The beginning of a new year at a bookstore can be a little dull. New books are always coming out, of course, but almost all the awards have been doled out, every media outlet in the world has put out its list of The Best Books of the Previous Year, and many readers, exhausted by the holidays, simply content themselves with whatever book-to-movie adaptation is up for a Golden Globe.
The biggest problem for me is that I'm not usually attracted to books that receive a lot of industry or media buzz. Maybe it's a desire to associate with underdogs (I never was a popular kid), but I just can't bear to cast my attention on those already glutted with it. So the books that do make it swiftly onto the public radar in the New Year are not generally the kinds of books that I want to read. Which means I have to do my best Nancy Drew and puzzle out who is publishing what, when, and with which publisher. This year I'm taking a proactive approach. I'm already counting down the days and begging for review copies.
First on my list is Samantha Hunt's The Invention of Everything Else, coming in February. Hunt is a visual artist as well as a writer, which is apparent in the highly evocative imagery of her books. Her first novel, The Seas, was one of my favorite novels of 2004. The Invention of Everything Else is about Nikola Tesla, one of the most eccentric, brilliant men of the 20th Century. Samantha Hunt will be reading at the City of Books on February 12, so if you don't already know of her, this would be a good time to acquaint yourself.
Also arriving in February, is Lauren Groff's debut novel, The Monsters of Templeton. It begins, "The day I returned to Templeton steeped in disgrace, the fifty-foot corpse of a monster surfaced in Lake Glimmerglass." I just received the Advance Reading Copy today and I had to hide it away in my desk to keep from sitting here reading all day. There is a pleasant, old-fashioned feel to the narration (though it takes place in the present), a yarn befitting, I hope, the rise of a lake monster in the first sentence.
Claire Keegan's second book will be available in the U.S. in May. Walk the Blue Fields (read the Guardian's review here) promises to deliver a more polished, riveting collection than her first, Antarctica. Her style is hard to describe, though there's a little Flannery O'Connor in there, and perhaps some of the slightly altered reality found in Jean Rhys's stories.
Also coming over from the U.K. is the next in the Canongate Myths series, retellings of world myths by contemporary writers. Salley Vickers is taking on both Oedipus and Freud in Where Three Roads Meet. Though I've only read the Margaret Atwood and Jeanette Winterson contributions to the series, both were lovely and the series itself seems to attract great writers. I wrote many a psychoanalysis of literature in my undergrad days, so I'm looking forward to Vickers's Oedipal take on Freud. Alas, I'll be waiting until August.
While I'm waiting, I'm going to spend my time with some small presses. Paul Fattaruso's second book is coming out from Hotel St. George Press this spring. His first book was a short, uncanny existentialist novel of polar exploration and dinosaur DNA. Joshua Marie Wilkinson has a chapbook forthcoming from Pilot Books. And Danielle Dutton, author of Attempts at a Life, has a new book, S P R A W L, coming from Clear Cut Press in February. (If you've never visited the Small Press aisles at Powell's City of Books, I strongly suggest that you put it on your To Do List. The small press movement is thriving, publishing some of the most stylistically daring, not to mention aesthetically pleasing, books in the country today.)
It's worth mentioning that some of my favorites from last year will be out in paperback soon. Margaret Atwood's Moral Disorder will be out in February. Kiara Brinkman's Up High in the Trees is coming in June. (Vendela Vida's Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name came out this month.)