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A NA LYS I S

21 books to read in
2018

Jeva Lange

January 16, 2018

January

1. The Largesse of the Sea Maiden, by


Denis Johnson (Jan. 16)

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Denis Johnson's death last year was a


blow to the literary world, robbing
readers of one of America's greatest
fiction writers as well as one of its
greatest poets. The Largesse of the Sea
Maiden was finished just before his
passing and gave readers the parting gift
of Johnson's first short story collection
in 25 years. There is something
distinctly American about the
characters' desperation in Sea Maiden,
the complicated war between angels and
demons inside them, and their fleeting
chances for redemption. Read the title
piece at The New Yorker.

2. A Kind of Mirraculas Paradise: A


True Story About Schizophrenia, by
Sandra Allen (Jan. 23)
Before it fell into Sandra Allen's hands,
the manuscript that became A Kind of
Mirraculas Paradise was 60 or so loose
pages of typewritten capital letters,
replete with grammatical errors. "It was
hideous to look at, even from a
distance," Allen writes. "Its pages
literally reeked." The autobiography, as it
were, had been sent to Allen by her
"crazy" uncle Bob, who was hospitalized
and "labeled a psychotic paranoid
schizophrenic" in the early 1970s. Her
"translation" of Bob's manuscript serves
as an intimate look inside the life of
someone with schizophrenia and a plea
for the state of mental health care in
America.

3. The Juniper Tree, by Barbara


Comyns (Jan. 23)
Barbara Comyns' 1985 novel The Juniper
Tree is getting its New York Review of
Books treatment with this gorgeous
reissue, complete with an introduction
by Sadie Stein. Comyns uses the dark
Brothers Grimm tale of the same name
as her springboard, telling the story of
Bella Winter, a homeless single mother
who has fled her boyfriend and mother.
But while "the Grimm story is about
evil, revenge, and justice — an eye for an
eye — [The Juniper Tree] is about
accidents, damage, and repair," writes
Harper's.

Also noteworthy in January: Fire and


Fury: Inside the Trump White House, by
Michael Wolff (Jan. 5); Neon in Daylight,
by Hermione Hoby (Jan. 9); The Hazel
Wood, by Melissa Albert (Jan. 30); The
Monk of Mokha, by Dave Eggers (Jan.
30); Brave, by Rose McGowan (Jan. 30)

February

4. Heart Berries, by Terese Marie


Mailhot (Feb. 6)

Terese Marie Mailhot's gorgeous


memoir stems from essays she began
writing after being hospitalized and
diagnosed with post-traumatic stress
disorder and bipolar disorder. Mailhot
spent a tumultuous childhood on
Seabird Island Indian Reservation in
Canada's British Columbia, and her slim
memoir grapples with her parents, her
sons and lovers, and her own shame.
Take this ringing endorsement from
Sherman Alexie: "Terese is a world-
changing talent and I recommend this
book with 100 percent of my soul."

5. The Line Becomes a River:


Dispatches from the Border, by
Francisco Cantú (Feb. 6)

Mexican-American writer Francisco


Cantú worked as a Border Patrol agent
in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas
between 2008 and 2012 — an
emotionally taxing job that deeply
disturbed him. Years after quitting,
Cantú became involved in the struggle
of a friend who was arrested trying to
return to the United States after visiting
his dying mother in Oaxaca. In The Line
Becomes a River, a portrait of both sides
of the law, Cantú interrogates one of the
thorniest subjects in contemporary
America and finds his mother's warning
to be true: "We learn violence by
watching others, by seeing it enshrined
in institutions."

6. I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One


Woman's Obsessive Search for the
Golden State Killer, by Michelle
McNamara (Feb. 27)
The Golden State Killer (also known as
the original Night Stalker and the East
Area Rapist) killed at least 12 people and
raped some 50 women across California
from the mid-1970s through the mid-
1980s. Then ... he vanished. It is no
wonder, then, that he was an obsession
of Michelle McNamara, a self-
proclaimed "citizen sleuth" and the
writer behind True Crime Diary. Sadly,
McNamara — who was married to the
comedian Patton Oswalt — passed away
unexpectedly in her sleep at the age of
46 in 2016. "She thought she was getting
real close to finding him," crime
journalist Billy Jensen told CBS News.
"And then she was gone." What remains
is I'll Be Gone in the Dark, her
reawakening of the decades-old cold
case.

Also noteworthy in February: The


House of Impossible Beauties, by Joseph
Cassara (Feb. 6); Feel Free: Essays, by
Zadie Smith (Feb. 6); White Houses, by
Amy Bloom (Feb. 13); Freshwater, by
Akwaeke Emezi (Feb. 13); What Are We
Doing Here?: Essays, by Marilynne
Robinson (Feb. 20)

March

7. Lake Michigan, by Daniel Borzutzky


(March 12)
Daniel Borzutzky, the 2016 National
Book Award winner, returns with Lake
Michigan, a collection of 19 poems
focused on police brutality. The massive
topic is narrowed to Chicago, and
specifically, a prison camp on the
beaches, as Borzutzky explores how
"economic policy, racism, and
militarized policing combine to shape
the city." As Borzutzky writes in one
poem in the series, "Lake Michigan,
Scene 0": "The police build bonfires to
remind us of the bodies they throw into
them."

8. Tangerine, by Christine Mangan


(March 27)

Tangerine is one of the most anticipated


books of the year, and not just because it
already has a movie in the works with
Scarlett Johansson attached. Set in
Morocco in the 1950s, the novel finds
roommates Alice Shipley and Lucy
Mason reuniting after a scarring
incident when the two attended
Bennington College. The resulting
thriller is "as if Donna Tartt, Gillian
Flynn, and Patricia Highsmith had
collaborated on a screenplay to be
filmed by Hitchcock," Joyce Carol Oates
said. Count us in.

9. The Beekeeper, by Dunya Mikhail


(March 27)

New York-based Iraqi journalist and


poet Dunya Mikhail returned to her
homeland to chronicle the abuses of the
Yazidi women at the hands of the
Islamic State in The Beekeeper. The title
is a reference to Abdullah Shrem, who
rescued dozens of Yazidi women from
captivity between 2014 and 2016. Shrem
was once a beekeeper, and he uses that
language to describe his work to
Mikhail, likening ISIS's sabaya, or sex
slaves, to queen bees. The book is
translated from Arabic by Max Weiss,
and Mikhail's language is the glimmer of
beauty in a story of atrocities.

Also noteworthy in March: Census, by


Jesse Ball (March 6); Speak No Evil, by
Uzodinma Iweala (March 6); The
Explosive Expert's Wife, by Shara Lessley
(March 6); The Merry Spinster: Tales of
Everyday Horror, by Mallory Ortberg
(March 13); The Parking Lot Attendant,
by Nafkote Tamirat (March 13)
April

10. Varina, by Charles Frazier (April


3)

Cold Mountain author Charles Frazier


returns to the Civil War-era South with
Varina, named after its protagonist:
teenager Varina Howell, who agrees to
marry a widower named Jefferson
Davis. But what she had assumed would
be a simple life as the wife of a
Mississippi landowner is anything but
when Davis is named the president of
the Confederacy — and she, in turn,
becomes its first lady. Based on the
fascinating and complicated real-life
character of the same name, Varina is a
story about complicity and breaking the
mold.

11. The Recovering: Intoxication and


Its Aftermath, by Leslie Jamison (April
3)
Leslie Jamison's forthcoming 544-page
door-stopper, The Recovering, promises
the same blend of memoir, reportage,
and cultural history as her excellent
2014 collection of essays, The Empathy
Exams. In The Recovering, Jamison
details the ups and downs of her own
struggles with alcohol. Looking to
famous alcoholic writers, Jamison
additionally battles her fear of the
boredom of sobriety, describing it with
arresting, brutal honesty. This is so
much more than an "addiction memoir"
— it is the work of a singular voice at the
top of her game.

12. And Now We Have Everything: On


Motherhood Before I Was Ready, by
Meaghan O'Connell (April 10)
Do not write off Meaghan O'Connell's
And Now We Have Everything because
it's a "motherhood book." While yes, it is
about becoming a mother — O'Connell
accidentally became pregnant in her 20s
— her voice, humor, and honesty are
just as appealing to someone not at all
interested in ever having children as
they are to new moms or dads.

Also noteworthy in April: The Female


Persuasion, by Meg Wolitzer (April 3);
Eye Level, by Jenny Xie (April 3); Sharp:
The Women Who Made an Art of Having
an Opinion, by Michelle Dean (April
10); Macbeth, by Jo Nesbø (April 10);
God Save Texas: A Journey into the Soul
of the Lone Star State, by Lawrence
Wright (April 17)

May

13. The Pisces, by Melissa Broder (May


1)

Admittedly, the plot synopsis for The


Pisces sounds a bit bizarre. After a bad
breakup, Lucy moves from Phoenix to
dog-sit for her sister in Venice Beach,
California, where one night she notices
... a male swimmer. Yep, you guessed it:
This is a merman love story. But it's a
merman love story that promises to be
both biting and utterly amusing in the
hands of Broder, one of the "50 funniest
people right now." The Pisces will be
Broder's third book in three years, after
So Sad Today (named after the popular
Twitter account she runs) and Last Sext
in 2016.

14. A Higher Loyalty, by James Comey


(May 1)

After being fired as FBI director by


President Trump, James Comey did
what any good ousted official ought to
do: He got a book deal. Publisher
Flatiron writes that Comey's memoir
"promises to take us inside those
extraordinary moments in our history,
showing us how these leaders have
behaved under pressure." Even the
shade-throwing title hints that juicy
things are to come; Comey was
suddenly fired by Trump while leading
the FBI's ongoing investigation into
Russian meddling in the 2016 election,
and he has already claimed Trump
insisted on his loyalty. To give you a
sense of the anticipation for Comey's
memoir: The rights sold last summer for
$2 million.

15. The Mars Room, by Rachel


Kushner (May 1)
Rachel Kushner's The Flamethrowers
was one of the best books of 2013 and its
predecessor, Telex from Cuba, earned the
Los Angeles-based writer her first
National Book Award nomination.
Unlike Kushner's first two books, The
Mars Room is set in 21st-century
America, at a women's prison where
Romy Hall is serving two life sentences.
Kushner's writing is clipped and sharp,
as she tells the story of Hall's adjustment
to life behind bars — and how she got
there. Read an excerpt of The Mars
Room at Entertainment Weekly.

Also noteworthy in May: Adjustment


Day, by Chuck Palahniuk (May 1); That
Kind of Mother, by Rumaan Alam (May
8); Warlight, by Michael Ondaatje (May
8); The Outsider, by Stephen King (May
22); Calypso, by David Sedaris (May 29)

June

16. Sick, by Porochista Khakpour (June


5)
The Last Illusion author Porochista
Khakpour returns with a highly
anticipated memoir about life with late-
stage Lyme disease. Khakpour has never
shied away from revealing the less-than-
glamorous details about life with a
chronic illness on social media, and that
honesty continues as she takes the
reader through the experience of her
daily pain, debt, drug addictions,
hospitalizations, and diagnosis. Read
more about Khakpour — and the
striking cover of Sick — at Lithub.

17. Florida, by Lauren Groff (June 5)

If Lauren Groff didn't get your attention


with her 2012 novel Arcadia, then she
likely did with 2015's highly acclaimed
Fates and Furies. Florida will be released
just in time to get unfairly labeled as a
"beach read," even though its contents
— dark stories about hurricanes, snakes,
and madness — are perhaps better
suited for a stormy winter night.
Speaking to The New Yorker, Groff
called her collection "a portrait of my
own incredible ambivalence about the
state where I've lived for 12 years." Take
it to the beach, if you must — just be
sure to actually read it, since it'll be one
people are talking about.

18. Squeezed: Why Our Families Can't


Afford America, by Alissa Quart (June
26)

In Squeezed, Alissa Quart — the


executive editor of the Economic
Hardship Reporting Project — analyzes
the American dream through the
narrow lens of the crushing price of
modern parenthood. Drawing on both
her own experience and reporting on
families that are barely able to get by,
Quart scrutinizes a system in which
many people have jobs without paid
family leave and only the rich can afford
to have children.

Also noteworthy in June: The President


is Missing, by Bill Clinton and James
Patterson (June 4); Invitation to a
Bonfire, by Adrienne Celt (June 5);
Kudos, Rachel Cusk (June 5); Bearskin,
by James A. McLaughlin (June 12);
Choose Your Own Disaster, by Dana
Schwartz (June 19)

July and beyond


19. Come Again, by Nate Powell (July
10)

Little Rock native Nate Powell returns to


his home of Arkansas with his new
project, Come Again. There isn't much
information yet about the new story —
in mid-December, Powell said he still
had 45 pages left to draw — but we
know it takes place in a community in
the Ozarks where "two families wrestle
with long-repressed secrets ... while
deep within those Arkansas hills,
something monstrous stirs, ready to
feast on village whispers." The book will
make its debut at San Diego Comic-Con
in July.

20. Baghdad Noir, by various authors


(Aug. 7)