9 Great New Books To Read This May

There are so many wonderful books coming out this month, reading one of them should be just the thing to distract you for a little while from, oh, everything else in the world. Of course, it doesn't always work like that; reading anything longer than a tweet can feel as difficult right now as, you know, showering daily. But, we still recommending getting at least one of these books — even if it takes you a little while to get to it, or even if you can't read it in one sitting, soon enough, you'll find yourself wanting once again to inhabit your old routines, and these books will be sitting there, waiting for you, a reminder that, no matter what else is happening, at least there's good stuff to read.


My Baby First Birthday by Jenny Zhang (available here)

Let's say you are having a hard time reading right now. May I recommend stepping away for a moment from long novels or dense non-fiction and picking up a book of poetry instead? There's something particularly appealing about poems right now, perhaps it's that every word — and, too, each of the spaces between the words — is set down with such precision that I'm reminded of the importance of deliberation and definition in the midst of this surreal, time-warped period of life. Anyway. These poems, by Jenny Zhang, have felt like a lifeline of sorts. Not because they're unrelated to ever-present concepts like loneliness and longing, but because they deal with those things — as well as love and lust and violence and injustice and life — head-on. Zhang's writing is visceral, urgent, and hot — her poetry is never a distraction, but rather a beautiful, rage-fueled call to arms. — K.I.
The Museum of Whales You Will Never See by A. Kendra Greene (available here)
These Women by Ivy Pochoda (available here)
A Children's Bible by Lydia Millet (available here)

Here's an idea: As the world falls apart all around us, why not read a book about the world falling apart in a totally different way? Not just any book, though, it kind of has to be A Children's Bible, the brilliant Lydia Millet's latest, in which the oblivious destructiveness of a certain self-indulgent generation of adults is rightfully skewered, as a new generation of hyper-mature teens must figure out how to live without any concrete kind of guidance. The catastrophe in this book is of the climate change variety, but its effects are not so dissimilar to what we're enduring now: There are supply shortages and a fear of traveling; there is sheltering in place and a clear divide between the lives of the wealthy and the poor. There is a lot of darkness and suffering, but there is also humor (in sly abundance) and moments of pure grace. This is an affecting, propulsive look at not only what will happen if we don't start to take responsibility for each other instead of just ourselves, but also what already is happening all around us, as anyone who's not willfully blind can see. — K.I.
Drifts by Kate Zambreno (available here)

It is always a pleasure to be allowed inside Kate Zambreno's head (if you've not yet read Screen Tests, what are you waiting for??), and it feels like a particular privilege right now with her latest novel, Drifts, which feels perfectly suited for this time we're in, when doing anything concrete feels close to impossible, and we're all too often left alone with our thoughts. In it, the narrator — as most writers do — spends an awful lot of time not writing; in this case, not writing a novel called Drifts. If you're smiling already, prepare to do a lot of that while reading this book — Zambreno's charm and wit dance off the page, and it's lovely to meander alongside her as she deconstructs the process of writing a novel, and then takes a turn to examine what it's like to create something wholly different: a life. Intimate, fiercely intelligent, and reliably provocative, Drifts is Zambreno at her best. — K.I.
Thresholes by Lara Mimosa Montes (available here)

In the preface to Thresholes, Lara Mimosa Montes recalls that, when people would ask her: “'What are you writing?' I would
return in response, 'It’s more like the book is writing me.'” And, in fact, there is that feel throughout this powerful, beautiful work, that there is some strong force guiding it, that it is revealing truths (no capital T, but still foundational ones), some kind of ancient universal equation that brings Montes to a place where she can traverse time and space and other once-meaningful boundaries, all in order to tell her story. It's a story of the Bronx of the '70s and '80s, and of the body and art, of entrances and exits, of life. — K.I.
Sansei and Sensibility by Karen Tei Yamashita (available here)

What do you get when Jane Austen meets the Japanese-American community of contemporary California? This smart, witty, perfectly pitched collection of stories — definitely the best Austen adaptation since Clueless. Which, yes, Yamashita does give an Emma update ("Emi"), as well as one for Pride and Prejudice. But the charm in this book doesn't just rely on recognizing century-old plot points, rather it rests in Yamashita's singularly sly twists to depictions of suburban ennui, and her piercing look into what it means to be an immigrant and what it means to be a family. — K.I.
All My Mother's Lovers by Ilana Masad (available here)

This probing, beautiful debut novel by Ilana Masad is an intimate meditation on grief, identity, love, and inheritance. When Maggie finds out her mother, Iris, has suddenly died, she's tasked with leaving her girlfriend and going back home to her sorrow-stricken father and young brother so that she can take care of the arrangements. Once there, Maggie finds out that she might not have known who her mother really was, thanks to five letters all addressed to men Maggie doesn't know. What follows is a daughter's journey to realizing her mother was also a woman, and a tender tribute to the power of forgiveness, understanding, and hope. — K.I.
My Mother's House by Francesca Momplaisir (available here)
The Equivalents by Maggie Doherty (available here)
Figure It Out by Wayne Koestenbaum (available here)

There's a specific kind of derangement that I'm after these days, and it can reliably be found in the work of Wayne Koestenbaum; it's a delirious openness, a willingness to go to those heights rarely reached — and then keep going. Such is the case with his new collection of essays, which all hinge on the idea of the unexpected "collision," and then become perfectly unhinged from there, leading to meditations on everything from punctuation to poetic blow jobs to the word "penis." A pure delight. — K.I.
Little Eyes by Samanta Schweblin (available here)

The most terrifying horror stories — particularly of the dystopian variety — are those that don't speak to some alternate reality, but reflect our actual lives. This is exactly what Samanta Schweblin does to uncanny perfection in her newest book, which, via the ubiquity of a high-tech toy called a "kentucki," casts a light on all the ways in which we've let our boundaries disappear, let technology infiltrate our lives, and lost our grip on what it means to have personal agency, what it means to be human. — K.I.
Brown Album by Porochista Khakpour (available here)
Stray by Stephanie Danler (available here)
Branwell by Douglas A. Martin (available here)

Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld (available here)

We all know — or think we know — the backstory of Hillary Rodham Clinton: Always showing exceptional promise, by the early '70s she was a standout at Yale Law School and on her way to what was bound to be a nova-bright career. But, after marrying her fellow Yale Law grad, Bill Clinton, she spent most of her adult life and career supporting and overshadowed by him, until finally just missing out on her own shot at the presidency of the United States. In short: Because of marrying Bill, Hillary never had the chance to be who she was destined to be. What Curtis Sittenfeld's book presupposes is: What if she did? Rodham is a provocative, bitingly funny re-imagining of what a woman's life could be if she didn't need to compromise her own ambitions in support of her partner's. Sittenfeld has written a nuanced, astute portrait of one of modern history's most contentious figures, and never shies away from either the thornier aspects of her character, or those of our society. — K.I.





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9 Great New Books To Read This May 9 Great New Books To Read This May Reviewed by streakoggi on May 01, 2020 Rating: 5

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