And here we are, on the first of May in the year 2017. What books does May bring with it? Well, let’s see. There are incisive essay collections by the likes of Scaachi Koul and Samantha Irby; there are challenging works in translation by João Gilberto Noll and Rodrigo Fresán, and there’s a new edition of a genre-defying novel by Kirsten Bakis, for starters. Here’s a look at some of the May books that have piqued our interest.
One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter, Scaachi Koul
(May 2, Picador)
Given Scacchi Koul’s penchant for smart, knowing nonfiction with a bold narrative voice, we’ve been excited about this collection of essays ever since it was first out. May brings with it the American edition of Koul’s book, along with some events in New York, and we’re glad that this day (or month, as it were) has arrived.
Priestdaddy, Patricia Lockwood
(May 2, Riverhead)
Patricia Lockwood is, perhaps, best-known for her inventive and powerful work in the field of poetry, as well as for having written the best Tweet ever. In this memoir, she heads into a different field; along the way, she discusses the life of her father, a Catholic priest, and her relationship with Catholicism.
Punk Avenue, Phil Marcade
(May 2, Three Rooms Press)
We’re always up for a good history of punk rock and New York City, and Punk Avenue throws in an outsider’s perspective on the scene–author Marcade came to New York from Paris. Throw in contributions by Debbie Harry and Legs McNeil, and you have a decidedly interesting work on your hands.
Lives of the Monster Dogs, Kirsten Bakis; introduction by Jeff VanderMeer
(May 9, Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Kirsten Bakis’s debut novel is getting the deluxe reissue treatment from FSG, and that’s an excellent thing, as far as we’re concerned. It’s about a secret society of highly evolved dogs who come into contact with humanity; it’s also about intelligence, mortality, and unlikely friendships.
The Gift, Barbara Browning
(May 9, Emily Books/Coffee House Press)
We’ve been huge admirers of Barbara Browning’s first two novels, which blended fiction and memoir and threw in bold structural decisions that advanced the books’ themes dramatically. Her third novel continues in that tradition, and addresses contemporary political movements along the way.
Isadora, Amelia Gray
(May 9, Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Amelia Gray’s latest novel is a bold departure for her, focusing on a period in the life of Isadora Duncan following the death of her children, and exploring questions of trauma and art along the way. With this book, Gray applies her skill at unearthing literary viscera to a very different canvas, to powerful effect.
Body Horror: Capitalism, Fear, Misogyny, Jokes, Anne Elizabeth Moore
(May 9, Curbside Splendor)
Anne Elizabeth Moore’s powerful writing on politics and society has been essential reading for a while now. Her new essay collection delves into the way that economic exploitation and institutional misogyny overlap–an important area of discussion right now.
Florence in Ecstasy, Jessie Chaffee
(May 16, Unnamed Press)
Jessie Chaffee’s debut novel Florence in Ecstasy comes in the long tradition of books following characters living abroad and making their way in a foreign land. As the title might suggest, the protagonist of Chaffee’s novel is an American in Florence, and the atmospheric story being told here is one about overcoming trauma and learning to live in a new landscape.
The Invented Part, Rodrigo Fresán; translated by Will Vanderhyden
(May 16, Open Letter Books)
The protagonist of Rodrigo Fresán’s The Invented Part is an aging, jaded writer seeking a grand gesture to revitalize his life–but unlike many similar figures in fiction, his plan involves the Hadron Collider and transforming himself into a godlike being. Literary satire meets high speculative concepts: what’s not to like?
Broken River, J. Robert Lennon
(May 16, Graywolf Press)
J. Robert Lennon’s fiction frequently veers into the unpredictable, and his new novel Broken River is no exception. On one level, it’s the story of a family coming to grips with the legacy of a crime in the house that they recently purchased; on another, it’s a meditation on narrative expectations and voyeurism. The result is hard to shake.
Atlantic Hotel, João Gilberto Noll; translated by Adam Morris
(May 16, Two Lines Press)
So far, two of João Gilberto Noll’s novels have been translated into English; both are terse, disqueting looks at violence, memory, and death. Atlantic Hotel is centered around a character traveling across Brazil, offering a host of life stories to the people he meets, and periodically brushing past death.
We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, Samantha Irby
(May 30, Vintage)
Samantha Irby’s second collection of essays, We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, follows up 2013’s acclaimed Meaty, and continues her distinctive look at contemporary life. Recently, Book Riot described Irby as a writer who “takes life’s awkward, uncomfortable and cringe-worthy moments and turns them into stories of exuberance.”
Touch, Courtney Maum
(May 30, G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
Novel number two from Sunday Stories alumnus Courtney Maum (following 2014’s I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You) delves into the world of technology, futurism, and the places where metrics and human emotions do and don’t overlap.
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Whoa. 2 books in translation, 2 more than any other Best of May titles lists I’ve seen. Well done. Now, what about poetry. Jorie Graham “Fast” and Fred Marchant ‘Said Not Said’ are both amazing.