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Lose yourself in 2017 with these 17 books and comics

October by China Mieville, Crawl Space by Jesse Jacobs
October by China Mieville, Crawl Space by Jesse Jacobs

When the story of reality becomes too unbearable, escape to a different one. There’s never really a year that goes by without the release of good prose to lose yourself in, and 2017 promises dozens of titles to transport you to another world. From satire to memoirs to novels, we’ve selected 12 of the books we’re most excited to crack open this year, along with five of the comics we can’t wait to feast our eyes on.

Books

1. Homesick For Another World by Ottessa Moshfegh (January 17)

Ottessa Moshfegh has earned high praise both for her experimental novella McGlue and most recently her noir-tinged novel Eileen—shortlisted for last year’s Man Booker Prize and set to be adapted by The Girl On The Train screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson—yet fans know that her short fiction is where it’s at. Homesick For Another World, Moshfegh’s first story collection, is dark, energetic, and filled with characters who commit acts that are as surprising for their ugliness as their familiarity. [Laura Adamczyk]

2. The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen (February 7)

Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer won the 2016 Pulitzer, putting equal parts excitement and pressure on this relatively quick (for the publishing world) follow-up of short stories. In The Refugees, Nguyen trades the soaring epic of The Sympathizer for a collection of stories about transient people going from Vietnam to the U.S. and vice versa. Several characters populate the pages and move between the two countries, all of whom give voice to the dreams and struggles of immigrants. With Nguyen telling their stories, it’d be surprising if they didn’t deliver some searing highs as Sympathizer did. [Caitlin PenzeyMoog]

3. Universal Harvester by John Darnielle (February 7)

Mountain Goats frontman John Darnielle follows up his New York Times bestseller Wolf In White Van, which we described as leading readers through “a tortuous, incredible labyrinth,” with another haunting novel centered around low-fi entertainment. Set in the late 1990s, Universal Harvester follows a video store clerk in small-town Iowa who becomes alerted to creepy scenes—one, vague, moving shapes inside a familiar barn accompanied by the sound of heavy breathing (eep)—spliced into rented movies. [Laura Adamczyk]

4. Lincoln In The Bardo by George Saunders (February 14)

It doesn’t get much better than George Saunders, whose painfully funny satire cuts deep and whose originality makes you feel you’re reading a brand-new genre all his own. Saunders’ first full-length novel centers on Abraham Lincoln’s dead son, who enters a purgatory after his death during the first year of the Civil War. The “bardo” in the title refers to the Tibetan concept of an intermediate state between life and death. “Harrowing” is familiar territory for Saunders, and this story looks like it could be his most harrowing yet, if just by dint of being much longer and drawn out than usual. [Caitlin PenzeyMoog]

5. South And West: From A Notebook by Joan Didion (March 7)

This new collection from legendary novelist and essayist Joan Didion assembles “extended excerpts” from notebook drafts of two never-before-seen essays: one from a 1970 road trip she took with her husband through the South, the other her mid-1970s “California Notes.” Didion’s first book since Blue Nights, South And West will give readers a look into the prose stylist’s process—most intriguing for those who’ve closely followed the author’s work. [Laura Adamczyk]

6. Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout (April 25)

The Pulitzer Prize winner’s new book tells the stories of side characters from her last one. In My Name Is Lucy Barton, all the people Lucy interacts with here get their own page time, including the “Pretty Nicely Girls,” now adults, and the janitor at the local high school, Tommy. It sounds like the sort of low-key world-building taken on my Marilynne Robinson in her Gilead trilogy, where the protagonist—and by extension, the reader—only sees a small part of people who have their own rich, complicated, tragic lives. Of course, Elizabeth Strout has already accomplished a similar feat of multiple perspectives in Olive Kitteridge; here’s hoping Anything Is Possible meets the high bar that novel set. [Caitlin PenzeyMoog]

7. The Last Neanderthal by Claire Cameron (April 25)

Claire Cameron’s The Bear was a psychological powerhouse of terrifying survival in the wilderness; her new book also keeps its setting natural but looks completely different. The story is split between a girl—the eponymous last Neanderthal—and an archeologist living some 40,000 years later, in present day. While the girl (called Girl) finds herself alone and caring for another character called Runt, the archeologist is far into her pregnancy and racing to finish her excavation before she must pause to have her baby. [Caitlin PenzeyMoog]

8. Trajectory: Stories by Richard Russo (May 2)

A collection of four stories, Trajectory looks to focus on more literary types than Richard Russo’s normal blue-collar denizens. The characters are a professor, a realtor, a semiretired academic, and a lapsed writer, all of whom seem to deal with painful and embarrassing episodes in their chapters. Russo’s disarming ability to write quietly captivating characters saw a rare lapse in last year’s Everybody’s Fool; hopefully the fresh blood introduced in Trajectory means a return to form. [Caitlin PenzeyMoog]

9. Men Without Women: Stories by Haruki Murakami (May 9)

Haruki Murakami’s last book, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki And His Years Of Pilgrimage, sold 1 million copies in its first week of release in Japan, going on to become a worldwide hit. His latest is Men Without Women, a collection of stories about men who, for various reasons, feel alone. There’s every reason to believe Men Without Women will be as impressively imaginative as the rest of Murakami’s output, which, as our review of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki aptly put it, lands him firmly in the “paragon of literature” category. [Caitlin PenzeyMoog]

10. October: The Story Of The Russian Revolution by China Mieville (May 9)

From one of the most interesting fantasy and sci-fi writers comes the story of one of the most fascinating upheavals in modern times. China Mieville turns his considerable powers on the Russian Revolution, tracing the nine-month period where Russia went from a monarchy to the world’s first socialist country. Following a tumultuous election year when “socialism” was revived into a mainstream word in the U.S., fans of Mieville, history, and the Left alike should be eager to get their hands on October. If nothing else, it’s a dramatic story of mass solidarity, strong personalities, and a timeline more like Game Of Thrones than you remember from history class. [Caitlin PenzeyMoog]

11. Hunger: A Memoir Of (My) Body by Roxane Gay (June 13)

Between An Untamed State, Bad Feminist, and the recently released Difficult Women, Roxane Gay is in the running for top literary voice of the 2010s. While she’s written about food, bodies, and consumption before, Hunger promises to focus specifically on these topics—and not in the way they’re usually talked about. “Normally, you read books about weight loss and triumph and a woman standing on the cover of the book in half her fat pants,” Gay said in an interview. “This is not that book.” Instead, it’s a frank telling of living in a world that “tries to discipline unruly bodies.” [Caitlin PenzeyMoog]

12. The Passenger by Cormac McCarthy (TDB)

The Passenger already had mythic qualities when it was formally announced in 2015, thanks to rumors of its existence bouncing around the literary world for some 30 years prior. When Cormac McCarthy read from it at an event in 2015, Newsweek reported it would see publication the following year. But that hasn’t been the case. Speculations now put its release date all the way to December 2017. McCarthy is, unsurprisingly, keeping mum on the subject. [Caitlin PenzeyMoog]

Comics

1. Justice League Of America (February)

It looks to be a good year for comics with “America” in the title, and DC Comics’ new Justice League Of America series debuting in February from writer Steve Orlando and artist Ivan Reis is poised to revitalize the JLA thanks to a strong creative team and unexpected cast of characters. Orlando has quickly risen to become one of DC’s most compelling writers, and Justice League Of America is his highest-profile release yet, spinning out of the blockbuster Justice League Vs. Suicide Squad crossover and pairing him with a superstar artist. The prospect of Batman leading a team consisting of characters like Atom (Ryan Choi, making his big Rebirth return), Vixen, Killer Frost, and Lobo is intriguing, and that range of personalities should make for a very entertaining superhero team book. [Oliver Sava]

2. Crawl Space (May)

Jesse Jacobs’ Safari Honeymoon was one of The A.V. Club’s Best Comics Of 2014, and one peek at the cover of his new Koyama Press graphic novel, Crawl Space, shows that he’s going even harder with the psychedelic elements that made his previous graphic novel such an enchanting read. The story involves basement appliances that transport a gang of neighborhood kids to separate realities, and this fantastic conceit is used to explore adolescence and the pressures this tumultuous time puts on friendships. Safari Honeymoon was a shocking, striking exploration of marriage in a strange environment, and Crawl Space will likely continue that complex exploration of character dynamics through trippy, experimental visuals. [Oliver Sava]

3. The Legend Of Korra: Turf Wars (June)

The Legend Of Korra ended its TV run over two years ago, but the Avatar’s story continues in a new graphic novel series written by Korra co-creator Michael DiMartino and artist Irene Koh, debuting in June from Dark Horse Comics. The Avatar: The Last Airbender comics have been delightful continuations of the cartoon series, and the involvement of DiMartino makes The Legend Of Korra: Turf Wars an especially exciting next stage for Korra and her friends, particularly because it will delve deeper into the romantic relationship between Korra and Asami that blossomed in the final moments of the cartoon series. [Oliver Sava]

4. Boundless (June)

New Jillian Tamaki work is always cause for celebration, and Drawn & Quarterly is releasing a new collection of her short stories, Boundless, in June. The award-winning cartoonist can be relied on to create formally inventive, emotionally resonant works, and many of her newer short comics can be found in Boundless, including her remarkable story “SexCoven” from Youth In Decline’s Frontier. No matter what new directions Tamaki’s creative impulses take her, she always produces thoughtful and thought-provoking comics that showcase her versatility as an artist, and Boundless gives readers a wide sampling of her talent. [Oliver Sava]

5. America (TBD)

The fan-favorite America “Ms. America” Chavez finally gets the solo spotlight in March with a new ongoing series, America, by YA novelist Gabby Rivera and artist Joe Quinones. America Chavez is one of the most mysterious characters in the Marvel Universe, and this new series will delve deeper into her past while taking her on a journey to find herself by going to college, which just so happens to involve an education that spans universes and dimensions. Having a queer Latina character written by a queer Latina woman is a smart move by Marvel, and pairing Rivera with a reliable, imaginative veteran like Quinones ensures that the visual storytelling will be on point, which is very important when someone outside of comics is in the writer’s seat. [Oliver Sava]