Now that the year is fully under way, it’s time to buckle down, stick to your New Year’s resolutions and get some books checked off your list. If you’re thinking longingly of the television, take heart: this month, you will be dazzled by hilarious debuts, lyrical fantasies, searingly truthful short stories, and of course, Michael Ian Black. Click through to check out the ten new releases we’re most excited about this month, and let us know which ones you can’t wait to pick up in the comments.
No One Is Here Except All of Us , Ramona Ausubel (February 2)
In 1939, the residents of a tiny Jewish village in Romania are panicking, feeling the inevitable crush of war and death just around the corner, until an 11-year-old girl and a mysterious man wash up on shore and suggest that they simply reinvent their world. That is, that they completely forget everything that ties them to the reality they currently know — history, future, jobs, family — and begin again. If only the real world didn’t continue to exist parallel to their reinvented one. As the author herself explained, the novel considers the immense questions of “God and faith, war and survival, the history of the world. All answered, of course!”
Stay Awake: Stories , Dan Chaon (February 7)
Anyone familiar with Dan Chaon’s short stories should be waiting on tenterhooks for his newest collection — and they won’t be disappointed. Chaon’s stories are as well-crafted an incisive as ever, but with this book, he seems to have gone a little darker, a little further into the strangeness of the human psyche. In “The Bees,” a young boy screams in his sleep for no reason — he’s had no nightmare, no trauma — and begins to drive his father to disturbed distraction. Families are strained, people are left alone, dreams are dreamed.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank , Nathan Eglander (February 7)
In the title story of Eglander’s dark collection, inspired by Raymond Carver’s masterpiece, two Jewish couples get high and play the “Anne Frank game,” speculating as to which of their Christian friends and neighbors would protect then in the case of a modern Holocaust. In the maniacal “Camp Sundown,” geriatric resort-goers embark on a semi-senile witch hunt in an effort to serve up some vigilante justice. What’s wonderful about Eglander is that all of his stories seem like they would fall flat or foolish in someone — anyone — else’s hands, but somehow he manages to pull it off and leave you breathless at the end.
Flatscreen , Adam Wilson (February 21)
Sure, it’s another chubby stoner loser protagonist who is forced to turn into a real person when he gets irritating real-world problems dumped on his lap, but Adam Wilson does it with special aplomb. After all, the book bears this rather shining endorsement from one of the funniest contemporary writers around, Gary Shteyngart: “OMFG, I nearly up and died from laughter when I read Flatscreen. This is the novel that every young Turk will be reading on their way to a job they hate and are in fact too smart for.” Indeed.
Dogma , Lars Iyer (February 21)
The sequel to Iyer’s acclaimed novel Spurious and the middle child in his strange, philosophical trilogy. The novel follows the continuing adventures of Lars and W, whom The Guardian calls “the Abbott and Costello of arcane thought,” as they wander about the American South on a drunken lecture tour, preaching their own shaky doctrine. It is perhaps not quite as wonderful as the first, but then, not many sequels are — we’re happy to have it, and now anxiously awaiting the third.
Varamo , César Aira (February 22)
In Aira’s newest translated work, Varamo is a fifty-year-old government employee without a creative bone in his body — until one day he writes the work that is the pinnacle of modern Central American poetry, The Song of the Virgin Boy. Cerebral but irreverent, the slim book is an ironic allegory about inspiration, form and the cult of the poetic. Once again, Aira blows us away.
The Lifespan of a Fact , John d’Agata and Jim Fingal(February 27)
In this insane meditation on the definition of creative nonfiction,, essayist John d’Agata does a six-year battle with his fact-checker, Jim Fingal, then an intern at The Believer, assigned to corral this wayward wordsmith. Every page of this book contains part of d’Agata’s essay surrounded by the extensive correspondence the two had about the section’s factual accuracy, from tiny details to immense ideas, in a format that threatens to overwhelm you — in the best of ways.
Threats , Amelia Gray (February 28)
Amelia Gray’s two previous works, AM/PM and Museum of the Weird, are deeply strange short story collections where the language climbs the walls and the characters spit up objects they’ve never seen before. In Threats, her first novel, Gray tries her hand at sustaining her wildly imaginative voice over a longer narrative, a bizarre love story of a man whose wife has, he thinks, died, who begins to find elaborately nonsensical threats hidden all over his home. Yes, Gray’s as weird as ever, and as good, too.
You’re Not Doing It Right: Tales of Marriage, Sex, Death, and Other Humiliations , Michael Ian Black (February 28)
In this memoir, based on the idea that Michael Ian Black has been told that he’s “not doing it right” too often in his near-40 years, the comedian talks about his life as a grown-up, dealing with grown-up things, in the sort of dark deadpan for which we love him so very very much. There are true life camp stories and tips to control your children. There are tales of growing up and getting married. There is crying to Creed. Must we go on?
Half-Blood Blues , Esi Edugyan (February 28)
A 2011 Man Booker Prize finalist, Edugyan’s brilliant and powerful novel about music, oppression, truth, and friendship is finally being released stateside. The novel unravels the tale of a group of jazz musicians trapped in pre-WWII Berlin and Paris, trying to record music and stay safe, and how they became legends.