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5 new books to read in January

5 new books to read in January
Graphic: Rebecca Fassola
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Every month, a deluge of new books comes flooding out from big publishers, indie houses, and self-publishing platforms. So every month, The A.V. Club narrows down the endless options to five of the books we’re most excited about.

The Hearing Trumpet by Leonora Carrington (January 5, NYRB Classics)

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Image: NYRB Classics

The Leonora Carrington renaissance continues apace! In 2017, NYRB released the Surrealist painter and author’s memoir and Dorothy published her Complete Stories. Now, before Carrington’s son Gabriel Weisz releases his own “memoir” about his mother later this year, NYRB returns with a reprint of her 1974 novel. The Hearing Trumpet is difficult to synopsize but involves a 92-year-old woman whose family ships her off to an elder care facility. There, Carrington’s interests in absurdism, conspiracies, and Surrealism take over in a novel that Blake Butler describes as “The Crying Of Lot 49 on Ambien, or perhaps The Magic Mountain whittled down to a viral nightmare, or a shiv.” (Butler’s own novel Alice Knott from last year was quite the head trip.) Nobel Prize winner Olga Tokarczuk wrote this edition’s afterword.

Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour (January 5, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Image: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

One should always take a book’s jacket copy with a grain of salt, but we admit that our interest was piqued when we read that this novel was “for fans of Sorry To Bother You and The Wolf Of Wall Street.” Mateo Askaripour’s Black Buck follows 22-year-old Darren, who lives with his mom in Bed-Stuy and works at a Starbucks in Midtown. His life changes after he meets the CEO of a “cultlike” tech startup and is hired on as the company’s only Black employee. In his satirical debut, Askaripour examines the cost of success and who does and does not receive opportunities in a country divided by race.

The Dangers Of Smoking In Bed by Mariana Enríquez (translated by Megan McDowell, January 12, Hogarth)

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Image: Hogarth

Mariana Enríquez follows up 2017’s Things We Lost In The Fire with another electrifying (and evocatively titled) collection of short stories. The Dangers Of Smoking In Bed reads like an anthology of modern folktales. While largely set in contemporary Argentina, the book conjures a darkness that feels ages old. Influenced by forebears like fellow Argentinians Borges and Cortázar, Enríquez uses fantastical, sometimes supernatural elements in her stories to elucidate historical and imagined horrors. In these imaginative, often grotesque tales, the macabre writer makes it hard to decide who is more terrifying, the living or the dead.

A Swim In A Pond In The Rain by George Saunders (January 12, Random House)

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Image: Random House

Most writers will not attend Syracuse University’s master of fine arts in creative writing program. It’s improbable even for those who do apply, as the program admits only six people out of hundreds each year. One spiritual step closer to such an unlikelihood is learning a thing or two about writing from George Saunders. For the past 20 years, the author of Pastoralia and Tenth Of December has taught a class on Russian short fiction to his grad students at Syracuse, and in A Swim In A Pond In The Rain: In Which Four Russians Give A Master Class On Writing, Reading, And Life, Saunders assembles seven stories by four 19th-century Russian writers (Chekhov and Tolstoy are repeat offenders), offering a guided tour on how these “eminently teachable” stories work. (And while creative writing exercises can often feel like merely a way to eat up class time in a workshop, the three that Saunders includes in the appendix are smart and potentially revelatory.)

Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor (January 21, Tor)

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Image: Tor

Nnedi Okorafor—the wildly prolific sci-fi/fantasy writer of books and comics—takes readers on a journey throughout a futuristic Ghana in her latest novel. Remote Control follows young Sankofa, who is known as “the adopted daughter of death.” After a tragic accident in her hometown, she sets off on the road in the hopes of understanding her magic ability to take away life with a mere glance. As in much of Okorafor’s work, Remote Control explores gender and power through a fantastic lens.

More in January: The Prophets by Robert Jones Jr. (January 5, G.P. Putnam); A Lie Someone Told You About Yourself by Peter Ho Davies (January 5, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt); Outlawed by Anna North (January 5, Bloomsbury); Deuces Down, edited by George R.R. Martin and Melinda M. Snodgrass (January 5, Tor); White Feminism: From The Suffragettes To Influencers And Who They Leave Behind by Koa Beck (January 5, Atria); To Be Honest by Michael Leviton (January 5, Abrams); Reconstruction by Alaya Dawn Johnson (January 5, Small Beer Press); W-3 by Bette Howland (January 12, A Public Space); The Revolution According To Raymundo Mata by Gina Apostol (January 12, Soho); Summerwater by Sarah Moss (January 12, Farrar, Straus & Giroux); Aftershocks by Nadia Owusu (January 12, Simon & Schuster); Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas (January 12, Balzer + Bray); Hades, Argentina by Daniel Loedel (January 12, Riverhead); Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters (January 12, One World); Dog Flowers by Danielle Geller (January 12, One World); Life Among The Terranauts by Caitlin Horrocks (January 12, Little, Brown); To Cook A Bear by Mikael Niemi (January 12, Penguin); You’ll Never Believe What Happened To Lacey by Amber Ruffin and Lacey Lamar (January 12, Grand Central); The Inland Sea by Madeleine Watts (January 12, Catapult); Walking With Ghosts by Gabriel Byrne (January 12, Grove); That Old Country Music by Kevin Barry (January 12, Doubleday); Craft In The Real World by Matthew Salesses (January 19, Catapult); The Conjure-Man Dies by Rudolph Fisher (January 19, Collins Crime); How I Learned To Hate In Ohio by David Stewart Mclean (January 19, Overlook); A House At The Bottom Of A Lake by Josh Malerman (January 19, Del Rey); Devils, Lusts And Strange Desires: The Life Of Patricia Highsmith by Richard Bradford (January 19, Bloomsbury); The Rib King by Ladee Hubbard (January 19, Amistad); Last Orgy Of The Divine Hermit by Mark Leyner (January 19, Little, Brown); Small Days And Nights by Tishani Doshi (January 21, W.W. Norton); Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi (January 26, Overlook); Standpipe: Delivering Water In Flint by David Hardin (January 26, Belt); No Heaven For Good Boys by Keisha Bush (January 26, Random House); This Is The Voice by John Colapinto (January 26, Simon & Schuster); The Swallowed Man by Edward Carey (January 26, Riverhead); We Could Be Heroes by Mike Chen (January 26, MIRA); Let Me Tell You What I Mean by Joan Didion (January 26, Knopf); Everybody Has A Podcast (Except You): A How-To Guide From The First Family Of Podcasting by Justin, Travis, and Griffin McElroy (January 26, Harper Perennial); The Copenhagen Trilogy by Tove Ditlevsen (January 26, Farrar, Straus & Giroux); Just As I Am by Cicely Tyson (January 26, Harper)