Early reviews have knocked the latest Sedaris for not veering far from his staked-out territory, but if you like his writing, hewing close to his norm is good news. These latest funny essays revolve around Sedaris’s travels. If you’re new to Sedaris, I’d recommend listening to an audiobook first—I never found him funny until I heard him read his own stories. If you’re an old fan, I’m just pointing out this new book’s existence.
I’m not entirely sure what to make of this novel; its own flap copy struggles to explain its premise (as do early reviewers). It seems that it’s a bit of a postmodern experiment, about the many possible lives of a woman named Ursula Todd. In one life she dies almost as soon as she’s born, in others “she also dies, repeatedly, in any number of ways.” I have no idea how this one will even be structured, but I am curious.
That’s not a typo. There are two books being published within a week of each other, using the exact same title. McCorkle’s Life After Life follows the residents and staff of a nursing home: an ex-teacher, an ex-lawyer, a murder scrapbooker, a tattooed young mother, and many others. This kind of book always comes down to the prose itself, but McCorkle has spent 17 years writing it, so it’s got better odds than most.
C4 favorite Mary Roach returns with another book of entertaining science writing, this time about the digestive process. She attacks questions like: “Why is crunchy food so appealing? Why is it so hard to find names for flavors and smells? Why doesn’t the stomach digest itself? How much can you eat before your stomach bursts?” And, she’s one of the funniest nonfiction writers out there.
Another book about a cult, this buzzy sophomore effort follows the leader of a speed-dating cult called The Helix. The cult leader desperately wants to be back with his ex-wife, but the ex is in fact a covert agent tasked with keeping the cult leader safe. Sounds like an interesting take on the cult premise.
Salter’s first book in seven years follows a young WWII naval officer (Salter himself was in the Air Force) after he returns from the war and gets into publishing. People are heaving pretty lofty praise at Salter on the occasion of this book, but that might be more because Salter’s almost 88, and this might be his last publication.
Though its title sounds like an overhyped literary debut novel, this is in fact the true story of a rich 18th-century “writer and radical” who determined that the perfect woman for him did not exist… so he adopted an orphan and raised her to be that perfect wife. Sounds pretty riveting, if also horrifying.
I had this one in the Definitely section, then I saw the Goodreads ratings for her last book, the super-hyped The Uncoupling, which is the lowest I’ve ever seen for a book with more than ten ratings (it has over 2000, with an average rating of 2.81 out of 5). This new one, which follows a sextet of teenage art-camp friends as they grow up, sounds decent if you like that kind of thing, but it’s riskier than a lot of others this month.
The author of The Emperor’s Children returns with a novel about a 37-year-old schoolteacher who’s accepted a lonely, unfulfilling life. When a half-Muslim child in her class gets bullied, she gets pulled into his family. This is another book I thought would be a hit before I saw the author’s last book on Goodreads—the second-worst rating I’ve ever seen (2.84). It’s a risk.