The fact that this month’s list is larger than usual is but one indication that May looks to be an especially strong month for books. The works we’re most excited about span a variety of styles and genres, from essential writing about books and music to reissues of underrated works of fiction and nonfiction. Whether your tastes run towards the classical or the experimental, there’s a lot to enjoy; that the onset of spring means that you can do so among green leaves and the sound of birds is an added bonus.
This Must Be the Place, Sean H. Doyle
(May 1, Civil Coping Mechanisms)
Describing Sean H. Doyle’s first book in traditional terms–”a fragmented look at several years of his life,” for instance–doesn’t quite do justice to the searing power of his prose, or the absolutely wrenching way in which brief scenes gather power over the course of the book.
Hollywood Notebook, Wendy C. Ortiz
(May 1, Writ Large Press)
Last year, we were floored by Wendy C. Ortiz’s memoir Excavation: she’s equally skilled at capturing quotidian details and dissecting complex ranges of emotions. So it’s not surprising that we’re eager to read her latest book, a collection of impressions of the city of Los Angeles.
Toughlahoma, Christian Tebordo
(May 1, Rescue Press)
As huge admirers of Christian Tebordo’s surreal, jarring The Awful Possibilities, this novel is also one that we’ve been eager to read ever since it was announced. Here, Tebordo seems to be delving into satire, geography, and scripture, if this excerpt is any indication.
The Making of Zombie Wars, Aleksandar Hemon
(May 5, Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Aleksandar Hemon’s new novel veers into more overtly comic territory, focusing on a hopeful screenwriter at work on a zombie movie at the same time that the U.S. was going to war in Iraq.
Raising Demons, Shirley Jackson
(May 5, Penguin)
When she wasn’t writing fiction that charted new areas to unsettle readers, Shirley Jackson was also chronicling home life in a series of nonfiction dispatches. In May, two collections of this work–Raising Demons and Life Among the Savages–will be reissued, helping readers to get an even better sense of Jackson’s range as a writer.
If you’re a fan of Saul Bellow and are looking for a comprehensive look at his life, the first volume of Zachary Leader’s biography might just do the trick.
The Argonauts, Maggie Nelson
(May 5, Graywolf Press)
A sub-theme for May’s books might well be those that defy easy categorization. That’s certainly the case with Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts: while not as poetic as, say, Bluets, it nonetheless creates its own hybrid space, all the while impressively charting an account of gender, art, and family.
The Sunshine Crust Baking Factory, Stacy Wakefield
(May 5, Akashic)
Stacy Wakefield’s new novel, set in a community of squatters in mid-90s Williamsburg, revisits the history of a neighborhood still wrestling with questions of class, economics, and geography.
The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic, Jessica Hopper
(May 12, featherproof)
Whether you’ve been reading Jessica Hopper’s writing since her great zine Hit It or Quit It or have been a more recent reader of her work at Rookie and Pitchfork, you know that she’s a dynamic critic. This collection of her writings on music is the very definition of “long-awaited.” And let’s hope its title has an effect on the publishing world in general as well.
Lord Fear: A Memoir, Lucas Mann
(May 12, Pantheon)
Lucas Mann’s last work of nonfiction, the acclaimed Class A, charted out the world of minor league baseball. Here, his focus is closer to home, exploring the life and death of his older brother, and the impact both had on him.
The Narrator, Michael Cisco
(May 15, Lazy Fascist)
Michael Cisco’s The Narrator is a beguiling, surreal landscape: fantastical and hallucinatory and sometimes metafictional. (Perhaps you should take Jeff VanderMeer’s word for it.) It’s like nothing else, and hopefully this new edition, boasting glowing quotes from VanderMeer and China Miéville, will help attract a wider readership for it.
The Guild of Saint Cooper, Shya Scanlon
(May 12, Dzanc Books)
Shya Scanlon’s latest novel is set in a Seattle in the near future, where citizens await further catastrophes and a movement exists to turn Twin Peaks protagonist Dale Cooper into a kind of folk hero. Valerie Stivers had some good things to say about it in her review.
The Odd Woman and the City: A Memoir, Vivian Gornick
(May 19, Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Vivian Gornick’s memoir Fierce Attachments is a modern classic; in this book, Gornick further documents her relationship to New York City, juxtaposing that with an account of a long-running friendship.
The Face, Ruth Ozeki
(May 26, Restless Books)
Having read (and been floored by) Ruth Ozeki’s excellent novel A Tale For the Time Being, I think it’s fair to say that we’ve been eager to read more from her. And given the unpredictable narrative of her last book, we’re especially curious to see how this essay on the subject of her face is handled.