Welcome to February. When looking at the books we’re most excited about for this month, it’s difficult to find a common thread. There are revelatory books that help explain some of the most contentious issues of our time; there are also surreal works of fiction that turn the familiar into the utterly bizarre. These are narratives that unfold in unexpected ways, whether real or imagined–and whether the corners of the world that they illuminate are urgent or obscure, they offer a new way of seeing that which surrounds us.
Who The Hell Is Imre Lodbrog?, Barbara Browning and Sebastien Regnier
(February 6, Outpost19)
Barbara Browning’s books blur the lines between fiction and memoir, with a heady dose of artistic theory thrown in. Here, Browning and Sebastien Regnier explore the life of an aging musician and the myriad ways in which art and politics can overlap.
The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches From the Border, Francisco Cantú
(Feb. 6, Riverhead Books)
Francisco Cantú’s The Line Becomes a River explores the border between the United States and Mexico from a host of angles. The result is an illuminating look at questions of national borders, the ways in which identity manifests itself, and the conflicts that have emerged surrounding said border in recent years.
Empty Set, Veronica Gerber Bicecci; translated by Christina MacSweeney
(Feb. 6, Coffee House Press)
Veronica Gerber Bicecci falls into that small but distinctive category of writers with a distinct presence in another artistic discipline as well–in this case, fine art. In this novel, she explores questions of familial relationships, and the uncanny patterns that can emerge in everyday life.
Back Talk: Stories, Danielle Lazarin
(February 6, Penguin Books)
In this collection of stories, Danielle Lazarin ventures into a host of lives in a variety of settings, and explores questions of grief, the emotional toll we can expect from others, and the unexpected ways that we do (or do not) connect with those around us. It’s powerful stuff, handled in unexpected ways.
Self-Portrait With Boy, Rachel Lyon
(Feb. 6, Scribner)
There’s plenty to ponder in Rachel Lyon’s debut novel–from the way in which it evokes a particular neighborhood in a particular place in time to the way that it raises questions about art, tragedy, and exploitation. It’s a heady array of things to consider, deftly handled in fictional form.
Feel Free: Essays, Zadie Smith
(Feb. 6, Penguin Press)
Whether she’s observing and pondering the creative works of others or venturing into scenes from quotidian life, Zadie Smith’s essays often fascinate and enlighten. Thus, we’re mightily excited that this month brings with it a new collection of her nonfiction, and another array of her perspective on life and art.
Jagannath, Karin Tidbeck
(Feb. 6, Vintage)
Karin Tidbeck’s Amatka was a dystopian novel unlike any other–one that brought together classically science fictional tropes with a heady (and haunting) dose of metafiction. That same willingness to blend unexpected styles is on display in the stories in this collection, which veer from the quietly observed to the boldly imaginative.
Call Me Zebra, Azareen Van Der Vliet Oloomi
(Feb. 6, Houghton Mifflin)
We were quite impressed with Azareen Van Der Vliet Oloomi’s debut, Fra Keeler, when we first encountered it in 2012–and so we’re especially excited to read her followup. Here, Van Der Vliet Oloomi is telling a story that spans continents, following a young Iranian-American woman revisiting familial and literary history in Barcelona.
Freshwater, Akwaeke Emezi
(Feb. 13, Grove Press)
In Akwaeke Emezi’s debut novel, Emezi poses questions regarding identity both personal and cultural, along with a powerful account of trauma and psychological unrest. Freshwater follows the life of its protagonist from her childhood in Nigeria to her arrival in the United States for college, and the obstacles she must overcome along the way.
Where Night Stops, Douglas Light
(Feb. 16, Rare Bird Books)
Douglas Light’s new novel is a thriller suffused by ambiguities–one in which the crystalline danger faced by its protagonist is counterbalanced by an overwhelming obscurity that renders many of its relationships treacherous. The result is an artistically-rendered thriller that explores both identity and betrayal in abundance.
Where the Dead Sit Talking, Brandon Hodson
(Feb. 20, Soho Press)
Brandon Hobson’s third novel, Where the Dead Sit Talking, explores the life of a troubled Cherokee teenager in 1980s Oklahoma. With each new book, Hobson has ventured into a very different corner of fiction, deftly expanding his range as a writer; this looks to continue an impressive run.
Raymond Carver’s What We Talk about When We Talk about Love, Brian Evenson
(February 27, Ig Publishing)
When he’s not writing unsettling stories of bodies (or reality itself) being reshaped or translating essential literature into English, Brian Evenson has a penchant for enlightening looks into the art of others. His book about Yummy Fur from 2014 was a terrific read, and we’re just as excited about his latest book, which explores a certain beloved work by Raymond Carver.