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.
Cleanness by Garth Greenwell (January 14, Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Exploring the same heady territory as his extraordinary debut novel, What Belongs To You, Garth Greenwell returns to Sofia, Bulgaria with Cleanness, expanding upon the intimate relationships—romantic, sexual, and otherwise—of his unnamed narrator, a young American man teaching English abroad. In discrete yet connected chapters, Greenwell portrays his protagonist’s desires in plain, elegant prose, depicting not only the physical pleasures in which the character loses himself, but also the complex emotional turns and negotiations he makes along the way.
Uncanny Valley by Anna Wiener (January 14, FSG x MCD)
New Yorker contributor Anna Wiener makes her book-length debut with a memoir of her time in San Francisco’s tech industry, a period she refers to as “immersion therapy for internalized misogyny.” As both a woman and someone with a non-technical background (in New York publishing), Wiener arrived in Silicon Valley as something of an outsider, critical of startup culture’s worst tendencies yet idealistic, and perhaps naive, that its singularly focused CEOs and thought leaders had only the best of intentions. Uncanny Valley traces Wiener’s melancholy disenchantment, which grows deeper and more difficult to ignore as her years in the disorienting, unregulated world of tech accumulate, and she writes of it here with wit and grace.
Hitting A Straight Lick With A Crooked Stick by Zora Neale Hurston (January 14, Amistad)
Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, published in 1937, wouldn’t receive its due critical recognition until the late 20th century, cementing the author as one of modern America’s most important writers. Hitting A Straight Lick With A Crooked Stick: Stories From The Harlem Renaissance traces the author’s unforeseen path to that milestone, one short story at a time. The collection guides readers through Hurston’s maturation as a central figure of the Harlem Renaissance, mapping her interrogation of race, gender, class, and art. With the inclusion of eight lost works, this is the first full assemblage of the stories she wrote before her landmark novel, giving readers a rare look at Hurston as a young woman growing into her brilliance.
Yellow Earth by John Sayles (January 21, Haymarket)
A Renaissance man akin to the late Sam Shepard, John Sayles has had a prolific, decades-spanning career across film, television, and literature. He’s written over 100 screenplays; directed critically acclaimed films like Matewan and The Secret Of Roan Inish; acted opposite oral historian extraordinaire Studs Terkel in Eight Men Out (which he also wrote and directed); and written seven books, with his novel Union Dues being nominated for a National Book Award in 1977. His latest novel, Yellow Earth, is set just before the Standing Rock protests, and depicts the upheaval that arises when oil is discovered near the Three Nations reservation in North Dakota, drawing hordes of opportunistic outsiders and stirring up competing interests.
Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu (January 28, Pantheon)
Charles Yu’s sophomore novel, a sendup of Hollywood clichés and racial stereotypes, follows Willis Wu, a bit-part actor in a police procedural who’s hoping to go from “Generic Asian Man” to “Kung Fu Guy.” (Skills listed on his actor’s résumé include “Fluent in Accented English” and “Able to do Face of Great Shame on command.”) Yu is a story editor and writer for HBO’s Westworld, and his first novel, How To Live Safely In A Science Fiction Universe, was a New York Times Notable Book of 2010. An early review calls Interior Chinatown an “acid indictment of Asian stereotypes and a parable for outcasts feeling invisible in this fast-moving world.”
More in January: The Magical Language Of Others: A Memoir by E. J. Koh (January 7, Tin House); A Collective Bargain: Unions, Organizing, And A Fight For Democracy by Jane McAlevey (January 7, Ecco); Topics Of Conversation by Miranda Popkey (January 7, Knopf); Rachel Maddow: A Biography by Lisa Rogak (January 7, Dunne); Lord Of All Dead by Javier Cercas (January 14, Knopf); Serious Noticing by James Wood (January 14, Farrar, Straus and Giroux); The End Of The Ocean by Maja Lunde (January 14, HarperVia); A Beginning At The End by Mike Chen (January 14, MIRA); Imaginary Museums by Nicolette Polek (January 14, Soft Skull); Depraved Indifference by Gary Indiana (reissue, January 14, Semiotexte); Will by Will Self (January 14, Grove); Oligarchy by Scarlett Thomas (January 14, Counterpoint); The Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez (January 14, Del Rey); Zed by Joanna Kavenna (January 14, Doubleday); The Seep by Chana Porter (January 21, Soho Press); The Teacher by Michal Ben-Naftali (January 21, Open Letter); A Long Petal Of The Sea by Isabell Allende (January 21, Ballantine); Universal Love by Alexander Weinstein (January 21, Henry Holt); Heart Of Junk by Luke Geddes (January 21, Simon & Schuster); Follow Me To Ground by Sue Rainsford (January 21, Scribner); Becoming A Man: The Story Of A Transition by P. Carl (January 28, Simon & Schuster); The Circus by Jonas Karlsson (January 28, Hogarth); Show Them A Good Time by Nicole Flattery (January 28, Bloomsbury); Run Me To Earth by Paul Yoon (January 28, Simon & Schuster)