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.
Two years ago, Kristi Coulter made waves with her essay about women and drinking, her insights coming when she stopped participating herself. The essays in Nothing Good Can Come From This expand and deepen the ideas she teased in that original piece, tackling drinking and sobriety with wit and charm. Coulter’s writing is warm and funny, and her candid self-examination of her relationship with alcohol is honest without being preachy.
An excerpt published on Vice from the first chapter of Severance sets several plot points in motion: an unintended pregnancy, the protagonist’s boyfriend moving away, a swine flu-like “fever” spreading from China to New York City, and a hurricane sweeping the East Coast. Ling Ma effortlessly weaves these personal and natural dramas together, capturing reader interest in what will happen to millennial Candace, who seems to already be a zombie going through the motions of adult life before biblical storms and plagues come to New York. The wry and contemporary writing brings Candace’s Brooklyn existence to life, and the jacket copy promises her shake-ups are only going to get worse as the fever claims more and more lives.
Thomas Page McBee follows up his 2014 Lambda Award-winning memoir, Man Alive, with further interrogations of masculinity in Amateur: The True Story About What Makes A Man. Amateur follows McBee as he trains for a charity boxing match, becoming the first trans man to spar at Madison Square Garden, having transitioned four years prior. Throughout the five-month lead-up to his bout, McBee explores gender conditioning, how it affects the way men and women live their lives, and how he might become a better man in the process.
This one’s got a story behind it: Composed on a typewriter from a federal prison in Kentucky, and acquired unagented (a rarity, to say the least, in big-five publishing), Cherry is the fictionalized account of writer Nico Walker, one of Ohio’s most prolific bank robbers. Suffering from PTSD after serving as a medic in Iraq, upon his return Walker became addicted to opioids and robbing banks, holding up nearly 10 banks in four months. But Cherry intrigues beyond its sensational backstory. Editors from independent press New York Tyrant worked with Walker on the novel before sending the manuscript to Knopf, and it bodes well that, in the process, they made the first-time author a fan of Barry Hannah’s potent, unadorned prose.
In the eerie opening story of Notes From The Fog, Ben Marcus’ second short story collection, a young boy turns against his parents, claiming not to love them anymore; in another, a couple evacuates their home ahead of an impending natural disaster. The high-concept conflict that Marcus sets up in each story often exposes more intimate discord, as in characters’ long-term relationships, where love and sex have become utilitarian exchanges, emotions reduced to gesture and pantomime. Although Marcus’ short stories don’t display the wild experimentation of novels like The Age Of Wire And String and Notable American Women, his short fiction, like his novels, is wryly funny and reveals the uncanny in the everyday, the way life’s changes can come on like slow-creeping nightmares.