[This monthly feature is a brief look at interesting upcoming books. These are not reviews, these are previews; we have not read these books. Follow Book Radar here. Click the title links to find more info about these books.]
Some craziness around the holidays (including a Boston blizzard that caused me to miss a flight to a wedding) prevented me from writing the January version of this column, so let’s catch up this month.
New stories by Lorrie Moore, one of the funniest living writers, period. I don’t even have anything else to say in this blurb, because I didn’t bother to read anything else about the collection before I put it in the number 1 spot for the month. If you’ve never read Moore, start with Self-Help. Maybe the funniest and most original debut story collection ever.
“Mine might have been a simple, pretty story, if not for the wolves. In late July, they emerged from the foothills . . .” That’s a hell of a first line. This memoir about life on a Montana ranch sounds like a ragged modern western. Sold.
I’m not on board with the first volume of a trilogy weighing in at a scant 208 pages. Why not write one 600-page book? It stinks a bit of squeezing three books’ worth of money out of a single book’s worth of writing. But I can’t ignore the early reviews, which are uniformly glowing. The story follows a secret expedition to a geographically vague location called Area X, where many previous expeditions have met their doom. There are colorful characters, including a leader with hypnotic powers, and a bizarre landscape to tackle, featuring such things as a fungus spore that bestows ESP. All in all, a decidedly supernatural, and probably highly stylized, tale of espionage and conspiracy.
I’m not usually one for speculative fiction, but this WWII alternate history—in which Germany won, the UK is a willing Third Reich territory, and Winston Churchill leads the resistance—sounds epic enough to be fun. And it’s available on Audible, which is my new kryptonite.
Award-winning writer Yiyun Li turns in a novel that claims to feature great prose, and turns around a childhood poisoning that might have been a murder, and continues to haunt three friends. The capsule summary makes it sound like the three characters are each stuck in a kind of literary-novel-esque regretful solitude, which might hamstring any kind plot the premise offers. But Li’s bona fides are sound enough to warrant a look.
So it sounds like Sundaram not only decided to report on an unstable African nation instead of taking a lucrative and non-life-threatening position at Goldman Sachs, but also volunteered for dangerous assignment once in-country. It sounds like this book has its share of crazy goings-on, but it remains to be seen if Sundaram examines his own motives in seeking this work, which I think is necessary for the book to be great.
Man, am I sucker for a good title. Even though the cover looks staggeringly bland and the plot reads like Gone Girl lite (a boy falls in love with a girl, she disappears, he discovers she wasn’t who she claimed to be and sets out to find her), that title is decent enough that I might be hooked in.
Yeah, acclaimed literary novelist Isabel Allende went and wrote a thriller about a serial killer. And despite the title, that killer is not Jack the Ripper, but instead some shitheel in San Francisco who gets investigated by… sigh… a teenage girl.