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 just five books that are worth checking out.
The House Of Broken Angels follows ailing patriarch Miguel Angel De La Cruz, or “Big Angel,” who wants a final, epic birthday party before he dies, but his mother passes away in the days leading up to his fete, resulting in a more intense affair than initially anticipated. Luís Alberto Urrea’s fifth novel, set over the course of a single weekend, assembles this “affectionate, passionate, flawed” Mexican-American family in San Diego to share memories of their lives on both sides of the border. Urrea has been praised by the likes of Neil Gaiman, Julia Alvarez, and Dave Eggers, and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for 2004’s The Devil’s Highway, a nonfiction account of a dangerous border crossing. [Laura Adamczyk]
What’s impressive about Jesse Ball is not just how prolific he is—and he’s most certainly that; he is not yet 40 and has written 14 books, including six novels, since 2004—but how good and, more importantly, human his works are. The author consistently crafts high-concept fabulist tales with sensitivity and quiet poetry. Despite being so prolific, however, Ball says he has never before written about his brother with Down syndrome, Abram, who died in 1998. As he notes in the forward to his latest novel, Ball says that he, in part, wrote Census to help people see what it’s like to know and love someone with Down syndrome. Here Ball’s relationship with his brother becomes that of a father and son, who set out traveling across the country when the father learns he does not have long to live and signs up to work as a census taker. [Laura Adamczyk]
Uzodinma Iweala’s debut novel, Beasts Of No Nation, announced a stunning new voice, able to tell harrowing stories with profound sensitivity. Iweala’s second novel promises to be just as moving, probing the personal realities of two young people who don’t fit into what their parents, and wider society, expect of them. Themes of queer identity, parental fallout, and institutional powers form the backbone of Speak No Evil, but it’s Iweala’s prose, powerful and propelling, that will make the novel a must-read. [Caitlin PenzeyMoog]
Mallory Ortberg is a slyly crafty storyteller, twisting genre trappings and tropes, and wringing out stories familiar only in the clichés expertly curled into something surprising and new. Her 2014 book, Texts From Jane Eyre, imagined modern correspondences with literary figures, exploiting the potential of texts to bring passive-aggressive and dramatic characters into the 21st century. The Merry Spinster similarly takes old fables and fairy tales and turns them on their heads, deconstructing them to darkly humorous ends. It comes from Ortberg’s “Children’s Stories Made Horrific” series, published under the now-defunct Toast, where she demonstrated her singular perspective is just as strong when it comes to writing short stories (albeit parodies of older ones) as modernizing Jane Eyre and her literary cadre. [Caitlin PenzeyMoog]
Nell Scovell, Just The Funny Parts: …And A Few Hard Truths About Sneaking Into The Hollywood Boys’ Club (March 20)
If you’ve watched comedy on TV in the past few decades, you’ve laughed at one of Nell Scovell’s jokes. She’s been a mostly behind-the-scenes TV writer on The Simpsons, Late Night With David Letterman, Murphy Brown, NCIS, and The Muppets, and created and executive-produced Sabrina The Teenage Witch. After David Letterman’s sex scandal came to attention in 2009, Scovell came forward to talk about diversity problems in Hollywood, her frank (and funny) outlook culminating in this book. Just The Funny Parts promises to be full of humor, insight, and the rare perspective of a woman who succeeded in the male-dominated writers’ rooms of some of TV’s most iconic comedies. [Caitlin PenzeyMoog]