10 New Books to Kick Off the New Year

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Poised at the edge of a shiny new year, we’re readying ourselves for this season’s spate of hotly anticipated new titles. In its always-reliable season preview, The Millions noted that this “may be a year of new discoveries,” and, true to this prediction, we’re particularly excited to check out 2011’s roster of fresh talent. Here’s a peek at upcoming debut books by new authors, as well as new titles by established names — all ten of which will get tongues wagging and pages turning in the months ahead.

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell

Anointed by both The New Yorker and Granta, Karen Russell’s literary star has already been established with short story collection St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves. In Swamplandia!, she expands upon one of these stories to chronicle the unraveling of the Bigtree family, a clan of alligator wrestlers in the backwoods Everglades.

Release Date: February 1

The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore by Benjamin Hale

In his debut novel, The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore, Benjamin Hale toys with the meaning of humanity. The extra-evolved chimpanzee of the title speaks, reads, and enjoys the visual arts, while also navigating the tricky boundaries of interspecies love and the nuances of self-identity.

Release Date: February 2

When the Killing’s Done by T.C. Boyle

T.C. Boyle’s ninth novel is an incisive study of our relationship with the natural world. Set on California’s Northern Channel Islands and featuring characteristically candid narrative stylings, When the Killing’s Done is a fluent and unflinching look at the reckless role we play in the world around us. And, true to Boyle’s flawless style, it has plenty of provocative psychology and wry wit to boot.

Release Date: February 22

The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht

The youngest (and only unpublished) writer among The New Yorker’s “20 Under 40” club last year, Tea Obreht makes her debut with a rich mystery about family secrets in a wounded landscape. Set in a recovering corner of the Balkans, the novel chronicles a young doctor’s search to understand the veiled history of both her surroundings and those closest to her.

Release Date: March 8

The Art of Asking Your Boss for a Raise by Georges Perec

Predating cubicle comedies like The Office by decades, French author Georges Perec’s novel The Art of Asking Your Boss for a Raise stands apart like a bemused water cooler voyeur. This is the first English translation of his sardonic novel about the neuroses and private madness of a corporate employee, and although the setting may seem familiar, Perec’s droll writing is superior to anything comparable in the genre.

Release Date: March 14

Day of the Oprichnik by Vladimir Sorokin

A stunning satire — as most good dystopic fiction tends to be — Day of the Oprechnik is as much a commentary on modern day Russia as it is a parable of confounding fatality. By turns bleakly funny and grittily resonant, this is yet another piece of fiction that’s sure to stir up more controversy for the already notorious Vladimir Sorokin.

Release Date: March 15

The Pale King by David Foster Wallace

The Pale King offers another new look at office culture — albeit categorically different from that of Georges Perec — but the novel’s substance tends to be overshadowed by its renown as David Foster Wallace’s last (and uncompleted) work. The book promises to have all the hallmark complexities of his other work, but is tinged with the bittersweet fragmentation of its unpolished construction.

Release Date: April 15

Someday This Will Be Funny by Lynne Tillman

Ever the clever culture critic, Lynne Tillman plays with icons like Marvine Gaye, Clarence Thomas, and even her own fevered imagination in this experimental collection of shifty short stories. Her lyrical composition is, as always, a thing of absolute beauty, but in this stirring character mosaic of unsettled minds, we are also left with a fleeting nostalgia for things both said and not said.

Release Date: April 22

Bullfighting by Roddy Doyle

Roddy Doyle’s talent for storytelling transcends mediums and audiences, but although he’s written novels, children’s books, screenplays, non-fiction, and theater drama, he is at his best with the short story form. We enjoyed the title story — about four Irish friends on a trip to Spain — when it was published in The New Yorker in 2008, and expect the collection’s other selections to be equally engaging.

Release Date: April 28

Embassytown by China Mieville

A living icon of science fiction that goes beyond the usual geekery, China Mieville is a writer of pure, intoxicating imagination. Embassytown combines elements of urban fantasy and psychological horror in an outer-universe setting where humans and aliens coexist in a precarious, mysterious balance. Although that may sound as genre fiction as it gets, this is a title — as with all of Mieville’s work — will appeal to literary lovers as well.

Release Date: May 17