February is upon us, bringing with a host of intriguing books, from expansive historical epics to disquieting novels of suspense and horror to biographies of literary and political heroes. For whatever reason, many of the books that have caught our eye for February are due out on the 9th of the month. Perhaps it’s a pre-Valentine’s Day maneuver, because nothing says romance like narratives that bend space and time or those that run paranoia and existential dread to unsettling extremes. (Or perhaps it’s a coincidence.) Either way, here are some books due out this month about which we are deeply excited.
The Queen of the Night, Alexander Chee
(February 2, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Alexander Chee is already the author of one tremendously-written novel, Edinburgh, along with a host of fantastic essays. The Queen of the Night is his long-awaited second novel, about the life of an opera singer in 19th-century France. It’s minutely observed, massive in scale, and abounds with memorable characters, making for a rich, immersive reading experience. Transportive in the best possible way.
The Yid, Paul Goldberg
(February 2, Picador)
Paul Goldberg’s new novel is set in Stalinist Russia, and focuses on an aging actor who assembles a plot in order to prevent an anti-Semitic pogrom in the early 1950s. Blending historical figures and the scope of Shakespeare, this is a take on history unlike any other.
The Vegetarian, Han Kang (translated by Deborah Smith)
(February 2, Hogarth)
The Vegetarian is the first novel by the South Korean novelist Han Kang to be translated into English, and focuses on a very particular kind of obsession, and its aftereffects. On its British publication earlier this year, the novel has attracted plenty of attention–a review in The Guardian called it “a bracing, visceral, system-shocking addition to the Anglophone reader’s diet.”
Square Wave, Mark de Silva
(February 9, Two Dollar Radio)
Mark de Silva’s recent nonfiction (including work in 3:AM) has already caught our attention. With this, his first novel, he explores history, chaotic weather, and life in an America where militarization has caused society to begin to curdle. With this wide-ranging novel, de Silva taps into a host of anxieties addressing the contemporary moment.
Brian Evenson’s fiction can both bowl you over with its unpredictable narrative experimentation and chill you to the bone with its ability to unsettle and horrify. This month brings with it a new collection, A Collapse of Horses, along with new editions of three of his earlier books. If you’ve been meaning to delve into Evenson’s fiction, this is a great place to start.
You Should Pity Us Instead, Amy Gustine
(February 9, Sarabande Books)
Amy Gustine’s new collection focuses on scenes both domestic and international in scope, and summons resonant meanings out of the interactions that they contain. A review at Booklist notes that “[t]he fraught situations she thinks up are trenchantly and absurdly human, her flailing characters irresistible.”
City of Rose, Rob Hart
(February 9, Polis Books)
And sometimes, you’re in the mood for a good detective novel. Rob Hart’s followup to last year’s New Yorked follows said novel’s PI hero to Portland, where he encounters sinister plans and a gun-toting, chicken-mask-wearing, bad guy. So that has our interest piqued.
Sudden Death, Álvaro Enrigue (translated by Natasha Wimmer)
(February 9, Riverhead Books)
The latest novel from Álvaro Enrigue defies any kind of easy description. Through the prism of tennis, he explores seemingly disconnected events like the death of Anne Boelyn and the early days of Spain going to war in the Americas. There’s also an absurdist strain of metafiction in there. If you like your fiction both gripping and impossible to categorize, this may be your new obsession.
Party Headquarters, Georgi Tenev (translated by Angela Rodel)
(February 9, Open Letter)
Georgi Tenev’s novel of Bulgaria and political corruption in the post-Soviet era received the VICK Prize, awarded to the best Bulgarian novel released that year, in 2007. This month will see it available in an English translation for the first time.
The Lost Time Accidents, John Wray
(February 9, Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Like The Queen of the Night, John Wray’s fourth novel is one we’ve been eagerly awaiting for a long time. Each of Wray’s three previous novels has differed markedly from the one before it, and this is no different, touching on cults, time travel, fascism, and scientific obsessions via one family’s history throughout most of the 20th century. Alternately comic and chilling, this is a work that’s hard to shake.
Furnace, Livia Llewellyn
(February 15, Word Horde)
Livia Llewellyn’s short fiction blends horror and desire. Her earlier collection, Engines of Desire: Tales of Love and Other Horrors, was dizzying in the array of emotions that it evoked. This collection, including the Shirley Jackson Award-nominated title story, promises further explorations of uncanny convergences.
Anything That Burns You: A Portrait of Lola Ridge, Radical Poet, Terese Svoboda
(February 15, Schaffner Press)
Terese Svoboda’s unpredictable, often experimental prose takes many forms, from offbeat explorations of divinity to a novel about pirates told entirely through dialogue. Here, she veers into nonfiction with a biography of Lola Ridge, poet, anarchist, and editor, who has been hailed in recent years by the likes of Robert Pinsky.
Why We Came to the City, Kristopher Jansma
(February 16, Viking)
Kristopher Jansma’s previous novel, The Unchanging Spots of Leopards, earned praise for its globe-spanning story of literary rivalry. In his new novel, Jansma follows a group of friends over the course of several years, beginning in the aftermath of the financial collapse of 2008.
The Ballad of Black Tom, Victor LaValle
(February 16, Tor.com)
Victor LaValle’s two most recent novels both dealt with the supernatural and traveled into the realm of horror. With this new novella, he heads even further into that territory with a Lovecraftian tale of 1920s New York that both satisfies as a story of the supernatural and grapples with Lovecraft’s copious racism.
Interior Darkness: Selected Stories, Peter Straub
(February 16, Doubleday Books)
Peter Straub’s fiction encompasses everything from unsettling tales of horror to unexpected jaunts into metafiction. (He also contributed an introduction to one of the Brian Evenson books listed earlier.) This collection brings together highlights from his short fiction over the last twenty-five years, covering a vast and impressively sinister stylistic ground.