The new year brings new books, and new books to eagerly anticipate — for instance, Thomas Pynchon's upcoming book from Penguin Press, which has not a pub date (yet) but already is getting press. Or blogger Kelly Oxford's memoir, out in April from It Books, Everything Is Perfect When You're a Liar. Or the late, wonderful David Rakoff's Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish: A Novel, forthcoming in July. It's unknown whether this will be the year that we also see that Monica Lewinsky memoir we started talking about last year (don't hold your breath), but there are plenty of worthy novels, short story collections, memoirs, and nonfiction books books that we're pretty excited about. In terms of themes, it's shaping up to be a pretty big year for short stories, and for books from some notable, big-name authors who are returning after long sabbaticals with new fiction. Herewith, the list of the winter books we can't wait for.
Daddy Love, by Joyce Carol Oates. (Mysterious Press, January 8). Oates' latest novel deals with a family torn apart by a kidnapper who takes their young son and runs over the boy's mother in the process, "mangling her body nearly beyond repair." Robbie, the boy, is brainwashed and tortured by his captor, "Daddy Love," but there's a spark of rebellion in him and an intense desire to survive as well. Meanwhile, his mom slowly recovers, hoping there might be a chance he's still alive. Haunting, terrifying, disturbing, and a totally engrossing read.
Farewell, Fred Voodoo: A Letter from Haiti, by Amy Wilentz. (Simon & Schuster, January 8). Wilentz is an award-winning journalist who wrote of Haiti after the fall of Jean-Claude Duvalier in The Rainy Season, her 1989 book. Her latest book traces the history of the country up to modern times, including the 2010 earthquake that devastated much of the country — and what happened afterward.
Tenth of December, by George Saunders. (Random House, January 8). The New York Times does not waver with its review, which proclaims, "George Saunders Has Written the Best Book You’ll Read This Year." It's the fourth book of stories from the famous author and his first book in six years. It's also one of Amazon's best books of the month for January. But don't just take it from the Times, or Amazon, or anyone else who's raving about the book (and pretty much everyone is). The fact is, whether you are a Saunders fan or not, this is the book most likely to dominate your literary cocktail party discussions throughout January, and perhaps February, too. So you should probably read it.
Rage Is Back, by Adam Mansbach. (Viking, January 10). The latest from the author of cult-hit Go the Fuck to Sleep has been called the "Great American Graffiti novel" and "a muscular ode to New York City’s 1980s art underground." Also, "a love letter to NYC that introduces the most powerful urban underdog narrator this side of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao."
The Fifth Assassin, by Brad Meltzer. (Grand Central Publishing, January 15). I've had an affection for Meltzer's totally readable thrillers since The Tenth Justice, and this one looks to be another page-turner in the classic tradition ... this time about presidential assassinations, and, yes, there's a conspiracy theory!
Grand Central: How a Train Station Transformed America, by Sam Roberts. (Grand Central Publishing, January 22). People who love New York City, and who have an abiding interest in urban affairs, and transportation infrastructures, will be eager to get their hands on this book. It features an introduction by the great Pete Hamill, and coincides with the 100th anniversary of Grand Central Terminal.
Drinking With Men, by Rosie Schaap. (Riverhead, January 24). A memoir about one's life, as seen through bars, is inherently promising, and Schaap, The New York Times' Magazines drinks columnist, has a way with words, writing about her experiences in the bars of her life in a heartfelt, honest, and relatable way. I would like to request a drink pairing with each chapter.
Insane City, by Dave Barry. (Putnam, January 29). He's back with his first solo effort for grownups in more than 10 years, and it features the same old dark hilarity, ramped up for 2013.
Revenge: Eleven Dark Tales, by Yoko Ogawa. (Picador, January 29). Interwoven stories from Ogawa involve murder, desire, jealousy, love, and torture, making for creepy but compelling experimental horror that stays with you long past the book's last page.
The Love Song of Jonny Valentine, by Teddy Wayne. (Free Press, Feb. 5). Wayne is back with the story of 11-year-old megastar Jonny Valentine, who "knows deep down that the fans don’t love him for who he is." Think an imagined life of a star like Bieber ... but so much better; moving and hilarious and typical of Wayne.
My Brother's Book, by Maurice Sendak. (HarperCollins, February 5). It's 50 years after youth classic Where the Wild Things Are was published, and the last book Sendak completed before he died last May is an homage to his late brother, Jack, whom the author credited as an inspiration for his love of writing and drawing.
How to Not Write Bad: The Most Common Writing Problems and the Best Ways to Avoid Them, by Ben Yagoda. (Riverhead, February 5). Copy, grammar, and writing nerds, bookmark this one: Learn the art of writing better (or "not-writing-badly") with the ever-enjoyable but also effectively instructional Yagoda. This book is based on his 20 years of experience as a writing professor at the University of Delaware.
A Week in Winter, by Maeve Binchy. (Knopf, February 12). It's been available as a Kindle download since November, but come mid-February Binchy's final manuscript, published posthumously, will be available in paperback for U.S. fans. In her trademark style, Binchy weaves the tale of a cast of characters at a country hotel on the West coast of Ireland.
See Now Then, by Jamaica Kincaid. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, February 5). Kincaid's first novel in 10 years is about marriage, love, loss, and life, focusing on the character of Mrs. Sweet, a woman "facing the end of her marriage, and who, over the course of the book, considers the distinctions between her nows and her thens."
We Live in Water, by Jess Walter. (Harper Perennial, February 12). Walter's Beautiful Ruins was one of the most beloved books of 2012, and his first story collection, We Live in Water, promises to meet and exceed expectations.
Vampires in the Lemon Grove, by Karen Russell. (Knopf, February 12). From the author of Swamplandia!, a finalist for the mysteriously never-awarded fiction Pulitzer (through no fault of that book), comes a new collection of short stories with a strange and gorgeous cover and insides to match. For example, in the title story, "two vampires in a sun-drenched lemon grove try helplessly to slake their thirst for blood." Cannot wait.
Middle Men, by Jim Gavin. (Simon & Schuster, February 19). A book of hilarious and moving short stories from New Yorker contributor Gavin, who portrays a group of men of various ages in California as they try to find that space somewhere between their dreams and their actual lives.
Hopper: A Journey into the American Dream, by Tom Folsom. (It Books, March 5) New York Times bestselling author Folsom writes of the life of the intriguing, eclectic Hopper in "as unconventional a biography as Dennis Hopper was a man."
The Fun Parts, by Sam Lipsyte. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, March 5). I can't resist this cover, which I want to frame ... much less what's inside, a collection of short stories that are sure to entertain but also make us think.
Middle C, by William H. Gass. (Knopf, March 12). After nearly two decades, there's another much-awaited novel by Gass, who's now 88. The main character in this exploration of human identity and "fantasy selves" is Joseph Skizzen, son of a man who pretends to be Jewish in 1938 Austria and moves his family to England, but then disappears under mysterious circumstances.
The Tragedy of Mister Morn, by Vladimir Nabokov. (Knopf, March 19). Nabokov's only full-length play, which he wrote at the age of 24 (the winter of 1923-24), responding to the Russian Revolution, has finally been translated.
The Burgess Boys, by Elizabeth Strout. (Random House, March 26). Strout won the Pulitzer Prize for 2008's Olive Kitteridge. In her newest novel, she tells the story of the Burgess brothers, Jim and Bob, who are called back to their Maine hometown by their sister to help when her teenage son gets into trouble. "And so the Burgess brothers return to the landscape of their childhood, where the long-buried tensions that have shaped and shadowed their relationship begin to surface in unexpected ways that will change them forever."