The 10 Best New Books to Read This December

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Be honest. Over the next few weeks, you’re going to need plenty of reading material. How else will you survive the longest nights of the year, the holiday road trips, or that one terrible Christmas movie your significant other HAS to watch? (It’s Jingle All the Way, isn’t it.) Here are the 10 best new books coming to an independent bookstore near you this December, including five writers of color and six independent presses.


9780062484154_0b167Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? by Kathleen Collins
Ecco, December 6

“Humorous, poignant, perceptive, and full of grace, Kathleen Collins’s stories masterfully blend the quotidian and the profound in a personal, intimate way, exploring deep, far-reaching issues—race, gender, family and sexuality—that shape the ordinary moments in our lives. In “The Uncle,” a young girl who idolizes her handsome uncle and his beautiful wife makes a haunting discovery about their lives. In “Only Once,” a woman reminisces about her charming daredevil of a lover and his ultimate—and final—act of foolishness. Collins’s work seamlessly integrates the African-American experience in her characters’ lives, creating rich, devastatingly familiar, full-bodied men, women, and children who transcend the symbolic, penetrating both the reader’s head and heart.”


9780765332639_d6db0Last Year by Robert Charles Wilson
Tor Books, December 6

“Two events made September 1st a memorable day for Jesse Cullum. First, he lost a pair of Oakley sunglasses. Second, he saved the life of President Ulysses S. Grant. It’s the near future, and the technology exists to open doorways into the past–but not our past, not exactly. Each “past” is effectively an alternate world, identical to ours but only up to the date on which we access it. And a given “past” can only be reached once. After a passageway is open, it’s the only road to that particular past; once closed, it can’t be reopened. A passageway has been opened to a version of late 19th-century Ohio. It’s been in operation for most of a decade, but it’s no secret, on either side of time. A small city has grown up around it to entertain visitors from our time, and many locals earn a good living catering to them. But like all such operations, it has a shelf life; as the “natives” become more sophisticated, their version of the “past” grows less attractive as a destination.


9781940430836_d9ff4Everything We Don’t Know by Aaron Gilbreath
Curbside Splendor, December 6

“A beautifully-crafted debut collection from an essayist concerned with pursuing a meaningful life in contemporary America. Heartfelt, earnest, and humorous, the essays in Everything We Don’t Know examine the journey of growing up in contemporary America. Aaron Gilbreath contemplates the ocean-bound debris from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster, his nostalgia for the demolished buildings of his youth, quitting smoking, the etymology of the word “radical,” and more. A deftly-crafted debut from a wise, bold voice.”

 


9781632865465_6f819They Are Trying to Break Your Heart by David Savill
Bloomsbury, December 6

“For fans of William Boyd, a literary thriller that ranges across decades and continents, weaving together the 2004 tsunami with the civil war in Bosnia and the personal with the political. In 1994, Marko Novak’s world is torn apart by the death of his best friend, Kemal, a young soldier in the darkest days of the Bosnian war. After the funeral, Marko flees to England, hoping to put his broken homeland, and the part he played in the loss of his friend, behind him. In 2004, human rights researcher Anya Teal is following a tenuous lead in the hunt for a Bosnian man with blood on his hands. She is also clinging to the fragile hope that she can rebuild a relationship with her first love, William Howell. When Anya invites Will to join her on a Christmas holiday in the Thai beach resort of Khao Lak, she hopes the holiday will offer them the chance to unpick the mistakes of their past. But Khao Lak may also be home to the man Anya is looking for—a man with a much darker history.”


9780374212551_e5b1fThe Moravian Night by Peter Handke
Translated by Krishna Winston
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
December 6

“Mysteriously summoned to a houseboat on the Morava River, a few friends, associates, and collaborators of an old writer listen as he tells a story that will last until dawn: the tale of the once well-known writer’s recent odyssey across Europe. As his story unfolds, it visits places that represent stages of the narrator’s and the continent’s past, many now lost or irrecoverably changed through war, death, and the subtler erosions of time. His wanderings take him from the Balkans to Spain, Germany, and Austria, from a congress of experts on noise sickness to a clandestine international gathering of jew’s-harp virtuosos. His story and its telling are haunted by a beautiful stranger, a woman who has a preternatural hold over the writer and appears sometimes as a demon, sometimes as the longed-for destination of his travels.”


9781501147210_aa385The Way of the Writer by Charles Johnson
Scribner, December 6

“From Charles Johnson—a National Book Award winner, Professor Emeritus at University of Washington, and one of America’s preeminent scholars on literature and race—comes an instructive, inspiring guide to the craft and art of writing. An award-winning novelist, philosopher, essayist, screenwriter, professor, and cartoonist, Charles Johnson has devoted his life to creative pursuit. His 1990 National Book Award-winning novel Middle Passage is a modern classic, revered as much for its daring plot as its philosophical underpinnings. For thirty-three years, Johnson taught and mentored students in the art and craft of creative writing. The Way of the Writer is his record of those years, and the coda to a kaleidoscopic, boundary-shattering career.”


9781944700034_c8d4bThe Show House by Dan Lopez
Unnamed Press, December 13

“In the wake of a Florida hurricane, two families become intertwined with the sinister plans of a serial killer and his multiple identities. Quirky Orlando retirees Thaddeus and Cheryl, and adoptive parents Steven and Peter, come together for a family weekend in Orlando, where Cheryl anxiously hopes to repair the dysfunctional and toxic relationship between her husband and their son. When news of a serial killer that targets gay men at nightclubs rocks their community, over-worked pharmacist Laila grows concerned for her handsome and arrogant younger half-brother, Alex, who has been missing for several months. Meanwhile, the calculating murderer’s own life begins to spiral out of control as he unwittingly falls for a would-be victim. Overwhelmed by meeting his granddaughter Gertie for the first time, Thaddeus kidnaps her in order to take her to Disney World setting off a wild goose chase where these intertwined families finally collide.”


9781408873649_9286cThe Private Life of Mrs. Sharma by Ratika Kapur
Bloomsbury, December 13

“A wickedly witty portrait of modern India from a distinctive new talent. Renuka Sharma is a dutiful wife, mother, and daughter-in-law holding the fort in a modest rental in Delhi while her husband tries to rack up savings in Dubai. Working as a receptionist and committed to finding a place for her family in the New Indian Dream of air-conditioned malls and high paid jobs at multi-national companies, life is going as planned until the day she strikes up a conversation with an uncommonly self-possessed stranger at a Metro station. Because while Mrs Sharma may espouse traditional values, India is changing all around her, and it wouldn’t be the end of the world if she came out of her shell a little, would it? With equal doses of humor and pathos, The Private Life of Mrs Sharma is a sharp-eyed examination of the clashing of tradition and modernity, from a dramatic new voice in Indian fiction.”


9781571314826_fffa4Cattle of the Lord by Rosa Alice Branco
Translated by Alexis Levitin
Milkweed Editions, December 13

“Love. Sex. Death. Meat. Traffic. Pets. In Cattle of the Lord, Rosa Alice Branco offers a stunning poetic vision at once sacred and profane, a rich evocation of daily life troubled by uneasy sacramentality. In a collection translated by Alexis Levitin and presented in both Portuguese and English, readers find themselves in a world turned upside down: darkly comic, sensual, and rife with contradiction. Here, liturgical words become lovers’ invitations. Cows moo at the heavens. And chickens are lessons on the resurrection. Over the course of the collection, Branco’s unorthodox — even blasphemous — religious sensibility yields something ultimately hopeful: a belief that the physical, the quotidian, and the animalistic are holy, too. Writing at the boundaries of sense and mystification, combining sensuous lyrics and wit with theological interrogation, Branco breaks down what we think we know about religion, faith, and what it means to be human.”


9781681772578_b35bcThe Granite Moth by Erica Wright
Pegasus Books, December 20

“It begins with a bang: Kathleen Stone is watching her friend Dolly and his fellow drag queens from The Pink Parrot perform at the Halloween Parade when their float explodes. Suspecting foul play, The Pink Parrot’s owner, Big Mamma, hires Kat to find the culprit. Meanwhile, Kat has not given up on her quest to bring gangster Salvatore Magrelli to justice and once more dons a disguise to infiltrate The Skyview, an exclusive club run by his wife, Eva. When she watches the club’s poker dealer drop dead during a high-stakes game, she decides to look into his death as well. Upon discovering that he was also gay, she suspects that this murder could be a hate crime connected to the parade explosion. However, as Kat digs deeper, she realizes that the truth is much more complicated and the real villains are much more difficult to spot.”


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