According to rodent-based prognostications, we’re in for six more weeks of winter. So if the pandemic wasn’t keeping us inside, the weather just might. It’s never a bad time to get some reading done, but — this might be a better time than usual, is what we’re saying. And so, some book recommendations; heavy on the fiction this month, and heavy on the surreal side of fiction at that. Here are some suggestions for when you head to the bookstore in the coming weeks.
Ross Barkan, The Night Burns Bright
(Feb. 1, Lake Union)
When he’s not writing about New York politics, Ross Barkan has also made many a foray into the world of fiction. His novel The Night Burns Bright follows the life of a boy raised in an isolated compound, and what happens when he starts to experience a view of the world that clashes with that of the commune he’s called home.
Kim Fu, Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century
(Feb. 1, Tin House)
Do you like your short fiction with an abundance of surrealism? Kim Fu’s new collection might well be your next favorite book, then. It’s got sea monsters; it’s got houses full of bugs; it’s got a particularly memorable case of insomnia. Fu roots the weirder elements of this book in relatable psychology, and it makes for a thoroughly compelling read.
Simon Jacobs, String Follow
(Feb. 1, MCD x FSG Originals)
We’ve been big admirers of Simon Jacobs’s work to date, and his new novel String Follow sounds like another compelling foray into the beguiling and strange. Described by its publisher as a “suburban gothic,” Jacobs’s novel centers around a mysterious force targeting the teens in an Ohio town — think teen angst transformed into something uncanny. We’re definitely intrigued.
Adrian Nathan West, My Father’s Diet
(Feb. 1, And Other Stories)
Adrian Nathan West’s bibliography includes notable work as both a writer and a translator; My Father’s Diet fits into the former category. It’s the story of a son and his father, and the way his father responds to a midlife crisis by embracing bodybuilding — in other words, it’s not your typical story of midlife frustrations.
Sarah Manguso, Very Cold People
(Feb. 8, Hogarth)
Whatever you might read by Sarah Manguso, odds are good that it’ll be rooted in deeply felt emotions and formally inventive. Very Cold People is her first novel, and it’s an exploration of one woman’s coming of age in the midst of an affluent, emotionally repressed New England town. The “cold” in the title is covering a lot of ground, and we’re eager to see what Manguso does here.
Bethany C. Morrow, Cherish Farrah
(Feb. 8, Dutton)
Ever since we read Bethany C. Morrow’s dystopian novel Mem, we’ve been eager to see how she’d follow it up. She’s gone in unexpected directions since then, covering a lot of stylistic ground, and we are — as the saying goes — here for it. Cherish Farrah is about the fraught friendship between two teenage girls and the unsettling secrets hidden within one of their families, making for a haunting denouement.
Mónica Ojeda, Jawbone; translated by Sarah Booker
(Feb. 8, Coffee House Press)
What happens when a group of students begin experimenting with their own rites and religion? Generally, this doesn’t bode well for the characters in the book in question — The Secret History is but one of many examples of this. Ojeda’s novel suggests a setting that’s pushed past the gothic into something both ecstatic and terrifying.
Shane Kowalski, Small Moods
(Feb. 10, Future Tense Books)
Maybe a short story collection is what you’re looking for this month. And maybe you’d like one with a lot of short stories — like, say, 95 of them. That’s what Shane Kowalski’s assembled for his new collection Small Moods — an array of stylistically bold, thematically bizarre flash fiction that takes the reader to some wholly unexpected places.
Sasha Fletcher, Be Here to Love Me at the End of the World
(Feb. 15, Melville House)
The first thing you should know about the title of Sasha Fletcher’s new novel is that it’s very literal; the characters in it are contending with an apocalyptic situation, or at least the beginnings of one. How do you keep moving forward when the future of the world seems up in the air? Be Here to Love Me at the End of the World offers one answer.
Sheila Heti, Pure Colour
(Feb. 15, Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
If you’re looking for a blend of formal inventiveness, high concepts, and hauntingly resonant storytelling, you’ve probably got something by Sheila Heti on your bookshelves already. Her latest book, Pure Colour, focuses on “the first draft of Creation” — making for a more surreal landscape than we might be used to, even as the questions it raises of loss and intimacy feel urgent and contemporary.
Mary Kurlya, Away to Stay
(Feb. 18, Regal House)
Olya, the protagonist of Mary Kurlya’s new novel Away to Stay, has several problems to grapple with, from an unsteady housing situation to a fraught family with trauma to spare. Add the psychological aftermath of war and a troubled dog into the mix, and you have a combination that makes for a compelling read.
Gabrielle Civil, The Déjà Vu: Black Dreams & Black Time
(Feb. 22, Coffee House Press)
We’ve been huge admirers of Gabrielle Civil’s previous work, which blends a host of literary forms into something essential and new. Her latest book finds her addressing a host of resonant subjects, from cinematic depictions of race to the place where performance and ritual converge. The result is an immersive, thought-provoking work.
Note: all artwork and publication dates are subject to change.