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.
The Mars Room, Rachel Kushner (May 1)
Praised for her kinetic prose and bold globe- and decades-spanning action, Rachel Kushner follows up her universally lauded 2013 novel, The Flamethrowers, with The Mars Room, set in a California women’s prison. The book, for which the two-time National Book Award finalist performed extensive research at the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla, follows Romy Hall, a former dancer at a strip club, as she serves two consecutive life sentences for murder. No matter where Kushner ventures, her writing is always gloriously alive, and it promises to be no less so here as she explores the daily realities for women on the inside.
Trip: Psychedelics, Alienation, And Change, Tao Lin (May 1)
After discovering the works of Terence McKenna, a leading advocate for the use of psychedelic drugs, Taipei novelist Tao Lin underwent a revitalization both creative and personal, leading to his recovery from pharmaceuticals. In Trip: Psychedelics, Alienation, And Change, his first book-length work of nonfiction, Lin combines memoir and historical and journalistic research to explore drugs, literature, and isolation in the 21st century. Throughout, he details his own experience with psychedelics and attempts to answer some of life’s most difficult questions.
A Lucky Man, Jamel Brinkley (May 1)
In his debut short story collection, Jamel Brinkley explores power and privilege, race, gender, and class with, according to a starred Kirkus review, “lyrical invention” and compassion. A Lucky Man comes recommended by several heavyweights in literary fiction, including Ayana Mathis, Paul Yoon, Daniel Alarcón, and What Belongs To You author Garth Greenwell. To decide for yourself, check out the beautiful title piece—a carefully rendered story of a middle-aged man facing the consequences of his lecherous behavior—at A Public Space.
How To Change Your Mind, Michael Pollan (May 15)
Michael Pollan’s work on food, nutrition, and diet has been hugely influential, and his ability to translate science into easily understood language and distill information in a way that’s relevant to the average person has made him an invaluable contributor to how we think about food today. With How To Change Your Mind: What The New Science Of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, And Transcendence, Pollan moves from food to psychedelics, investigating the mind-altering fungi and plants humans consume to alter our consciousness. The book brings Pollan and his lively prose to the realm of spirituality, neuroscience, and far-out trips, my dudes.
Calypso, David Sedaris (May 29)
David Sedaris’ biggest strength as an essayist and humorist lies in his remarkable power of observation, of detecting the humor and pathos in the everyday conversations most of us don’t register. His attention and wit are as incisive as ever, but Sedaris brings a stronger sense of self to the pages of Calypso, turning his eye inward and to his middle age and family, including his sister Tiffany’s suicide. It’s both warmer and bleaker than any Sedaris that’s come before. Also, that cover has texturing that feels like real wood grain.