What book are you most looking forward to in 2015?
Danette Chavez. Aleksandar Hemon’s The Making of Zombie Wars (May 12, 2015). I was lucky enough to attend his talk at the Humanities Fest, and he read an excerpt from his next novel, which he promised is a “roller-coaster ride of sex and violence.” The protagonist, Josh Levin, is an ESL teacher and flailing screenwriter so the action is interspersed with script ideas, each worse than the last. Josh gets more than he bargained for when he tries to inject some of that melodrama into his real life.
Sophie L. Nagelberg. Visitants by Dave Eggers from McSweeney’s (March 10, 2015). I surprised myself by choosing a travel writing book, but then again, it is Dave Eggers and this non-fiction collection chronicles his experiences with people and places across the globe from Saudi Arabia to China to Thailand, Sudan, and Croatia, to name a few.
Todd Summar. Get in Trouble by Kelly Link (February 3, 2015). Link is one of my favorite fabulist writers. Her stories are at once funny, quirky, sad, creepy, and surprising. She has developed a cult following by creating worlds and styles all her own within the confines of the short story medium. Though I’d love to one day read an entire novel from her, it’s been far too long since her last story collection. The exaggerated conceits at the surface of her work – hurricanes, astronauts, evil twins, bootleggers, Ouija boards, iguanas, The Wizard of Oz, superheroes, the Pyramids—are grounded with her unique take on human frailty.
Julia Fine. Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro (March 3, 2015)—the first novel in a decade from a master of the craft, set in mythical, post-Arthurian England. I’m also eagerly awaiting A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson (May 5, 2015), a follow-up to last year’s Life After Life, which I loved and highly recommend to anyone who hasn’t yet discovered it!
Brian Zimmerman. The Strange Case of Rachel K by Rachel Kushner (February 10, 2012). I loved The Flamethrowers and I’m eager to see how Kushner’s fiction operates in shorter forms. Also, because this is a collection of stories that predates her first novel, I think it will be interesting to track the trajectory of her prose and storytelling capabilities.
Daniel Camponovo. The First Bad Man by Miranda July (January 13, 2015). Though I’m usually wary of artists crossing mediums, July is one of my favorite filmmakers, and her previous collection of stories No One Belongs Here More Than You was a fantastic distillation of her aesthetic. The main criticism I’ve heard regarding her story collection (that the stories are too narratively similar, with little tonal variation in voice) is, in a weird way, one of its strengths—July has as singular and distinctive an artistic voice I’ve heard in years, and I can’t wait to see how it flexes and develops over the course of a full novel.
Jess Millman. Would it be gauche of me to second Todd’s praise of Kelly Link? Her prose is snappy and transformative, her settings are lush, and all that’s combined with the high talent of not taking the literary genre’s crustiness so damn seriously 100% percent of the time. I’m also all for Roxane Gay’s Untamed State (which goes international early this year). Her short stories aren’t just accessible to a wide variety of readers, but they’re as real as it gets—delicate, sometimes spindly prose partnered with genuinely harrowing scenes. I am awfully grateful to an author who can disorient me in such a way. That, and Bad Feminist should’ve been added to every required reading for American college freshmen, yesterday. OK, one more: Jon Ronson’s newest release, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed (March 31, 2015). I wasn’t altogether fond of the sensational Psychopath Test, but I am quite fond of Ronson’s narrative voice, which teases readers, in the way of the good old mystery yarns, to beat the writer to his own conclusions.
Alba Machado. I want all of your picks on my shelves, particular Hemon and Link. For mine, though, I’m gonna have to go with Mermaids in Paradise by Lydia Millet (November 3, 2014—new enough, right?). She’s new to me, but she’s been around long enough to have published thirteen books—and to be a finalist for the Pulitzer—and, you guys, there’s big-time humor, social commentary, wacky magic, and stylistically adventurous prose. All my favorite things. Mermaids in Paradise is about a couple from a romanticized Middle America (“modern day pioneers” who are “somewhat mythic” and “love cruises”) who are forced to spend their honeymoon in the Caribbean helping an ex-Navy SEAL and a hipster save a mermaid and her coral reef from being turned into a freak show at a theme park. Did I mention the Pulitzer thing? Nothing more exciting to me than a serious—and funny—writer dealing in things like mermaids, taking the absurd and turning it into something real and meaningful—without losing the humor. Karen Russell is quoted on the book cover as saying, “I laughed so hard all over town,” and I’m really looking forward to doing the same.