BY NICO VREELAND
[This feature is a brief summary of interesting books coming out each month. Click the pictures or the title links to find these books at Goodreads.]
Canada, by Richard Ford (out 5/22)
Richard Ford writes impressively introspective novels. His Pulitzer prize-winning Frank Bascombe trilogy featured a sportswriter (who later becomes a realtor), ruminating on his life. Each novel in the trilogy takes place over the course of a holiday, and nothing much happens in the sense of plot beats—the narrative is almost entirely interior monologue. That seems simple and boring, but Ford makes even Bascombe’s most mundane thoughts riveting. So it’ll be interesting, then, to see what he does with this new storyline, which features murder, bank robbing, and a teenager trying to fix his criminal family.
Are You My Mother?, by Alison Bechdel (out now)
Alison Bechdel’s first graphic novel/memoir Fun Home—about her father, who committed suicide shortly after he came out of the closet—won several awards, became a bestseller, garnered a slew of critical raves, and even caused a bit of controversy. Bechdel’s new illustrated memoir looks to raise the bar even further. Are You My Mother? focuses on, predictably enough, Bechdel’s relationship with her acerbic mother, and it’s been getting nothing but rave reviews. Even the joyless controversy-dowser Katie Roiphe loved it. It comes out today, so I’m probably reading it right now.
Tamil Tigress: My Story as a Child Soldier in Sri Lanka’s Bloody Civil War, by Niromi de Soyza (out now)
Niromi de Soyza grew up in an educated, middle-class family in Sri Lanka, but she joined the Tamil Tigers’ first female contingent at the tender age of 17. This book is the story of why she joined the Tigers, how she survived, and how she transitioned from that life to a relatively normal one with a husband and children. If you’re one of those people who say that only people who’ve lived interesting lives should write memoirs… yeah, this is for you.
The Listeners, by Leni Zumas (out 5/15)
Zumas’s first novel carries a fairly unexciting premise—about a woman from a sad childhood who’s having career struggles—but the prose is billed as “hallucinatory” and “far-out.”
The Chemistry of Tears, by Peter Carey (out 5/15)
Peter Carey has won the Booker prize twice, and he’s been shortlisted three other times. Dude can write. In this one, a museum curator mourns the loss of her married lover by rebuilding an automaton. Reactions have been mixed, but Carey’s resume makes it worth a long look.
The Lower River, by Paul Theroux (out 5/22)
Paul Theroux’s new novel follows Ellis Hock, a white American man who spent four years in Malawi in the Peace Corps. When his wife leaves him, he returns to Africa to find the work he did in tatters, and to find himself unsure of whether his new journey is “an escape or a trap.” Going by two-sentence synopses, this is my favorite premise from this month’s slate of Maybe novels.
Bunch of Amateurs: A Search for the American Character, by Jack Hitt (out 5/15)
Expanding from an idea of America as a collection of obsessed amateurs inventors (cf. Ben Franklin and his kite), Hitt interviews eccentric amateurs across the country, from a woman splicing genes in her kitchen to a man building a next-generation telescope in his trailer. Hitt, a frequent This American Life contributor, has a nose for interesting stories, and it sounds like these fall into that category.
The Blind Giant: Being Human in a Digital World, by Nick Harkaway (out 5/15)
In addition to recently publishing a massive new novel, Harkaway has also been working on this nonfiction book about “the relationship between culture and individuals and technology and science” and a whole lot more. I’m a bit stalled with his novel, but even so, this piques my interest. Here’s more about it.
Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet, by Andrew Blum (out now)
As former Senator and ragecomic bobblehead Ted Stevens taught us, the Internet is a series of tubes. Andrew Blum follows those tubes underground and across oceans in an effort to explain and enumerate the physical infrastructure of the modern digital world.
The Newlyweds, by Nell Freudenberger (out now)
Freudenberger, one of the vaunted New Yorker 20 under 40, turns in a much-hyped new novel about a Bangladeshi woman who finds love online and moves to New York to marry. It’s billed as an arranged-marriage story for the 21st century. Not exactly my cup of tea, but Freudenberger’s pedigree makes it an interesting book to keep in mind.
Home, by Toni Morrison (out 5/8)
A veteran of Korea who returns to America and is forced to confront the racism and pain of his upbringing. Early reviews, like this one, have found Home too slight, and not Morrison’s best effort.
In One Person, by John Irving (out 5/8)
Irving’s latest concerns a lonely bisexual man, trying to make himself “worthwhile,” which doesn’t exactly sound riveting. It’s gotten a luke-warm reception.
I Suck at Girls, by Justin Halpern (out 5/15)
The Shit My Dad Says guy is back, minus his funny dad. Leaving, according to my math, shit.