Though winter (at least in New York City) has been relatively easy on us, we still can’t escape the dreariness of this time of year — when it feels like the cold has been beating on our doors and noses forever, and that it will never stop. In weeks like these, we need something to distract us from the fact that it’s still winter, and obviously the best distraction is a wonderful, immersive book to give you that final boost before spring. Our must-reads for this month include short story collections by the legendary, brand-new, and somewhere in-between, a long awaited follow-up or two, and a graphic re-imagining of Goliath as an admin junkie. Click through to check out the books that get us pumped for this month, cold or nay, and let us know which books you’re most excited to pick up in the comments!
Goliath , Tom Gauld (February 28)
We know, we know, we’re cheating a little: this came out in February. But it just barely came out in February, and we loved it so much that we thought we’d do everyone a favor and include it here. This is essentially a graphic short story — a re-imagining of the David and Goliath myth, where Goliath is a peaceful, reticent soldier who’d really rather be doing admin work up at the camp, not down in some valley shouting out challenges. Gauld’s stripped-down drawings, all boulders and blank faces, are perfect for his bittersweet tale, and the book itself is a lovely addition to any shelf.
Gods Without Men, Hari Kunzru (March 6)
In this multi-layered, satisfyingly complex novel, Jaz and Lisa Matharu’s son, Raj, disappears in the Mojave desert, near three large rocks known as The Pinnacles, whose reputed metaphysical properties have kept the believers and the curious coming generation after generation. He returns just as inexplicably as he disappeared, but something is different. In this novel, Kunzru weaves together narratives both big and small to create a story just as focused on sweeping myths and wide open spaces as it is on small things, like the makings of a family.
Birds of a Lesser Paradise: Stories , Megan Mayhew Bergman (March 6)
In Megan Mayhew Bergman’s debut collection, nature takes over. Her stories are concerned with animals of all sorts, yes, and have been known to center on naturalists, but the real point of interest among these well-crafted tales is where the natural world juts up against the rational, intellectual one — how it forms our actions and decisions, and how it should.
When I Was a Child I Read Books: Essays , Marilynne Robinson (March 13)
“When I was a child I read books,” Robinson writes. “My reading was not indiscriminate. I preferred books that were old and thick and dull and hard… I looked to Galilee for meaning and to Spokane for orthodonture, and beyond that the world where I was I found entirely sufficient.” There are a few personal essays to be found in the newest missive from this much-lauded, Pulitzer Prize winning novelist and essayist, but more often, you will find her trademark Calvinist-infused intellectualism, dissecting social issues in modern America in sharp, exacting prose.
Arcadia , Lauren Groff (March 13)
In Groff’s dark and beautiful sophomore novel, set in the ’70s, a group of hopefuls found what’s meant to be a utopian community in upstate New York, but find it’s a little more difficult than all that. The novel centers on Bit, a child born into this commune to two of its founders, who tries to negotiate this strange country, probing at the border between inside and out, as the community crumbles and he finds out just what a post-utopia world might be like.
Hot Pink , Adam Levin (March 13)
If, like us, you loved Adam Levin’s monstrous debut, The Instructions, you’ve probably be waiting for his first short story collection for a while. Well, the time has come! The stories in Hot Pink are a little bit of a mixed bag — some, like “Jane Tell” are perfectly strange and discomfiting; others seem like filler, slightly undercooked. That said, though, we think the collection as a whole is worthwhile — the strength of the good stories alone is definitely worth the cover price.
The Sugar-Frosted Nutsack , Mark Leyner (March 26)
In this insane, delightful novel, a bunch of modern gods live in Dubai in the penthouse of an enormous skyscraper. But these aren’t any gods you’d recognize: XOXO is the god of Concussions, Dementia, and Alcoholic Blackouts, Mogul Magoo is “God of the Breast Implant and God of the Nut Sack.” There are many more. And they all hate each other. And they’re all obsessed with Ike, the somewhat antisemitic, unemployed butcher from New Jersey. Yes, it’s all totally unhinged, but as Sam Lipsyte put it, there’s “big ass brilliance on every sun-kissed page.”
The New Republic , Lionel Shriver (March 27)
Though Lionel Shriver finished this novel in 1998, it hasn’t seen the light of day until now. That might be construed as a bad thing, but we’re intrigued — and after all, we know how many amazing best-selling novels were originally rejected by publishers. However, Shriver has an explanation: the book deals with terrorism “on a peninsula in Portugal which doesn’t exist — I drew it onto the map. I wrote it in 1998 and at that time I had trouble getting American publishers interested in the manuscript—none of them were interested in terrorism until after 9/11… Now in some ways the US cares too much about terrorism and for a long time I felt it would be wrong to publish something that has a sense of humor about the issue. Enough time has gone by for a droll novel to be well received.” A droll novel about terrorism? We think we’re ready for that.
Suddenly, a Knock on the Door: Stories , Etgar Keret (March 27)
The latest collection from legendary Israeli author and filmmaker Etgar Keret is a jumble of ideas — flash fiction, short stories, dashed-off literary sketches, poetic outlines — ranging from the highly absurd to the darkly Kafkaesque. Keret is a master of the form, able to imbue one paragraph with a massive punch, so if you’re looking for the most effective use of your literary time, this just may be the book for you.
The Land of Decoration , Grace McCleen (March 27)
In Grace McCleen’s strange and haunting debut, 10-year-old Judith McPherson builds a large-scale model in her bedroom from other people’s scraps: this is the Land of Decoration, where she believes that she (and other believers like her) will find themselves after the inevitable Armageddon. When she begins to make miracles happen, she is more steadfast in her beliefs — but that doesn’t mean she’s any happier.