Here are the books we can’t wait to pick up in 2017:
While young adult novels are making huge strides in inclusive representation, a huge chunk of it has been on the contemporary front – which is one of the reasons I’m so excited for Tristina Wright’s 27 Hours, where four queer teenagers battle to save their homes and every human on the planet as the clock winds down. Wright is heavily involved in the young adult community, constantly advocating for better representation across the board, and I know she’s done the work in her book. This one doesn’t hit shelves until October 3, but I’ve been waiting for it for nearly two years now – only a few more months to go.
Sarah Manguso is one of the most innovative nonfiction writers working right now. I fell in love first with her 2012 book The Guardians: An Elegy for a Friend and then with Ongoingness: The End of a Diary from 2015. These books are short and the sentences are spare, but Manguso’s writing is suggestive and deep. It doesn’t fit clearly into any genre, mixing memoir and essay with a dash of poetry. I have yet to read her forthcoming book 300 Arguments, but I’m prepared to love it. It’s a collection of aphorisms about desire, ambition, and relationships, and it offers the enticing pleasures of a rich, contemplative reading experience.
Caitlín R Kiernan is one of those writers that you can’t believe isn’t a household name. Her writing is fantastic and her stories are dark, complex and wonderful. Agents of Dreamland is about a government special agent investigating an event that disturbs him. He meets a women who tells him about the events in question. At the same time, contact is lost with an interplanetary probe. The book descriptions makes it out to be a Lovecraftian book, but I suspect it’s not going to be that simple. Kiernan is too clever for that. I’m a fan of precisely the blend of complicated and clever dark fantasy and horror Kiernan writes and have several of her short stories in various anthologies. I’m really, really looking forward to this one. Oh. And that cover…
Like the main character, Andrea, I am also a thirty-something single creative woman, trying to make my way through life. I am so very sick of books (and films! Films especially!) about single people that only seem to be about those people being single and that are determined to end happily. Which is, of course, deemed to mean that the single person finds themselves in a relationship. “Why is being single the only thing people think of when they think of me?” Andrea asks her therapist. “I’m other things, too.” So I’m excited about this book, and I’m excited about the conversation that will hopefully result from it.
Among the Ruins is the third book in the mystery series that follows Rachel Getty and Esa Khattak. While I recommend reading the first two books because they are fantastic, they also work as standalone mysteries if you are new to the series. Esa Khattak is a Muslim Canadian detective and the latest book leads him to Iran where he is looking into the suspicious death of a Canadian-Iranian filmmaker. Khan perfectly combines a classic mystery style with a modern and unique view by focusing on Muslim characters and issues. These books are perfect for anyone who loves mysteries and wants to widen their scope beyond the Western world.
At the height of the Civil War, a former slave with an eidetic memory and a Pinkerton detective are both spies. They end up working together when they uncover a potential turn of the tides for the Confederacy, and find they want to uncover each other, too. With an intro like that, who wouldn’t be absolutely ready for this book? It doesn’t hurt that it ticks all my checkmarks: historical, interracial, intrigue? I’m there. Alyssa Cole in any situation is magic, and from what I’ve heard from advance readers it’s going to change the face of historical romance.
As a lifelong Tolkien lover, it is with great joy that I await the release of Beren and Luthien. This book tells the story of the love of Beren, a mortal man, and Luthien, an immortal elf. For those of you familiar with the films, it was the song Aragorn was singing around the campfire in the swamps. The tale is based upon the life and love of Tolkien and his wife, Edith. I love its many mythic allusions, from the Labors of Heracles to the Trials of Thor, Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Iseult, and Lancelot and Guinevere. I know lots of people regard Tolkien as overplayed. But I don’t! Adding to a canon of work that I have loved for my entire reading life is something I anticipate with great joy. I hope I am not alone in looking forward to this new addition to the literature of Middle Earth.
When Jeff Vandermeer was asked about his newest novel Borne by The New York Times back in 2014, he described it as, “kind of a weird combination of a Chekhov play in the round, with the equivalent of Godzilla and Mothra fighting in the background.” Having read Borne, it is exactly as Vandermeer said: Borne is an intense, intimate look at personal relationships, the ways people lift each other up and tear each other down, pain, memory, compassion, technology, hope, love, and monsters, both human and not. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever read before: magical, mesmerizing, and deep, Vandermeer has written a rare gem of a novel that is in a category entirely of its own.
Roxane Gay has all the luck when it comes to picking titles for her books. I read Bad Feminist almost solely because the title so perfectly describes my own brand of feminism (and since it made the New York Times bestseller list I know I am in good company). Likewise, Difficult Women is bound to be a siren call to all the ladies whose passions, bodies, minds, and skills don’t quite fit our culture’s narrow mold of acceptable femininity. The short stories in this book explore a broad range of female experiences through the eyes of a diverse array of female characters. Needless to say, I cannot wait to get my hands on this book.
You may not know the name Scott Kelly, but you know what he’s done: He spent a year aboard the International Space Station while his twin brother, Mark Kelly (also an astronaut) spent the year on Earth. Not only did this flight mean a unique opportunity to study the effects of spaceflight on the human body, but Kelly set a new record for the longest single spaceflight. Now, Kelly is writing his memoir of that time spent in space, chronicling the exhilaration of being an astronaut, but also the loneliness and weariness that comes with being a starman. I’m always a fan of astronaut memoirs, but I’m especially looking forward to this book.
Books about immigration and refugees can be tough to get through. They hit hard and they hit deep, and the writing is often meant to slow the reader down. Exit West operates on another plane. The book introduces us to the young, charming Saeed and the rebellious Nadia, as they fall in love amidst the daily routines of their lives, in an unnamed, normal city. Once you’re hooked, Hamid gives you the gory details: war and violence is taking their city by storm, rendering them immigrants, as the young couple isforced to flee. With its surprisingly poignant use of magic realism, the novel is beautiful and poetic even at its most devastating.
Alisha Rai starts a new series with Hate to Want You and boy, am I excited! Rai has a gift for writing complex characters and hot, tense scenes and this star-crossed lovers romance promises to have plenty of it.
Every year, Livvy Kane and Nicholas Chandler meet for one night, a modern day Romeo & Juliet. But when Livvy shows up in town, Nicholas is worried he won’t be able to resist having her for just one night anymore.
I love romances where a couple knows they shouldn’t be together, but they push their luck anyway because their love is worth all of the obstacles. Plus, that cover is to die for!
In 2015, Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari asked big questions about the past, looking at humanity’s creation and evolution in Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. In Homo Deus, he’s looking ahead and what might happen now that history’s major killers – famine, plague, and war – are no longer the serious threat they once were. Without those factors, what will humanity do next? What are the big projects and major challenges we might undertake? I can already imagine how controversial this book might be, as well as how much it might challenge the way I think about my own place in the world.
Roxane Gay is the kind of writer who inspires a particular devotion from her fans. Her writing is emotionally honest and challenges assumptions about many of today’s most important social, political, and cultural issues. After I read Gay’s take on a subject- whether I’m reading a column in the New York Times or one of her essays in the critically-acclaimed collection Bad Feminist, I don’t see that topic in quite the same way. She provokes you to look at many different sides of an issue.
Gay’s long-awaited memoir focuses on her body, obesity, and trauma. The book explores Gay’s past, including an act of violence that served as a turning point for her.
I am a huge Sarah Beth Durst fan. She never fails to craft a new story that comes together in a new, inventive way. She’s also a really nice lady who responds to emails with encouragement.
In Journey, two princesses travel to pay their respect to their kingdom’s dragon guardian. This journey is meant to be routine, uneventful, and done for ceremonial purposes. If nothing happened, however, we wouldn’t have a story; the two princesses face strange monsters and tremors. They need to figure out what has changed before their people suffer the consequences. We have a flying lion, for starters, and dragons. This can only mean the journey will be another wild adventure.
In the Red Queen series, Aveyard has constructed a compelling world and characters. The heroine, Mare Barrow, is as flawed as she is exceptional. She has to learn about trust and deceit, how to contain and control her lightening power, how to start a revolution against the reigning monarchy, who had adopted her as their own. Rebellion laced with romance amidst violence makes the reader race through.
King’s Cage is the final installment in the series. It leaves Mare without her lightening and being tormented by the boy she once loved. With a new king on the throne, the country gets ready to prepare for war, and Mare has a difficult decision to make.
In his introduction, Aaron Bady calls it “simply and obviously, a plain fact” that Jennifer Makumbi’s Kintu is the great Ugandan novel. But just as you need not be American to read Toni Morrison or John Steinbeck, you need not be Ugandan to fall mesmerized by Makumbi’s novel, which begins in January 2004, travels back to 1750, and ends in April 2004, interweaving the characters, events, and DNA of the two times. Passionate, original, and sharply observed, the novel decenters colonialism and makes Ugandan experience primary.
It sounds weird to say, because Saunders has published so much over the years, but this is his debut novel. And what an utterly original, transcendent novel it is. Saunders has destroyed the concept of the novel as we know it and rebuilt it as only he can. This is a mesmerizing, heartbreaking story about the death of Willie Lincoln – son of Abraham – and the ghosts in the cemetery where Willie’s body is temporarily held. There are so many stories buried along side him, told by the spirits around him, as they await ascension. The book is an absolute work of genius. But let’s be honest – no one expected anything less from Saunders.
Always on the look-out for bisexual books, I was thrilled to find YA novel Little & Lion. When I looked closer, I was even more excited: not only is the main character Suzette bisexual, she’s also Black and Jewish, and her brother is bipolar. Too often when we’re talking about diversity, we get queer characters who are white, Black characters who are straight, etc. Yay for diverse characters in all their complex glory! Here’s the story: when Suzette comes home to LA from boarding school, she finds herself settling into her old life with startling changes: trying to support her brother and falling in love with the same girl he loves.
Little Fires Everywhere
There is almost no information about Celeste Ng’s sophomore novel on the internet. No preorder information, no official release date (though one unconfirmed source tells me it’s coming September 7th), and no real details about the plot, other than that it’s about one family in Ng’s hometown of Shaker Heights, Ohio. According to the publisher, Penguin Press, the book explores “the weight of long-held secrets, the nature of belonging, the ferocious pull of motherhood—and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.” So basically, yes please. Honestly, if Celeste Ng said she were writing a rock opera in space, I would be there for it. Everything I Never Told You, her 2014 debut, was and continues to be one of my absolute favorite novels. I’ve been eagerly anticipating her next novel ever since and 2017 will finally put it in my grubby little hands.
Gwenda Bond has won me twice over with her two previous Lois Lane novels, Fallout and Double Down. Her Lois is clever, wry, but always with a drive for truth and justice in equal measure. Quite frankly, Bond is the best writer of Lois Lane we’ve seen in years. I can’t be more thrilled that we’re getting a third book in the series. If you’re a fan of Lois Lane and Clark Kent (yes, he’s in there, too) and you haven’t been reading Bond’s novels, you are seriously missing out. Luckily, you have just enough time to catch up to the series before Triple Threat drops in May.
I was at the Strand for the Book Riot Live after party, gift card in hand, when the first volume of Lumberjanes caught my eye. I’d heard fellow Book Rioters rave about it in the past, so I bought myself a copy. I immediately fell in love with the artwork, the story, the characters, the hardcore lady types. I then snatched up volumes 2 through 5 as quick as I could. As you do. But Volume 6 won’t be released until April 2017! The anticipation is killing me. KILLING ME.
I came late to the Viking party. Prior to grad school, what I knew of Norse culture came solely from the pages of Johanna Lindsey’s Haardrad Series. The Vinland Sagas changed me forever. Love of mythology is not new for me. Edith Hamilton’s classic has been a part of my personal library since middle school, along with other collections of Greek, Roman, and Celtic myths. Gaiman’s Norse Mythology has me excited for a couple reasons. First, it’s Neil Gaiman. Second, he’s going to talk about Thor. Not the Chris Hemsworth, chiseled abs, honorable, all-American-surfer Thor, but the hard drinking, foul mouthed, stinky, murderous Thor.
Once and For All is the latest from Sarah Dessen, whose well established fan-base eagerly awaits each new release. Once and For All tells the story of Louna, who is the daughter of a well-known wedding planner. Louna doesn’t believe in happy endings, especially since her first love didn’t end well. But of course, she meets a “serial dater” named Ambrose who is determined to pursue her despite her cynicism. The world of wedding planning promises plenty of drama of its own, so it’s safe to expect that Dessen is bringing us another heartfelt story full of laughs, heart wrenching moments, and character growth interwoven into the love story. It’s set to release in June 2017.
There aren’t too many living authors who can say they invented a genre, but Dan Brown is one of them. And in Origin, it feels like Brown might have found the ultimate subject of for his theo-cultural thrillers: the origin of life. I’m guessing Brown will plumb the connection of the church and scholarship and have Robert Langdon puzzling over Genesis and The Origin of Species while mopeding across a European city with a bright young English botanist or something. And I am so excited I can barely breathe.
Min Jin Lee’s sophomore novel opens during Imperial Japan’s occupation of Korea, and follows a family through five generations of self-discovery. The breadth and depth of challenges come through clearly, without sensationalization. The sporadic victories are oases of sweetness, without being saccharine. Lee makes it impossible not to develop tender feelings towards her characters—all of them, even the most morally compromised. Their multifaceted engagements with identity, family, vocation, racism, and class are guaranteed to provide your most affecting sobfest of the year.
The first in this series, Evil Librarian, is a favorite for many reasons: musical theater background, demons who love Sweeney Todd, and an awesome main character in Cynthia, who loves set design, swoons over her crush, and sets it all aside to save her best friend. Everything great about the first? Dialed up in Revenge. They’re at theater camp. There are new demons to contend with. There are new crushes blossoming. Cynthia grows in her butt-kicking ways and continues to prioritize what’s right over what she wants, even as what she wants is alarmingly shifting. Revenge is fast-paced and funny- a delicious read. Don’t miss it.
Eleven-year-old Alex Petroski wants to launch his golden iPod into space, just like his hero Carl Sagan launched his Golden Record on a spacecraft in the 1970s. Alex spray paints his iPod gold and starts capturing the sounds of life, so that extraterrestrials will know what life is like on earth. Told entirely through Alex’s iPod recordings, we listen as he sets off to launch the golden iPod in a homemade rocket with his dog (also named Carl Sagan), and the hilarious and heartbreaking trip that follows. Mr. Cheng’s incredible storytelling reaffirmed my belief that creativity is still very much alive in children’s literature.
The felled Twin Towers appear in the middle of the desert. That premise alone is weird enough to grab my attention. Add a blessing Jonathan Lethem and comparisons to Mark Z. Danielewski’s, and I’m counting down the days until this book is available everywhere. Any novel that ties sci-fi and music together belongs in my wheelhouse.
Older tweeted that it “is explicitly a protest novel, deals directly with state violence, school to prison pipelines…and fighting back. Because these are the times we live in, and I believe in literature that looks these times in the face and speaks truth. And you can’t tiptoe towards justice.” He’s also said it “deals with mental health” and that “there may or may not be a techshaper.”
I desperately hope Anika Noni Rose returns for the audiobook. In the meantime, check out the novella Ghost Girl in the Corner.
Siege Line by Myke Cole is the final installment in The Reawakening Trilogy, which in turn serves as an emotionally charged and action packed prequel to his highly acclaimed Shadow Ops Series. Set in the near future of our world, The Reawakening Trilogy tells the story of how magic begins to manifest itself in human beings after having been dormant for centuries and how the military-industrial complex tries to profit from this development. Drawing from his own experiences in Iraq and the United States Coast Guard, Cole has written some of the best fantasy fiction I have ever read. Needless to say, I’m counting the days until this book comes out.
To say that Strange the Dreamer is my most anticipated book of 2017 is an understatement; it is my most anticipated book of the decade. I fell so love with Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone that I got a tattoo inspired by the book, but based on the preview I’ve read, Strange the Dreamer will be my new favorite YA fantasy. Strange is, like myself, a librarian. But Strange also has a dream of a long lost city and a blue-skinned goddess, and though he is not a warrior, he is called to join a quest to discover what became of the mythic place. I can’t wait to get lost in Taylor’s stunning writing and go on an adventure with Lazlo Strange.
It is not easy to write true crime that is respectful, compassionate, and curious. It’s not easy to bring your own story into someone else’s story. And yet this book manages to do both of those things. It also manages to break your heart every few pages. The story of a law student whose first case becomes the object of her obsession, and the story of two victims of sexual abuse, it’s not an easy read but it is an incredibly affecting one.
I’ve been friends with Karuna–Kaye–on Twitter for a while, and her activism and generosity of heart are themselves enough reason to read anything she writes. That her debut novel sounds incredible is just icing. A middle grade fantasy about a diabolical game a group of children are trapped in hits so many of my sweet spots. That it’s a book about children in New York City written by a native who lived through 9/11 as a young Muslim? I have chills.
In the follow-up to A Study in Charlotte, Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson’s winter vacation goes belly up when Charlotte’s beloved uncle disappears. Racing across Europe, Charlotte and Jamie must solve the mystery of his disappearance, unravel some longheld family secrets, and figure out their still complicated feelings for each other. Valentine’s Day is the perfect release date for one of the most quietly romantic pairings I’ve ever read, and I’m excited to slip back into Brittany Cavallaro’s loyal but perfectly modernized world of Holmes and Watson.
Viet Thanh Nguyen is a maestro of language. He has the rare ability to call upon a vast lexicon without sacrificing the elegance of his prose, all while never losing his knack for developing complex characters. The Sympathizer is a masterpiece, and the short stories I have read by Nguyen are equally skillful. A collection of immigrant stories spanning two decades of Nguyen’s writing, The Refugees is destined to continue my recent short story obsession into 2017. I am awaiting this collection with childlike anticipation.
When I picked up The Fifth Season I didn’t realize it was the first in a trilogy, so I was shocked and delighted when I got to the cliff-hanger on the last page. Jemisin introduced a gloriously imagined, complex world in which some are born with the power to shape the earth but have no power over their own lives. Amidst the upheaval that produces a massive earthquake and threatens the existence of the world, exist a slate of characters that are solidly compelling and deeply nuanced. In The Obelisk Gate Jemisin delivered an incredible sequel, showing us the forces warring beneath the surface, and I cannot wait for the conclusion.
I happened to start Julie James’ FBI/US Attorney series the same day in 2014 that I was selected for 18 months of federal grand jury duty, an odd coincidence given that federal grand jury duty results in a LOT of exposure to FBI agents and US Attorneys. It was also a happy coincidence since James’ series is much funnier and steamier than the real thing. James’ new book in the series is a romantic comedy about two FBI agents with a contentious history who are partnered on new case. It’s James’ first book in nearly two years – practically an eternity in romance terms – and I never thought I’d be so happy to return to the world of law and order.
Mongolian-inspired epic fantasy? Queer protagonists on a mission to save their world from destruction? It didn’t take much more than these short descriptions to get me to add The Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera to my Must Read list for 2017. Reading about non-Western myths and legends is one of my favourite things, and with a focus on Mongolian stories, The Tiger’s Daughter promises to be exactly the kind of novel I’ve been craving. Waiting until October is going to be nigh unbearable.
I have always had massive respect for Hannah Tinti because of her ability to write beautifully epic stories (like her prior book, The Good Thief), and her work in the literary world as an editor for One Story, a hugely important literary journal that publishes one short story a month. What’s exciting about this new novel is the writer’s subject matter: a deceased mother, a criminal father, and the main character’s new life back in her mother’s hometown. Somehow, the father’s twelve gunshot scars come into play. The oncoming reckoning of the father’s past is going to be beautifully written with a fantastic chance for wisdom from the viewpoint of a young girl. Eight years is a long time to wait for a Tinti book. Look for it in March.
I am a sucker for all things David Sedaris. He could re-write that stupid prospectus my life insurance company insists on sending me approximately 3,000 times a year and I’d happily read it. So I was just a wee bit excited when I learned that 2017 would give us the publication of a diary Sedaris has kept for 40 years. His raw honesty and the ability to make me guffaw will be the perfect seasoning to his day-to-day observation of the world. This will be a publication date purchase for me!
The first thing you have to understand is that Morgan Parker is one of the most fascinating poets working today. She writes poems that are clever, beautiful, political, playful, breathtaking. The second thing is that Beyoncé is one of the most potent icons in contemporary popular culture. Now imagine what happens when those two—poet and icon—meet in verse. I know I’m excited to see what happens and thrilled to watch Parker continue killing it on the page. Plus, Roxane Gay loves this book and says that “Every poem will get its hooks into you.” So there’s that, too.
If Lily Myers’s name isn’t already familiar as the voice behind the viral slam poem “Shrinking Women,” look it up. This is her first foray into YA fiction, and it’s a story about a girl struggling with an eating disorder, as well as the pressures put upon her by her mother. Myers is phenomenally talented and passionate about body acceptance, especially for teens, and her novel has been compared to Laurie Halse Anderson and Ellen Hopkins — two mainstays in contemporary YA lit.
It’s hard to ignore how powerful the cover alone is, either.
This book is based on the popular website and Tumblr by the same name which introduces us to a housekeeping and organizational system for real people: people with jobs, kids, roommates, mental illness, and any combination thereof. This book will not tell you to talk to your belongings or to iron your sheets. It offers a realistic system of attainable goals to take your living space from an anxiety-inducing mess to someplace that brings you comfort and satisfaction. No more marathon cleaning, but instead some simple lifestyle changes to improve your home. You’re better than your mess.
As a Taiwanese American, I am beyond excited for a YA book set in Taiwan. This YA sci-fi thriller has both a gorgeous cover and an intriguing premise: Jason Zhou lives in a world where the wealthy flourish with special suits that filter out pollution and illness, while the poor suffer. After the death of his mother, Jason decides to fight back against the corrupt Jin Corporation that rules the city. Love and danger await…
Samantha Irby is a Chicago treasure and her first book of personal essays, Meaty, catapulted her beyond the Midwest. With an FX series based on it in the works, she may solidify her status as one of the most hilarious writers out there. I can’t wait to encounter the Samantha Irby I’ve seen onstage in her new book: visceral, courageous, and with no filters. Irby takes life’s awkward, uncomfortable and cringe-worthy moments and turns them into stories of exuberance. Nevertheless, she doesn’t shy away from the pain of difficult childhoods, chronic disease and personal heartbreaks. I wouldn’t be surprised if 2017 is the year she becomes a national powerhouse.
I fell in love with the cover and felt like I hit the reading-lottery when I discovered that the characters, story, themes, and spirit of the book were just as beautiful. It was a delight to get to know Dimple Shah and Rishi Patel–as they got to know each other–while they navigate adulthood, aspirations, an arranged marriage, family expectations, desire, and friendship. Filled with heart, humor, and even a Bollywood dance, I can’t wait for everyone to get to read this, Not only will you want to hug this book, but it’ll hug you back.