Colm Tóibín! Jamaica Kincaid plus Kara Walker! Lily Dancyger! 27 new books out today.

Gabrielle Bellot

May 7, 2024, 4:49am

It’s finally May, and to usher in the new month, I’ve compiled a list of no less than twenty-seven new books to consider. Below, you’ll find work from many beloved names, including Long Island, a new novel from Colm Tóibín; an innovative, genre-spanning work on gardening from Jamaica Kincaid in collaboration with the artist Kara Walker (best-known, perhaps, for her marvelous shadow figures) aimed at younger and adult readers alike; a collection of essays on the beautiful and devastating power of female friendships; and much, much more.

You’ll find buzzed-about debuts, like Wendy Chen’s Their Divine FiresAnd you’ll find, too, a delightful range of subjects, like Diane Richards’ novel about Ella Fitzgerald, Zoe Schlanger on the wondrous, humbling world of plant intelligence (worth a read, especially, if your gut reaction was to assume that plants lack that altogether). You’ll genre-blending innovations from Nicolás Medina Mora, ‘Pemi Aguda, and Diego Gerard Morrison. And, in advance of Mothers’ Day, you’ll also see a handful of nonfiction books that examine motherhood in powerful, sometimes startling ways. It’s a good day to add to that ever-embiggening pile of to-be-read books.

Read deeply this May! There’s no shortage of wonders to choose from.


Long Island - Toibin, Colm

Colm Tóibín, Long Island

“Tóibín writes with unparalleled fluidity and grace. Each character is intricately drawn with psychological acuity, emerging as fully, almost achingly human. Tóibín is a philosopher of the soul. He understands the complex emotions, the dreams, fear, doubt, and hope that drive human activity. Eilis is complicated, fearless, and compelling, much like her brilliant creator. Readers will be thrilled by Tóibín’s return to the story of Irish immigrant Eilis Lacey.”

Their Divine Fires - Chen, Wendy

Wendy Chen, Their Divine Fires

Their Divine Fires is a fascinating and powerful debut. In gorgeous, elegant prose, Chen follows multiple generations of one family, intimately tracing how living through the Chinese Revolution and its aftermath shapes them in ways they don’t always fully understand. As the years go by, we see the consequences play out in their lives, and ultimately how their deep connections to one another prevail.”
–Dana Spiotta

Whale Fall - O'Connor, Elizabeth

Elizabeth O’Conor, Whale Fall
(Pantheon Books)

“Beautiful and restrained, Whale Fall moves like a tide, ebbing and flowing. A novel that matches the simplicity and timelessness of the classics of island literature, reminiscent of Tomás O’Crohan or Robin Flower, it is transporting and utterly beautiful.”
–Seán Hewitt

First Love: Essays on Friendship - Dancyger, Lilly

Lily Dancyger, First Love: Essays on Friendship
(Dial Press)

“What if our first and deepest female friendships were the real love stories? Lilly Dancyger holds open the possibility that female friendships are their own ontology, an extended flash, a magical space of being where anything is possible. It’s a dazzling array of essays.”
–Lidia Yuknavitch

The Way You Make Me Feel: Love in Black and Brown - Sharma, Nina

Nina Sharma, The Way You Make Me Feel: Love in Black and Brown
(Penguin Press)

“Nina Sharma is an ardent, fiercely intelligent explorer of American life in all its hybrid complexity. Indian American and African American worlds collide and collaborate; so do love and anger, art and politics, fear and ambition, grief and wit. ‘Collection’ is too temperate a word for these essays: each is an act in a suspenseful, still-unfolding play.”
–Margo Jefferson

Love Is a Burning Thing: A Memoir - St Pierre, Nina

Nina St. Pierre, Love Is a Burning Thing: A Memoir

“St. Pierre crafts a vivid, richly textured, harrowing memoir of her bond, both steadfast and delicate, with her mother….St. Pierre emerges with a treatise for thinking about not only mental illness and family trauma, but also the ability of belief to alternately empower, embattle, and release. An exhilarating, heart-rending familial portrait.”
Kirkus Reviews

Solutions for the Problem of Bodies in Space: Poems - Barnett, Catherine

Catherine Barnett, Solutions for the Problems of Body in Space: Poems

“The stunning latest from Barnett (Human Hours) blends the witty and the philosophical to offer a study in ‘restricted fragile materials, ‘ or the bewildering condition of being alive. Urbane, perceptive, and starkly humane, these are poems of quiet alarm, at once companionable and singular.”
Publishers Weekly

Lossless - Tierney, Matthew

Matthew Tierney, Lossless
(Coach House Books)

“Tierney tracks and backtracks in the realm of dispossession like a cross between a physicist and a magician from a future era. These poems are new forms for human heart and quiddity.”
–Anne-Marie Turza

The Lady Waiting - Zyzak, Magdalena

Magdalena Zyzak, The Lady Waiting

“With its madcap plot, fantastic central characters, and White Lotus-style wealth porn….Zyzak’s second novel seems like catnip for Hollywood. Funny, original, worldly, and very cool. A standout.”
Kirkus Reviews

The Mother of All Things - Landau, Alexis

Alexis Landau, The Mother of All Things
(Pantheon Books)

“Alexis Landau has written a revelatory novel about the age-old disparity in power between men and women, focusing in on Ava, a wife and mother and stalled academic who feels a mixture of rage and bewilderment about the path her life has taken. Bursting with fresh insights into the merciless passage of time and the impossibility of protecting one’s children from the world’s incursions, this novel is as original as it is accessible, written with a deft touch.”
–Daphne Merkin

Ella - Richards, Diane

Diane Richards, Ella
(Amistad Press)

“With Ella: A Novel, Diane Richards has blended her literary magic with the sonic boom of Fitzgerald’s life, poetically resurrecting the great vocalist’s journey, while also re-imagining the parts misunderstood or previously left blank. The result is not just a mesmerizing work of historical fiction, but also the rebirth Ella Fitzgerald truly deserves.”
–Kevin Powell

An Encyclopedia of Gardening for Colored Children - Kincaid, Jamaica

Jamaica Kincaid, An Encyclopedia of Gardening for Colored Children (illustrated by Kara Walker)

“In collaborating with the fiercely imaginative visual artist Kara Walker, Kincaid has transposed this mode of thinking into an amalgam of erudition, discourse, storytelling and picture book art. A simple child’s garden of ABCs their ‘encyclopedia’ is not. Kincaid’s adult base, too, will gravitate toward it….Cunning….Kincaid and Walker are unafraid to spin the world differently and make it matter in new ways.”
The New York Times Book Review

Matrescence: On Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood - Jones, Lucy

Lucy Jones, Matrescence: On Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood
(Pantheon Books)

“I loved this book. It’s a questioning, intelligent investigation into the process of becoming a mother, sparked by Jones’ own life but looked at from all angles: environmental, social, historical, neurobiological, psychoanalytical, and more. She suggests that portrayals of motherhood as either rose-tinted bliss or boring drudgery means we fail to prepare women for its reality—and we also fail to allow for its wilder, radical possibilities. Revelatory.”
–Joanna Quinn

The Book of Mothers: How Literature Can Help Us Reinvent Modern Motherhood - Mullins, Carrie

Carrie Mullins, The Book of Mothers: How Literature Can Help Us Reinvent Modern Motherhood
(St. Martin’s Press)

“If we ever need a reminder that literature changes lives, look no further than the brilliant and sharply observed The Book of Mothers. Carrie Mullins examines modern motherhood through the lens of women in literature, in turn creating a classic of her own, a fascinating rendering of gender, social norms, and stressors that, remarkably, haven’t changed much since the days of Jane Austen and F. Scott Fitzgerald. A literature-parallel mother of a psychosocial experiment.”
–Lee Kravetz

Stories from the Center of the World: New Middle East Fiction - Elgrably, Jordan

Jordan Elgrably (editor), Stories from the Center of the World: New Middle East Fiction
(City Lights Books)

“Iconoclastic, intimate and powerful, this ample collection gathers unforgettable short stories from just-emerging diasporic writers as well as the region’s stars….A balm for our time, when much of what the world hears about the Middle East has to do with numbers and political ideologies. In this collection, we hear intelligent, distinctive voices, expressing joy, humor, pain and irony in stories about love, exodus, renewal and assimilation.”
–Mona Simpson

América del Norte - Mora, Nicolás Medina

Nicolás Medina Mora, América del Norte
(Soho Press)

América del Norte is for the adventurous. Its tale of a young Mexican man coming of age between Mexico City, New York City, and Iowa City melds genres—including romance, etymological history, migration narrative, geopolitical analysis, and more—without fear, showing us that literature can be so much more than we know. Read this to remember the wonder of learning that ink on the page could mean something and that pages bound between two covers could contain a world.”
–Elias Rodriques

Pages of Mourning - Gerard Morrison, Diego

Diego Gerard Morrison, Pages of Mourning
(Two Dollar Radio)

“This propulsive novel contains many novels, written ones and unwritten ones, by invented authors as well as marquee names in twentieth-century fiction: Rulfo, García Márquez, Pynchon, Lowry….Places are haunted and rendered so convincingly that, while reading, more than once I had to remind myself I wasn’t [there]….Diego Gerard Morrison has written a glorious kaleidoscope of a book in which the roads to artificial paradises lead to hell.”
–Mónica de la Torre

Black Meme: A History of the Images That Make Us - Russell, Legacy

Legacy Russell, Black Meme: A History of the Images That Make Us

“Unsettles, expands and deepens our understanding of the black meme. At the center of this book is work. How black bodies, divorced from context and circulating, are made to do all kinds of cultural work in perpetuity. Throughout, Russell stays with black/ness as viral material, encourages us to consider memes with ‘slowness,’ and wonders what might intervene in and end this perpetual labor. Black Meme is necessary reading; brilliant and utterly convincing.”
–Margo Jefferson

The Light Eaters: How the Unseen World of Plant Intelligence Offers a New Understanding of Life on Earth - Schlanger, Zoë

Zöe Schlanger, The Light Eaters: How the Unseen World of Plant Intelligence Offers a New Understanding of Life on Earth

“I’ll never look at plants—or the natural world—in the same way again, after reading Zoë Schlanger’s stunning book. Instead of trying to ram the square peg of botanical life into the round holes of human biology and metaphors, Schlanger instead considers plants on their own terms, as they actually are. The result is mesmerizing, world-expanding, and achingly beautiful.”
–Ed Yong

Ghostroots: Stories - Aguda, 'Pemi

‘Pemi Aguda, Ghostroots: Stories

Ghostroots is a triumph. ‘Pemi Aguda’s strong storytelling skills give readers the gift of realistic characters and darkly imaginative stories that creep under your skin and stay buried there….’Pemi Aguda is now among my favorite authors.”
–Tananarive Due

Perfect Little Angels - Anioke, Vincent

Vincent Anioke, Perfect Little Angels
(Arsenal Pulp Press)

Perfect Little Angels is a brilliant debut bookended by blood; Vincent Anioke’s prose slices with the heft and certainty of a meat cleaver. Readers will hang on the fates of goats and the voices of lost family, while betrayal, shame, and circumstance enlace and entangle as characters’ desires meet dogma. A vivid reminder of the danger, joy, and depth of love.”
–Derek Mascarenhas

The Body Farm: Stories - Geni, Abby

Abby Geni, The Body Farm: Stories

“The stories in The Body Farm brim with empathy and imagination. The characters in this collection—from a girl who believes her older sister is a selkie, to a woman who was bitten by a tiger shark and dares to dive again, to a family of women who worry the men who cross their paths are cursed by death…contend with both the vulnerability and the resiliency of the human body….[A]bsorbing worlds and…complex, engaging characters. The Body Farm is an extraordinary collection.”
–Karin Lin-Greenberg

Not a River - Almada, Selva

Selva Almada, Not a River

“In this potent novella from Argentine writer Almada (Brickmakers), the killing of a stingray sets off a series of fateful events along an unnamed South American river….Like a dream, this otherworldly tale lingers in the reader’s mind.”
Publishers Weekly

The World Is Yours: The Story of Scarface (Original) - Kenny, Glenn

Glen Kenny, The World Is Yours: The Story of Scarface
(Hanover Square Press)

“Comprehensive, energetically written….Scarface fans should be sure to read this absolutely necessary book, and so should readers who enjoy a good book about moviemaking, even if they haven’t seen this particular film.”


A. J. Jacobs, The Year of Living Constitutionally: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Constitution’s Original Meaning
(Crown Publishing)

“I’ll be honest: This is a really funny book. A.J. sets out to be faithful to the Constitution in the most literal way possible, and hilarity ensues. But at the same time, it’s deeply insightful about the promise and problems of living under a political order framed almost a quarter of a millennium ago. And–dare I say it–the book actually offers better ideas about how to improve modern constitutional democracy than most legal scholarship.”
–Kermit Roosevelt

Fighting the Night: Iwo Jima, World War II, and a Flyer's Life - Hendrickson, Paul

Paul Hendrickson, Fighting the Night: Iwo Jima, World War II, and a Flyer’s Life

“Tender, heartwarming, occasionally frightening, and written in a conversational style that invites the reader into his family, Hendrickson pilots this richly illuminating chronicle across Depression-era Kentucky farmlands to flight school and through his father’s deployment in the Pacific and his postwar career as a pilot for Eastern Airlines….An excellent, engrossing work of family and world history that leaves readers thinking in new ways about the consequences of military service.”

Everything Is Predictable: How Bayesian Statistics Explain Our World - Chivers, Tom

Tom Chivers, Everything Is Predictable: How Bayesian Statistics Explain Our World
(Atria/One Signal)

“From an eighteenth-century cleric to the workings of the brain, Chivers explores the impact of Bayes theorem; the mathematical basis for learning under uncertainty….[H]e handles the challenging and controversial Bayesian approach to scientific evidence, induction, decision-making, statistical modelling, prediction, and human perception and reasoning. All with his customary light touch, and full of quotes and vivid stories. A filling but very tasty book.”
–David Spiegelhalter

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