Of course many of us are still deeply ensconced in some of the best reading of 2016 — and that to-be-read stack is still piled high with recommendations from our contributors. But a new year is upon us, and there’s nothing quite like a fresh calendar to inspire thoughts of what great books might lie ahead. Here are a few we’re particularly eager to pore over in the coming months
Whether you’re looking for your next engrossing read to carry you through until spring or want to scout some early book club picks, here’s a taste of some of the reading we think will define 2017.
There are writers whose stock in trade is high-octane suspense, and those who create burning curiosity about what will happen next solely through the medium of her voice. We defy you to read the first story in essayist and novelist Roxane Gay’s new collection Difficult Women and not want to continue, page after page after page, to find out where her characters are going next. These are unpredictable, restless tales that embrace dark humor, heartbreak, and the uniqueness of the women whose stories Gay brings to burning life. (Read an excerpt here).
In Emily Fridlund’s debut novel History of Wolves a teenager raised by an unconventional family in the Minnesota woods finds herself entangled, tragically, with a family of new arrivals to their small town. This wintry, gothic chiller that will appeal to readers of The Girls has been announced as a Discover Great New Writers selection for Spring 2017.
In Lindsey Lee Johnson’s electric debut novel The Most Dangerous Place on Earth is high school — specifically one located in a wealthy San Francisco suburb, lush with redwoods and laced with all of the social pitfalls that can ensnare an unwary teen. Or, for that matter, the young teacher at the center of this engrossing story. A Discover Great New Writers Spring 2017 selection.
Richard Mason’s Who Killed Piet Barol? takes readers into early-twentieth century South Africa, where colonial political intrigue a dangerous natural world both create hazards. An exciting new outing from the author of History of a Pleasure Seeker.
Kevin Wilson, the author of the breakout novel The Family Fang returns with a story of a social experiment in communal living in Perfect Little World. An idealistic scientist recruits a single mother for an experiment in which a group of parents agree to raise their children collectively, in a remote location gifted by a wealthy donor. What could possibly go wrong?
He’s become one of the most celebrated short story writers in the country, but up until now, George Saunders has never given reader a novel. That changes with February’s publication of Lincoln in the Bardo, a story as unusual — and as moving — as you’d expect from the author of the stories in Tenth of December. Abraham Lincoln, mourning the loss of his 11-year-old son Willie, awakens the dormant spirits of an 1862 graveyard. The result is a haunted encounter with America’s own unquiet ghosts — and a tour de force exploration of Lincoln’s passage through grief into action as his country teetered on the brink of dissolution.
Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West is a tightly-woven love story, tracing the flight from war of two young refugees as they trace a path out of chaos — and into the uncertainty of a life together. Hamid’s creatively dazzling novels The Reluctant Fundamentalist and How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia lend excitement to the prospect of a new work.
The new collection from David Shields, Other People pulls together more than seventy works from his career — some of them essay-length meditations on subjects like Howard Cosell or the talk-radio star Delilah to pieces as short as a page — into a sustained, typically idiosyncratic confrontation with “otherness.” The author of Reality Hunger never fails to provoke thought — and considerable feeling.
Gish Jen’s The Girl at the Baggage Claim: Explaining the East-West Culture Gap is likely to become one of the most talked-about books of the year, a thoughtful and counterintuitive look at how Asian cultures offer a worldview of personal and social identity in which a “flexi-self” takes the place where Westerners see a monolithic and uncompromising center. Drawing on a novelist’s craft, Jen takes us on an intellectual exploration and philosophical excursion with a storyteller’s flair.
Paul La Farge’s bravura novel The Night Ocean isn’t really about H.P. Lovecraft, godfather of Weird Fiction. Except, of course, it is — in this combination of ghost story, narrative chess game, literary homage and love story, a manuscript that supposedly reveals the secret sexual history of the author of the Cthulu tales may be a hoax; but if it is, it proves to have consequences that travel down generations like a curse, ensnaring readers in nothing short of a drama of literary possession. Page-turning, moving, and bursting with imaginative fireworks.