The 26 Books We’re Sure To Be Reading This Year
Winter is theoretically a fabulous time for curling up with a hot drink and a book, although that’s a peculiar sentence to write on a 60-degree day in New York. Still, the cold weather will inevitably return, and with it the need to read, read, read. Our favorite picks for the endeavor —in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry — below.
By Andre Aciman
Andre Aciman’s 2007 novel “Call Me By Your Name” — imagistic, languid, perceptive — has long been admired for its depiction of queer sexuality; reviewing the book in The New Yorker, Cynthia Zarin pronounced Aciman “an acute grammarian of desire.” His new collection of linked stories promises to be a similarly deft examination of love and lust, tracking a man named Paul’s affairs throughout his lifetime.
By Sana Krasikov
Krasikov’s 2008 short story collection “One More Year” led the National Book Foundation to name her one of that year’s “5 Under 35” and gained her a Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Fiction. “The Patriots,” her first novel, begins with a young Jewish woman leaving Brooklyn for Moscow in 1934, and traces that woman’s fate – and her son and grandson’s — through the remaining decades of the twentieth century.
By Paul Auster
“4 3 2 1” has the sort of premise that might induce a cringe: it follows its protagonist, Archibald Isaac Ferguson, through four separate iterations of his life, all bearing some resemblance to one another, yet also wildly different. Auster, perhaps best known for the genre-bending “The New York Trilogy,” may just make the concept work. An excerpt from the book, available on its publisher’s website, begins with the protagonist’s grandfather’s arrival in the United States, where he manages to get himself saddled with the unlikely moniker Ichabod Ferguson. The anecdote is told with the sort of humor and emotional clarity that makes the tome’s daunting 880 pages seem not only manageable, but even inviting.
All Our Wrong Todays
By Elan Mastai
For “All Our Wrong Todays,” Mastai, a screenwriter best known for the 2013 Daniel Radcliffe-led romantic comedy “What If,” walked away with a much-hyped seven figure book deal, the kind of rare news that makes would-be novelists weep. The novel tracks a man who, living in a utopian world, makes a mistake that flings him into real-world 2016, which strikes him as wildly dystopian. (Timely.) As you might guess, though, he finds that dystopian world has some unexpected upsides. Will he decide to right the wrong that brought him there? The book, already optioned for film, apparently answers that question with a series of serious thrills.
By Neil Gaiman
Gaiman has a capacious imagination, making “Norse Mythology” a new challenge: in taking on the stories of the Norse Gods, from the Marvel-popularized Thor and Odin to the lesser-known, morbidly poetry-inspiring Kvasir, Gaiman has hewn strictly to the myths’ traditional narratives. The style, of course, will be all his own.
The Fortunate Ones
By Ellen Umansky
Umansky’s first novel exudes intrigue: in 1945 London and contemporary Los Angeles, two young women search for the same Chaim Soutine painting. While what comes of the women’s quests is a mystery, one thing is certain: the women share more than might initially expected.
By David Grossman
In his new novel, Grossman offers a change of pace. His lauded 2008 novel “To the End of the Land” considered the grief-ridden difficulty of having loved ones go to war; he followed it, in 2014, with “Falling Out of Time,” which paid tribute to his son, killed in combat as a tank-commander with the IDF. “A Horse Walks Into a Bar” has a radically different premise, taking place over a single night as an aging comedian performs for an audience including a childhood acquaintance. It promises a mix of heartfelt introspection and off-color jokes — in other words, great entertainment.
By Jami Attenberg
Former Forward contributor Attenberg’s sixth novel tells the story of a woman who’s not quite meeting traditional ideas of adulthood, and who’s coping with the fact that those closest to her seem to be; it promises heartache, laughter, and a lot of love. Attenberg’s 2012 novel “The Middlesteins” was a New York Times Bestseller and nominated for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; here’s hoping “All Grown Up” is just as engaging.
By Cory Doctorow
Doctorow, a Prometheus Award-winning writer of science fiction, hasn’t published a novel for adults in almost a decade. “Walkaway” may make up for that gap. Featuring a many-named protagonist fighting to survive in a world of radically expanded income inequality — as with Mastai’s ‘All Our Wrongs Today,” there’s an unnerving prescience to these dystopian visions — Kirkus Reviews called the book “a truly visionary techno-thriller.”
By Daphne Merkin
Merkin, a former Forward contributor, began working through the subject of “This Close to Happy” — depression —in essays in The New Yorker and New York Times. In those essays, she took a lyrical look at the often-debilitating affliction which, she wrote in The Times, began “younger than would seem possible, as if in exiting the womb I was enveloped in a gray and itchy wool blanket instead of a soft, pastel-colored bunting.” Let’s hope “This Close to Happy” includes a similar mix of deep personal exploration and scientific explication.
By Lauren Elkin
Released in the United Kingdom last summer, Elkin’s book won widespread accolades. It’s easy to imagine why: is there a more charming description than that offered of the book as “part cultural meander, part memoir?” The book features flâneuses — intellectually creative, liberated women who forged deep connections with cities through long walks — from the author George Sand to the wartime correspondent Martha Gellhorn. The book should be perfect for the spring, once such walks become, reliably, once more appealing.
By Rebecca Schuman
The homepage of Schuman’s website features a testimonial from “some guy on the internet:” “A slimy, despicable, trashy, self-indulgent and mentally deranged writer for Slate Magazine.” The quote is superimposed over a black-and-white photo of tea and cake; we like her already. Her memoir “Schadenfreude: A Love Story,” which boasts a self-consciously long subtitle, is a chronicle of her adolescent-onward passion for all things German. If it’s written with the same dry humor apparent in the choice of that quote, we’re in.
By Ariel Levy
Levy’s publishers are publicizing “The Rules Do Not Apply” with a devastating teaser: “When, as a 38-year-old working journalist, she left for a reporting trip to Mongolia [Levy] thought she had figured out her life: she was married, pregnant, financially secure and successful on her own terms. A month later, none of that was true.” The interesting part will be reading through the aftermath of that set of crises.
By Jonathan Lethem
Lethem is one of contemporary literature’s holy trilogy of Jonathans. (The others are Safran Foer and Franzen; though anyone who’s read the former’s most recent book, “Here I Am,” might question the attribution of holiness.) Lethem’s new collection of essays on reading and writing may uphold that reputation. Whether or not it does, it’s likely to include at least some insight, and perhaps a bit of finely wrought literary gossip to boot.
By Dani Shapiro
Memoirs about marriage are not new, but ones written by authors as skilled and precise as Shapiro are still worth getting excited over. For a taste of Shapiro’s work, revisit a 1998 family history she wrote for The New Yorker about her father’s secret second wife. “I have been married three times,” she writes, “once at nineteen, once at twenty-eight, and now, for the third time, at thirty-five.” Whatever else “Hourglass” is, it will certainly hold surprises — and very likely they will be thoughtfully explored.
By Allen Ginsberg
Ginsberg’s legacy still looms large over American letters — as does that, more broadly, of the oft-sanctified Beat poets. Beat scholar Bill Morgan has compiled materials from a course Ginsberg taught on the history of the Beats in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, first at the Naropa Institute’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics — yes, really — then at Brooklyn College. The tome will likely provoke widespread nostalgia; it will also, one can expect, provide insight into a generation that holds immense sway over the American imagination.
By Louise Glück
Glück, a well-beloved and well-decorated poet, is a careful observer of her own art. She opens “American Originality” with a quietly pointed observation: “We are, famously, a nation of escaped convicts, younger sons, persecuted minorities, and opportunists. This fame is local and racial: white America’s myth of itself.” In a time when the delusions and flaws of America’s self-conception are a subject of global interest, Glück’s work is sure to inform and interrogate.
By Jeffrey Tambor
If you don’t love Jeffrey Tambor, we don’t want to speak to you. The star of “Transparent” – and former highlight of the once-brilliant “Arrested Development” – has a wit, warmth and wryness that are unfailingly winning; his memoir is being marketed as having, quote, chutzpah, and we couldn’t be more excited.
By Al Franken
Some years ago, the idea of Al Franken being a senator at all, let alone a prominent one, would have caused waves of laughter in political circles. Now, with Franken recently taking a leading role in hearings over Senator Jeff Sessions’ appointment to Attorney General, it’s a political fact. His book is sure to contain his trademark, career-making humor. It will also almost surely do so with a degree of political wisdom and seriousness that will be, most likely, somewhat new.
By Jill Bialosky
Bialosky, also a poet-cum-essayist, provides a different look at her medium in this memoir, which explores poetry’s impact on her own life. The title does not oversell that life’s struggle, which has included a sister’s suicide. Should you be looking for proof that poetry is balm for the wounded soul, you’re likely to find it here.
By Andrea Cohen Cohen’s fifth book of poetry will likely show off her ability to combine humor with a searching, gentle wisdom – as in her 2010 poem “Butter,” in which she contemplates a cow carved from butter at the Iowa State Fair: “Before it died, I looked/deep into its butter eyes. It saw/my butter soul. I could/have wept, or spread myself,/for nobody, across dry toast.”
By David Lehman
Lehman, editor of the “Best American Poetry” series, has long engaged in the experiment of writing in the manner of other poets. “I ran with the wind like a boy/in the journey of my solitude,” he wrote in 2015, in the style of Wordsworth; “I heard some East Coast big shot author/say he needs to jerk off before he can write./All I say is fuck that shit,” in 2011, in the manner of Charles Bukowski. Now collected, his poems in thoughtful imitation of the greats — Dickinson! Neruda! Plath! as the book’s cover joyfully announces — will be a blissful, creative review of poetry’s opportunities and oddness.
By David Shapiro
Once a child violin prodigy, Shapiro published his first book of poetry at age 18, then became a literature and art critic, producing poetry all the while. A member of the second generation of the New York School, following such notables as John Ashbery and Frank O’Hara, Shapiro’s poems dive between the earthly and ethereal, as in his 2016 “Exterior Street:” “The day was full of day/On Exterior Street/Moths drank tears from sleeping birds/On Exterior Street.” “In Memory of an Angel” is his first volume of verse in fifteen years.
By Gerald Stern
Stern is nearly 92 and still producing poetry that exudes a keen awareness of the strangeness of age. “There’s too little time left to measure/the space between us for that was/long ago – that time,” he writes, in the volume’s title poem. “Galaxy Love” is his eighteenth book of poetry.
By Jorie Graham
The Pulitzer Prize-winning Graham is concerned with the pace of the world, so much so that in a single poem titled “Fast,” published in The New Yorker in 2014, she pointedly outpaced her own thoughts: “or starve. Too much. Or not enough. Or. Nothing else?” the poem began. Her volume of the same name teases more of the same whirlwind, deeply considered wonderings.
By Phoebe Maltz Bovy
Bovy, who edits the Forward’s Sisterhood blog, will publish her first book this spring. It is an examination of the concept of privilege and its rising influence. For a preview of Bovy’s thoughts on the subject, read her 2014 essay for The Atlantic, “Checking Privilege Checking.” “Use of the term ‘privilege’ has, I’d argue, actually set back the cultural conversation about privilege,” she writes. In her book she takes an in-depth look at why she thinks that’s the case.