How, exactly, did we get to May already? Normally, we’d make a joke here about the collapse of time and space or something similarly esoteric, but the hour is at hand when we should get to the recommending of books. And so here are some book recommendations for the month we’re in — and, if you’re behind on your reading, these books aren’t going anywhere.
Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Chain Gang All-Stars
(May 2, Pantheon)
Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s debut collection Friday Black was a fantastic introduction to his voice and chosen themes. Now he’s back with a novel that grapples with incarceration, the worst aspects of broadcast media, and rampant inequality. Sometimes the dystopian is only a short distance from the contemporary.
Katharine Coldiron, Junk Film
(May 2, Castle Bridge Media)
Sometimes, we can learn more from a bad creative work than we can from a great one. In this new work of nonfiction, Katharine Coldiron explores 13 different movies that are far from beloved — and explains why they are, nonetheless, important.
Louis-Philippe Dalembert, Milwaukee Blues (translated by Marjolijn de Jager)
(May 2, Schaffner Press)
In his previously-translated novel The Mediterranean Wall, Louis-Philippe Dalembert delved into questions of borders and immigration. With his new book, he has another timely issue to address: police violence directed at Black men. Dalembert’s book is set in the aftermath of a tragic event, and offers multiple perspectives on one man’s life.
Cassandra Khaw, The Salt Grows Heavy
(May 2, Tor.com)
Here’s a quick description of Cassandra Khaw’s The Salt Grows heavy: a mermaid and a plague doctor travel through a strange landscape where a resurrection-themed cult holds sway. If that doesn’t pique your interest, we’re not sure what will. (We’ll have an interview with Khaw published here in the coming days as well.)
Max Porter, Shy
(May 2, Graywolf Press)
One, we’re quite fond of novels with cassettes on the cover, for obvious reasons. Two, Porter’s books to date have been both formally inventive and emotionally compelling; with this new one, the story of a frustrated young man trying to find his place in the world.
Frank Bill, Back to the Dirt
(May 9, FSG Originals)
We’re big admirers of Frank Bill’s fiction over here — it manages the trick of being harrowing and gritty without feeling overly stylized or self-consciously pulpy. Back to the Dirt is Bill’s latest book, focusing on one Vietnam veteran’s attempts to maintain calm in his life in light of his girlfriend’s chaotically-minded brother.
Matthew Binder, Pure Cosmos Club
(May 15, Stalking Horse Press)
We said it when we debuted the cover and we’ll say it again now: we’re fans of Matthew Binder’s cerebral writing and wide-ranging areas of interest. His new novel explores art and cults in a surreal manner, and we’re highly on board for it.
Marta Balcewicz, Big Shadow
(May 16, Book*hug Press)
We’ve published fiction by Marta Balcewicz in these very (digital) pages, and we’re thrilled to see her debut novel hit stores this month. Big Shadow is a coming-of-age novel set in the late 1990s about art, family, and aging, and featuring a character with ties to the downtown punk scene of 1970s NYC. We’re suitably intrigued.
R. F. Kuang, Yellowface
(May 16, William Morrow)
R.F. Kuang’s previous novel Babel was widely acclaimed and debated for its use of the fantastical to critique imperialism. Her latest novel grapples with questions of cultural appropriation — literally, in this case, as its white protagonist passes off her deceased Asian American colleague’s manuscript as her own work.
Bethanne Patrick, Life B
(May 16, Counterpoint)
Bethanne Patrick is best known for her writing (and podcasting) about all things literary. Her new book, however, takes a very different turn — it’s a candid memoir about mental health and what it means to be diagnosed with double depression.
Jane Wong, Meet Me Tonight in Atlantic City
(May 16, Tin House)
There’s a dearth of memorable writing about Atlantic City out there; this is a shame, as the city offers a lot for writers to reflect on and transform into something memorable. In Jane Wong’s memoir, she chronicles coming of age in 1980s New Jersey, and the long shadow cast by Atlantic City over her family’s restaurant and her own childhood.
Note: all cover art and release dates are subject to change.
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