Jan 1, 2016
Our 2016 Book Preview: 101 Books to Read this Year
Hello! And welcome to this shit-ton of books.
The Kindness of Enemies by Leila Aboulela (Grove)
A university lecturer of Russian and Sudanese parentage struggles to find a place in contemporary Scotland and a foothold in her research of 19th century Dagestan. This novel got rave reviews in the U.K.
The Defender: How the Legendary Black Newspaper Changed America by Ethan Michaeli (Houghton Harcourt)
A history of the enormously influential black Chicago-based newspaper, The Defender.
The Stargazer’s Sister by Carrie Brown (Pantheon)
It’s another The Professional Man’s Female Relative title, but as long as there’s feminism (a really smart lady), history (from the 19th century), and science (an astronomer) I’m down.
Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt (Houghton Harcourt)
In the vein of Kelly Link (who blurbed it), this novel—Hunt’s third—slips between the real and un- (or sur-) real as two companions, a mute woman who survived a fundamentalist foster home and her pregnant niece go on a road trip across New York State.
Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa (Lee Boudreaux: Little Brown)
A novel of the 1999 World Trade Organization protests in Seattle told from multiple perspectives. Folks sound very excited about this book!
Good on Paper by Rachel Cantor (Melville House)
This is Cantor’s second novel. It’s all about second chances and the potential for great change that even the most seemingly ordinary lives possess.
Blood Memory by Colleen J. McElroy (Univ. of Pittsburgh)
Award winning poet McElroy has a new collection of narrative poetry that portrays an extended family over several decades.
The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher (Blue Rider)
An edited collection of journals from Fisher’s time filming Star Wars. The book unfortunately doesn’t feature her dog Gary, who’s been the most entertaining part of the Force Awakens press tour.
The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Dive deep into the tumultuous, intense world of the 19th-century Parisian opera scene and get lost in the secret-strewn life of mysterious soprano Lilliet Berne. If you’re into historical fiction at all (and even if you’re not), Chee’s second novel will draw you in for all of its 500+ pages.
Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man by William Shatner, with David Fisher (Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s)
William Shatner writes about the greatest and truest love of his life, Leonard Nimoy. “I have been, and always shall be, your friend.”
Black Deutschland by Darryl Pinckney (Farrar)
A novel about a queer, black midwestern writer living in West Berlin during the height of the AIDS epidemic and in the age of Reagan.
The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America by Michael Eric Dyson (Houghton Harcourt)
Georgetown professor and New York Times op-ed contributor Dyson sets out to do what the subtitle explains in sufficient detail. I trust him.
Shaler’s Fish by Helen Macdonald (Atlantic Monthly)
The woman who wrote that (truly) excellent book about a hawk has also written a book of poems. Macdonald managed to hook an audience who might otherwise be uninterested in falconry—she might do the same for verse.
The Lost Time Accidents by John Wray (Farrar)
Waldy Tolliver gets unstuck from time and must find a way back, moving from fin-de-siècle Vienna to the concentration camps of World War Two to postwar pulp science fiction.
Sudden Death by Álvaro Enrigue (Riverhead)
An transatlantic novel of the 16th century that revolves around a tennis match (painter Caravaggio versus poet Guevedo), a tennis ball (made with Anne Boleyn’s hair), a quarreling couple (conquistador Cortés and his Mayan mistress, La Malinche), and a too-literal reading of Thomas More’s Utopia (by an overeager bishop in Mexico).
The Fight to Vote by Michael Waldman (S. & S.)
President of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, Waldman—who also wrote The Second Amendment, a look at another controversial constitutional right—examines the present-day battles over voting rights and their historical context.
Ways to Disappear by Idra Novey (Little, Brown)
A celebrated Brazilian novelist disappears and her American translator, against everyone else’s advice, flies to Rio to find her. A “madcap” debut novel.
Better Living Through Criticism: How To Think About Art, Pleasure, Beauty, and Truth by A.O. Scott (Penguin Press)
A manifesto about and on behalf of the work of criticism, whether person or professional, from the New York Times chief movie critic.
The Vegetarian by Han Kang, translated from Korean by Deborah Smith (Hogarth: Crown)
A young wife in South Korea embarks on a profound act of subversion: becoming a vegetarian. It’s a radical decision in the context of South Korea that upends her and her family’s lives.
Pandemic: Tracking Contagions, from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond by Sonia Shah (Sarah Crichton: Farrar)
Sonia Shah, who wrote The Fever, turns her attention to diseases, past and present. that cause mass sickness and death.
The Black Calhouns: From Civil War to Civil Rights with One African American Family by Gail Lumet Buckley (Atlantic Monthly)
Lena Horne’s daughter (and Sidney Lumet’s ex-wife) tells the story of her family, from the time of her great-great grandfather, a former slave and successful postbellum Atlanta businessman, to the present.
And After Many Days by Jowhor Ile (Tim Duggan: Crown)
A family grapples with the disappearances of their 17-year-old son in 1990s Nigeria. A debut novel!
In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri, translated from Italian by Ann Goldstein (Knopf)
Jhumpa Lahiri has been reading and writing exclusively in Italian for the past several years. This is her book about it (her nonfiction debut), written also in Italian and translated Ann Goldstein (who is also Elena Ferrante’s American translator). Presented in a dual-language format.
What Lies Between Us by Nayomi Munaweera (St. Martin’s)
A Sri Lankan teenager struggles to reconcile her present life in the U.S., where she has taken up the mantel of American adolescence, and her traumatic past.
Mesa of Sorrows: A History of the Awat’ovi Massacre by James F. Brooks (Norton)
Award-winning author of Captives and Cousins and a professor of history and anthropology and UC Santa Barbara unravels the story of a massacre on Arizona’s Antelope Mesa circa 1700. Kind of a stinker of a title (what was on the reject list? Plateau of Tears?), but the story is deeply researched and genuinely fascinating.
On My Own by Diane Rehm (Knopf)
NPR’s Diane Rehm is retiring, so this is all you’re gonna get from her soon: a deeply personal memoir of her husband’s death and its aftermath. I hope she reads the audiobook.
Why We Came to the City by Kristopher Jansma (Viking)
A new novel from the author of the acclaimed The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards, this book follows a group of close-knit 20-something friends as they navigate their adulthood following a tragic event.
The Creative Tarot: A Modern Guide to an Inspired Life by Jessa Crispin (Touchstone)
Maybe you don’t think astrology or tarot or anything like that is anything more than a case of people falling prey to confirmation bias in order to better figure out who they are. Well, get over yourself and let Crispin enchant you with this beautiful and oftentimes surprising look into the intertwining of tarot and the creative process.
We’ve Already Gone This Far: Stories by Patrick Dacey (Henry Holt and Co.)
Dacey’s debut is a collection of stories all centered around the inhabitants of a small, rundown American town and the loss of the American dream. Need more convincing? George Saunders is a fan.
Stork Mountain by Miroslav Penkov (Farrar)
A young Bulgarian man leaves New York for his home country in search of his suddenly silent grandfather, who lives along the mountainous border of Greece and Turkey. He also falls in love.
All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation by Rebecca Traister (Simon & Schuster)
Can’t get enough of reading about powerful women who kick ass and change the world? Neither can we. And, luckily, we’ll be reading about them courtesy of Traister, one of the smartest voices in contemporary journalism.
A Bed of Scorpions by Judith Flanders (Minotaur: St. Martin’s)
A book editor solves crimes using the otherwise irrelevant knowledge she’s gained from reading all those novels. This looks like a lot of fun.
Spain in Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, 1936–1939 by Adam Hochschild (Houghton Harcourt)
I will read nearly anything that Adam Hochschild, who wrote the stunning and heartbreaking King Leopold’s Ghost (detailing the Belgian king’s grotesque treatment of the Congo), writes. This time he turns his attention to the Spanish Civil War, with cameo appearances by Ernest Hemingway and George Orwell.
The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota (Knopf)
Shortlisted for the Man Booker prize, this second novel by Sahota follows the experiences of migrant workers in the United Kingdom.
Dear Emma by Katie Heaney (Grand Central)
Buzzfeed senior editor Heaney’s bildungsroman about a young woman who writes her Midwestern college newspaper’s anonymous advice column. Things get complicated when people she knows (and dislikes) write to her for advice.
An Unrestored Woman by Shobha Rao (Flatiron: Macmillan)
Twelve linked stories begin at the moment of India and Pakistan’s partition in 1947 and move forward through the twentieth centuries and across the world.
Shelter by Jung Yun (Picador)
With credit cards and student loans compounding, Jyung Cho finds that he owns a house he can’t afford. Things become more complicated, and more troubled, after he invites his well-off parents to move in too.
The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder by William Anderson (Harper)
Do I really need to explain this one? All Little House everything.
Apostle: Travels among the Tombs of the Twelve by Tom Bissell (Pantheon)
Bissell seeks out the story of the early Christian church through the lives of its apostles.
Lust & Wonder by Augusten Burroughs (St. Martin’s)
A new memoir by the author of Running with Scissors, this time examining love and lost in his signature funny and frank voice.
The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan (Viking)
A moving novel that explores the effects of terrorism on its victims and perpetrators, centered around a small but devastating explosion in Delhi.
The Rope by Kanan Makiya (Pantheon)
A nameless narrator scrambles through Iraq during the last days of Saddam Hussein, the American occupation, and its unsteady aftermath.
All Stories Are Love Stories by Elizabeth Percer (Harper)
A group of survivors navigate a San Francisco that has been hit in quick succession by two major earthquakes.
WE: A Manifesto for Modern Women by Gillian Anderson and Jennifer Nadel (Atria)
Agent Scully (and Jennifer Nadel) have written a feminist manifesto.
The Abundance: Narrative Essays Old and New by Annie Dillard (Ecco)
A wide-ranging collection of new and old essays from the Pulitzer Prize winner.
Until We Are Free: My Fight for Human Rights in Iran by Shirin Ebadi (Random)
Ebadi is the first Muslim woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize and here she tells her story of working as a human rights lawyer in Iran.
Blackass by A. Igoni Barrett (Graywolf)
A young Nigerian wakes up white in this Kafkaesque comedy—white, except for the titular body part.
The Civil Wars of Julia Ward Howe: A Biography by Elaine Showalter (S. & S.)
Prominent feminist critic Showalter writes a biography of the woman who wrote the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life by Edward O. Wilson (Liveright: Norton)
Pulitzer Prize-winning biologist Wilson urges his readers (and the world) to reserve half of the planet’s surface for nature.
The Little Red Chairs by Edna O’Brien (Little, Brown)
Firebrand (and formerly banned in her home country) Irish writer O’Brien has a new novel about a mysterious Eastern European man who arrives in a small Irish village.
Innocents and Others by Dana Spiotta (Scribner)
Two best friends from LA encounter a mysterious woman who cold calls powerful men on the phone and find their lives turned upside down.
What Is Yours Is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi (Riverhead Books)
Oyeyemi’s latest is a collection of stories with the common theme of keys—literal and figurative—running throughout. I will read anything and everything this woman writes.
Olio by Tyehimba Jess (Wave)
Combining fact and fiction, blues and hymns, Jess uses poetry and narrative to present the stories of unrecorded black American performers from the Civil War to World War I.
The Roots of a Thousand Embraces: Dialogues by Juan Felipe Herrera (Manic D)
The current U.S. Poet Laureate presents forty cantos that trace the lines between Frida Kahlo, her art, her body, and borders.
play dead by francine j harris (Alice James)
harris writes about her mother, Detroit, sex, addiction in brutal, revelatory language.
The Black Maria by Aracelis Girmay (BOA)
Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and Cave Canem fellow, Girmay here examples the many histories of the African diaspora.
Lab Girl by Hope Jahren (Knopf)
A memoir of a woman in science and a love letter to plants.
Before We Visit the Goddess by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (S. & S.)
A novel that follows three generations of mothers and daughters from Bengal, India, to the Houston, Texas.
Kill ‘Em and Leave: Searching for the Real James Brown by James McBride (Spiegel & Grau.)
Author most recently of The Good Lord Bird as well as a musician, McBride returns to nonfiction with this biography of James Brown.
Ladivine by Marie NDiaye (Knopf)
A complex novel about a woman who has hidden her own life from her mother tasked with unraveling her parent’s story after her brutal murder.
The Blackbirds by Eric Jerome Dickey (Dutton)
Four best friends try and figure out love and sex and their own lives. This one will be a lot of fun.
Far and Away: Essays from the Brink of Change, Seven Continents, Twenty-Five Years by Andrew Solomon (Scribner)
Essays from the National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award that tell the story about places in transition.
Now and Again by Charlotte Rogan (Little, Brown)
A novel about whistleblowers (one from the military, another from inside a munitions plant) and how much the truth can cost.
The Regional Office is Under Attack! by Manuel Gonzales (Riverhead)
The Regional Office is staffed with super-powered female assassins charged with protecting the planet. Fantastical, funny, fun.
Mount Pleasant by Patrice Nganang (Farrar)
In 1930s Cameroon, a young girl is mistaken for a dead artist and raised as his replacement in a story spanning decades and verging on surrealism.
The Big Book of Exit Strategies by Jamaal May (Alice James)
Darkly humorous poems from editor, filmmaker, and award-winning poet May.
Rapture: Poems by Sjohnna McCray (Graywolf)
Selected by Tracy K. Smith as the 2015 Walt Whitman Award winner, McCray’s first book of poetry recounts growing up in wartime with a Korean mother and American military father.
Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice by Curtis Sittenfeld (Random House)
Ordinarily, we’d possess no small amount of skepticism about the release of a New York City circa now-version of Jane Austen’s classic (ok, it would be a huge amount), but we don’t because this novel is by Curtis Sittenfeld, the brilliant, hilarious author of one of our all-time favorite books, Prep.
Zero K. by Don DeLillo (Scribner)
A young man grapples with the nature of life, death, and mortality when his billionaire father helps place his critically ill wife in a suspension technology akin cryogenic freezing.
The View from the Cheap Seats: A Collection of Introductions, Essays, and Assorted Writings by Neil Gaiman (Morrow)
More than sixty pieces of short nonfiction from Neil Gaiman, the king of goths (and a lot more besides).
The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee (Scribner)
From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Emperor of All Maladies, a new biography of the gene.
LaRose by Louise Erdrich (Harper)
After a North Dakota man mistakenly shoots his neighbor’s five-year-old son, he gives his own child, LaRose, to the grieving family in recompense.
Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay (Harper)
Novelist and essayist and all-around delightful person Roxane (with one N) Gay follows up her bestselling Bad Feminist with a new book of nonfiction about her “wildly undisciplined” body.
The Mother by Yvvette Edwards (Amistad: HarperCollins)
A mother learns more about her murdered teenage son, and her family, than she knew possible during his killer’s trial.
Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe (Knopf)
Thorpe has a deft touch with complicated relationships between parents and children. In her second novel, she shares the story of a father and daughter who travel to Lithuania together and delve into their complicated family history in order to make sense of their complicated present reality.
White Sands: Experiences from the Outside World by Geoff Dyer (Pantheon)
Geoff Dyer can write about nearly anything and make it interesting, vital. Here he writes about the nature of travel and place.
The Fox Was Ever the Hunter by Herta Müller, translated from German by Philip Boehm (Metropolitan: Holt)
The first English translation of an early book by Nobel Prize-winning novelist Müller, which follows a group of young Romanians (one of them a mole for the secret police) in the last months of the Ceausescu regime.
She by Michelle Latiolais (Norton)
A fifteen-year-old without a name runs from her evangelical upbringing to contemporary Los Angeles.
Sweet Lamb of Heaven by Lydia Millet (Norton)
One part domestic thriller (woman and child flee husband) and one part psychological horror (then reality begins to warp), Millet offers up a creepy-as-hell and likely enthralling novel.
Driving Without a License by Janine Joseph (Alice James)
Poems that tell the story of a young undocumented immigrant from the Philippines living in Southern California.
Modern Lovers by Emma Straub (Riverhead Books)
Straub’s novel might be set in well-trod modern literary territory (the parenting world of brownstone Brooklyn), but what she does with this familiar milieu is smart and fresh, offering new insights into the lives of people all around us.
Chronicle of a Last Summer: A Novel of Egypt by Yasmine El Rashidi (Tim Duggan: Crown)
A debut novel chronicling the personal and political coming of age of a young Egyptian woman, starting in 1984 and stretching across three decades.
Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty by Ramona Ausubel (Riverhead)
A bunch of rich people in New England circa 1976 lose all their money and a lot more besides.
The Familiar. Vol. 3: Honeysuckle & Pain by Mark Z Danielewski (Tim Duggan: Crown)
Cult favorite Danielewski (House of Leaves was built for fevered high school readers) offers up the third volume to The Familiar, a projected 27-VOLUME WORK. Only 24 books left to go!
Grief Is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter (Graywolf Press)
A haunting debut novel about the shambles into which a family’s life descends following the death of the mother, and the way in which the remaining family members—the husband and two sons—leave their grief behind and return to the land of the living.
Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler (Hogarth: Crown)
Pulitzer Prize winner Tyler reimagines the Taming of the Shrew in contemporary Baltimore (this time featuring a green card marriage) as a part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series.
Hogs Wild: Selected Reporting Pieces by Ian Frazier (Farrar)
A collection of humorist and New Yorker staff writer Frazier’s reported work, including one about correlating the number of feral hogs and Republican voters in a given place.
The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine by Ben Ehrenreich (Penguin Press)
New York Times Magazine writer Ehrenreich has spent much of the past three years living with several Palestinian writers in the West Bank.
Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War by Mary Roach (Norton)
Mary Roach is one of the best in the business of science writing. This time she takes readers on a tour of the scientists who attempt to conquer the panic, exhaustion, heat, and noise that plague modern soldiers.
Mortal Trash: Poems by Kim Addonizio (Norton)
Poet Addonizio presents comic, elegiac, and ironic meditations on different species of trash.
The Girls: A Novel by Emma Cline (Random House)
A debut novel centering around the young women involved in a very, very dysfunctional family, i.e. the one headed up by Charles Manson.
End of Watch by Stephen King (Scribner)
A sequel to Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers, King returns to mass murderer Brady Hartsfield, now seemingly in a vegetative state in a brain injury clinic. Appearances, especially in Steven King novels, can be deceiving: Hartsfield now has ~deadly new powers~ he can use without ever lifting a finger.
Dothead: Poems by Amit Majmudar (Knopf)
Poet and novelist Majmudar’s latest collection of poems explores Indian American identity.
The Hatred of Poetry by Ben Lerner (FSG Originals)
Poet Ben Lerner, better known now for his two novels, returns to the subject of poetry (which was never very far away in his novels) in this essay, a defense of the genre.
The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle That Brought Down the Klan by Laurence Leamer (Morrow)
New York Times bestselling author Leamer tells the story of a 1981 murder of a black 19-year-old by the Ku Klux Klan and the historic trials that condemned his killers and the organization behind them.
Jackson, 1964: And Other Dispatches from Fifty Years of Reporting on Race in America by Calvin Trillin (Random)
New Yorker staff writer Trillin collects and reflects on his half-century of reporting on issues of race.
Barkskins by Annie Proulx (Scribner)
Brokeback Mountain author tells the story of two Canadian families founded by two illiterate woodsman who move from 17th century France to the then-named North American territory of New France.
The Bones of Grace by Tahmima Anam (Harper)
A woman is torn between two places (the United States and Bangladesh) and two men as she searches for the bones of a walking whale and finds instead the ribs of destroyed ships.
I’m Just a Person by Tig Notaro (Ecco)
A book based on comedian Notaro’s viral standup set about grief and illness and breakups: One of the crappiest years on record.
Sex Object: A Memoir by Jessica Valenti (Dey Street)
Guardian columnist Valenti writes about what it’s like to be a woman—and a feminist—today.
Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn (Liveright)
Set in Jamaica, Dennis-Benn’s debut novel reveals the many complications which lurk in the shadows of what many outsiders view as little more than a sunny paradise.
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