I’m not the only person thinking spring books when everyone else is wrapping up fall. Barnes & Noble has just announced its Spring 2014 Discover Great New Writers season, which runs from February 4, 2014, through May 5, 2014. Among the titles on the list I’d urge you to track down right away are The Un-Americans by Molly Antopol, who was chosen by the National Book Foundation for its 2013 5 Under 35 list, and Redeployment by Phil Klay, an Iraq veteran with an MFA. Both are story collections that will burn your eyes out.
I have yet to see Hassan Blasim’s The Corpse Exhibition but hear only good things about it, and any book about the Iraq War from an Iraqi’s perspective is essential reading. Other fiction titles range from Keith Calhoun’s dystopian Black Moon to Tarashea Nesbit’s affecting The Wives of Los Alamos, which has already received a strong LJ review. Nonfiction ranges from sports (Justin Hocking’s The Great Floodgates of the Wonderworld) to nature (Bryce Andrews’s Badluck Way: A Year on the Ragged Edge of the West), with the feeling of quest definitely in the air. See the full list below.
Andrews, Bryce, Badluck Way: A Year on the Ragged Edge of the West. Atria. Jan. 2014. ISBN 9781476710839. $25. MEMOIR/NATURE
On the Sun Ranch in southwest Montana, Andrews rode, roped, and built fences in isolated splendor and faced moral struggle as he tracked down a wolf pack attacking the cattle. “Andrews gives such an intimate portrait of ranch life that readers will feel their hands are dirty with the grime that comes with protecting calves from wild animals,” said LJ‘s review.
Antopol, Molly. The Un-Americans. Norton. Feb. 2014. ISBN 9780393241136. $24.95. SHORT STORIES
With scenarios ranging from a gallery owner’s underground shows of smuggled Soviet art in 1970s Jerusalem to a blacklisted actor reaching out to his son, Antopol’s collection probes political and cultural issues in a personal way. “These rich stories…are often sharply funny and always intelligent, and readers will find them immediately appealing,” said LJ‘s starred review.
Blasim, Hassan. The Corpse Exhibition. Penguin. Mar. 2014. ISBN 9780143123262. pap. $15. SHORT STORIES
Blasim fled from persecution under Saddam Hussein’s regime in 1998 and now lives in Finland, but he returns home in his literature. This work scarily blends soldiers and car bombs, prophets and djinni; the Guardian has called Blasim “perhaps the best writer of Arabic fiction alive.”
Calhoun, Kenneth. Black Moon. Hogarth: Crown. Mar. 2104. ISBN 9780804137140. $24. LITERARY/DYSTOPIAN
In Calhoun’s horrific new world, where most people can’t sleep, one man who can hunts for his desperate, vanished wife. Edgy-terrific, from what I have read; Calhoun has published in the Paris Review, Tin House, and the 2011 Pen/O. Henry Prize Collection.
Fu, Kim. For Today I Am a Boy. Houghton Harcourt. Jan. 2014. ISBN 9780544034723. $23. LITERARY FICTION
A boy in a Chinese Canadian community carries the weight of family expectation as he wrestles with his desire to be a girl. “The reader feels his discomfort with his own body as well as his painful sense of yearning,” said LJ‘s review.
Hocking, Justin. The Great Floodgates of the Wonderworld. Graywolf. Mar. 2014. ISBN 9781555976699. pap. $15. MEMOIR
Anxious in New York City, miserable in his publishing job, and sorry to watch a long-distance relationship crumble, Hocking discovers something cool: a community of surfers in Far Rockaway. The Moby-Dick imagery seems sea-blown appropriate.
Hope, Anna. Wake. Random. Feb. 2014. ISBN 9780812995138. $26. HISTORICAL
Three women cope with the aftermath of war as the second anniversary of Armistice Day approaches. “A moving read about the emotional paralysis caused by grief and uncertainty,” said LJ‘s review.
Klay, Phil. Redeployment. Penguin Pr. Mar. 2014. ISBN 9781594204999. $26.95. SHORT STORIES
With stories like “Redeployment,” about a soldier edging back into civilian life after having spent time in Fallujah shooting dogs who were eating human corpses, you’ll learn what it’s like to have been on the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan. Remarkable.
Levingston, Steven. Little Demon in the City of Light. Doubleday. Feb. 2014. ISBN 9780385536035. $26.95. HISTORY
Nonfiction Book Editor of the Washington Post, Levingston revisits 1889 Paris for an assignation gone bad: Alexandre-Toussaint Gouffé was murdered by Gabrielle Bompard (“the little demon”) and her lover.
Miller, Mary. The Last Days of California. Liveright: Norton. Jan. 2014. ISBN 9780871405883. $24.95. LITERARY
Author of the collection Big World, Miller turns in an intuitively smart and sassy novel about a family traveling cross-country in expectation of the Rapture, with perfect characterizations of the Bible-thumping father, the mousy mother, and the two restless daughters, who embody teenager frustration and yearning in America.
Most, Doug. The Race Underground. St Martin’s. Feb. 2014. ISBN 9780312591328. $27.99. HISTORY
Who knew that the story of the competition between Boston and New York to construct the first underground “subway” railroad in late 19th-century America could be so gripping, but it’s actually ” a felicitous tale of American ingenuity and perseverance that serves as a useful reminder today as we confront a deteriorating nationwide infrastructure,” said LJ‘s reviewer.
Nesbit, Tarashea. The Wives of Los Alamos. Bloomsbury USA. Feb. 2014. ISBN 9781620405031. $25. HISTORICAL
We hear so often about the men who worked at Los Alamos in the early 1940s to build the atomic bomb, but what about the wives isolated in the desert? Nesbit chooses the first-person plural to narrate the story, communicating the women’s feelings as a group. “ Recommended both for its important subject matter and for the author’s vivid storytelling,” said LJ‘s review.
Percy, Jennifer. Demon Camp: A Soldier’s Exorcism. Scribner. Jan. 2014. ISBN 9781451661989. $26. SOCIAL SCIENCE
For soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, suicide and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder have become as threatening as bullets and bombs. For one soldier, profiled here, the answer to his anguish has been quite literally exorcism. Not surprisingly, Percy was a Truman Capote Fellow at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
Rosolie, Paul. Mother of God: An Extraordinary Journey into the Uncharted Tributaries of the Western Amazon. Harper. Feb. 2014. ISBN 9780062259516. $25.99. NATURE/TRAVEL
More exciting than any thriller, this is a trip through the vast, unknown tributaries of the Western Amazon, with Rosolie as guide. He knows his stuff, as he runs a conservation project called Tamandua Expeditions that support rainforest conservation through tourism; as a naturalist, he’s discovered new species and ecosystems, including the famous “floating forest.”
Sternbergh, Adam. Shovel Ready. Crown. Jan. 2014. ISBN 9780385348997. $24. THRILLER
In a devastated New York, former garbage collector Spademan is now a hit man with a box cutter, but he’s balking as his latest assignment. “A gripping genre mash up and a stunning debut,” says LJ‘s forthcoming review.
Thompson, Ted. The Land of Steady Habits. Mar. 2014. Little, Brown. ISBN 9780316186568. $25. LITERARY FICTION
A Truman Capote Fellow at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop like Percy, Thompson is a young writer whose works have appeared in Tin House, American Short Fiction, and Best New American Voices. But his hero is a man approaching 60 who abandons the “steady habits” of affluent Connecticut for a more emotionally rich new life.
Tirella, Joseph. Tomorrow-Land: The 1964–65 World’s Fair and the Transformation of America. Lyons: Globe Pequot. Jan. 2014. ISBN 9780762780358. $26.95. HISTORY
As Tirella wrote about Queens for the late, lamented City Section of the New York Times, he should speak persuasively about Robert Moses’s bringing the World’s Fair there.
Urquhart, Rachel. The Visionist. Little, Brown. Jan. 2014. 9780316228091. $26. HISTORICAL
After a fire destroys her family farm, Polly finds herself in a Shaker community in 1840s Massachusetts, where she starts having mystical visions. “For historical fiction fans wanting to immerse themselves in a setting they may know little about,” said LJ‘s review.