When it comes to books, December often brings the unexpected. This year is no different; even with paper shortages and distribution issues complicating the world of publishing, this month had plenty of notable books to offer. This includes multiple works by certified geniuses and a host of intriguing books in translation. Looking for some cold-weather reading? Read on for our recommendations.
Kinderkrankenhaus, Jesi Bender
(Dec. 1, Sagging Meniscus)
Jesi Bender’s previous novel, The Book of the Last Word, abounded with a disquieting sense of ritual and a haunting invocation of memory. The title of her new book, the play Kinderkrankenhaus, translates into “Children’s Hospital,” which may give you a sense of what it’s about — raising questions along the way of medicine, community, and authority.
Punks, John Keene
(Dec. 1, The Song Cave)
John Keene is a genius. If you’ve read his fiction, you’ve probably reached a similar conclusion; if not, there’s also the matter of his receiving a Genius Grant a couple of years ago. All of which begs the question: do you want to read the poetry of a genius? Because we certainly do.
The Impossible Art, Matthew Aucoin
(Dec. 7, Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Apparently, December’s theme is “MacArthur Grant winners release books,” because John Keene isn’t the only recipient on the list. Composer and writer Matthew Aucoin has been similarly honored — and his new book, also out this month, offers readers a window into the world of opera, its history, and its future.
Mothers, Fathers, and Others, Siri Hustvedt
(Dec. 7, Simon & Schuster)
Whether writing fiction or nonfiction, Siri Hustvedt is never less than compelling on the subjects of art, literature, and intimacy. As its title suggests, her new collection addresses questions of family in Hustvedt’s distinctive and intellectually comprehensive style.
White On White, Aysegül Savas
(Dec. 7., Riverhead)
Aysegül Savas’s new novel explores the life of an artist through the perspective of a student who rents an apartment from them — and, over time, is witness to the artist slowly becoming detached from her life. The result makes for a haunting and resonant character study.
Where You Come From, Saša Stanišic; translated by Damion Searls
(Dec. 7, Tin House)
We don’t usually quote from the publisher’s description in these previews, but the idea that Saša Stanišic’s new book brings together “autofiction, fable, and choose-your-own-adventure” is too hard to resist. That’s a bold array of elements to bring together; for a book like this, that addresses the legacy of war and questions of national identity, it sounds especially compelling.
It’s Getting Dark, Peter Stamm; translated by Michael Hofmann
(Dec. 14, Other Press)
Fiction doesn’t need to tread into the supernatural to bring forth a sense of the uncanny. Peter Stamm’s new collection offers an apt illustration of that, summoning an array of characters exploring the world and their own senses of alienation, pushing themselves towards a series of disquieting conclusions.
The Strudlhof Steps: The Depth of the Years, Heimito von Doderer; translated by Vincent Kling, afterword by Daniel Kehlmann
(Dec, 14, NYRB Classics)
Looking to immerse yourself in the world of 1920s Vienna this December? This new translation of Heimito von Doderer’s The Strudlhof Steps might be the ideal way to do it — via an expansive, meticulously assembled novel covering a host of characters over the course of several years.
Sens-Plastique, Malcolm de Chazal; translated by Irving Weiss; introduction by W. H. Auden
(Dec. 15, Wakefield Press)
You might not expect the Surrealists and W.H. Auden to find much in common, aesthetically speaking. One thing they did agree on, though, was the excellence of Malcolm de Chazal’s writing — including his book Sens-Plastique. Looking for a new read that defies easy description? This might just do the trick.
Note: all cover artwork and release dates are subject to change.