December can be an especially intriguing month for seeing what’s new out there. In some cases — which you’ll see a fair amount in this month’s rundown of interesting titles — the “new” isn’t all that new at all. Instead, you’ll see books available in the U.S. that have garnered acclaim overseas. There’s also plenty of interesting work in translation, and a new edition of a classic collection. Here are some of the books we’re most intrigued by this month.
Octavia E. Butler, Bloodchild and Other Stories
(Dec. 6, Seven Stories Press)
Few authors of science fiction blend big ideas with complex personal dynamics as well as Octavia E. Butler did in her work. This new edition of her collection Bloodchild and Other Stories comes with an introduction by Jesmyn Ward, and features — in the title story — one of the most striking images you’re likely to find in fiction. Highly recommended.
Bora Chung, Cursed Bunny; translated by Anton Hur
(Dec. 6, Algonquin)
Ominous happenings abound in Bora Chung’s collection Cursed Bunny. A review of the UK edition at Words Without Borders helps explain its appeal: “Chung’s work fits neatly beside that of Brian Evenson and Kelly Link—cerebral fiction that might give you nightmares.”
Marguerite Duras, The Easy Life; translated by Emma Ramadan and Olivia Baes
(Dec. 6, Bloomsbury)
The last few years have seen a number of new translations of some of Marguerite Duras’s work, including a collection of her nonfiction in 2019. This edition of her novel The Easy Life features an introduction by Kate Zambreno, and chronicles the life of a young woman living on her family’s farm who struggles to deal with a sense of anomie.
Max Jacob, The Dice Cup; translated by Ian Seed
(Dec. 6, Wakefield Press)
Do you like your poetry with a side of prose (or vice versa)? Well then. Wakefield Press follows up its earlier edition of Max Jacob’s The Central Laboratory, and this new volume features his prose poetry dating back to the early 20th century. Looking for the place where art history and literary history converge? You might just find it here.
Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir, Animal Life; translated by Brian Fitzgibbon
(Dec. 6, Grove Press)
Publishers Weekly called this novel “a rich slice of life,” which certainly piqued our interest. At the heart of this novel is a midwife looking back on her life (and the lives of her ancestors) as she endures a harrowing winter in Iceland.
Tegan Nia Swanson, Things We Found When the Water Went Down
(Dec. 6, Catapult)
Sometimes a publisher’s description of a book is sufficient to pique your interest. “A Nordic eco-noir shot through with magical realism”? Sure, that got our attention. Tegan Nia Swanson is set in the aftermath of a miner, and traces the suspicions and rifts that follow in the wake of his death.
Alan Garner, Treacle Walker
(Dec. 13, Simon & Schuster)
Trying to describe Alan Garner’s Booker-nominated novel Treacle Walker is no easy thing. It’s a short novel rich in folklore, but it also represents a way of grappling with both altered states of perception and the storytelling conventions of different mediums. Its stateside release is as an ebook for now, but hopefully a physical edition will be forthcoming.
Resoketswe Martha Manenzhe, Scatterlings
(Dec. 13, HarperVia)
In her novel Scatterlings, Resoketswe Martha Manenzhe takes the reader back almost a century into South Africa’s history to chronicle the laws implemented early in the 20th century to prohibit interracial relationships. How the passage of the law codifying this affects one family is the question at the heart of this novel.
Dan Leach, Dead Mediums
(Dec. 15, Trident Press)
First and foremost, Dan Leach’s new collection gets points for a great title. It doesn’t hurt that that this quality extends to his stories — Leach is the author of “Fist Fight at Applebees,” for one thing. Given that this includes everything from menacing wizards to a man who decides to behave like a dog, Leach seems to have all of his bases covered.
Casey Rocheteau, Gorgoneion
(Dec. 15, Noemi Press)
“It started as an exploration of enemies and conflict as we were transitioning out of the Obama Era to the hellscape that has been Trump’s administration,” Casey Rocheteau said of their collection Gorgoneion in a 2020 interview. With poems focusing on everything from social justice to the effects of empire, this collection faces off against some of the most pressing themes of the present day.
Miracle Jones, Sharing
(Dec. 16, Instar Books)
Now in paperback after a long stint as an ebook, Miracle Jones’s Sharing — the first book in a larger series, The Fold — juxtaposes elements of quest literature, body horror, and utter surrealism to create something impossible to classify but eminently compelling to read.
Note: all release dates and cover art are subject to change.