21 books to read in 2018
1. The Largesse of the Sea Maiden, by Denis Johnson (Jan. 16)
Denis Johnson's death last year was a blow to the literary world, robbing readers of one of America's greatest fiction writers as well as one of its greatest poets. The Largesse of the Sea Maiden was finished just before his passing and gave readers the parting gift of Johnson's first short story collection in 25 years. There is something distinctly American about the characters' desperation in Sea Maiden, the complicated war between angels and demons inside them, and their fleeting chances for redemption. Read the title piece at The New Yorker.
2. A Kind of Mirraculas Paradise: A True Story About Schizophrenia, by Sandra Allen (Jan. 23)
Before it fell into Sandra Allen's hands, the manuscript that became A Kind of Mirraculas Paradise was 60 or so loose pages of typewritten capital letters, replete with grammatical errors. "It was hideous to look at, even from a distance," Allen writes. "Its pages literally reeked." The autobiography, as it were, had been sent to Allen by her "crazy" uncle Bob, who was hospitalized and "labeled a psychotic paranoid schizophrenic" in the early 1970s. Her "translation" of Bob's manuscript serves as an intimate look inside the life of someone with schizophrenia and a plea for the state of mental health care in America.
3. The Juniper Tree, by Barbara Comyns (Jan. 23)
Barbara Comyns' 1985 novel The Juniper Tree is getting its New York Review of Books treatment with this gorgeous reissue, complete with an introduction by Sadie Stein. Comyns uses the dark Brothers Grimm tale of the same name as her springboard, telling the story of Bella Winter, a homeless single mother who has fled her boyfriend and mother. But while "the Grimm story is about evil, revenge, and justice — an eye for an eye — [The Juniper Tree] is about accidents, damage, and repair," writes Harper's.
Also noteworthy in January: Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, by Michael Wolff (Jan. 5); Neon in Daylight, by Hermione Hoby (Jan. 9); The Hazel Wood, by Melissa Albert (Jan. 30); The Monk of Mokha, by Dave Eggers (Jan. 30); Brave, by Rose McGowan (Jan. 30)
4. Heart Berries, by Terese Marie Mailhot (Feb. 6)
Terese Marie Mailhot's gorgeous memoir stems from essays she began writing after being hospitalized and diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder. Mailhot spent a tumultuous childhood on Seabird Island Indian Reservation in Canada's British Columbia, and her slim memoir grapples with her parents, her sons and lovers, and her own shame. Take this ringing endorsement from Sherman Alexie: "Terese is a world-changing talent and I recommend this book with 100 percent of my soul."
5. The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border, by Francisco Cantú (Feb. 6)
Mexican-American writer Francisco Cantú worked as a Border Patrol agent in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas between 2008 and 2012 — an emotionally taxing job that deeply disturbed him. Years after quitting, Cantú became involved in the struggle of a friend who was arrested trying to return to the United States after visiting his dying mother in Oaxaca. In The Line Becomes a River, a portrait of both sides of the law, Cantú interrogates one of the thorniest subjects in contemporary America and finds his mother's warning to be true: "We learn violence by watching others, by seeing it enshrined in institutions."
6. I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer, by Michelle McNamara (Feb. 27)
The Golden State Killer (also known as the original Night Stalker and the East Area Rapist) killed at least 12 people and raped some 50 women across California from the mid-1970s through the mid-1980s. Then ... he vanished. It is no wonder, then, that he was an obsession of Michelle McNamara, a self-proclaimed "citizen sleuth" and the writer behind True Crime Diary. Sadly, McNamara — who was married to the comedian Patton Oswalt — passed away unexpectedly in her sleep at the age of 46 in 2016. "She thought she was getting real close to finding him," crime journalist Billy Jensen told CBS News. "And then she was gone." What remains is I'll Be Gone in the Dark, her reawakening of the decades-old cold case.
Also noteworthy in February: The House of Impossible Beauties, by Joseph Cassara (Feb. 6); Feel Free: Essays, by Zadie Smith (Feb. 6); White Houses, by Amy Bloom (Feb. 13); Freshwater, by Akwaeke Emezi (Feb. 13); What Are We Doing Here?: Essays, by Marilynne Robinson (Feb. 20)
7. Lake Michigan, by Daniel Borzutzky (March 12)
Daniel Borzutzky, the 2016 National Book Award winner, returns with Lake Michigan, a collection of 19 poems focused on police brutality. The massive topic is narrowed to Chicago, and specifically, a prison camp on the beaches, as Borzutzky explores how "economic policy, racism, and militarized policing combine to shape the city." As Borzutzky writes in one poem in the series, "Lake Michigan, Scene 0": "The police build bonfires to remind us of the bodies they throw into them."
8. Tangerine, by Christine Mangan (March 27)
Tangerine is one of the most anticipated books of the year, and not just because it already has a movie in the works with Scarlett Johansson attached. Set in Morocco in the 1950s, the novel finds roommates Alice Shipley and Lucy Mason reuniting after a scarring incident when the two attended Bennington College. The resulting thriller is "as if Donna Tartt, Gillian Flynn, and Patricia Highsmith had collaborated on a screenplay to be filmed by Hitchcock," Joyce Carol Oates said. Count us in.
9. The Beekeeper, by Dunya Mikhail (March 27)
New York-based Iraqi journalist and poet Dunya Mikhail returned to her homeland to chronicle the abuses of the Yazidi women at the hands of the Islamic State in The Beekeeper. The title is a reference to Abdullah Shrem, who rescued dozens of Yazidi women from captivity between 2014 and 2016. Shrem was once a beekeeper, and he uses that language to describe his work to Mikhail, likening ISIS's sabaya, or sex slaves, to queen bees. The book is translated from Arabic by Max Weiss, and Mikhail's language is the glimmer of beauty in a story of atrocities.
Also noteworthy in March: Census, by Jesse Ball (March 6); Speak No Evil, by Uzodinma Iweala (March 6); The Explosive Expert's Wife, by Shara Lessley (March 6); The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror, by Mallory Ortberg (March 13); The Parking Lot Attendant, by Nafkote Tamirat (March 13)
10. Varina, by Charles Frazier (April 3)
Cold Mountain author Charles Frazier returns to the Civil War-era South with Varina, named after its protagonist: teenager Varina Howell, who agrees to marry a widower named Jefferson Davis. But what she had assumed would be a simple life as the wife of a Mississippi landowner is anything but when Davis is named the president of the Confederacy — and she, in turn, becomes its first lady. Based on the fascinating and complicated real-life character of the same name, Varina is a story about complicity and breaking the mold.
11. The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath, by Leslie Jamison (April 3)
Leslie Jamison's forthcoming 544-page door-stopper, The Recovering, promises the same blend of memoir, reportage, and cultural history as her excellent 2014 collection of essays, The Empathy Exams. In The Recovering, Jamison details the ups and downs of her own struggles with alcohol. Looking to famous alcoholic writers, Jamison additionally battles her fear of the boredom of sobriety, describing it with arresting, brutal honesty. This is so much more than an "addiction memoir" — it is the work of a singular voice at the top of her game.
12. And Now We Have Everything: On Motherhood Before I Was Ready, by Meaghan O'Connell (April 10)
Do not write off Meaghan O'Connell's And Now We Have Everything because it's a "motherhood book." While yes, it is about becoming a mother — O'Connell accidentally became pregnant in her 20s — her voice, humor, and honesty are just as appealing to someone not at all interested in ever having children as they are to new moms or dads.
Also noteworthy in April: The Female Persuasion, by Meg Wolitzer (April 3); Eye Level, by Jenny Xie (April 3); Sharp: The Women Who Made an Art of Having an Opinion, by Michelle Dean (April 10); Macbeth, by Jo Nesbø (April 10); God Save Texas: A Journey into the Soul of the Lone Star State, by Lawrence Wright (April 17)
13. The Pisces, by Melissa Broder (May 1)
Admittedly, the plot synopsis for The Pisces sounds a bit bizarre. After a bad breakup, Lucy moves from Phoenix to dog-sit for her sister in Venice Beach, California, where one night she notices ... a male swimmer. Yep, you guessed it: This is a merman love story. But it's a merman love story that promises to be both biting and utterly amusing in the hands of Broder, one of the "50 funniest people right now." The Pisces will be Broder's third book in three years, after So Sad Today (named after the popular Twitter account she runs) and Last Sext in 2016.
14. A Higher Loyalty, by James Comey (May 1)
After being fired as FBI director by President Trump, James Comey did what any good ousted official ought to do: He got a book deal. Publisher Flatiron writes that Comey's memoir "promises to take us inside those extraordinary moments in our history, showing us how these leaders have behaved under pressure." Even the shade-throwing title hints that juicy things are to come; Comey was suddenly fired by Trump while leading the FBI's ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, and he has already claimed Trump insisted on his loyalty. To give you a sense of the anticipation for Comey's memoir: The rights sold last summer for $2 million.
15. The Mars Room, by Rachel Kushner (May 1)
Rachel Kushner's The Flamethrowers was one of the best books of 2013 and its predecessor, Telex from Cuba, earned the Los Angeles-based writer her first National Book Award nomination. Unlike Kushner's first two books, The Mars Room is set in 21st-century America, at a women's prison where Romy Hall is serving two life sentences. Kushner's writing is clipped and sharp, as she tells the story of Hall's adjustment to life behind bars — and how she got there. Read an excerpt of The Mars Room at Entertainment Weekly.
Also noteworthy in May: Adjustment Day, by Chuck Palahniuk (May 1); That Kind of Mother, by Rumaan Alam (May 8); Warlight, by Michael Ondaatje (May 8); The Outsider, by Stephen King (May 22); Calypso, by David Sedaris (May 29)
16. Sick, by Porochista Khakpour (June 5)
The Last Illusion author Porochista Khakpour returns with a highly anticipated memoir about life with late-stage Lyme disease. Khakpour has never shied away from revealing the less-than-glamorous details about life with a chronic illness on social media, and that honesty continues as she takes the reader through the experience of her daily pain, debt, drug addictions, hospitalizations, and diagnosis. Read more about Khakpour — and the striking cover of Sick — at Lithub.
17. Florida, by Lauren Groff (June 5)
If Lauren Groff didn't get your attention with her 2012 novel Arcadia, then she likely did with 2015's highly acclaimed Fates and Furies. Florida will be released just in time to get unfairly labeled as a "beach read," even though its contents — dark stories about hurricanes, snakes, and madness — are perhaps better suited for a stormy winter night. Speaking to The New Yorker, Groff called her collection "a portrait of my own incredible ambivalence about the state where I've lived for 12 years." Take it to the beach, if you must — just be sure to actually read it, since it'll be one people are talking about.
18. Squeezed: Why Our Families Can't Afford America, by Alissa Quart (June 26)
In Squeezed, Alissa Quart — the executive editor of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project — analyzes the American dream through the narrow lens of the crushing price of modern parenthood. Drawing on both her own experience and reporting on families that are barely able to get by, Quart scrutinizes a system in which many people have jobs without paid family leave and only the rich can afford to have children.
Also noteworthy in June: The President is Missing, by Bill Clinton and James Patterson (June 4); Invitation to a Bonfire, by Adrienne Celt (June 5); Kudos, Rachel Cusk (June 5); Bearskin, by James A. McLaughlin (June 12); Choose Your Own Disaster, by Dana Schwartz (June 19)
July and beyond
19. Come Again, by Nate Powell (July 10)
Little Rock native Nate Powell returns to his home of Arkansas with his new project, Come Again. There isn't much information yet about the new story — in mid-December, Powell said he still had 45 pages left to draw — but we know it takes place in a community in the Ozarks where "two families wrestle with long-repressed secrets ... while deep within those Arkansas hills, something monstrous stirs, ready to feast on village whispers." The book will make its debut at San Diego Comic-Con in July.
20. Baghdad Noir, by various authors (Aug. 7)
The Guardian wrote in 2014 that "from Baghdad to Cairo, a neo-noir revolution has been creeping across the Middle East." Four years later, English-language readers will have an opportunity to enjoy 14 such stories set in Iraq's capital. Baghdad Noir joins Akashic Books' series of city-based noir anthologies, including Brooklyn Noir, Stockholm Noir, Moscow Noir, and yes, even Staten Island Noir. The collection contains a new story by Roy Scranton, who wrote the acclaimed 2016 book War Porn, as well as a piece by Dheya al-Khalidi, whose "Getting to Abu Nuwas Street" has an ominous, detective fiction-like flair.
21. Lake Success, by Gary Shteyngart (Sept. 4)
(no cover yet)
Gary Shteyngart's 2010 dystopian satire Super Sad True Love Story was disturbingly prescient, and he returns in 2018 with a novel set in "the summer of Trump," as the Denise Shannon Literary Agency wrote ... in 2015. Hedge fund manager Barry Cohen's life is in shambles and in an attempt to get away from it all, he decides to leave New York on a cross-country Greyhound bus to reunite with his college sweetheart. He leaves behind his wife, Seema, who begins an affair with a neighbor. Inevitably, shenanigans ensue.