fooling everyone, and making millions, all while evading the FBI for years. How long until this book becomes an HBO miniseries starring Isiah Whitlock Jr.? Only time will tell. —SMS Witness by Jamel Brinkley [F] Brinkley is one of the best writers of short fiction around right now, with Yiyun Li comparing him to "iconic short-story writers [like] Edward P. Jones and Mavis Gallant." His sophomore collection, following 2018's Lucky Man, comprises 10 stories about life, death, and city-dwelling. I'll read anything FSG publishes anyway, but Witness in particular looks like a real gem. —SMS The Plague by Jacqueline Rose [NF] Rose, also the author of On Violence and On Violence Against Women, refracts the experience of the pandemic through the work of Camus, Freud, and Simone Weil, using their politics and private griefs as windows into our present moment. A slim volume that, knowing Rose, will have some serious intellectual heft. —SMS Dark Days by Roger Reeves [NF] In his nonfiction debut, poet Roger Reeves combines memoir, theory, and criticism to study race, freedom, and literature. Cathy Park Hong praises Reeves's "dazzling intellect" whose insights "have truly changed my way of thinking"—I can't think of a more ringing endorsement from a more reputable endorser. —SMS Family Lore by Elizabeth Acevedo [F] Acevedo, who won the National Book Award for her YA novel-in-verse The Poet X, makes her adult debut with this novel of sisterhood, inheritance, and diaspora. The story centers on the women of one Dominican American family who discover secrets that bind them to one another. Kiese Laymon, one of our greatest living writers, calls this one "perfectly crafted and tightly drawn," adding: "This is how stories should be made." —SMS The Men Can't Be Saved by Ben Purkert [F] In his debut novel, Purkert asks: What do our jobs do to our souls? Ignoring how upsettingly close to home this question hits, this book sounds like a knockout, following a junior copywriter who is let go from his job but can't seem to let go of his job. Purket chips away at the ugly, entwined hearts of masculinity and capitalism in what Clint Smith called "a phenomenal debut novel by one of my favorite writers." —SMS Pulling the Chariot of the Sun by Shane McCrae [NF] McCrae, a decorated poet, recounts being kidnapped from his Black father by his white supremacist maternal grandparents. His heritage hidden, memories distorted, and life carefully controlled, McCrae's painful childhood allow allows him insights into the racial wounds and violence that permeate this country. A stirring, harrowing personal narrative and cultural indictment. —LF The Apology by Jimin Han [F] I've been curious about Han's multigenerational saga ever since Alexander Chee shouted it out in his 2022 Year in Reading entry. So I'll give Chee the floor: "Han’s novel, set in Korea and America, is about an ajumma who is determined to keep taking care of her family from beyond the grave, whether they want her to or not. It’s also a great novel to read if you ever wanted, say, more novels from Iris Murdoch (I am like this)." —SMS Hangman by Maya Binyam [F] Binyam, a contributing editor at The Paris Review, makes her debut with a strange and searching novel about exile, diaspora, and the quest for Black refuge in the U.S. and beyond. Tavi Gevinson and Maaza Mengiste gave this one lots of love, and Namwali Serpell hails Hangman as a "strikingly masterful debut" that is "clean, sharp, piercing." —LF Tomb Sweeping by Alexandra Chang [F] Chang follows up her much-loved debut novel Days of Distraction with a story collection that spans the U.S. and Asia, chronicling the lives of immigrant families and expectant parents, housewives and grocery clerks, strangers and neighbors and more. Jason Mott and Raven Leilani both blurbed, but what takes the cake is the endorsement from George Saunders, who calls Chang "a riveting and exciting presence in our literature." —LF The Visionaries by Wolfram Eilenberger [NF] De Beauvoir. Arendt. Weil. Rand. These four philosophers are the subjects of Eilenberger's ambitious group biography and intellectual history, rooted in these women's parallel ideas and intersecting lives, both of which were largely shaped by WWII. I've long been fascinated by each of these thinkers separately, and I can't wait to see how Eilenberger synthesizes their philosophies and probes the connections between them. —SMS How to Care for a Human Girl by Ashley Wurzbacher [F] Wurzbacher's debut novel follows two sisters who become unexpectedly pregnant—and simultaneously have to decide whether or not they will see those pregnancies through. Wurzbacher, also the author of the story collection Happy Like This, explores "the battle between the head, the heart, and the body" that all women experience, in the words of Michelle Hart, positing that "even in the grips of indecision women must get to decide their own lives.” —LA Liquid Snakes by Stephen Kearse [F] In his second novel, Kearse poses a timely question: What if toxic pollution traveled up the socioeconomic ladder rather than down it? Mourning his stillborn daughter, killed by toxins planted in Black neighborhoods by the government, one man decides to take justice into his own hands. Hannah Gold calls this "a brilliant novel that manages to be, among other things, a pharmacological thriller and an incisive meditation on the poison-pen letter." —SMS I Hear You're Rich by Diane Williams [F] In her latest collection, Williams, the godmother of flash fiction, delivers 33 short stories that offer glimpses into the mundane and exhilarating beauty of everyday life. Lydia Davis and Merve Emre (who once called Williams “the writer who saved my life—or my soul, if one believes such a thing exists”) count themselves as megafans, and for good reason. —Daniella Fishman Thin Skin by Jenn Shapland [NF] Shapland's first book, My Autobiography of Carson McCullers, was stellar, and her latest, an essay collection on capitalism's creep into our bodies, minds, and land, looks great. Shapland is especially attuned to the porousness that characterizes modern life, having been diagnosed with extreme dermatologic sensitivity—literal thin skin. Alexander Chee calls this a "wrenching, loving, and trenchant examination" of everything from healthcare and nuclear weapons to queerness and feminism. —SMS August Wilson: A Life by Patti Hartigan [NF] Not only is this the first authoritative biography of Wilson—its author actually knew the influential playwright, interviewing him many times before his death in 2005. Hartigan, an award-winning theater critic and art reporter, doesn't just recount Wilson's life but analyzes his work, studying his use of history, memory, and vernacular in such indelible plays as Fences and Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. A much-needed record of Wilson's life and work that will help secure his legacy and introduce him to future generations. —LF The Quickening by Elizabeth Rush [NF] In this follow-up to the Pulitzer-nominated Rising, Rush watches the world melt. Chronicling a months-long journey to the Thwaites glacier in Antarctica, she and a group of scientists study how climate change is changing our planet—and what this means for our future. But she's also thinking about her own future: she wants to become a mother. But is it ethical to bring a kid into the world right now? This, and many other salient questions, propel the book. —SMS The Marriage Question by Clare Carlisle [NF] We all know Eliot as a genius novelist—but what about as a formidable philosophical mind? In a new study of the Middlemarch author, Carlisle tries to deliver a fuller portrait of Eliot as a woman and a thinker, for whom the question of marriage was particularly salient to her life and work. Carlisle, a brilliant philosophical mind herself, is perfectly matched to her subject here. The kind of book you savor page by page. —SMS Las Madres by Esmeralda Santiago [F] The author of the iconic 1993 autobiography When I Was Puerto Rican returns with a novel that moves between Puerto Rico and the Bronx, centering on two generations of women: close-knit group who call themselves "las Madres," beginning in the 1970s, and their daughters, in present day. Santiago has made her name shining a light on Puerto Rican and Nuyorican life through both nonfiction and fiction, with this latest novel continuing that project. Bee Sting by Paul Murray [F] Perhaps best known for his 2010 tragicomic novel Skippy Dies, Murray returns with a story of family, fortune, and what it means—or whether it's even possible—to be a good person amid societal upheaval (or collapse, depending on how you look at it). As four members of a fairly ordinary family come up against twists of fate in various and sometimes life-changing ways, Murray chronicles their diverging trajectories in what Emily Temple calls "cool-water prose mixed with his trademark wry darkness." —SMS Daughter of the Dragon by Yunte Huang [NF] As a lover of Old Hollywood, I practically lept out of my seat when mention of this biography began circulating among my fellow cinephiles. Huang dazzles with a modern reevaluation of the life and career of Hollywood’s first Chinese-American film star, Anna May Wong, detailing the all too common racism, sexism, and ageism that ran rampant through Hollywood (and still does, for that matter). Unsurprisingly, that story is brimming with juicy tidbits, like the fact that both Walter Benjamin and Marlene Detrich harbored massive crushes on Wong. —DF Surreal Spaces by Joanna Moorhead [NF] In this illustrated biography, the brilliant artist and writer Leonora Carrington—a Surrealist practitioner and vanguard among women painters—finally gets her due. Her fiction (beloved by everyone from Luis Buñel to Sheila Heti) has been resurrected thanks to the valiant efforts of the New York Review of Books and its Dorothy Project, and with this biography published by Princeton UP, her equally dramatic life story will have its moment in the sun too. —SMS Wifedom by Anna Funder [NF] The lives of literary wives have come under renewed scrutiny in reason years, and thank goodness for that. (See: Vera Nabokov, Nora Joyce, every woman in Carmela Ciuraru's Lives of the Wives.) So I'm thrilled to see Eileen O'Shaughnessy emerge from the shadows in Wifedom, which reveals the integral part she played in husband George Orwell's work, as well as her own merit as a writer. Funder asks: Are the roles of wife and writer forever at odds? —SMS Holler, Child by LaToya Watkins [F] Following up her debut novel Perish, Watkins delivers an 11-story collection that foregrounds the family and turns on loss, hope, reconciliation, and freedom. Per Deesha Philyaw, "Every story, every character, every line of LaToya Watkins's Holler, Child is a revelation." As is most of what Watkins writes—be sure to check out this stunning essay she wrote for us just last year. —LF Dialogue with a Somnambulist by Chloe Aridjis [NF/F] Come and take a lap with Aridjis, most recently the author of Sea Monsters, as she guides us through this murky daydream of a book. In this collection of stories and essays, Aridjis’s muses are both quotidian and uncanny: a plastic bag drifting through the wind (a la Katy Perry), a sea-monkey-eating grandma, astronauts in existential crisis. Interested yet? Well, try this on for size—the Deborah Levy calls the book an assortment of “sublime treasures from one of our boldest writers.” —DF Every Drop Is a Man's Nightmare by Megan Kamalei Kakimoto [F] Per Elizabeth McCracken, this one is "a knockout. 11 knockouts, one KO for every story." (Man, she's good at blurbing.) Indeed Kakimoto's debut collection tells 11 stories of contemporary Hawaiian identity, mythology, and womanhood. Unruly sexuality, generational memory, and the ghosts of colonization collide in what promises to be an auspicious short-fiction debut. —SMS Terrace Story by Hilary Leichter [F] Based on her award-winning story in Harper's Magazine, Leichter's second novel centers on a family who discovers a beautiful terrace hidden in their closet—and must contend with the repercussions of their discovery. In Terrace Story, blurbed and beloved by Jessamine Chan and Hernan Diaz, Leichter asks: How can we possibly nurture love with death always hanging overhead? —LF September My Work by Olga Ravn, translated by Sophia Hersi Smith and Jennifer Russell [F] I've been a fan of Ravn's since I read her bleak, brilliant sci-fi novella The Employees, translated by Martin Aitken. Her latest, My Work, explores childbirth and motherhood by mixing different literary forms—fiction, essay, poetry, memoir, letters—with her signature experimental flair. I'm especially interested to read Ravn via Smith and Russell, who together have previously translated Tove Ditlevsen. —SMS The Fraud by Zadie Smith [F] Smith returns with her first novel since 2016's Swing Time. Her first work of historical fiction, The Fraud, is set against a real legal trial over the inheritance of a sizable estate that divided Victorian England and, in the story, captivates the Scottish housekeeper of a famous novelist. Smith probes questions of truth and self-deception, fraudulence and authenticity, and what it means for something to be "real." —LF Wednesday's Child by Yiyun Li [F] Li's been the sort of fiction writer other writers talk about over a few rounds with not-so-hushed awe since her first story collection hit shelves in 2005 and The New Yorker figured out that pretty much any piece she turned in was worth printing. She's mostly known as a top-notch novelist now, but this return to short fiction—her first collection in 13 years!—should remind those not already passing copies of The Vagrants along to their friends like they're introductory leaflets to some secret society why they fell in love with Li in the first place. —Allen Charles I'm a Fan by Sheena Patel [F] Patel's debut is one of the first great social media novels (along, perhaps, with Patricia Lockwood's No One Is Talking About This). A bold, electric, and ruthless tale of sex, class, status, obsession, self-destruction, and the worst parts of being online, all told from the perspective of a beguiling unnamed narrator involved in a troubled romance, Rachel Yoder calls I'm a Fan "a scathing ode to the psychos and shitheads." —SMS End Credits by Patty Lin [NF] Lin, a former writer for Desperate Housewives, Breaking Bad, Freaks and Geeks, and Friends, recounts her tumultuous years in Hollywood as not only the sole woman in the writer's room, but the only Asian person as well. At a moment of reckoning for the entertainment industry (see: Maureen Ryan's Burn It Down), Lin's memoir of ambition, power, and sacrifice couldn't come at a better time. —SMS Creep by Myriam Gurba  [NF] Gurba first captivated the literary world with her scathing essay on American Dirt, which was among first of what would soon be a tsunami of takedowns. In her equally ruthless and razor-sharp essay collection, Gurba considers the idea of "creeps"—both the noun and the verb—as an illuminating instrument for her cultural criticism. The blurber roster is astonishing and includes Luis Alberto Urrea, Imani Perry, Morgan Jerkins, and Rachel Kushner, who writes, "I loved Creep and already consider it essential reading, a California classic." —SMS Do You Remember Being Born? by Sean Michaels [F] First off, can we hear a little commotion for the cover? I mean—stun-ning. But as for what's inside: Michaels's disturbingly topical novel follows an aging poet who agrees to collaborate with a Big Tech company's poetry AI named Charlotte. I'm very much looking forward to this study of the intersections of art, labor, capital, and creativity—a book that I wish wasn't as timely and relevant as it is. —SMS Idlewild by James Frankie Thomas [F] I first encountered Thomas as a critic via his wry and razor-sharp review of the recent 1776 revival. So I'm excited to read his debut novel, the story of two estranged friends looking back on their formative years at a small Quaker high school in early-aughts lower Manhattan. Sarah Thankam Mathews and Kiley Reid both loved this one, and Pulitzer winner Paul Harding gave it a hearty "Bravo." —SMS Rouge by Mona Awad [F] The latest from Awad, the author of the hit 2020 novel Bunny, is pitched as Snow White meets Eyes Wide Shut—a horror-tinted gothic fairy tale about a lonely dress store clerk whose mother's sudden death sends her in obsessive search of youth and beauty. Mary Karr herself says that she "couldn't put it down." —LF The Devil of the Provinces by Juan Cárdenas, translated by Lizzie Davis [F] In this tale of a son’s peculiar homecoming, Cárdenas (author of the fantastic 2015 novella Ornamental) mystifies with the story of a crime like no other. After 15 years away from home, a biologist returns to his Colombian village only to find it strikingly different from when he last left it. Amid a tangled web of conspiracy, nothing is as it seems. What happens, Cárdenas asks, when you get stuck in the one place to which you swore you’d never return? —DF The Young Man by Annie Ernaux, translated by Alison Strayer [NF] In the Nobel winner's latest, Ernaux reflects on an affair she had with a man in his twenties when she was in her fifties. The romance foregrounds various contradictions: why can men have younger lovers, but not women? How is it that Ernaux feels both aware of her age and ageless in the presence of her paramour? It's a blessing, really, that there is still more Ernaux for Anglophone readers to discover and savor (even if the French did get to read this one a year ahead of us). —SMS Daughter by Claudia Dey [F] Dey's latest novel, after 2018's Heartbreaker, centers on a woman and her one-hit-wonder novelist father. Living in his shadow and caught in his orbit, she strives to make a life—and art—of her own. Raven Leilani and Miriam Toews are both fans, and Sheila Heti praises Dey for capturing "feelings and struggles I haven't encountered in other novels. I loved this beautiful book." —LF Glitter and Concrete by Elyssa Maxx Goodman [NF] From the Jazz Age to Drag Race, journalist and drag historian Goodman offers a timely Technicolor history of drag in New York City and the role it's played in both queer culture and urban life. Noted New Yorker (and excellent writer) Ada Calhoun calls this a "glamorous, giddy history" and "a love letter to New York City past and present." —SMS Why Willie Mae Thornton Matters by Lynnée Denise [NF] Thornton is one of the most important figures in the history of rock and roll, yet she's been largely excised from our cultural memory. Denise offers a desperately-needed corrective in this volume about the art, life, and legacy of Thornton, whose song "Hound Dog" (later recorded by Elvis) changed the course of American music. A standout installment in the University of Texas Press's always great Music Matters series. —SMS How I Won a Nobel Prize by Julius Taranto [F] In Taranto's debut novel, a grad student follows her disgraced mentor—a star professor embroiled in a sex scandal—to a university that is a safe harbor for scholars of ill repute. A crisis that tests her commitment, marriage, and conscience ensues. Jonathan Lethem calls this one work by "a stunning new talent, announcing itself fully formed"—indeed, a premise like this takes both deftness and confidence to pull off. Sounds like Taranto pulls it off and then some. —SMS Coleman Hill by Kim Coleman Foote [F] Foote's debut traces the entwined fates of two families during the Great Migration in a work of "biomythography," a term coined by Audre Lorde. Andrew Sean Greer calls this, the inaugural title published by Sarah Jessica Parker's imprint, a "masterpiece" and Jacqueline Woodson says, “Once in a while, a writer comes along with a brilliance that stops the breath—Kim Coleman Foote is that writer.” Glossy by Marisa Meltzer [NF] Cards on the table: I am, as the kids say, a Glossier girlie. But one need not be to pick up Glossy, a bombshell exposé and study of corporate feminism that reveals for the first time what exactly has gone down at Glossier under the leadership of Emily Weiss, who stepped down last year. If you don't believe me, take Tina Brown's word for it; she calls this a book "the portrait of a female CEO we've been sorely lacking." —SMS The Vaster Wilds by Lauren Groff [F] Groff follows up her 2021 novel Matrix with another work of historical fiction, trading her 12th-century monastery for a Jamestown-esque colonial settlement. When a servant girl escapes to the wilderness, she's forced to rethink the laws of civilization and colonialism that she's internalized. Part-adventure, part-fable, classic Groff. —LF Doppelganger by Naomi Klein [NF] The impetus for this book is actually kinda funny—Klein, upset that she keeps getting confused with the respected-feminist-writer-turned-ostracized-conspiracy-theorist Naomi Wolf, looked into the nature of digital doppelgängers. But that led her down a far more fruitful and fascinating path toward questions of identity, psychology, democracy,  communication in the modern age, and, ultimately, this book. And it's Judith Butler-approved to boot! —SMS The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride [F] McBride appears incapable of writing a book that's not a massive success. Following Deacon King Kong (an Oprah's Book Club pick), The Good Lord Bird (a National Book Award winner), and The Color of Water (which has sold more than 2.1 million copies worldwide), one wonders if McBride was at all daunted by his own track record when he started work on The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store, a novel about the entwined destinies of people living on the margins of a small Pennsylvania town in 1972. Either way, he has yet to miss, so his latest will surely be another triumph. Sing a Black Girl's Song by Ntozake Shange, edited by Imani Perry [NF] This posthumous collection of unpublished work by the visionary Shange, edited by Imani Perry and with a foreword by Tarana Burke, introduces readers to never-before-seen essays, plays, and poems by the foundational writer behind the paradigm-shifting 1975 play for colored girls who considered suicide/when the rainbow was enuf. Shange, who died in 2018, was an intellectual giant, in conversation with writers like Morrison and Walker, who never quite got her due in life. —SMS Betty Friedan: Magnificent Disrupter by Rachel Shteir [NF] Friedan's legacy is complicated and sometimes contradictory, and in the first biography of Friedan in more than 20 years, Shteir tries to capture her subject in all her (often frustrating) complexity. A myopic and mercurial crusader, whose devotion was sincere and priorities warped, Friedan deserves a biography that can capture her fullness. And with her rigorous research, interviews, and archival dives, Shteir looks up to the task. —SMS Candelaria by Melissa Lozada-Oliva [F] Lozada-Oliva's follow-up to her wonderful novel-in-verse Dreaming of You was pitched to me as Julia Alvarez’s How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents meets Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Needless to say, it got my attention. Cults, earthquakes, and a mysterious buffet inside a mall pepper the daunting journey that one woman must take to save her granddaughters and possibly the world. —SMS Wild Girls by Tiya Miles [NF] Miles, a brilliant historian and author of the National Book Award-winning All That She Carried, looks at trailblazing women throughout U.S. history, from Harriet Tubman to Louisa May Alcott to Dolores Huerta, to consider how their girlhood experiences outdoors shaped their lives and work. Miles is a wonderful writer, rigorous researcher, and visionary scholar, and here she takes a totally unique (and characteristically ingenious) perspective on how the natural world influenced many of our most consequential women thinkers and leaders. —SMS The Book of (More) Delights by Ross Gay [NF] Gay is back with a follow-up to his tender and uplifting 2019 book The Book of Delights. I'm admittedly curious to see what other delights he could possibly have in store—the first book was a perfect little gem that didn't exactly demand a sequel—but I trust Gay completely as both a charming prose stylist, a seasoned practitioner of noticing, and a keen observer of the quotidian joys that are all around us. —SMS Bartleby and Me by Gay Talese [NF] Sixty years ago, Talese wrote in Esquire that "New York is a city of things unnoticed." He spent the next six decades doing quite a bit of noticing, chronicling the people (and places and moments) that make the city what it is. In his latest, he remembers the "nobodies" that he's profiled over the course of his career, the cast of characters perhaps who are not as recognizable as, say, Sinatra or Ali, but nevertheless essential threads in our cultural fabric. —SMS The Wren, the Wren by Anne Enright [F] Enright, best known for her 2007 Booker Prize-winning novel The Gathering, follows three generations of women who contend with their inheritances from one man—a celebrated Irish poet—that continue to shape their lives. A women-centered family portrait punctuated with lyrical poems, Sally Rooney calls The Wren, The Wren "a magnificent novel." —LF The Wolves of Eternity by Karl Ove Knausgaard, translated by Martin Aitken [F] Knausgaard returns with another dazzling tome on the human condition, narrated from the dual perspectives of long-lost siblings struggling with the timeless conundrum of responsibility vs. self-actualization. Here Knausgaard fashions his own theories of what it is to love, to lose, to live, and be part of a family. Patricia Lockwood says it best: "Just as we begin to wonder where he is taking us, whether he is capable, he gets us there.” —DF Lies and Sorcery by Elsa Morante, translated by Jenny McPhee [F] Admittedly, I hadn't heard of the Italian novelist Elsa Morante until I read Carmela Ciuraru's delicious group biography Lives of the Wives. I've been wanting to read Morante's sprawling, 800-page magnum opus Lies and Sorcery, now reissued by that most prodigious reissuer NYRB, ever since. Natalia Ginzburg once called Morante the writer of her generation that she admired most, and in Ginzburg we trust. —SMS Wandering Through Life by Donna Leon [NF] Leon's Commissario Brunetti books—a Venice-set mystery series with 31 installments (so far)—made her a literary legend. But she's largely stayed out of the spotlight—until now. In her eighties, Leon looks back on her own adventurous life, traveling the world, settling in Italy, and discovering her passion and aptitude for writing. I'll be honest, the cover alone sold me here—this is exactly what I want to look when I'm 80: sunglasses, bob, blazer, blindingly cool. You just know she's got some good stories in her bandoleer. —SMS 50 Years of Ms. edited by Katherine Spillar, foreword by Gloria Steinem [NF] When it launched in 1971, Ms. Magazine was one of the most radical publications on the market, broaching subjects that had long been kept out of popular discourse. With Steinem at its helm, the feminist magazine was essential reading for the era of women's liberation. This collection of mag's best writing includes work by Toni Morrison, Joy Harjo, Audre Lorde, bell hooks, Allison Bechdel, and many more. Essential reading for anyone looking to understand the radical roots of mainstream feminism. —SMS Recital of the Dark Verses by Luis Felipe Fabre, translated by Heather Cleary [F] Translated by the great Heather Cleary, the debut novel by Fabre made waves in Mexico, earning him the prestigious Elena Poniatowska Prize. (By the way, if you haven't read Poniatowska, read Poniatowska.) Based on the true story of the theft of the body of Saint John of the Cross from a monastery in Ubeda. Part road-trip novel, part coming-of-age tale, part slapstick comedy, Recital of the Dark Verses is bound to make a splash with Anglophone readers. —SMS Love in a Time of Hate by Florian Illies, translated by Simon Pare [NF] Surely there's nothing like a book about a bevy of emotionally damaged creative geniuses staring down what must have seemed to them like the end of the world to rile up the sort of lit dork who's made it this far down this list. This one seems promising, cramming practically every pre-war fave, problematic or no—Sartre and de Beauvoir! Dietrich and Nabokov! Arendt and Benjamin! Dalí and Picasso!—into a history of artists caught between financial collapse and rising fascist violence. Anyway, sound familiar? —AC Land of Milk and Honey by C Pam Zhang [F] The followup to Zhang's debut novel How Much of These Hills Is Gold considers the ethics of seeking pleasure against the backdrop of a world in disarray. As environmental catastrophe looms, a chef escapes the city to take a job in an idyllic mountaintop colony, where nothing is as it seems. Among the novel's fans are Raven Leilani, Roxane Gay, and Gabrielle Zevin, who declares, "It's rare to read anything that feels this unique." —LF Jane Campion on Jane Campion by Michel Ciment [NF] I'll just let Harvey Keitel blurb this one: "Jane Campion is a goddess, and it's difficult for a mere mortal to talk about a goddess. I fear being struck by lightning bolts." —SMS People Collide by Isle McElroy [F] McElroy's sophomore novel, which comes on the heels of their debut The Atmospherians, chronicles a husband and wife who switch bodies, only for one of them to disappear without a trace. A fresh take on a classic trope, propelling this speculative story is the question of how this metamorphosis could transform their fraught union. Torrey Peters writes, "I predict Isle McElroy’s People Collide will inaugurate an entire genre." —LF This Is Salvaged by Vauhini Vara [F] Vara’s story collection, which follows her Pulitzer-nominated debut novel The Immortal King Rao, examines human relationships and our intrinsic yearning for connection. The book's all-star roster of blurbers includes Deesha Philyaw, Danielle Evans, Elizabeth McCracken, and Lauren Groff, and Pulitzer winner Andrew Sean Greer says This is Salvaged is "for readers who need clarity and hope–that is to say: everybody.” —LA The World According to Joan Didion by Evelyn McDonnell [NF] Since her death in late 2021, Didion has been iconized (i.e. flattened, simplified) even more than she was in life. She was, of course, cold and beautiful and utterly California—but there was much more to her than that. So it's reassuring to hear the brilliant Hua Hsu report that McDonnell's new volume on Didion "avoids simple platitudes, approaching the great writer with a fierce, probing intelligence." Didion deserves no less. —SMS Catland by Kathryn Hughes [NF] Against the backdrop of the twentieth-century cat craze, Hughes documents the life of artist Louis Wain, whose human-like illustrations of cats prompted an explosion of interest in feline houseguests across society. Despite his whimsical art, Wain's own life was steeped in adversity, and he was eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia, which may have played a role in his work. An accomplished academic, Hughes enlivens this history of the nation's first brush with catmania. —LA American Gun by Cameron McWhirter and Zusha Elinson [F] With mass shootings now endemic to American life, two veteran Wall Street Journal journalists look at one of the most common culprits—the AR-15—to figure out how we got here. Tracing the weapon's history and embrace by the gun industry, the duo reveals the various financial, political, and cultural interests at play in the horrific assent of a killing machine. Esteemed MLK biographer Jonathan Eig calls this "social history at its finest." —SMS Undiscovered by Gabriela Wiener, translated by Julia Sanches [F] In this work of autofiction, Weiner—a respected Peruvian journalist and writer—considers the legacy of imperialism through one woman's family ties to both the colonized and colonizers. A study of the intersections of the personal and historical, violence and race, love and desire, I think/hope Undiscovered will be Weiner's breakthrough moment for Anglophone readers—the blurb from Valeria Luiselli is certainly a good sign. —SMS The Iliad by Homer, translated by Emily Wilson [F] Wilson made waves in 2017 as the first woman to publish an English-language translation of The Odyssey, with its controversial opening line: "Tell me about a complicated man." She's been outspoken about the role her womanhood does and doesn't play in translating, telling the LA Review of Books, "The stylistic and hermeneutic choices I make as a translator aren’t predetermined by my gender identity." Still, there's something exciting about experiencing Homer via a woman's translation, which until now had not even been an option for Anglophone readers. I'm looking forward to Wilson's take on The Iliad. —SMS October The Apple in the Dark by Clarice Lispector, translated by Benjamin Moser [F] Of all the incredible things she wrote, Lispector considered her 1961 novel The Apples in the Dark "the best one." This reissue, translated as always by Moser, concludes New Directions' ambitious—and wildly successful—mission to retranslate all her fiction and reintroduce the innovative, enigmatic, and enthrallingly glamorous Brazilian writer to an Anglophone audience. A fitting capstone to a remarkable publishing endeavor. —SMS How to Say Babylon by Safiya Sinclair [NF] Tracing the arc of her rigid Rastafarian upbringing, Sinclair—an accomplished poet—chronicles how she found her voice as a woman and a writer. Among the book's fans are such literary giants as Marlon James, Natasha Trethewey, and Imani Perry, who places Sinclair in "the pantheon of great writers of the Caribbean literary tradition," alongside Edwidge Danticat and Jamaica Kincaid. —LF The Loneliness Files by Athena Dixon [NF] Dixon's memoir-in-essays was acquired by Tin House editor-at-large Hanif Aburraqib, which is one of the best endorsements I can imagine. Chronicling the days of a child-free middle-aged woman living alone, The Loneliness Files considers how it feels to be a body behind a screen, and what it means to fall through the cracks of connective technology. The rare exploration of internet existence that sounds like it has something urgent to say. —SMS Company by Shannon Sanders [F] At the center of Sanders's debut is the Collins family, whose members and acquaintances are the recurring cast of this collection's 13 stories. In each story, a guest arrives at someone's home—sometimes invited, sometimes unexpected—and some conflict emerges. It's a great premise for a collection, as master short-fictioneer Deesha Philyaw can attest: "Shannon Sanders's stories simply blew me away." —LF The Premonition by Banana Yoshimoto, translated by Asa Yoneda [F] An instant bestseller in Japan when it was first published in 1988, The Premonition follows a young woman from an apparently loving family who is nagged by the feeling that she's forgotten something important from her childhood. Yoshimoto is one of Japan's most celebrated writers, and it's thrilling to see her now dazzle Anglophone readers, including Ling Ma, who says, "Reading Banana Yoshimoto is like taking a bracing, cleansing bath." —LF The Maniac by Benjamin Labatut [F] Labatut is best known for his 2021 gripping book When We Cease to Understand the World and also this incredible interview with Public Books. His latest undertaking, The Maniac, centers on the life and legacy of Hungarian polymath John von Neumann, who invented game theory and the first programmable computer. Like When We Cease, The Maniac audaciously collides fact and fiction. —SMS Let Us Descend by Jesmyn Ward [F] A new Jesmyn Ward book is always an event. The two-time National Book Award winner returns with her fourth novel, the story of Annis, an enslaved girl sold south by the white enslaver who fathered her. We follow her on her miles-long march as she recalls the stories and memories that are her inheritance, and attunes herself to the natural world and spiritual realm that surrounds her. Pitched as Ward's "most magnificent novel yet," I can't wait to find out for myself. —LF Extremely Online by Taylor Lorenz [NF] Do you ever find yourself using TikTok slang unironically, or referring to yourself (perhaps derogatorily) as “chronically online”? Well, Taylor Lorenz has the book for you! The acclaimed and oft-controversial WaPo reporter makes her literary debut with a comprehensive mapping of the internet’s history. From social to economic influences, Lorenz shows us the good, the bad, and the ugly of the World Wide Web and how it's evolved since its humble inception. A mammoth task to be sure—but if anyone is up to the challenge, it’s Lorenz. —DF Nefando by Mónica Ojeda, translated by Sarah Booker [F] The author-translator duo behind the much-loved and much-decorated National Book Award finalist Jawbone returns with a techno-horror story of six young artists in Barcelona, each of them somehow connected to Nefando, a controversial and mysterious video game that challenges their identities and their consciences. With characteristic daring, Ojeda explores the entangled physical and virtual spaces we all inhabit, whether we like it or not. —SMS A Man of Two Faces by Viet Thanh Nguyen [NF] In his first memoir, the Pulitzer-winning novelist explores the themes that have always informed his writing—refugeehood and colonization, history and memory—through a newly personal lens. The book has gotten lots of love from Cathy Park Hong, Laila Lalami, and Gina Apostol, and Susan Straight raves that it "belongs with James Baldwin, Claude Brown, Maxine Hong Kingston, and other writers whose memoirs take apart ‘the American Dream’ with laser precision." —LF The Beauty of Light by Etel Adnan and Laure Adler, translated by Ethen Mitchell [NF] In this slim volume of interviews, some of the last ones of Adnan's life, journalist Laure Adler talks with the poet and painter about her creative process, belief in beauty, and destiny as an artist. Adnan, who died in 2021, is an effervescent presence on the page and in conversation, doling out profound insights with ease, candor, and generosity. —SMS Fire in the Canyon by Daniel Gumbiner [F] Gumbiner's sophomore effort has got Californian literary royalty from Claire Vaye Watkins to Tommy Orange to Dave Eggers heaping on the praise, with the latter even calling him "a sort of 21st century Steinbeck." Fire in the Canyon, about a grape grower and his family whose crops and lives are devastated by wildfire, does seem to take a leaf from the Steinbeck vine. —AC The Halt During the Chase by Rosemary Tonks [F] Praise be to New Directions for reissuing Tonks’s cult classic some 50 years after its publication. Set in high-society England, The Halt During the Chase evolves into a poignant criticism of love and marriage in the modern age, as well as what it means to fight for your individuality in the face of oppression on the level of both socioeconomics and intimate relationships. Nobody writes about angsty women like Tonks. —DF Our Strangers by Lydia Davis [F] Davis returns with a story collection written with her characteristic wit and dazzling prose. In an extremely badass move against the corporate monopoly on bookselling, Davis will not be selling the book via Amazon, releasing it only in physical bookshops and select online outlets such as (This is also the first-ever title published by Parul Sehgal once called Davis “our [modern] Vermeer, patiently observing and chronicling daily life but from angles odd and askew”—it doesn’t get much better than that. —DF Is There God After Prince? by Peter Coviello [NF] Coviello navigates the current “Age of Lost Things,” a world obsessed with nostalgia for the past and the impending disaster of the future. Exploring our yearning for entertainment amid turmoil, Coviello examines how art’s meaning transforms alongside us. The Sopranos, Gladys Knight, Sally Rooney, The Shining, Joni Mitchell, Paula Fox, Steely Dan—no piece of culture evades his gaze. Through the lens of what Coviello calls “enstrickenness,” he wonders: Is there genuine hope to be found through sentimentality? —DF Every Man for Himself and God Against All by Werner Herzog, translated by Michael Hofmann [NF] With Cormac McCarthy now one with that Cimmerian empyrean through whose inky waters no helmsman has yet steered and returned, Herzog may be our greatest living witness of the beauty beside the bleak. If not, he's certainly the most widest-ranging—who else has made such compelling films about conquistadors, cave paintings, and equally murderous Renaissance composers and Alaskan bear populations, let alone made a convincing (sorta) cop of Nick Cage? Who knows what he'll say about all that in a memoir, but whatever it is, it's probably weird enough to be worth reading. —AC Bluebeard's Castle by Anna Biller [F] From the filmmaker behind the excellent 2016 cult film The Love Witch comes a subversive, feminist gothic spin on the classic fairytale. In this version, Bluebeard is a handsome and charming baron, whose love transforms Judith, a successful, if sensitive, novelist, into a new woman. But as you might have guessed, all is not what it seems. A perfect literary debut for a one-of-a-kind filmmaker. And that cover! —SMS Roman Stories by Jhumpa Lahiri, translated by Jhumpa Lahiri and Todd Portnowitz [F] I've long been fascinated by Lahiri's work as a bilingual author and translator, writing in both her native English and her adopted language, Italian. In this new story collection, she translates herself. In collaboration with fellow translator (and Knopf editor) Todd Pornowitz, Lahiri welcomes Anglophone readers into these nine stories, originally written in Italian and lovingly set in Rome. A feat of both self-translation and collaborative translation—and a monument to the art of translation itself. —SMS Family Meal by Bryan Washington [F] Washington can't seem to miss—his first two books, Lot and Memorial were both critical darlings, and his new novel, about two young men and former best friends whose lives collide once again after an unmooring death, doesn't look like it'll be any different, brimming as it is with Washington's signature motifs of food, love, and intimacy. "It takes a generous writer to show us the world in this way," says Rumaan Alam, "and Bryan Washington is one of our best.” —LF So Many People, Mariana by Maria Judite de Carvalho, translated by Margaret Jull Costa [F] Following her smart and scathing novel Empty Wardrobes, written in 1966 and published in translation by Two Lines in 2021, de Carvalho's story collection about ordinary women struggling to find their purpose is yet another gift to Anglophone readers. In stark, unsentimental prose, the late Portuguese literary powerhouse studies class, society, and gender with surgical precision. Per Joyce Carol Oates: “There is no doubting the authenticity of Carvalho’s vision and the originality and severity of her voice.” —SMS Her Side of the Story by Alba de Céspedes, translated by Jill Foulston [F] The late Cuban-Italian astonished Anglophone readers earlier this year with the sardonic and subversive Forbidden Notebook, translated by none other than Ann Goldstein, translator of Elena Ferrante (who counts de Céspedes as an inspiration). Now, Atra House has kindly blessed us with yet another de Céspedes novel, a tale of love and crime in fascist Italy, with an afterword by Ferrante herself. —SMS Down the Drain by Julia Fox [NF] When I heard that Fox was coming out with a memoir, I had hoped it would be a highlight reel of her best TikTok story-times—but the real thing promises to be much juicier. Fox, known for her out-of-the-box style and no-fucks-given attitude, finally gives us the lowdown on her mysterious come-up, from her breakout role in Uncut Gems to her ill-advised fling with Ye. Will we be getting an eyeliner tutorial? Will Simon & Schuster stage a baby Birkin giveaway to promote the book? Time will tell. —DF A Year and a Day by Phillip Lopate [NF] From one of the pioneers of the personal essay comes a new kind of experiment in creative nonfiction, for him at least: blogging. In 2016, Lopate committed to writing a weekly blog about whatever he felt like, and A Year and a Day compiles 47 of the resulting essays. Naturally, the topics range widely, from death and desire to James Baldwin and Agnes Martin. There is something wonderful about watching a total pro try something new—and Lopate, unsurprisingly, rises to his own challenge. —SMS Big Fiction by Dan Sinykin [NF] It's about time somebody held Big Publishing as accountable for the decades-long insipidification of American literary culture as, say, the Iowa Writers Workshop, and Sinykin seems as game as any. The past half-century of publishing history has been all about corporate conglomerates that have shepherded readers and writers alike into a future where the book as product is of more importance than literature as sociocultural lodestar. Will Sinykin's analytical history make Dick Snyder shake in his grave? Doubtful, but here's hoping. —AC Mr. Texas by Lawrence Wright [F] Wright is one of our greatest (and one of my favorite) living nonfiction writers, combining in all his work masterful reportage with elegant prose. (See: The Looming Tower, Going Clear, The Plague Year, etc.) His latest novel (following his eerily prescient pandemic novel that came out... right before the pandemic) is a send-up of Texas politics, following a dark-horse candidate to risk it all for a seat in the Lone Star State's House of Representatives. —SMS Sonic Life: A Memoir by Thurston Moore [NF] The founding member of Sonic Youth chronicles his creative life, from his small-town teen years to his arrival to the late-seventies East Village to his role at the center of the No Wave scene with the formation of one of the most consequential bands in rock history. Colson Whitehead's blurb is so delightful that I'll give it to you in full: "Downtown scientists rejoice! For Thurston Moore has unearthed the missing links, the sacred texts, the forgotten stories, and the secret maps of the lost golden age. This is history—scuffed, slightly bent, plenty noisy, and indispensable." —SMS The Life and Times of Hannah Crafts by Gregg Hecimovich [NF] In this groundbreaking study, Hecimovich solves the mystery of the identity of the first Black woman novelist whose book, The Bondwoman's Narrative, first made waves in 2002, at which point her identity was unknown. Hecimovich's account is at once a detective story, a literary chase, and a cultural history, shedding light not just on one trailblazing enslaved woman, but on the era that defined her life and erased her work. —LF Jonathan Abernathy You Are Kind by Molly McGhee [F] McGhee's debut novel follows a self-proclaimed loser—the titular Jonathan—who lands his dream job but is soon faced with a crisis of morality (and reality). Critiquing the crushing weight of debt, the porousness of life and work, the disappointments of late-stage capitalism, Jonathan Abernathy You Are Kind is pitched as "a debut novel for the modern working stiff." —LF Normal Women by Ainslie Hogarth [F] Following her debut novel of feminist horror Motherthing, Hogarth's latest explores motherhood from yet another angle, considering how women's labor is (de)valued. When a new mother, once happy to stay at home, discovers an opportunity to do what looks like "meaningful" work, she jumps at it, only to become embroiled in a dangerous mystery. —LF They Flew by Carlos Eire [NF] The early modern era of European history is full of accounts of the impossible: people flying. Just as skepticism and empirical science had begun to supplant religious belief in the paranormal, tales of levitation, bilocation, and witchcraft began to emerge, reflecting conflicting ideas about the natural world and the rocky transition into the secular age. My girl St. Teresa of Avila is just one case study in Eire's exquisite and relevant examination of reality and belief. —SMS The Future Future by Adam Thirlwell [F] The scope of Thirlwell's latest is sweeping, to put it mildly. It spans 1775 to this very moment, France and America and the Atlantic and the Pacific and also the moon. While we know the story centers on a young eighteenth-century French woman named Celine who finds herself slandered, the pitch for this one is admittedly vague. Not to worry—its star-studded lineup of blurbers includes Sheila Heti, Colm Tóibín, Salman Rushdie, and Edmund White, who calls the novel "so unthinkably original." —LF Tremor by Teju Cole [F] It's been a dozen years since Open City, Cole's his first novel to be published in the U.S., which he followed up with an essay collection and multiple volumes combining photography with criticism. He returns to the novel now with Tremor, about a West African man teaching photography at a celebrated New England school, which Katie Kitamura calls "an intimate novel about destabilization and catastrophe." —AC Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again) by Sly Stone [NF] You couldn’t pick a more perfect inaugural title for Questlove’s new publishing imprint—a tell-all memoir by Sly Stone himself. For the first time ever, fans of Sly and the Family Stone can learn the band’s history straight from the source. With his trademark swagger and groove, Stone reflects on the allure of stardom and what happens when you get burned by the spotlight and traces his own evolution from enigmatic frontman to full-on pop-culture phenomenon. —DF One Woman Show by Christine Coulson [F] The conceit of Coulson's novel immediately got my attention: One Woman Show tells the story of a twentieth-century woman's self-realization entirely through museum wall labels. Coulson herself spent 25 years writing for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, during which she dreamt of using the Met's strict label format to capture people as works of art. If that doesn't sell you, Maira Kalman herself is a fan of the book. "I read it in one fell swoop," Kalman says. "It is brilliant." —SMS The Dictionary People by Sarah Ogilvie [NF] Linguist, lexicographer, technologist, and writer Ogilvie sheds light on the many far-flung volunteers who helped assemble the Oxford English Dictionary, which was the first of its kind. The identities of those volunteers may surprise you—they include three murderers, a noted pornography collector, and Karl Marx's daughter. Ogilvie uncovers the people and the work that went into defining the English language, word by word. —SMS Vengeance is Mine by Marie NDiaye, translated by Jordan Stump [F] A new NDiaye novel is always an occasion. The French author—best known for 2009's Three Strong Women, which made her the first Black woman to ever win the prestigious Prix Goncourt—returns with a tale of a horrific triple homicide that exhumes mysterious memories from a lawyer's childhood. Tess Gunty reports being "hypnotized from the first word to the last"—as one is when reading NDiaye. —SMS The Night Parade by Jami Nakamura Lin [NF] In this debut speculative memoir, Lin isn’t afraid of her demons. Diagnosed with bipolar disorder as a teenager, Lin struggled to manage her illness while caring for her cancer-stricken father. Unhappy with the rose-colored narratives about recovering from mental illness, she takes a different approach here, leaning into the darkness. Inspired by Japanese, Taiwanese, and Okinawan ghost stories, Lin blends memoir and horror—plus stunning illustrations—to consider what it means to coexist with anguish. —LA Organ Meats by K-Ming Chang [F] Chang, the author of Gods of Want and Bestiary, weaves a novel full of ghosts and entrails, stray dogs and red string. When best friends Anita and Rainie encounter a lot of strays who can communicate with humans, the girls learn they are preceded by a generation of dog-headed women and women-headed dogs, and Anita convinces Rainie to become a dog with her; horror and beauty ensue. Now that's a premise! —LF Death Valley by Melissa Broder [F] Following up her hit novel Milk Fed, the ever-bold Broder takes readers along on one woman's journey into the California high desert in this darkly comedic exploration of grief, illness, and womanhood, catalyzed by a mysterious succulent. Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah hails this as a "journey unlike any you've read before." —LF The Unsettled by Ayana Mathis [F] Best known for her 2013 novel The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, Mathis returns with a multi-generational novel that follows a mother fighting for her sanity and survival. Set in the 1980s, and split between the racially and politically turbulent city of Philadelphia and the tiny town of Bonaparte, Alabama, The Unsettled is a meditation on inheritance, justice, and the meaning of family. Marilyn Robinson calls this "a fine, powerful book." —LF Madonna by Mary Gabriel [NF] Gabriel, the author of the stellar group biography Ninth Street Women, turns her gaze to an unexpected subject for her latest outing: Madge herself. Having previously written about Victoria Woodhull and Karl and Jenny Marx, I'm dying to see how Gabriel chronicles the life of one of the world's biggest pop stars. It clocks in at 880 pages, so I think it's safe to say Gabriel is nothing less than thorough. —SMS A Shining by Jon Fosse, translated by Damion Searls [F] Fosse's Septology was one of the breakout novels of last year, thanks in part to a one-woman campaign spearheaded by Merve Emre, whose profound love and admiration for the book proved infectious on Twitter and beyond. So expectations are high for the next novel from one of Norway's most celebrated authors and playwrights, the details of which are still scarce. This will be the literary event of October (pending Emre's New Yorker review). —SMS The Glutton by A.K. Blakemore [F] In the follow-up to her beguiling debut novel The Manningtree Witches, Blakemore delivers yet another work of historical fiction, this time set amid the French Revolution. Inspired by the true story of Tarrare, a French showman and soldier noted for his rapacious appetite and unorthodox eating habits, seemingly at odds with the poverty that surrounds him. According to legend, he could devour cats whole—certainly a fascinating historical figure to build a novel around. —LA November Pandora's Box by Peter Biskind [NF] It's a dire moment for television. The medium is in peril thanks to corporate conglomeration and big (dumb) bets on streaming, and good TV is becoming increasingly hard to find. Enter Biskind, one of the wisest, weirdest cultural critics out there. Tackling the fall of network TV, rise of cable, and middling new era of streaming, this interview-packed volume might just have the answers to a question that keeps me up at night: How come TV sucks now? —SMS In the Shadow of Quetzalcoatl by Merilee Grindle [NF] Grindle unearths the story of the pioneering anthropologist Zella Nuttall, whose study of Aztec culture and cosmology transformed our understanding of pre-Columbian Mexico. She was the first to accurately decode the Aztec stone calendar, and also rediscovered countless pre-Columbian texts previously thought to have been lost—all the while juggling single motherhood with her career. This is the first biography of Nuttall—and one that sounds long overdue. —SMS Cross Stitch by Jazmina Barrera, translated by Christina MacSweeney [F] Barrera reteams with translator MacSweeney on her debut novel, following her breakthrough 2020 essay collection Linea Nigra. Three childhood friends—Mila, Citali, and Dalia—now college-aged, embark on what they hope will be the trip of a lifetime to Europe, only to be faced with the signs they are each steadily changing and drifting from one another. Now, adult Mila reflects on that formative friendship and fateful trip when she learns that Citali has drowned. Barrera asks: What do we lose to adulthood? —SMS The Happy Couple by Naoise Dolan [F] Already a massive bestseller across the pond, Dolan's latest novel is a sly study of modern love, centered on a couple barreling toward their wedding and three friends who might just tear them apart (and for pretty good reason). A wry and contemporary take on the marriage plot, The Happy Couple is well-loved by Colm Tóibín and Booker winner Douglas Stuart, who declares himself "fully in awe of Dolan's talent." —SMS Comedy Book by Jesse David Fox [NF] Fox is the smartest and funniest comedy critic working today. So there's no one I would rather read on the history, legacy, and inner workings of the form. From highbrow to lowbrow, stand-up specials to TikTok stars, Dave Chappelle to Ali Wong to Jerry Seinfeld to Jon Stewart, Fox offers a sweeping chronicle of one of our most potent cultural forces, as well as a look inside how humor actually works. —SMS The Vulnerables by Sigrid Nunez [F] Nunez turns her gaze to our contemporary moment and the trappings of modern life in her ninth novel, the plot details of which are admittedly scarce. We know that it has a solitary female narrator, and that there's also an adrift Gen Zer and a parrot named Eureka in the mix—that's about it. But what difference would it really make? It's Nunez! Just read it! —SMS How to Be Multiple by Helena de Bres, illustrated by Julia de Bres [NF] This study of twinhood sits at the intersection of the intellectual and the personal—philosopher Helena de Bres is a twin herself, attuned to the uncanniness of being a twin as both a scholar and a sister. Confronting questions of consciousness, free will, and selfhood, she mines art, myth, popular experience, and her own experience to get to the bottom of this fascinating reproductive quirk. Chloé Cooper Jones, a fave of mine, calls this one "a must-read," so I have no choice but to follow suit. —SMS My Name is Barbra by Barbra Streisand [NF] Babs wrote a tell-all memoir and it's 1,024 pages long. That's literally all you need to know. —SMS . . To Free the Captives by Tracy K. Smith [NF] To Free the Captives finds the Pulitzer-winning poet soul-searching and heartsick, grappling with our national identity amid endemic racist violence. In doing so, she attempted to assemble a new vocabulary of American life. At a moment where words seem to no longer have mutually-understood meanings—or, often, no meaning at all—Smith's linguistic mastery and poetic vision are sorely needed. —SMS The Sisterhood by Courtney Thorsson [NF] Starting in early 1977, Toni Morrison, Ntozake Shange, Alice Walker, and other Black women writers would meet monthly at June Jordan's Brooklyn apartment to discuss their work over gumbo and champagne—I know! They called themselves "The Sisterhood," and this remarkable community (which came to include Audre Lorde and Margo Jefferson, among others) is the subject of Thorsson's book, which I quite literally pre-ordered the split-second she announced on Twitter. —SMS Art Monsters by Lauren Elkin [NF] I'll read Elkin's writing on just about anything, but the topic of "art monsters"—which originated in Jenny Offil's 2014 novel Dept. of Speculation—is both a) extremely up my alley and b) a truly perfect fit for Elkin's literary sensibilities. Clocking in at 368 pages, this book has some real intellectual (and physical) heft to it and spans the work of Kara Walker, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, and many, many more. —SMS Wrong Way by Joanne McNeil [F] In her debut novel, McNeil considers a theme that's run through much of her work, including her first book Lurking: the intersections of life, labor, and technology. Wrong Way centers on Teresa, who gets a job at a fintech corporation that's launching a fleet of driverless cars. The lure of financial stability and a flexible schedule is strong, but as she learns more about her new employer, she must reckon with the existential perils posed by artificial intelligence, unchecked capitalism, and the gig economy. —SMS Happy by Celina Baljeet Basra [F] Basra's debut novel follows a starry-eyed cinephile who leaves his rural village in Punjab to pursue his dreams of becoming an actor. (He fancies himself a Sami Frey type.) Of course, things don't work out as he plans, and nothing on his journey is quite what it seems. Happy is an indictment of the global migration crisis, a meditation on diaspora, and an argument for the right to a vivid inner life. —LF Amaza Lee Meredith Imagines Herself Modern by Jacqueline Taylor [NF] Taylor chronicles the life and work of Amaza Lee Meredith, a Black woman architect, artist, and educator who expanded our understanding of the Great Migration and the Harlem Renaissance. Using Meredith as a lens to study the role architecture played in early twentieth-century Black middle-class identity, Taylor shows that Meredith, like so many other Black cultural producers, wasn't marginal to the modernist project but rather central to its definition. (Also, this book has my vote for Title of the Year.) —SMS The New Naturals by Gabriel Bump [F] Bump's sophomore novel follows a young Black Boston woman who constructs a separate society with her husband in search of a Black utopia. But as more interlopers want in, conflicts surface, food gets scarce, and the outside world intrudes, and the sustainability of utopia comes into question. A great premise to be sure, but what really sold me is this incredible blurb from the Percival Everett: "A Blithedale Romance for the 21st century, only less naive and more complex... This is funny, sad, sad-funny and funny-sad and just plain smart." —SMS The Book of Ayn by Lexi Freiman [F] I can't remember the last time a novel's premise amused me this much—a writer absconds to Hollywood after writing a satirical novel that The New York Times calls classist and subsequently gets her sort of canceled, and in her hurt, is radicalized by the philosophy of Ayn Rand. Yes, please! Esteemed fictioneers Zain Khalid and Joshua Cohen both blurbed, a great sign in itself, but the conceit alone is too tantalizing to pass up. —SMS Same Bed Different Dreams by Ed Park [F] Park, a founding editor of The Believer, imagines an alternate secret history of Korea—one where the Korean Provisional Government still exists today—in his second novel. Propelled by twists and mystery, Same Bed Different Dreams weaves together Korean history, American pop culture, and modern technology to explore utopia, reality, and our inevitable, undeniable interconnectedness. —LF Day by Michael Cunningham [F] The Virginia Woolf fanfictionalist-extraordinaire is writing about crumbling marriages again and yeah, OK, I'll bite. Everyone from Francine Prose to Ocean Vuong has blurbed the thing, with the Irish contingent particularly keen on it, pulling in a one-two punch from Colum McCann and Colm Tóibín: Cunningham, says the latter, "crafts a glorious sentence, and at the same time he tells an achingly compelling story," in what the former calls "writing about love and loss in tones that are both unsparing and tender." —AC Critical Hits, edited by J. Robert Lennon and Carmen Maria Machado [NF] If Gabrielle Zevin's Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow is the first "Great American Gamer Novel" (as per Nathan Hill), then this is certainly our first Great American Gamer Essay Collection. Writer-gamers like Alexander Chee, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Hanif Abdurraqib, and Larissa Pham reflect on the video games and gaming experiences that shaped them, and what the medium can teach all of us about our culture and ourselves. —SMS Alice Sadie Celine by Sarah Blakley-Cartwright [F] Blakely-Cartwright's seductive debut adult novel (she's previously the author of the kid's book Red Riding Hood) of power and friendship got one of the best blurbs I've ever seen—a ringing "Obsessed!" from Chloë Sevigny. The novel tells the story of one woman's affair with her daughter's best friend, probing the inner lives of each of the three women caught up in this strange triangle. This one also got plenty of love from Yiyun Li and Hermione Hoby, a sure sign of greatness. —SMS Tone by Sofia Samatar and Kate Zambreno [NF] Samatar x Zambreno—an intellectual match made in heaven. Together, they tackle the most slippery aspect of literary theory: tone. How does it work? Can it be preserved in translation? What can it teach us? Per the inimitable Cristina Rivera Garza: "Just as the world laments the apparent lack of insightful literary criticism as well as the dwindling number of venues that support it, here comes the dazzling Committee to Investigate Atmosphere with a piece of criticism like no other." —SMS The Death of a Jaybird by Jodi M. Savage [NF] Pitched a The Year of Magical Thinking meets Somebody's Daughter, Savage's memoir-in-essays spans three generations. Savage honors and elegizes the complicated relationships she had with her mother and grandmother—the women who raised her—and explores how all Black women must navigate various (and sometimes contradictory) roles and identities in the world. —LF The Rainbow by Yasunari Kawabata, translated by Haydn Trowell [F] In 1968, Kawabata became the first Japanese writer tow in the Nobel Prize for Literature, with novels like Snow CountryThousand Cranes, and The Sound of the Mountain enrapturing international readers. Now available in English for the very first time is The Rainbow, published in 1934, about three half-sisters living in Japan just a few years after the end of WWII, as they struggle to make sense of the postwar world in which they are coming of age. —LF December Zero at the Bone by Christian Wiman [NF] Since his decade-long stint at the helm of Poetry Magazine, Wiman has kept himself busy putting out volumes of poetry and books on faith. The metaphysical poetic tradition isn't exactly at its most popular in the Year of Our Exhausted Skepticism 2023, but a good case could be made for Wiman as the heir to George Herbert—a case Protestant poet laureate (okay she's a novelist, but still) Marilynne Robinson might cosign, having argued that Wiman's "poetry and his scholarship have a purifying urgency that is rare in this world." This volume is not just one but two twofers, blending poetry, criticism, theology, and memoir. —AC Yours for the Taking by Gabrielle Korn [F] A queer love story set in Brooklyn—it's been done before, to put it mildly. But a queer love story set in Brooklyn in the year 2050, as the calamitous effects of climate change encroach on the city and the only people guaranteed survival are those accepted into an experimental weather-safe, city-sized facility overseen by a reclusive girlboss-billionaire? Now that's a novel I'm dying to read. —SMS Songs on Endless Repeat  by Anthony Veasna So [NF/F] Soon after Veasna So's essays and debut story collection Afterparties captured the attention of the literary world, we were forced to grieve his sudden death. This posthumous collection of stories and essays affirms his versatility, secures his legacy, and bittersweetly reminds us of what could have been. But let's focus on the sweet part, as well as the humor and joy to be found in this book—as the late So himself once wrote in this very publication, "I actually recommend everyone to stop taking books so seriously." —SMS The End of the World is a Cul de Sac by Louise Kennedy [F] Kennedy, who published her much-acclaimed debut novel Trespasses last year at the age of 55, returns with a collection of short stories that explore the lives of women living in various kinds of poverty—material, emotional, sexual—while still finding beauty and joy amid such lack. Says Emma Donoghue, "The only other writer I can think of who packs this much moving, terrible life into each story is Alice Munro." —LF Everywhere an Oink Oink by David Mamet [NF] Is Mamet an idiot-asshole who wrote a few pretty good plays a long time ago but otherwise sucks? Yes. Does he also probably have some deliciously juicy behind-the-scenes stories from his four decades in Hollywood? Also yes. —SMS The Furies by Elizabeth Flock [NF] Violence by women—its role, its potential righteousness—is the focus of Flock's latest. Following the real-life cases of a young rape survivor in Alabama, a predator-punishing gang leader in India, and an anti-ISIS militia fighter in Syria, Flock considers how women have used lethal force as a means to power, safety, and freedom amid misogynistic threats and oppression. Is violence ever the answer? What part, if any, should it play in feminist thought and women's liberation? Flock searches for the thorny, unsettling answers in three parallel lives. —SMS The Complications by Emmett Rensin [NF] Rensin, a former editor at Vox, agitates for a total re-understanding of severe mental illness by offering his own account of living with schizoaffective disorder. Finding the usual calls for the rejection of "stigma" gravely inadequate, he confronts the many faults of current mental health narratives and the hierarchies they contain. Memoir, history, and cultural criticism collide to make an impassioned case for a new approach to severe mental illness in our conversations, our scholarship, our policies, and our hospitals. —LF [millions_email]