Post originally published on 2/3/15
2015 is looking to be another promising year for fantastic books, and we’ve been hankering to get our hands on some real gems. From short stories to poetry collections to quirky nonfiction, here are a few of the books coming out this year that Alternating Current staffers can’t wait to get their hands on. (Hint, hint, for those who want to send them in for review! We’re ready, and they’ll go to the top of the pile!)
Lori Hettler’S PICKS:
After the Flood
I already have this one in hand; I just have to find time in my schedule to start actually reading it. You tell me you’ve got a new Tanzer, and I’m going to jump all over it. This collection of stories takes place in the same fictional upstate NY town as his previous collections. However, in these stories, the townspeople are all facing “The Storm of the Century” and a massive flash flood. Knowing Tanzer, this one’s bound to be a doozy.
The Country of Ice Cream Star
Sandra Newman’s The Country of Ice Cream Star is a dystopian thriller that takes place in a world where everyone dies of a mysterious disease called Posies before they reach their twenties. When Ice Cream Star’s brother starts to show signs of it, she sets out with a group of strangers to find a cure. It just sounds incredible, and the narrator’s voice seems unlike any I’ve read before.
The Only Ones
Yes, I’m a huge post-apoc, post-pandemic fiction junkie, and Carola Dibbell’s The Only Ones sounds like it would be right up my alley. In this novel, a disease-immune woman named Inez volunteers herself for scientific studies and is hired to provide genetic material to women who have all lost their children. One such mother backs out at the last minute, and Inez suddenly finds herself responsible for protecting the baby girl she helped create.
This Boring Apocalypse
I know nothing about this title other than Civil Coping Mechanisms is putting out it (+1), and the community of small press authors I know and like and enjoy reading all have this book on their to-read lists (+1000). And oh, yeah, maybe it’s about an apocalypse?! I’m shameless, I know!
The Dead Lands
Yes, that’s right! Another post-apoc novel. I wasn’t kidding when I said I was a huge fan. I’m also a huge fan of Benjamin Percy. It’s been interesting to watch him grow as an author over the years, and in his upcoming novel, The Dead Lands, it’s all super flu and nuclear fallout and small pockets of survivors trying to rebuild society. Sounds amazing!
I adore Per Petterson, and adore Graywolf Press’ publicity team just as much! They sent me an advanced copy of this book a few months ago, and I couldn’t wait to dive in! Two aging friends bump into each other again after losing touch countless years ago. The reconnection drags some painful memories back up to surface and the flashbacks provide the framework for this haunting and heartbreaking read.
Eric Shonkwiler’S PICK:
I had the pleasure of making Aline Ohanesian’s acquaintance while I was attending the University of California at Riverside’s MFA program, and we’ve kept in contact ever since. This is to say that, full disclosure, I know Aline, and, full disclosure, she’s a wonderful person. I’ve waited on news of her success — which I could tell was coming from the start — and received it gladly with the arrival of Orhan’s Inheritance. I’m doubly pleased to see that the novel is, as the PEN Bellwether Award calls it, “socially engaged.” Ohanesian’s novel is especially important to us because she documents in it an atrocity that few have any knowledge of: the Armenian Genocide. Orhan’s Inheritance crosses two timelines, interweaving 1990s Los Angeles with the end of the Ottoman Empire, and the extermination of 1.5 million Armenians from what is present-day Turkey. The book follows Orhan, who has inherited his grandfather Kemal’s rug business. The tale becomes twisted when Orhan discovers that his grandfather has, in fact, willed his estate to an old woman in Los Angeles, and upon finding her, Orhan begins to unravel a deep family secret. This is the stuff fiction is supposed to be made of, folks.
Al Kratz’S PICKS:
Laura van den Berg
I imagine at some point I will get tired of apocalyptic fiction, but I’m not there yet. It’s either practical preparation for an ugly future or a medical condition I’m not ready to get treatment for yet. Find Me looks like the perfect novel for that combination by telling the story of a woman whose immunity turns out to be her own silver lining in the midst of an outbreak that leads everyone else to amnesia and widespread death.
The First Bad Man
I had kind of a love-hate relationship with her short story collection, No One Belongs Here More Than You. Sometimes I thought she was just trying to be cute, and other times I was thinking, Damn, this is cute. I can’t wait to see what she does with a novel.
Amelia writes a lot of “weird” stuff, including her short story collection, Museum of the Weird, but she’s not doing it to be cute — she’s calling it like she sees it, and she’s good at writing about the fucked up parts of the world.
Cetoria TOMBERLIN’S PICK:
One of the most well-known living poets of our time has a new collection coming out this March! Her verses do the work all poetry should strive toward: moving the reader. Hirshfield’s poems always move me. Always. The heavily Zen Buddhism-influenced pieces she weaves together can appear quaint upon first glance, but are never so simple. Much like the lives most of us lead, Hirshfield’s poems hold towers of complexities within ordinary settings and humble sentences.
Julia Hy’S PICK:
I Was Here
It just came out this week, I believe! The author of If I Stay is pushing boundaries in her new novel, I Was Here. This novel takes us on a journey in the life of two best friends and what happens when one of them commits suicide. I love that she is showing the secrets that people keep — even from their best friends — and how there is an entire side of us that we don’t know. Can’t wait to get my hands on it!
Amanda Jean’S PICK:
Lafayette in the Somewhat United States
Sarah Vowell’s Lafayette in the Somewhat United States is due to come out this October. It’s supposedly about the Marquis de Lafayette’s grand tour of the U.S. in 1824, and even though there’s not so much as a blurb attached yet, This American Life contributor Sarah Vowell always delivers wry, interesting nonfiction in a totally unique voice — literally and figuratively (Try her audiobooks for bonus quirkiness.). After absolutely killing it with previous books, Assassination Vacation and The Wordy Shipmates, there’s no way I’m missing Lafayette.
Leah Angstman’S PICKS:
In the Circus of You
Nicelle Davis & Cheryl Gross
Just like everything Rose Metal Press puts together, In the Circus of You will prove to be a winner; I’m certain of it. It’s an illustrated novel-in-poems by the super talented (and super polite!) poet Nicelle Davis and artist Cheryl Gross. It “explores one woman’s struggle while interpreting our world as a sideshow, where not only are we the freaks, but also the onlookers wondering just how ‘normal’ we are — or ought to be.” I can’t wait to see how these two ladies’ collaboration complements one another’s talent, and I’m excited for the juxtaposition of dirty peep-show and humanistic beauty. I got to meet Nicelle and the ladies from Rose Metal and AWP last year, and I’ve been looking forward to this collection ever since. They never disappoint.
A Horse Made of Fire
I have been an enormous fan of Heather Bell’s since Verve Bath Press’ release, Nothing Unrequited Here, came out when I was still back on the East Coast. Bell’s observations of love in the minute details make her poetry so universal and touching, and yet she never wallows in the sorrow or clings too long to the common things, even when talking about the mundane. She’ll never bore you, and she can paint a picture so fragile and lifelike, so bold and careless, that you’ll believe every frame of it just happened before you. This “heartbreaking and poignant collection of poetry about the traumas of motherhood [that] will stick to your ribs [and] might just break you” might just break me.
The Zoo, a Going
J. A. Tyler
I cannot tell you how long I have waited for this collection. I got a taste of this with Sunnyoutside’s release a while back that featured a chunk of the complete story, and I’ve been hankering for the rest of it ever since. Tyler is a master of detail and a master of the flash style, where he gives you just enough to make you want more, or just enough to tear you apart without you really knowing why. He had paragraph-stories in Sunnyoutside’s The Tropic House that made me cry after one simple paragraph, and I couldn’t even tell you for sure what the emotion was that I was feeling. It was so sad and beautiful and ohmygod. His prose is excellent and precise, and this long-awaited book will be a cherry on top of an already-sweet dessert.
Lafayette in the Somewhat United States
Yeah, what Amanda said. It’s Lafayette. Hell no, I’m not missing it, either.
The Hook and the Haymaker
Jared Yates Sexton
Just released and available now, I can’t wait to get my hands on this! I got the chance to hear Jared read at an AWP event last year, and he just stole the show. So energetic, so lively, and so, so talented. This collection of short stories, one of which I read and loved on Buffalo Almanack a while back, will have more than a few good hooks in it; I’m sure of it.
I got the chance to set up a reading with Alison Stine in Athens, Ohio, last fall, and she was lovely and talented and super good on stage and all the things you want great writers to be. After picking up her poetry books, all from fantastic university presses, I’m excited to read her first YA novel, due out April 9th from HarperVoyager. She writes incredibly well about her native Appalachia, and this novel is centered in a small Appalachian town; it will no doubt have all the nuances of the area that Stine captures so perfectly.
I came across Steve Himmer last fall when I was begging people to squeeze me into their showspaces in Boston for a book tour. Steve is one of the most helpful and gung-ho people I’ve ever met (online — sadly, never got to meet him!), willing to help a total stranger make some magic happen in a pinch. He told me back in October about his new book (that just came out!), and even though I’m planning on getting it on niceties alone (Did I mention he’s so nice?), I poked around for information on it, and it’s “a novel of Arctic explorers, bureaucrats, spies, database management, modern marriage, and the long tail of the Cold War(s).” Yes, please.
Almost Famous Women
Megan Mayhew Bergman
Give me any book on quirky, independent women in history, and I will devour the thing. I’ve heard nothing about this book so far that would make me not think it’s fabulous, but seriously: “Lord Byron’s illegitimate daughter, Allegra; cross-dressing Standard Oil heiress Joe Carstairs seducing Marlene Dietrich; aviator and writer Beryl Markham engaging in a battle of wills with a stallion; the first integrated, all-girl swing band sparking a violent reaction in North Carolina.” I’m pretty sure I need this book.
The Brontë Cabinet: Three Lives in Nine Objects
I know nothing about this book, except that it’s “an intimate portrait of the lives and writings of the Brontë sisters, drawn from the objects they possessed [that] captivatingly shows the Brontës anew by bringing us deep inside the physical world in which they lived and from which their writings took inspiration,” and that if you follow any name with “Brontë,” then it will be making my TBR list, sight-unseen. I’m always one for wanting to explore famous historical possessions, so this looks right up my alley.
Nothing to Declare: Poems
Cole can be hit or miss for me. I’m not the biggest fan of his erotic-tinged work, and that’s what I think he’s probably best known for. But he can write sorrow with the best of them, and the cover of this book intrigues me and makes me believe that the poems might have some historical leanings, and that, my friends, would definitely be a hit.
Don’t Ask Me to Spell It Out
Robert James Russell
If you haven’t heard of Robert James Russell by now, then you haven’t been paying attention. One of the co-founders of the incredible Midwestern Gothic and the super fun Cheap Pop, the guy is everywhere, and rightfully so. First up on deck for him, coming in April, is this chapbook from WhiskeyPaper. With stories of “a great storm and its effect on a young family; a woman with a rifle in a barren landscape; boys discovering the world of possibility in online sexuality; a couple at a scenic overlook, their relationship at the verge of dissolution,” and more, this story collection, sure not to be spelled out for you, will be fantastic. And honestly, the folks behind WhiskeyPaper are the most huggable bunch of humans in existence.
Robert James Russell
And next up, he’s got this book coming from Dock Street Press, so it’s going to be a solid year for Mr. Russell. I know very little about this book, except that it’s a Western, which is enough to know that it will be awesome. Keep your spurs to the flank for this one; it’s going to ride in from nowhere flashing ivory handles and a shiny star.
Kevin Catalano’S PICKS:
Afterlife with Archie #8 & #9
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa & Francesco Francavilla
When I was a pre-teen, I read Archie comics. I suspect it had something to do with Betty and Veronica in bikinis. Soon after, EC re-released the Tales from the Crypt, Vault of Horror comics, and I tossed aside the goofy Riverdale gang to delve into the macabre. Flash forward twenty-some years, and imagine my boyish glee when zombies invaded Riverdale! Francavilla paints these characters in beautiful gore, and I can’t wait to see how Aguirre-Sacasa kills off my beloved Betty.
This is Nick’s second collection of fiction, featuring his eponymous novella. I think I’ve read everything he’s written, including two books of poetry, two short novels, a book of literary criticism, and his first collection of stories, Good People (Foxhead Books). Why do I keep returning to him? His prose is infused with poetry, his characters are existentially troubled, and his narratives are unexpected. Nick is the present and the future. That’s why.
The Familiar, Vol. 1: One Rainy Day in May
Mark Z. Danielewski
Just look at that title. What a jerk. The only thing is, the author of House of Leaves and Only Revolutions might be the savior of the novel. The way he plays with form and narrative makes the reader an active participant in the nonlinear plot, where you must flip and rotate and juggle the physical book to keep up, to the point that it’s nearly impossible to read his stuff on a Kindle. That should be reason enough to get excited for The Familiar.
MISTI RAINWATER-LITES’ PICKS:
Wince: Flash Fiction
I’m looking forward to Barry Basden’s collection of flash fiction, Wince. Barry is the editor of Camroc Press Review. He’s both a damn fine editor and a damn fine writer.
The First Bad Man
Apparently Miranda July is famous, but I’m not sure who she is. I am following Michelle Tea on Twitter. Michelle tweeted her enthusiasm about Ms. July’s novel, so I looked the novel up on Goodreads. It sounds quirky and fun. Ellen Page also tweeted enthusiasm about the novel, and I like Michelle Tea and Ellen Page. They know what’s up.
I’ve read the advanced review copy of this novel, and it blew me away. Bud is brilliant at creating believable characters that are hilarious and heartbreaking with humanity. His prose is beautiful and poetic without being pretentious. He writes like only a man who has truly loved and lived and risked and observed can write.
I am also looking forward to Blasphemer, the latest full-length poetry collection by Bill Yarrow, coming March 2015 from Lit Fest Press. I have been a fan of Bill’s poetry for years.
Nicole Tone’S PICKS:
Ekback’s debut novel takes us to the Swedish Lapland in 1717. While the premise is a familiar one (a family moves to a new land to escape their past traumas and to set down new roots), it is both the unfamiliar setting and the study of human connection, and trauma, that has me eager to pick this up.
The Travels of Daniel Ascher
Déborah Lévy-Bertherat, translated by Adriana Hunter
I still have many months of impatiently waiting for this debut. As a fiction writer, I’m often drawn to stories that explore what fiction is. This story follows archeology student Helene, the great-niece of Daniel Ascher (a world traveler and rumored author of a popular series), through Paris as she tries to find the truth at the heart of fiction.
The Upstairs Wife: An Intimate History of Pakistan
This part memoir, part fiction book follows the life of Amina as she navigates the complexity of Pakistani life in the 1980’s for a woman, as terrorist violence and misogyny begin to become more prevalent. For me, this is reminiscent of A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, and I’m looking forward to having another peek into a world that is as much misunderstood as it is silenced.
LAURA CITINO’S PICK:
Get in Trouble
The book I’m most anticipating for 2015 is Kelly Link’s new collection, Get in Trouble. When I was younger, I consumed science fiction and fantasy like it was going out of style, but a lot of that got pushed aside when I went to college and discovered the (rightful) wonders of literary fiction. Kelly Link was the first author I read that bridged the gap between those worlds for me. Her language sparkles in a deep, dark way, and she is the master of packing tantalizing world building into the short form. Thankfully, I don’t have to wait long, as the collection comes out later this month.