New year, new books. January offers plenty of new titles to choose from, ranging from unsettling dystopias to thought-provoking works of nonfiction to boldly experimental literary works. Some of the books we’re most excited to read this month are from old favorites of ours; others are from writers whose work we’re eager to read for the first time. Here’s a selection of some of the January books we’re looking forward to.
Sean Adams, The Heap
(Jan. 7, William Morrow)
What happens when architecture meets dystopia? Fans of J.G. Ballard’s High-Rise know that the two can be a potent combination, and Sean Adams’s The Heap follows in this august tradition. Once, in the world of Adams’s novel, there was a 500-story residential building; then, it crumbled. The Heap explores what life was like during the building’s heyday and in its unsettling aftermath.
Marcial Gala, The Black Cathedral; translated by Anna Kushner
(Jan. 7, Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Marcial Garcia’s The Black Cathedral is told via a panoply of voices — all the better to narrate this expansive yet taut novel of faith, family, and violence. What begins as the story of a religious family moving to a small Cuban town gradually becomes broader in scope, encompassing obsession and murder along the way.
Emma Copley Eisenberg, The Third Rainbow Girl: The Long Life of a Double Murder in Appalachia
(Jan. 14, Hachette Books)
Blending a lived-in account of a place with a study of the aftermath of a horrific crime, Emma Copley Eisenberg’s The Third Rainbow Girl begins with a 1980 double murder in West Virginia. Over the course of her book, Eisenberg charts the investigation of the killings, and the way the ambiguity surrounding them has infused the local community.
Garth Greenwell, Cleanness
(Jan. 14, Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Garth Greenwell’s novel What Belongs to You was a haunting take on desire, veracity, and belonging. With his followup, Cleanness, Greenwell revisits the milieu of his earlier novel but puts a new spin on it, beautifully exploring questions of place and memory as he goes.
Gibby Haynes, Me & Mr. Cigar
(Jan. 14, Soho Teen)
If you had “singer of the Butthole Surfers publishes YA novel” on your 2020 bingo card, congratulations! Gibby Haynes offers up his own take on the “a boy and his dog” narrative — though in this case, the dog has uncanny abilities and a penchant for biting off hands. Admit it: you’re just as intrigued as we are.
Joanna Kavenna, Zed
(Jan. 14, Doubleday)
If you’ve spent any time at all thinking about how technology companies’ algorithms can track our behavior and even emulate us, you’ve probably ended up scaring yourself just a little bit. Enter Joanna Kavenna’s new novel Zed, which riffs on that idea in a near-future setting. Between this and Rob Hart’s The Warehouse, we’re rapidly reaching a point where technological corporate dystopias are difficult to distinguish from the real thing.
Tom Lutz, Born Slippy
(Jan. 14, Repeater Books)
What happens when a fundamentally decent human being encounters a sociopath who they can’t quite extricate themselves from? Tom Lutz’s novel Born Slippy follows the unexpected connection between two men — one a philosophically-minded carpenter, one an ambitious sociopath — as their paths cross repeatedly on multiple continents.
Kyle Chayka, The Longing For Less: Living With Minimalism
(Jan. 21, Bloomsbury)
From home aesthetics to the concept of “inbox zero,” we live in an era where minimalism is all the rage. But what’s behind its sudden popularity — and what does that say about contemporary culture? In his new book The Longing For Less, writer and cultural critic Kyle Chayka explores this phenomenon in an insightful and revealing way.
Sean Michaels, The Wagers
(Jan. 21, Tin House Books)
What do you do when you’ve written an acclaimed book about art and creativity during the height of the Cold War? You take a sharp turn into a magical realism-infused crime story, apparently. That’s what Sean Michaels did in following up Us Conductors with The Wagers, and if you’re the kind of person for whom a fondness for crime stories abuts a penchant for the uncanny, well, you might just have your new favorite read.
Lance Olsen, My Red Heaven
(Jan. 21, Dzanc Books)
Lance Olsen’s writings are frequently innovative, unpredictable, and revelatory. With My Red Heaven, he explores Germany during the Weimar Republic, showcasing the lives of real-world artists and thinkers alongside the figures who would rapidly steer the nation towards fascism and terror.
Danez Smith, Homie
(Jan. 21, Graywolf Press)
Danez Smith’s searing poetry collection Don’t Call Us Dead blended formal intricacy with a pained urgency, creating a new and vital take on the familiar. Now, they’re following it up with a new collection, Homie. Here, Smith explores questions of friendship, and draws upon the loss of a close friend to explore the bonds that connect us.
Peter Stamm, The Sweet Indifference of the World; translated by Michael Hofmann
(Jan. 21, Other Press)
Can the life of one person follow precisely in the pattern left by another? That’s the question Peter Stamm poses in his novel The Sweet Indifference of the World, in which a pair of characters appear to be living the same lives as two others did twenty years before. Echoes of Three Colours: Red, which is never a bad thing.