Great news, everybody! The publishing industry has been working overtime to explain all the weirdness that was the year 2016. Already sportswriters unraveled the mystery of the World Champion Cubs (The Cubs Way: The Zen of Building the Best Team in Baseball and Breaking the Curse by Tom Verducci, 3/28, Crown Archetype). The warning about Russian hacking (How America Lost Its Secrets: Edward Snowden, the Man and the Theft by Edward Jay Epstein, 1/17, Knopf) may be coming a little late, but it’s fitting that by the time Donald Trump assumes the presidency there will be not one but two books about how he managed to win the election, one from the left (Insane Clown President: Dispatches From the 2016 Circus by Matt Taibbi, 1/17, Spiegel & Grau) and one from the right (The Making of the President 2016: How Donald Trump Orchestrated a Revolution by Roger Stone, 1/31, Skyhorse). In this exciting new era, we get to live in multiple realities. It’s just like science fiction! Or Paul Auster’s new novel.
There are lots of new books about racism, sexism, gentrification, and inequality. Taken altogether, maybe these can help form a Grand Unifying Theory of 2016. Or you can read to escape altogether. There’s nothing wrong with that, either. The world will still be here when you’re done.
Difficult Women (1/3, Grove Atlantic) and Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body (6/13, Harper) by Roxane Gay Reader writers have loved and admired Gay’s work since her first book, 2011’s Ayiti. This year, we have two new books to look forward to: the short story collection Difficult Women, and Hunger, which Gay described to Brianna Wellen in 2015 as a memoir “about trauma and obesity and what it’s like to live in this world with morbid obesity.”
Bring Back the King: The New Science of De-extinction by Helen Pilcher (1/10, Bloomsbury) One of the more interesting possibilities of modern genetics is the idea that humans can resurrect extinct animals. Pilcher imagines what this might be like (and wonders if it includes Elvis).
A House Full of Females: Plural Marriage and Women’s Rights in Early Mormonism, 1835-1870 by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich (1/10, Knopf) Admit it, you’ve always wondered how the sister-wives arrangement worked in early Mormonism. Ulrich, by the way, is the historian who gave us the wonderful slogan “Well-behaved women seldom make history.”
Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth (1/17, Katherine Tegen) Here’s the opening volume of the Divergent author‘s new young adult series. This one’s set in space.
Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney (1/17, St. Martin’s) Chicagoan Rooney‘s new novel is about a New York adwoman on a reflective ten-mile ramble around Manhattan.
Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson (1/17, St. Martin’s) Dyson expands on his moving New York Times op-ed from one week last July when two black men were shot by police officers and a police officer was shot by a black man.
Why?: Explaining the Holocaust by Peter Hayes (1/17, Norton) Retired Northwestern prof Hayes re-creates his legendary History of the Holocaust course in book form.
Long Shot: The Struggles and Triumphs of an NBA Freedom Fighter by Craig Hodges and Rory Fanning (1/24, Haymarket) “With its sharp observations about Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, and the state of race relations in the NBA, Long Shot is likely to cause a stir,” Ben Joravsky wrote in his Reader profile of Hodges last month.
4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster (1/31, Holt) Auster’s new novel explores the four possible lives of one man.
Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough (1/31, Flatiron) Here’s your bad-marriage thriller for 2017.
Pill City: How Two Honor Roll Students Foiled the Feds and Built a Drug Empire by Kevin Deutsch (1/31, St. Martin’s) During the 2015 Baltimore riots, two high school students took advantage of the chaos and stole $100 million worth of narcotics, which they used to build a nationwide drug empire.
All the Lives I Want: Essays About My Best Friends Who Happen to Be Famous Strangers by Alana Massey (2/7, Grand Central) Because who hasn’t felt, at least for a little bit, that celebrities are actually our friends?
Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast by Megan Marshall (2/7, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) Marshall’s two previous books, biographies of the brilliant Peabody sisters and the early feminist Margaret Fuller, were both great. Now she turns her sights on Bishop, with whom she took a poetry-writing workshop as a college student in the 1970s.
Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman (2/7, Norton) Gaiman retells some old stories. Also known as Scandinavian Gods.
The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen (2/7, Grove) Nguyen follows up his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Sympathizer with this collection of short stories.
Identity Unknown: Rediscovering Seven Outstanding American Women Artists by Donna Seaman (2/14, Bloomsbury) Chicago author and critic Seaman explores the lives of seven 20th-century artists who’ve been—unjustly, she argues—forgotten.
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (2/14, Random House) The Lincoln here is Willie, Abraham’s 11-year-old son, and the bardo is the Tibetan version of purgatory to which he is consigned after his death from typhoid in February 1862. In his experimental first novel, Saunders imagines the commentary of voices from the bardo when the grieving president visits his son’s body in its tomb.
Unwarranted: Policing Without Permission by Barry Friedman (2/21, FSG) Friedman, a law professor at NYU, argues that law enforcement needs to become less secretive and more democratic.
Flavour: Eat What You Love by Ruby Tandoh (2/28, Chatto & Windus) and Nadiya’s Kitchen: Over 100 Simple, Delicious Family Recipes by Nadiya Hussain (6/27, Penguin UK) One of the many sorrows of 2016 was the end of the Great British Bake-Off in its original form. But at least we’ll have cookbooks by former contestants. (Here’s hoping that Nadiya included the recipe for her cod and clementine vol-au-vents, because I’m still so curious what those tasted like.)
Robert Lowell, Setting the River on Fire: A Study of Genius, Mania, and Character by Kay Redfield Jamison (2/28, Knopf) Jamison‘s previous books on depression, mania, and suicide were absolutely fascinating. In this new biography, she explores how Lowell used his mental illness in his poetry.
All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg (3/7, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) Here’s another novel by Attenberg, who writes so brilliantly that she can even render a suburban strip mall interesting. This one is an examination of what it actually means to be an adult, filtered through Attenberg’s own particular sensibility. Here is an excerpt.
The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir by Thi Bui (3/7, Abrams) In this graphic memoir, Bui tells the story of her family’s escape from South Vietnam and her own discovery of what it means to be a parent.
Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in 15 Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (3/7, Knopf) This is Adichie’s response to a letter from a childhood friend who asked how she could raise her daughter to be a feminist.
The Death and Life of the Great Lakes by Dan Egan (3/7, Norton) Milwaukee journalist Egan examines how human interference in the Great Lakes has destroyed the natural ecosystem and suggests ways we can preserve them before it’s too late.
Dinner: Changing the Game by Melissa Clark (3/7, Clarkson Potter) Clark is a master at simple, uncomplicated, and delicious recipes, many of which have found their way into my regular rotation.
How to Kill a City: Gentrification, Inequality, and the Fight for the Neighborhood by Peter Moskowitz (3/7, Nation Books) Moskowitz doesn’t visit Logan Square in this survey (or any other neighborhood in Chicago, for that matter), but his findings can certainly apply to the way we approach the evolution of our city.
Wild Nights: How Taming Sleep Created Our Restless World by Benjamin Reiss (3/7, Basic) Reiss gave a lecture at the Chicago Humanities Festival this past fall that was partially based on this book, a cultural history of sleep, and it was completely fascinating. The notion of a good night’s sleep, and who’s entitled to it, is, it turns out, as political as anything else.
The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel (3/7, Knopf) Finkel has expanded his GQ profile of Christopher Thomas Knight, who lived alone in the Maine woods for 27 years, into a full-length book.
South and West: From a Notebook by Joan Didion (3/7, Knopf) In two extended excerpts from her notebooks, Didion describes a 1970 road trip through the Deep South with her husband, John Gregory Dunne, and the 1976 trial of Patty Hearst.
White Tears by Hari Kunzru (3/14, Knopf) In this novel, two white hipsters disappear down the rabbit hole of early American blues.
The Idiot by Elif Batuman (3/14, Penguin Press) Batuman’s previous book, the essay collection The Possessed, demonstrated a fine sense of the absurd. Her semiautobiographical first novel, about a Harvard freshman’s heroic pursuit of true love, promises more of the same.
The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy (3/14, Random House) I must admit, of all the books on this list, this—a book-length version of Levy’s devastating 2013 essay “Thanksgiving in Mongolia”—is the one I most can’t wait to read.
Chicago: Classic Photographs by Richard Cahan and Michael Williams (3/15, City Files) Cahan and Williams have assembled 100 photos by some of Chicago’s best photographers, including Vivian Maier, Aaron Siskind, and Art Shay.
The Great Cat and Dog Massacre: The Real Story of World War II’s Unknown Tragedy by Hilda Kean (3/22, Chicago) In September 1939, facing war with Germany, thousands of British citizens decided to kill their family pets in order to spare them the horror of a bombing raid.
Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy by Anne Lamott (4/4, Riverhead) Lamott explores the notion of mercy, which she defines as “radical kindness.”
Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus by Laura Kipnis (4/4, Harper) After she became the subject of a Title IX complaint at Northwestern, where she’s a professor, Kipnis embarked on an interrogation of campus rape culture and feminist paternalism.
Body Horror: Capitalism, Fear, Misogyny, Jokes by Anne Elizabeth Moore (4/11, Curbside Splendor) Ladydrawer, educator, activist, and former Chicagoan Moore‘s latest book examines the toll capitalism takes on women’s bodies, especially where health care is concerned.
Dig If You Will the Picture: Funk, Sex, God and Genius in the Music of Prince by Ben Greenman (4/11, Holt) Good night, sweet Prince.
Imagine Wanting Only This: A Graphic Memoir by Kristen Radtke (4/18, Pantheon) Radtke, the film and video editor of TriQuarterly, explores her lifelong fascination with ruins.
Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny (4/21, Knopf) I very much enjoyed Heiny’s 2015 short story collection Single, Carefree, Mellow, which is a good reason to look forward to this, her first novel, which concerns a man who tries to be friends with his ex-wife after he leaves her for a younger woman.
Borne by Jeff VanderMeer (4/25, MCD) This is VanderMeer’s first book since his epic Southern Reach trilogy. It’s about a woman in a postapocalyptic city who adopts a strange green blob called Borne.
The Broken Ladder: How Inequality Affects the Way We Think, Live, and Die by Keith Payne (5/2, Viking) We’ll probably continue to discuss privilege in 2017, so we might has well have an expert like Payne break it down for us.
No One Can Pronounce My Name by Rakesh Satyal (5/2, Picador) I just like the title. (It’s a novel about a community of Indian-Americans in Cleveland.)
Rise of the Dungeon Master: Gary Gygax and the Creation of D&D by David Kushner, illustrated by Koren Shadmi (5/9, Nation Books) Did you know that Gygax, the creator of Dungeons and Dragons, grew up in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin? Now you do! Who knows what other surprises lurk in this biography the form of a graphic novel?
The Answers by Catherine Lacey (6/6, FSG) In Chicagoan Lacey’s second novel, a woman who needs money to afford an expensive New Agey pain treatment applies to be part of a Girlfriend Experiment in which an actor pays different women to fulfill different roles in a relationship.
From the Third Eye: The Evergreen Review Film Reader by Ed Halter and Barney Rosset (6/6, Seven Stories) This is the first compilation from the legendary film journal, containing essays and interviews from the 50s through the 70s.
Watching Porn: And Other Confessions of an Adult Entertainment Journalist by Lynsey G. (6/6, Overlook) Lynsey G. was a nice girl with an English degree who needed a job to pay the rent, so she started reviewing porn. As you do.
The Women Who Flew for Hitler: A True Story of Soaring Ambition and Searing Rivalry by Clare Mulley (6/6, St. Martin’s) Another little-known tale from World War II, this one of two female Nazi pilots.
I Was Told to Come Alone: My Journey Behind the Lines of Jihad by Souad Mekhennet (6/13, Holt) Mekhennet, a German Muslim journalist who has reported for the New York Times and the Washington Post, recounts her career-long quest to understand jihadis in the hopes of diffusing them.
Dr. Eleanor’s Book of Common Ants of Chicago by Eleanor Spicer Rice, Alex Wild, and Rob Dunn (6/30, Chicago) Because forewarned is forearmed.
Once Upon a Time in Shaolin: The Untold Story of Wu-Tang Clan’s Million-Dollar Secret Album, the Devaluation of Music, and America’s New Public Enemy No. 1 by Cyrus Bozorgmehr (7/11, Flatiron) The long, strange tale of Wu-Tang’s secret album and how it came to be bought by Martin Shkreli.
The Grip of It by Jac Jemc (8/1, FSG) A haunted-house novel from Chicago author Jemc which, if it’s anything like her previous work, promises to be fascinating and bizarre.
Eat Only When You’re Hungry by Lindsay Hunter (8/8, FSG) In Chicagoan Hunter‘s second novel, a food addict takes a road trip through the weirdness that is Florida in search of his missing son.
Behind the Glass Wall: Inside the United Nations by Aleksandar Hemon, photographs by Peter van Agtmael (8/22, FSG) As the UN’s first writer in residence, Hemon got a chance to explore the institution in all its glory and anxiety and confront his own feelings about the role it played in the Bosnian war, which brought him to Chicago.