2012 has been a pretty great year for book lovers — this fall, in particular, was filled with fantastic releases both big-name and under the radar. So we’d understand if this December, generally a barren month for good book releases, was a little lighter than usual. We’d even expect it. And yet, despite its bad reputation, this December is shaping up to be a pretty solid month. Maybe it’s all that September and October magic spilling over, or maybe it’s just a lucky year for us. Either way, click through to check out the books we’re most excited about in this the very last month of the year, and let us know what you’d add to our list — or what you can’t wait to pick up from it — in the comments.
Raised From the Ground , Jose Saramago (December 4)
First published in 1980 and only now finally translated into English, Saramago’s City of Lisbon Prize–winning novel follows a family of poor peasants in rural Portugal, making it through the reality of their daily lives as world wars, assassination attempts and communism rage in the background. A treat for any fan of the Nobel Prize-winning author’s work.
Me and the Devil , Nick Tosches (December 4)
Nick Tosches is not for the faint of heart. This is a raw, disturbing, strange story of modern vampirism — no bats, just blood and a firm belief in the intellectual side of sadomasochistic savagery — that is not for anyone who expects their vamps to be sparkly. Instead, we follow the fall of an aged New York writer into vice, muck, and unspeakable horrors. But take it from Johnny Depp, who called it “words and wisdom that I shall carry with me into the fucking dirt.” Into the dirt we all go.
Quick Question , John Ashbery (December 4)
What can we say? John Asbery may be the greatest and most important poet in America (he’s certainly the most important poet in New York), so we’re delighted that he doesn’t seem to want to quit (he’s 85). And though we admit we’d feel hard pressed to critique anything by a legend like Ashbery, at least to our minds, his power is only growing in this new collection.
Open Heart , Elie Wiesel (December 4)
Elie Wiesel is one of our most beloved literary figures, not only the author of the canonical Holocaust classic Night but also the recipient of a Nobel Peace Prize. In this memoir, told from his long, 82-year perspective, and undertaken while facing heart surgery, Wiesel confronts his life, his legacy, and the nature of love and faith.
Selected Letters of William Styron , ed. Rose Styron and R. Blakeslee Gilpin (December 4)
There’s a reason we love the collected letters of literary masters — the best ones manage to be imbued with the verbal mastery that we know as well as the personal secrets and quirks we crave, not to mention the fact that they allow us to see the world as it was through the eyes of a intellectual giant. As Peter Matthiessen said, Styron’s letters are “Brilliant, passionate, eloquent, insightful, moving, dirty-minded, indignant, and hilarious, they accumulate power in the reading, becoming in themselves a work of literature.”
An Extraordinary Theory of Objects , Stephanie LaCava (December 4)
A collector to her bones, Stephanie LaCava’s first book is a series of wistfully illustrated essays that lead us through her youth growing up in a foreign land, dropping precious objects like breadcrumbs. “I was obsessed with cabinets of curiosities, historical efforts to catalog and control nature’s oddities,” she writes. By the end of this strange and lovely little journey, you will be too.
The Expeditioners and the Treasure of Drowned Man’s Canyon , S.S. Taylor (December 11)
We don’t normally cover kids’ books in this space, but we can’t help but be kind of excited for this one, the first in a series in which “electricity is extinct” and three orphans are on their way to discovery with nothing more than half a hand-me-down map. The first middle-grade novel from McSweeney’s McMullens imprint, we may just have the next big thing on our hands.
Umbrella , Will Self (December 11)
Routinely hailed as Self’s best book yet, we’ve been waiting for ages for this one, which was shortlisted for this year’s Man Booker prize but still hasn’t made it over to the states. Full of Joycean modernism, but updated for a contemporary stage, Self’s masterpiece can’t come quick enough.
The Folly of the World , Jesse Bullington (December 18)
Fans of Bullington’s gruesome romp The Enterprise of Death will be excited to hear of his newest novel. In a Holland recast as a watery wonderland after a flood, the hanging-happy Sander and his partner Jan will get up to loads of trouble, their exploits rendered in Bullington’s trademark wit, bonkers black humor, and mischievous imagination.
The Forgotten Writings of Bram Stoker , ed. John Edgar Browning (December 24)
Though we’re sort of incredulous as to the timing here — who decided that it was a good idea to put out a collection of Bram Stoker stories on Christmas Eve? — we’re still psyched about this book, which reprints various writings by the Dracula creator, as well as obscure works of contemporary criticism on the author, most of which haven’t seen the light of day in a century or so. So now it’s like they’re undead. Oh, come on, it was right there.