Every month, a deluge of new books comes flooding out from big publishers, indie houses, and self-publishing platforms. So every month, The A.V. Club narrows down the endless options to five of the books we’re most excited about.
Everywhere You Don’t Belong by Gabriel Bump (February 4, Algonquin)
Gabriel Bump’s debut novel, Everywhere You Don’t Belong, eschews aspirational storytelling and gritty realism to chart a path in between. The Chicago native introduces a personable protagonist—Claude McKay Love, a young man like many others on the South Side, who experiences heartbreak and disappointment at the same rate as infatuation and personal victories. In other words, he’s a teenager navigating adolescence as best he can, albeit against the backdrop of a city that’s become regrettably, and rather unfairly, synonymous with violence. Bump uses humor and a lively pace to capture the impetuousness of youth, while rich characterization underscores just how self-aware Claude is.
The Resisters by Gish Jen (February 4, Knopf)
In Gish Jen’s dystopic new novel set in the not-too-distant future, America has become AutoAmerica, half of which is underwater. People have been divided into two classes: those who live on the land (“Netted”) and those who live in swamps or on water (“Surplus”). When the government reinstates baseball and rejoins the Olympics, the narrator’s daughter, a pitching prodigy, is pulled up from the Surplus into the land of the Netted. In a starred review, Kirkus calls this, Jen’s fifth novel, “beautifully crafted and slyly unsettling.”
My Autobiography Of Carson McCullers by Jenn Shapland (February 4, Tin House)
Many have written about the life and work of Carson McCullers, the mid-20th-century writer known for her deeply empathetic stories of isolation and otherness in small Southern towns. But no existing biography—not even from McCullers herself—has quite revealed the McCullers that essayist Jenn Shapland discovered as an archives intern. In My Autobiography Of Carson McCullers, Shapland sets out to find this McCullers, the one who penned passionate letters to Swiss writer Annemarie Schwarzenbach, by reconstructing the author’s romantic life in her own words. Along the way, McCullers’ life intersects and runs parallel to Shapland’s own, raising questions about the limits of biography and memoir, and the complexities of queer histories.
Weather by Jenny Offill (February 11, Knopf)
“There are fewer and fewer birds these days. This is the hole I tumbled down an hour ago,” says Lizzie, the narrator of Jenny Offill’s latest novel. She’s been hired to respond to questions sent in to her former grad school adviser’s podcast about climate change—a subject that, amid quotidian concerns like school drop-offs and trips to the bodega, Lizzie worries over more and more every day. As with Offill’s widely lauded Dept. Of Speculation (2014), Weather is told in spare, impeccable prose across perfectly rendered vignettes, slowly but surely casting its disquiet over the reader. In short, this is a very Offill book, which is to say it is very good.
Indelicacy by Amina Cain (February 11, Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Though set in an indeterminate past of horse-drawn carriages and hushed drawing rooms, Amina Cain’s slim, precisely wrought debut novel reads as a fresh consideration of what it means to be a female artist. The old private and public expectations are still there for the narrator—a museum cleaning woman who marries well—but they aren’t what drives the story; rather it is her unwavering desire to write and take in art and grand experiences. In its tight focus, the novel also acts as something of a character study: Vitória exhibits the cool confidence of someone who needs no convincing of her purpose.
More in February: The Force Of Nonviolence: The Ethical In The Political by Judith Butler (February 4, Verso); Black Sunday by Tola Rotimi Abraham (February 4, Catapult); Include Me Out by María Sonia Cristoff (February 4, Transit); Brother & Sister by Diane Keaton (February 4, Knopf); Verge by Lidia Yuknavitch (February 4, Riverhead); The Cactus League by Emily Nemens (February 4, Farrar, Straus & Giroux); Molly Bit by Dan Bevacqua (February 4, Simon & Schuster); Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey (February 4, Tor/Forge); The Gnome Stories by Ander Monson (February 4, Graywolf); Gilberto Gil’s Refanzenda by Marc A. Hertzman (February 6, 33⅓ Brazil); Something That May Shock And Discredit You by Daniel Mallory Ortberg (February 11, Atria); And I Do Not Forgive You by Amber Sparks (February 11, Liveright); In The Land Of Men by Adrienne Miller (February 11, Ecco); I Know You Know Who I Am by Peter Kispert (February 11, Penguin); Garden By The Sea by Mercè Rodoreda (February 18, Open Letter); Not Even Immortality Lasts Forever by Ed McClanahan (February 18, Counterpoint); Dave Brubeck: A Life In Time by Philip Clark (February 18, Da Capo); Real Life by Brandon Taylor (February 18, Riverhead); Apartment by Teddy Wayne (February 25, Bloomsbury); Trouble Is What I Do by Walter Mosley (February 25, Mulholland); Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong (February 25, One World)