10 New Must-Reads for May


Another month, another pile of books accumulating on your bedside table, threatening to spill over while you sleep. This list will not help with that. But in case, despite all else, you’re looking for a read or two to keep you up late (the better to keep an eye on that rickety pile), this month will treat you well. Read on to discover short stories and sophomore novels galore, all guaranteed to prove companionable in this sweetest of months. What else are you looking forward to reading in high spring? Share the wealth in the comments.

The Whispering Muse , Sjón (April 30)

If you’re interested in literary superstars from far-flung, crazy-weird countries, you should pick up Sjón’s The Whispering Muse — or From the Mouth of the Whale or The Blue Fox — all three of which are newly released in the US this week. Strange and mythic, mysterious and masterful, it’s no wonder Björk is such a fan of this guy.

A Guide to Being Born , Ramona Ausubel (May 2)

Ausubel’s first collection is a wise, weird little book, all dreamlike lyricism and deep insights blinking behind long eyelashes. Essential reading for anyone who has been born, will be born, or is being born every day.

Red Moon , Benjamin Percy (May 7)

Ah, the literary monster novel — a delicious event. Percy’s captivating, political werewolf story has all the trappings of a blockbuster, but told with concise, deft prose that will rumble you down to your bones.

Forty-One False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers , Janet Malcolm (May 7)

You can never have too much Janet Malcolm. This newest volume collects 25-odd years of her best essays, dissecting everything from Salinger to Gossip Girl with her trademark approach of being smarter than everyone you know.

The Peripatetic Coffin , Ethan Rutherford (May 7)

Rutherford’s excellent debut collection is meant to be read in a small room, by yourself. Or maybe on the North Pole. After all, the book revolves around the ways humans cut themselves off, whether figuratively or literally, fantastically or in a manner much too close to home. Read it alone, and then talk about it with friends.

A Constellation of Vital Phenomenon , Anthony Marra (May 7)

At the start of Marra’s ambitious first novel, set in Chechnya during the Second Chechen War, eight-year-old Havaa escapes the Russian soldiers that are carting off her father and flees a home set alight. Marra then plunges into a complex, beautifully crafted series of events, full of secrets and elegant moments, all wreathed in a frozen world.

Love Is Power, or Something Like That , A. Igoni Barrett (May 7)

Barrett’s powerful second collection brings you tumbling around contemporary Nigeria and the minds of the many characters within. Chaotic and compassionate without being sentimental, Barrett’s stories cut deep, and then linger there chatting.

Mermaid in Chelsea Creek , Michelle Tea (May 14)

Michelle Tea is a Flavorwire favorite, avant-garde yet immensely relatable, strange and tough and great all the time. Her forthcoming YA novel mixes magic with grime: filthy-mouthed mermaids, talking pigeons, and a girl with tangled hair who might or might not be able to fix everything. Then there are Jason Polan’s delightful illustrations, just as icing on the cake.

And the Mountains Echoed , Khaled Hosseini (May 21)

Khaled Hosseini has proven himself to be an incredible force, and his third novel, his first in six years after The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, is likely to be just as powerful. Spanning Europe, America, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, as well as the tiny and vast distances between families, Hosseini’s newest novel will doubtless be a publishing event.

The Son , Philipp Meyer (May 28)

Meyer has been relatively quiet since he was named in The New Yorker‘s “20 Under 40” issue back in 2010, but he’s primed to explode back on the scene with his sophomore effort, a Texan epic layered with history and myth. Or, as Kate Atkinson puts it, “One word — stunning. The Son stands fair to hold its own in the canon of Great American Novels. A book that for once really does deserve to be called a masterpiece.”