Perhaps you are one of those people for whom 2020's indoor-oriented life meant you finally had the opportunity to make a dent in the precariously
high pile of books perched near your bed. Or, perhaps you are someone whose attention span was so diminished by the events of this past year that you could barely get through a tweet, let alone a novel. Whether you fall into the former category or the latter (or, more likely, somewhere in between), the nice thing about entering into a new year is that you can trick yourself that it means one of two things: You have a totally clean slate moving forward with which to start anew or you can build on all the positive habits you've recently acquired without any disruptions at all. Either way, good for you.
All to say, whether or not you have promised yourself that you will read more books in 2021 or just
any books in 2021, here is a rather huge list of options for you from which to choose. Some come out within the next few days, while others are still several months from their release. Please do pre-order any that spark your interest, though, as it will at least give you something to look forward to in the coming year. And, if you need the instant gratification of being able to buy a new book right now, here's a nice long list of some of 2020's most notable selections. 1 of 53 White Feminism: From the Suffragettes to Influencers and Who They Leave Behind by Koa Beck ( available January 5 )
The commodification of feminism — from the rise of the Girl Boss to the (ahem) ubiquity of women's media brands — is something that has gotten a lot of attention paid to it over the last couple of years, as it's become more and more clear that this particular blend of capitalism and, you know, girl power, not only doesn't help women, but actively harms them. But, as Koa Beck makes very clear in her incisive, rigorous new book, this type of exclusionary "equality" has existed for decades under the guise of white feminism, a system that only benefitted a select, elite group of women, and actually further entrenched rather than dismantled the patriarchy. Beck offers insight into how we can best move forward from the mess we're in now — through inclusivity, primarily, and recognition of all the ways in which "feminism" has failed the people who needed its help the most.
2 of 53 The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr. ( available January 5 ) The Prophets
heralds the arrival of a monumental talent in Robert Jones, Jr., whose debut novel has the vibrating power of a thunder clap and the tender intimacy of a secret whispered by a loved one in the darkest night. Set on a plantation in the Deep South,
tells the story of Samuel and Isaiah, two enslaved men who find love and strength with one another, even in the midst of so much despair and horror. As their lives become further threatened, their already precarious reality under dedicated attack, Samuel and Isaiah must fight to preserve what is important to them — the ability to love and to have each other. Though Jones, Jr. is unflinching in his portrayal of the evils of white supremacy and fanaticism, he threads his novels with shimmering strands of hope, of heroism, and of reminders of how humanity has persevered even in the most inhumane of times.
3 of 53 Outlawed by Anna North ( available January 5 )
A thoroughly gripping, genre-subverting and -defining marvel of a novel,
is a stunner, a Western thriller that feels completely relevant today. It's the end of the 19th century, and Ada is just a teenager when she marries the man she loves and embarks on what she's sure will be a happy and productive life as a wife and mother. But, when she can't get pregnant and risks being hanged as a witch for her barrenness, she escapes her town in the Dakota Territory and joins up with a gang whose goal is to create a community for non-conformists like themselves. Violence mounts and stakes grow sky-high, and all the while North is masterful in her exploration of what it means to live on the edges of a society, how we seek out hope even in the darkest moments of terror, and why a lack of imagination and open-mindedness are the biggest threats to achieving real freedom and happiness.
4 of 53 The Captive by Fiona King Foster ( available January 12 )
Dark as an ice cold winter's night, Fiona King Foster's debut novel is a pitch-perfect noir thriller, set in a rural tundra in a world populated by loners, homesteaders, and the kind of people who most typically lurk in the shadows. Brooke and her family are eking out a modest but happy existence on their farm when she's attacked by a man who's in possession of secrets from Brooke's past, things that Brooke has long-kept hidden from her husband and children, and that now threaten to upend her recent serenity. Foster keeps the tension high, running at a constant throbbing pulse, and showing all the things we'll do to protect our family and our future.
5 of 53 Aftershocks by Nadia Owusu ( available January 12 )
Powerful and devastating — and a reminder that usually the only hero any of us have is ourselves — Nadia Owusu's memoir
is a fascinating exploration of the difficulties inherent to growing up and going between different cultures, never knowing if you belong everywhere or nowhere. As a child, Owusu was raised mostly by her adored father, who was a Ghanaian official at the U.N.; her Armenian mother was only a sporadic presence in her life. When her father died when she was just 13, her life ruptured completely, and Owusu spent years working to piece together her fractured identity and figure out how to save herself. This memoir is an accounting of that time, of resilience, and of the strength it takes to figure out who you are in the face of so much disruption.
6 of 53 Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters ( available January 12 )
With her debut novel, Torrey Peters has written a glorious, frank, and celebratory exploration of what it means to be a family, a mother, a partner, and a person. At its center are Reese, a trans woman who seemingly has it all, and just wants a child; Ames, Reese's partner, who detransitioned and lost his relationship with Reese and is now struggling to figure out what to do next; and Katrina, who works with Ames and is now pregnant with their child. Peters captures these three as they work to reconcile their various needs and desires — sometimes conflicting and sometimes complementary — and, in the process, offers insight into what it means to break down taboos and limitations and outdated constructs, all in the service of strengthening our ability to give and receive love.
7 of 53 The Inland Sea by Madeleine Watts ( available January 12 )
What is an emergency? It's a basic enough question, but there's no simple answer. We are all dealing with a constant onslaught of tiny emergencies, with the larger thrum of bigger emergencies always threatening to collapse the ground beneath our feet.
The Inland Sea
, Madeleine Watts' stunning debut novel, is a book about emergencies both big — climate change — and small — regrettable romantic hookups, clumsy IUD insertions. In it, a young woman, a writer who works at an emergency call center in Sydney, Australia, grows increasingly disillusioned with her life, which is messy and full of disappointments. It seems like any hopes of a brilliant future are only a mirage, not unlike the one her long-ago relative set out and failed to discover in the middle of the Australian desert — an inland sea. Watts captures the urgency of life right now, the particular blend of desire and destructiveness that comes with feeling like there is no longer a guarantee of tomorrow. And while
The Inland Sea
might not do much to ease the anxiety of these times, reading and getting lost in the shimmering sentences does feel a little like finding a small and perfect oasis in the midst of all the fires that burn around us.
8 of 53 The Divines by Ellie Eaton ( available January 19 )
Alternating between present day Los Angeles and an elite British boarding school in the '90s, Ellie Eaton's
is a dark delight of an entry into one of my personal favorite genres: bad things happening at boarding schools. (See also:
The Secret History
How to Murder Your Life
.) Josephine hasn't thought much about her school in the decade-plus since she left, when the school was abruptly closed. But, after an unexpected visit, she finds herself caught up in memories of the scandal that shut everything down. A provocative meditation on our obsession with youth — including our own — and an exploration into the power and perversity of teenage girls,
is perfectly twisted in its reflection of an utterly toxic environment, making it impossible to put down till you get to its end.
9 of 53 No Heaven for Good Boys by Keisha Bush ( available January 26 )
This Senegal-set riff on
is far more than just a re-imagined narrative; it is a vibrant, life-affirming tale of camaraderie, resilience, and familial love. Ibrahimah is only 6 years old when he leaves his rural village to attend a religious school in Dakar. Once there, he forms a connection with his cousin Étienne, and the two work to make their way back home and escape the cruelty they find at the school. Keisha Bush integrates real-life incidents into the narrative, offering distressing glimpses into the lives of countless vulnerable children. And yet, this is not a story simply of despair, but rather one of hope and survival, beautifully, unforgettably rendered.
10 of 53 Everybody (Else) Is Perfect by Gabrielle Korn ( available January 26)
Former Editor-in-Chief of NYLON (and, more recently, former Director of Fashion and Culture at Refinery29) Gabrielle Korn had a years-long, front-row look at the many inconsistencies, if not straight-up hypocrisies, that exist within women's media, which not only affect those who work in the industry, but also everyone who consumes that work. In this smart, clear-eyed memoir, Korn reflects on her struggles, both personal and professional, to reconcile who she knew she was — a queer feminist, dealing with anxiety, relationship drama, and an eating disorder — with who the world saw her as — a queer feminist who had her shit together and was at the top of her game. As she interrogates, with precision and wit, the branding of women's empowerment, and surveys her own role within that machine, as both an insider and outsider, Korn offers readers a glimpse into a troubled industry, driven by clicks and likes, and ruthless when it comes to figuring out what aspect of womanhood to sell next. Spoiler: Korn doesn't work in media anymore, which is definitely the industry's loss.
11 of 53 Milk Fed by Melissa Broder ( available February 2 )
Not that Melissa Broder
become a cult leader, but if she did, I think she'd be a very successful one — few writers so innately understand or better capture the endless, palpable hunger that so many people carry around with them, day after day. This hunger is for food, for sex, for love, for compassion, for understanding, and it is this kind of ravenous appetite that Broder explores in her exultant new novel, which centers around Rachel, an L.A. talent agent who struggles with anorexia and an overbearing mother, and, while detoxing from the latter, finds solace and inspiration in an Orthodox Jewish woman named Miriam, whose unabashed lust for life allows Rachel to work toward reclaiming some of her own suppressed appetites. Riotously funny and perfectly profane, Broder's latest is as satisfying to consume as a favorite meal — or favorite person.
12 of 53 Land of Big Numbers by Te-Ping Chen ( available February 2 )
In her revelatory debut story collection, Te-Ping Chen explores modern Chinese culture by examining myriad facets and exigencies of life there, reflecting on the past and present, anticipating the future. Chen writes with an almost hallucinatory lucidity about the minutia of a person's everyday experience, whether it's what it's like to work in the stock market or have an endless daily commute, nothing escapes Chen's observations, which are astute and clear-eyed, even as she occasionally throws in elements of the surreal in order to better capture the oddities of daily life.
13 of 53 The Removed by Brandon Hobson ( available February 2)
In Brandon Hobson's stunning
new novel, it's been 15 years since teenaged Ray-Ray was killed by the police on the night of Cherokee independence day, and his family is struggling to survive and live with the trauma: His mother is consumed with taking care of his father, who has Alzheimer's; his sister is romantically fixated on a white man with a troubling connection to Ray-Ray's death; and his brother is wavering between the worlds of the living and the dead. Hobson uses Cherokee folklore to great effect in this profound, powerful look at the ways in which trauma — both recent and generational — infuses every aspect of our lives, but that it is possible to heal, to recover without ever forgetting what happened and what is still owed in order to reach a place of true understanding.
14 of 53 Love Is an Ex-Country by Randa Jarrar ( available February 2)
Funny, fierce, and full of joy and pain, Randa Jarrar's memoir chronicles her 2016 road trip across America, as she drives from her home in California to her parents' home in Connecticut. Her encounters along the way — from Tinder hookups to encounters with racist truck-drivers — serve as catalysts for Jarrar to explore everything from her identity as a queer Palestinian-American to her experiences with domestic violence and bigotry. There is catharsis in reading Jarrar's words, they feel alternately like howls and whispers, an impassioned, necessary response to what it means to live in America today.
15 of 53 How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones ( available February 2 )
In this stunning debut by Cherie Jones, two couples lives intersect to devastating effect in paradise — or rather "paradise," the tourist community of Baxter's Beach, Barbados. It is there that Lala, a hairdresser, and her husband, Adan, a petty thief, live, and there that their lives collide with Mira, a former local, and her husband Peter, as they visit on vacation from England. The novel pulses with brutality and runs high with emotions, offering a searing and unforgettable portrait of generational trauma, a colonialist past, and a capitalist present.
16 of 53 My Year Abroad by Chang-Rae Lee ( available February 2 )
Chang-Rae Lee's electric new novel has the kind of kinetic energy that makes reading it feel like a full body experience, leaving you wondering and in awe of where exactly it will take you next. Tiller is an American, a college student who doesn't know quite what he wants out of his life. A chance encounter with Pong Lou, a Chinese-American businessman, leads to Tiller spending a year in the roller-coaster-fast-paced world of China's ultra-wealthy — all of which ultimately results in Tiller ending up living in a town called Stagno with a woman named Val and her eight-year-old son, both in witness protection. It's a virtuosic, wildly original book — one that cements Lee's status as one of the most exciting writers working today.
17 of 53 Fake Accounts by Lauren Oyler ( available February 2 )
Snooping through your partner's phone is perhaps obviously never going to end well. Best case scenario: You find nothing, but you're left feeling like a creep. Or maybe the best case scenario is that you find something? At least you'll be vindicated in your suspicions, and won't have to feel like you've been catastrophizing nothing. Probably the worst case scenario, though, is that you find out your partner has been running an anonymous conspiracy theorist account, and so you really have no choice but to dump him — once you get back from the Women's March in Washington, D.C., of course. This, anyway, is where the unnamed narrator in Lauren Oyler's debut novel finds herself — and that's before her life really takes a turn (she leaves her blogging job, moves to Berlin, works as a nanny, constructs some new personae of her own, etc). Oyler has written a startlingly lucid account of what it does to a person to live a life filled with lies, why it's so painful to be unable to trust anything or anyone, including yourself. Nothing in contemporary life is safe from her skewering (fans of fragmentary novels, consider yourself warned), which is all to say: I laughed a lot while reading this, even when — especially when — I very much saw myself as the joke. What
is ultimately asking, then, is a question we could all do well to pose to ourselves with some frequency: Who do you think you're fooling?
18 of 53 Made in China : A Prisoner, an SOS Letter, and the Hidden Costs of America's Cheap Goods by Amelia Pang ( available February 2 )
When Julie Keith bought a package of Halloween decorations from Kmart in 2012, she wasn't expecting it to be the first step toward uncovering a real-life horror story. But that's exactly what happened when a letter fell out of the package; it was a cry for help from a Chinese man, Sun Yi, an engineer who'd been imprisoned in a gulag as a political prisoner, and forced to make things like the Halloween decorations that Keith bought one October day. This was the incident that led journalist Amelia Pang to investigate not only Sun Yi's situation, but also that of other prisoners in China's forced labor camps, as well as authorities. The result of Pang's investigation is this powerful, illuminating book, which serves as a reminder that not only is nothing in life actually free, but it should also never be inexplicably cheap — someone, somewhere, is always paying the price.
19 of 53 The Weak Spot by Lucie Elven ( available February 9 )
It is my opinion that everyone needs more haunting fairy tales in their lives, the kind of deeply atmospheric stories that immerse you fully in their worlds, rendering you able, once you emerge, to see your own world from an entirely new perspective. That, anyway, is the experience you'll have reading Lucie Elven's strange and magical debut, which takes place in a remote, rural mountain town, where the nameless narrator slowly awakens to the truth that nothing and nobody around her is exactly what they seem. Lyrical and wholly unsettling,
The Weak Spot
is a beguiling tale of alienation and oppression, offering a new perspective on what it takes to get and maintain control over an unsuspecting public.
20 of 53 Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future by Elizabeth Kolbert ( available February 9 )
In Elizabeth Kolbert's Pulitzer Prize-winning
The Sixth Extinction
, she explored — in devastating detail — the horrors that humans have visited upon the earth, and what it means for our future on this planet. In
Under a White Sky
, Kolbert examines the ways in which humans are trying to combat some of the destruction we have caused by doing things like creating artificial coral that can withstand rising ocean temperatures or speculating whether or not shooting diamonds into the atmosphere will help to cool things down. While this is not a purely hopeful book — the state of our environment is still pretty dire — it does offer some release from the overwhelmingly grim prognosis of our climate, and affords a glimpse into what might be possible if we put our energies into saving the earth, rather than destroying it.
21 of 53 Kink: Stories edited by R.O. Kwon and Garth Greenwell ( available February 9 )
Perhaps because it's so easy to identify — and make fun of — bad sex writing, we don't spend nearly enough time praising and reveling in really
sex writing, the kind of writing that reminds us how strong the connection is between our brains and our most visceral feelings. If you need any such reminder,
is as good a place as any to start. Edited by writers R.O. Kwon and Garth Greenwell, and full of stories by luminaries like Carmen Maria Machado, Alexander Chee, and Brandon Taylor,
is an exciting, vibrating exploration into the intersection of love, lust, power, sex, and desire. Perhaps it's best not to read this in public, unless that's, you know, your kink.
22 of 53 We Run the Tides by Vendela Vida ( available February 9 )
In the manner of all far-too-close-to-be-healthy teenage friendships, Eulabee and Maria Fabiola are so good together that they're bad. Or, as Eulabee explains in Vendela Vida's atmospheric, glistering novel of adolescence and innocence lost: "Separately we are good girls... together...we are trouble." Set in Sea Cliff, a wealthy enclave in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge,
We Run the Tides
documents girlhood in the '80s, a time of exhilarating freedom and real peril, as can be felt first when Eulabee is ostracized from her once close friend group, and then Maria Fabiola goes missing. Vida perfectly captures the panicky feeling inherent to adolescence, of wanting to know everything that's going on, but being aware that you'll probably only ever scratch the surface of the truth.
23 of 53 No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood ( available February 16 )
Rare is the writer who can adequately capture the strange duality of life in the age of social media, a reality in which the visceral and virtual are constantly colliding. But then, Patricia Lockwood is a rare writer; one whose work — whether a poem, memoir, or tweet — distills the essence of the extremely profane and reverent all at once. In this, her debut novel, Lockwood contemplates the effects being online has on our humanity through the experience of a woman who, after having gained viral fame for a relatively innocuous post ("Can a dog be twins?"), realizes the internet's limits — and lack thereof — when it comes to addressing the real life problem she encounters when her sister experiences serious complications with her pregnancy. Fragmentary novels can feel disorienting, I find, but not this one: Lockwood not only grounds the reader with her startlingly specific language ("clouds sat in piles of couch stuffing" and "her face was luminous, as if someone had put flesh on the bone of the moon"), but also with her ability to reflect what is so terribly funny and so terribly tragic about this particular moment in time.
24 of 53 Infinite Country by Patricia Engel ( available February 23 )
Patricia Engel's searing, unflinching novel about a Colombian family fractured by the infuriating exigencies of constructions like borders and visa expiration dates, offers a singular and urgent portrait of what's at stake during our current immigration crisis — the families torn apart, the lives led off-track, the futures dimmed or destroyed. Engel, who holds dual American and Colombian citizenship, has written a powerful and intimate account of life in the diaspora, a life that involves constantly looking over your shoulder, unsure if, at any moment, your ability to make a home for yourself and your family will be taken away from you.
25 of 53 Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi ( available March 2 )
June and Jayne Baek are sisters, separated by only three years — and approximately a million other things. With a lucrative career and an enviable apartment, June seemingly has her whole life together. Meanwhile, drifting through fashion school, living in a less than ideal space (there are roaches), and without close connections to either her boyfriend or friends, Jayne, decidedly, does not. Their dynamic changes once June is diagnosed with cancer, and Jayne — always so convinced that she was the only one to know what it was to suffer — becomes closer to her older sister, with both of them realizing that their bond might be the only thing strong enough to get them through this experience. As in her prior two novels,
, Choi depicts with tenderness and humor what it feels like to be vulnerable, scared, impulsive — human. Through June and Jayne, Choi reveals the ways in which our most intimate relationships are both formed and threatened by trauma, and how it takes real work and openness to move toward a place of understanding, happiness, and healing.
26 of 53 What's Mine and Yours by Naima Coster ( available March 2 )
Rare is the book that manages to be both a finely wrought character study as well as a multi-family saga, sweeping in scope, that offers lucid insight into the ways a legacy of trauma can inflict and infect generations to come, but Naima Coster's new novel does just that — and more. Set primarily in the Piedmont area of North Carolina,
What's Mine and Yours
focuses on two families, each headed up by women who have been deeply affected by loss, as they try to navigate an often hostile world. Coster writes with a singular sensitivity and nuance as she explores questions about identity and family, never losing sight of what each of her individual characters is enduring, always treating their pain and their joy as something special, something sacred.
27 of 53 Justine by Forsyth Harmon ( available March 2)
Punctuated by the spare and elegant line drawings (an attenuated ankle here, a stout can of Diet Coke there), Forsyth Harmon's
is a novel both universal (who didn't have an unhealthily intimate best-friendship in high school?) and also highly specific (if you also remember Bridget Hall's late-'90s Ralph Lauren ads, hello). Ali is in high school, unhappy at home, where she lives with her cat and her TV-loving grandmother, and pretty instantly infatuated with Justine, her beautiful, impossibly cool coworker at the Stop & Shop. Their friendship has the same fuzzy electric quality as doing whip-its — the high is only a little less fleeting. Harmon depicts this heady time of life with an exquisite tenderness, a clarity that can only come from distance, and a sensitivity to this most formative part of our lives, when both nothing and everything seem possible all at once.
28 of 53 Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro ( available March 2 )
The undisputed master of profoundly unsettling dystopian love stories (if you haven't yet, please read
Never Let Me Go
immediately), Kazuo Ishiguro is back with another brilliant entry into the genre. The eponymous narrator Klara is an Artificial Friend, an older model of a robot companion, who at first observes the world from the store where she sits, unsold and passed over in favor of newer models. Eventually, she is bought as the companion of a seriously ill girl named Josie, and what Klara recounts as she lives with this family reveals all the ways in which it is possible to love, to be broken, to be human.
29 of 53 The Life of the Mind by Christine Smallwood ( available March 2 )
For anyone who has ever tried to trick themselves into thinking they could separate how their minds work from how their bodies work, thinking that, perhaps, this would be what gave them some control over their life, well, Christine Smallwood's debut novel is for you. Dorothy is an adjunct professor of English, stuck in a very specific kind of professional purgatory where, no matter how much work she does and for how little money, there's virtually no hope of actually advancing in her career. No wonder she sees two therapists. But, it isn't just Dorothy's work life that feels out of control — her body is betraying her, too, forcing her to pay attention to it, as she miscarries an unplanned pregnancy, feeling her way through it rather than just intellectualizing it. Smallwood's voice is wholly original, ultra-precise and very funny; she fully captures what it means to be a woman who is accused of overthinking everything thing, making this the perfect book for anyone who — consciously or not — narrativizes their life, and sometimes gets filled with an overwhelming sense of dread that they've lost the plot.
30 of 53 Spilt Milk by Courtney Zoffness ( available March 2 )
This provocative, insightful memoir in essays is an exploration into motherhood and womanhood during this sometimes unfathomably complicated time we call our own. Courtney Zoffness writes with lucidity and a welcome vulnerability about the fears that come with raising children, worrying that every decision you make might have endlessly rippling repercussions. This isn't to say
is laced purely with anxiety; rather, Zoffness also reveals and revels in the humorous and joyful aspects of parenthood, offering a complete picture of what it means to love someone else so completely.
31 of 53 The Arsonist's City by Hala Alyan ( available March 9)
The follow-up novel to her sprawling epic debut,
, Hala Alyan's
The Arsonist's City
is a profound inquiry into what it means to be a family, determine your identity, and hold onto a home — particularly in a world that doesn't always weigh equally the importance of everyone's home, identity, and family. The Nasr family has long called Beirut home, even as its various members have spread out to places as far-flung as Texas, Brooklyn, and California. But when their ancestral home is at risk of being sold, they return to Lebanon, in order to protect what is theirs, and to come to terms with the fractured legacy that accompanies hailing from a place that is seemingly always under attack. Alyan is virtuosic at portraying the complicated bonds that exist between family members, and she is unafraid to show both the beauty and the despair that come with true intimacy, love, and loss.
32 of 53 Sarahland by Sam Cohen ( available March 9 )
Ludic, provocative, and endlessly surprising, Sam Cohen's debut is a story collection in which each of the stories centers around a different protagonist, all of them named Sarah. By changing the circumstances of a person's life, but offering continuity in identity, Cohen challenges preconceived ideas of how we become the people we are, what it means to define ourselves, and how it is possible, and preferable, to break free from the compromises we make to fit into a world that wants to label us without really seeing us.
33 of 53 Love Like That by Emma Duffy-Comparone ( available March 9 )
A witty, provocative short story collection, filled with women who are delightfully difficult and resolutely incapable of doing the "right" thing,
Love Like That
is the kind of book you can snack on, dipping into a story here and there, or — and far more likely — inhale all in one sitting, as you find it impossible to wait even one more day to find out just where Emma Duffy-Comparone has decided to take you next.
34 of 53 The Recent East by Thomas Grattan ( available March 9 )
A sprawling, captivating story of identity, displacement, family, and belonging, Thomas Grattan's debut novel is at turns heart-breaking and life-affirming, a necessary reminder of the different ways we can find, or create, a home for ourselves. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, mother of two Beata discovers she has inherited a home in a desolate town in the former East Germany. She moves there from America with her two children, Michael and Adela, and seeks to create a life in a world that feels more like a ghost town. The novel goes back and forth in time, offering a fascinating, clear-eyed view of the quickly changing landscape of Germany in the late 20th century, but what it does best of all is show the ways in which we are all of us, always, searching to better understand who we are, and how we fit into an ever-changing world.
35 of 53 Cosmogony by Lucy Ives ( available March 9 )
There is perhaps no author better able to confront the acute absurdities of our reality than Lucy Ives, who veritably tackles the derangements of our era with glee, clarity, and brilliance. In this story collection, Ives touches on the mundane — from memes to porn to errand-running — offering up a version of life that is all the more authentic for its wholly surreal elements (time travel; living underwater). But then, this is what Ives does best: By offering up a kaleidoscope rather than a microscope through which to view our world, she presents us with something more glittery and beautiful and endlessly faceted than we could see if we were looking at it with our own eyes.
36 of 53 My Heart by Semezdin Mehmedinović, translated by Celia Hawkesworth ( available March 9 )
A tender, profound autobiographical novel that contemplates mortality, family, intimacy, and identity,
feels particularly resonant right now, as so many of us are grappling with the frail of life, and how a sudden illness can cut it all too short at a moment's notice. Mehmedinović comes from the former Yugoslavia; he and his family became refugees to the United States during the Bosnian war, and so this novel also explores other seemingly foundational but actually quite fragile constructs: the meanings of home, of safety, and of belonging.
37 of 53 Women and Other Monsters: Building a New Mythology by Jess Zimmerman ( available March 9 )
This is the ideal book for anyone who grew up empathizing with Ursula and Maleficent over Ariel and Sleeping Beauty, and wondering why it was, exactly, that whenever a woman was a villain, she was also cast as something grotesque, utterly repellent. In a series of insightful, impassioned essays, Jess Zimmerman explores and explodes commonly held ideas about some of mythology's most infamous monsters, from Medusa to the Sphinx, offering up evidence as to why these women were ostracized from society, rejected for their lack of traditional femininity. Zimmerman also makes clear that those very things that made these women into "monsters" — agency and appetite — are also what gave them power, and has kept them relevant in our world, centuries after they first appeared in ancient folklore.
38 of 53 Night Rooms by Gina Nutt ( available March 23 )
In this viscerally provocative collection of essays, life isn't so different from a horror movie — just be glad you have Gina Nutt as the Final Girl guiding you through. Whether through the lens of celebrating her wedding anniversary or competing in a beauty contest, Nutt relates the events of her life to the tropes in scary films, from haunted houses to slasher-induced gore. In writing both revelatory and intimate, Nutt probes the most frightening aspects of life in such a way that she manages to shed light and offer understanding even about those things that lurk in the deepest and darkest of shadows.
39 of 53 A Little Devil in America by Hanif Abdurraqib ( available March 30 )
You can't go wrong reading anything and everything that Hanif Abdurraqib writes, but if you've never read his work before, his latest, a collection of autobiographical essays, is an excellent place to start. In it, Abdurraqib uses his inimitable blend of incisive, piercing criticism and shimmering stream-of-consciousness to explore everything from the problem with praising Black women for being "vessels" who have "saved America" with their votes (he points out: "It occurred to me that Black women were simply attempting to save themselves") to Dave Chappelle's appeal to white audiences to the death of his mother. Moving, provocative, and infused with a singular lyricism,
A Little Devil in America
is an exultant blend of memoir and criticism, a must-read for anyone looking to better understand this country and its people.
40 of 53 Girlhood by Melissa Febos ( available March 30 )
Healing from trauma is never going to be easy, but it's particularly difficult when the trauma you've experienced is dismissed or derided as just being part of growing up — part of being a girl. Melissa Febos is a precise, visceral chronicler of what it means to be a woman in the world, and, in
, she reflects on how her life changed from the carefree happiness of her childhood and into a treacherous, difficult-to-navigate era: her girlhood. As an adolescent and young woman, Febos learned to fit into the world as it was, but later on, she realized all the ways she'd contorted herself to satisfy others, rather than herself.
is an opportunity, then, for Febos to reclaim herself from all that has been projected upon her over the years; it feels like a rescue mission of sorts for so many women, who have felt lost in a world that doesn't prioritize them. It is fierce and lyrical, furious and tender; a vital read for anyone figuring out who they really are, and have always been.
41 of 53 Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia ( available March 30 )
A moving intergenerational epic tracing the lives of women in a Cuban family, Gabriela Garcia's
Of Women and Salt
offers an insightful look into the ways in which our family's past is constantly echoing in our present. In present-day Miami, Jeanette is grappling with addiction and seeks an understanding about her family's history that her mother, Carmen, is unable or unwilling to give. The fraught relationship between the two is at the heart of this novel, and reveals the myriad ways that displacement affects people, even if they are only experiencing it second-hand. Garcia is unafraid to show the difficult and dark sides of diasporic life, the ways in which neighbors can turn on each other just as easily as they can offer one another shelter. This isn't, of course, an indictment on people acting out of desperation or fear, but rather a canny assessment of the ways in which America's current immigration system has set this country's newest residents up to struggle and fail, instead of thrive.
42 of 53 Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge ( available March 30 )
Fiercely compelling, and told in a singular, lyrical voice,
is a novel that lives in a specific historical time —the Reconstruction Era — but offers insight into the very modern struggles that still exist surrounding identity, family, love, and freedom. Libertie is a young Black woman who rebels against her doctor mother, knowing that following in her footsteps is not only something she doesn't want to do, but something she can't do, since so many of her mother's advantages are premised in her having lighter skin. But, Libertie's hopes of escaping into a world in which she will have the kind of freedom she craves keep running up against the limits of the freedom afforded to Black women. This is a novel of struggle and triumph, exhaustion and perseverance, rooted in history, but transcendent of it; another masterwork by Kaitlyn Greenidge.
43 of 53 Good Company by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney ( available April 6 )
There are few writers who explore the depths of family and friendship with as much care and nuance as Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney, whose new novel is a generous, empathetic portrayal of a marriage and friendship thrown into disarray by an accidental discovery. Flora and Julian have been married for decades, but Flora's vision of the history of that relationship — and of a close friendship — is altered when she finds her husband's long-since "missing" wedding ring. As Flora pieces together what it all means — about their past, present, and future — D'Aprix Sweeney interrogates all that goes into building a life together — the messiness, the heartache, and the joy.
44 of 53 Blow Your House Down by Gina Frangello ( available April 6 )
Too many memoirs fall into the trap of mistaking martyrdom for nobility, sacrifice for bravery; they float on the still-shiny surface rather than excavating into the murk. Gina Frangello's
Blow Your House Down
is not that kind of memoir. Instead, it is fierce and violent, a rampaging storm — a breathtaking, luminous reminder of the wreckage we are capable of making of our own lives. In it, Frangello details what happened to her family when she had an affair, soon after the death of a close friend. For wives and mothers, there is no greater transgression than putting the stability of your family at risk; there is usually no redemption for women who do that, no allowances for them to be human. Frangello confronts this oppressive reality head-on, probing and prodding at the binds that women find themselves in, showing what happened to her life when it all imploded, offering a sense of hope for all those women who have felt forced to prioritize being "good" over being themselves.
45 of 53 Love In Color by Bolu Babolola ( available April 13 )
This collection of stories is a pure, joyous celebration of love, folklore, and the power of human connection in an often incomprehensible world. Drawing from mythology from West Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and more, Babolola crafts tales of romance that shift the perspectives and recontextualize well-trod tropes, offering an insightful, thoroughly modern take on what it means to feel guided by fate, captive to something bigger than yourself — to love.
46 of 53 Early Morning Riser by Katherine Heiny ( available April 13 )
A warm-hearted tribute to small town living, with all its attendant exasperations, Katherine Heiny's
Early Morning Riser
offers a witty, exuberant look at the lives of four people — Jane, Duncan, Aggy, and Jimmy — as they all become inextricably intertwined, for better or for worse. Heiny clearly writes with a great deal of love for her characters and location, but also offers real insight into the ways in which accidental intimacy can lead to a deeper and truer understanding of ourselves.
47 of 53 The Souvenir Museum by Elizabeth McCracken ( available April 13 )
Elizabeth McCracken is a master of the short story and each of the stories in this gem of a collection shows a different facet of the human experience, shining all the brighter for having had McCracken's attention paid to it for a little while. The running theme throughout is displacement — ordinary people taken out of their ordinary lives and so left feeling at least a little bit strange. From a father who is frightened of taking his son into an amusement park wave pool to a recent widower on a bird-watching expedition, each of the characters are on journeys that will better reveal to themselves who they are — whether they're ready to find out or not.
48 of 53 Aviary by Deirdre McNamer ( available April 13 )
Despite having just spent the better part of the last year being more or less confined to our homes, it still feels like a luxurious departure to be confined within the homes of the residents of Pheasant Run, the dilapidated Montana seniors' apartment complex at the heart of Deirdre McNamer's quietly revelatory new book,
. Populated by a motley crew of residents, Pheasant Run hides mysteries behind its many doors, and McNamer reveals them with insight, grace, and humor, offering up a profoundly beautiful exploration of the limits — and lack thereof — of the human experience.
49 of 53 Are You Enjoying? by Mira Sethi ( available April 20 )
Raucous and bracingly sharp, each of the stories in Mira Sethi's debut collection offers a glimpse into lives that are hapless, hopeful, and decidedly, delightfully messy. There are the best friends who agree to marry in order to keep their sexual identities a secret. The young man who decides to beat up his future brother-in-law. The anxiety-fueled woman who finds surprising solace in an affair. All of the stories — all of which take place in Pakistan — engage with themes of desire and appetite, and while Sethi clearly has fun with her characters, she also treats them with sensitivity and compassion. It's a pure joy to read this book, anticipating all the wonderful work sure to come from Sethi in the future.
50 of 53 Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner ( available April 20 )
Crying in H Mart,
Michelle Zauner — who records music under the name Japanese Breakfast — has written a candid, moving tribute to her mother, to her identity, and to our collective desire for connection in this often alienating world. When her mother died of cancer when Zauner was still in her 20s, she found herself wondering whether this loss also meant a permanent disconnect from her Korean heritage; she found herself crying in H Mart, mourning the loss of her mom. Still, it was this loss — and the potential loss of the culture she shared with her mother — that led Zauner to embrace those things she still could, the Korean food and language and customs that her mother had lovingly shared with her. Zauner's writing is powerful in its straight-forwardness, though some turns of phrases are as beautiful as any song lyric (one elderly woman sitting in a food court has "cheekbones protruding like the tops of two peaches"), but it is her ability to convey how her mother's simple offering of a rice snack was actually an act of the truest love that leaves the most indelible impression. These little gestures are what matter, they are what last and they are what we chase forever, long after so many other things fade.
51 of 53 White Magic by Elissa Washuta ( available April 27 )
In this incantatory, impassioned book of essays, Elissa Washuta offers readers a glimpse into a world of magic and spirituality, one which she has created for herself, drawing on the traditions of generations before her, and incorporating those things in her own life that have meaning and power. It starts with disillusionment; Washuta is healing from the trauma of a decade of unsustainable intoxication and addiction, and she seeks — and finds— a connection with a world beyond this one. Washuta's essays interlace themes of inheritance, loss, colonialism, identity, and ownership to beautiful, heart-aching effect in this, yes, wholly magical look at learning how to recognize the power that rests within you.
52 of 53 Negative Space by Lilly Dancyger ( available May 1 )
Our parents are always hard to see as being people. If we're unlucky, they're villains, and if we're lucky, they're heroes, but it takes a lot of time and growth to get to a place where we can see them for who they actually are. Lilly Dancyger didn't have that time with her father, the artist Joe Schachtman, who died in his early 40s, when Dancyger was just 12. Although she'd known, even at a young age, that her father had a heroin addiction, she didn't realize the extent to which it infused the entirety of his life. Now, as an adult, Dancyger doesn't need her father to be a hero or a villain, instead she goes looking to find out who he really was. She looks to his art — his sculptures and paintings — and to his long-ago associates in New York's art scene, to piece together a portrait of a man, of her father. This fierce, intimate work explores the ways in which we construct identities for the people with whom we're closest, and how we must eventually look beyond those constructs in order to see the world the way it really is, no matter how messy, no matter how much it hurts.
53 of 53 Pop Song: Adventures in Art and Intimacy by Larissa Pham ( available May 4 )
There are a few different ways to experience transcendence in this life, and, in her debut book, Larissa Pham explores them all, from love to sex to art, never afraid to get up close and personal with the sublime. Pham's memoir-in-essays follows her as finds escape in things and people and places; becomes obsessed, infatuated, in love; and figures out that her intense feelings surrounding books and albums and people were all related to her own journey toward accepting herself as being just as worthy of love — just as transcendent — as all of the many beautiful, wondrous things around her.