If 2017 was a year of much anticipated books by heavyweights such as Ali Smith, George Saunders and Kamila Shamsie, 2018 is shaping up to be even better. Early in the year we have Zadie Smith’s essay collection Feel Free, in which she surveys everything from pop culture to current politics with her trademark verve. January will bring us The Largesse of the Sea Maiden, the long-awaited story collection from the iconic Denis Johnson, 25 years after Jesus’ Son. Finished shortly before his death, this collection is already being hailed as an instant classic.
Here are a few more remarkable books in store for you in 2018’s first half.
A Girl in Exile
By Ismail Kadare
Counterpoint Press, January 9
Set among the bureaucratic machinery of Albania’s dictatorship, this compelling novel evokes the paranoid nature of life and love under surveillance.
This Could Hurt
By Jillian Medoff
Harper, January 9
An entertaining look at corporate America that captures the emotional complexities of five HR colleagues trying to balance ambition, hope, and fear as their small company is buffeted by economic forces that threaten to upend them.
By Luke Kennard
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, January 9
The Circle meets Get Out in this dangerously addictive paranoid thriller. Luke smoothly combines a dark comedy about millennial marriages with a lacerating dissection of our corporatized era. I read this book over a year ago and still can’t get over its sharp yet succulent writing.
By Thomas Pierce
Riverhead Books, January 9
Already getting praise from Emily St. John Mandel and Ron Rash, this dazzlingly original novel tackles a timeless question — what happens after we die? A hilarious and resplendent story about metaphysics, technology, love, and of course, the afterlife.
Everything Here is Beautiful
By Mira T. Lee
Pamela Dorman Books, January 16
A poignant story about the toll that chronic mental illness takes on the relationship between two Chinese-American sisters. This elegant debut is about the enduring bond of family and a delicately drawn portrayal of mental illness.
By Ana Simo
Restless Books, January 16
Described as “a Cuban-American’s Margaret Atwood-esque Debut of Love & Murder”‘, this seems like an wholly original novel. It is set in an alternate,pre-apocalyptic United States and promises to be a genre-bending high-octane debut.
Our Lady of the Prairie
By Thisbe Nissen
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, January 23
This wonderfully witty novel has already gotten advance praise from writers like Joshua Ferris and Leslie Jamison. A satirical take on the serene Midwestern life and an insightful, comical look at a woman whose life starts to unravel at breakneck speed.
By Xhenet Aliu
Random House, January 23
A striking debut novel about mothers and daughters, endurance and the flip side of the American dream. A scorching portrayal of blue-collar world and immigrant struggle.
Self-Portrait with Boy
By Rachel Lyon
Scribner, February 6
An ambitious young female artist who accidentally photographs a boy falling to his death—an image that could jumpstart her career, but would also devastate her most intimate friendship. Joyce Carol Oates hailed this debut as ‘beautifully imagined and flawlessly executed’. A subtly elegiac yet fierce look at the blurred boundaries between life and art, loyalty and morality.
By Lisa Halliday
Simon & Schuster, February 6
Chad Harbach, author of The Art Of Fielding described it as a ‘debut novel starts like a story you’ve heard, only to become a book unlike any you’ve read.’ A distinctly inventive story told in three distinct and uniquely compelling sections, Asymmetry explores the imbalances that spark and sustain many of our most dramatic human relations: inequities in age, power, talent, wealth, fame, geography, and justice.
By Steve Kistulentz
Little, Brown and Company, March 6
A debut novel set around a plane crash on New Year’s Day and then away from it as it observes the families of victims in the wake of a tragedy. An outstanding literary work featuring a kaleidoscope of views which is also a poignant meditation on our interconnectedness.
The House of Broken Angels
By Luis Alberto Urrea
Little, Brown and Company, March 6
An immensely entertaining family epic with richly textured language which has been compared to Gabriel García Márquez. This Mexican-immigrant is beautifully tragic and heartbreakingly funny.
Girls Burn Brighter
By Shobha Rao
Flatiron Books, March 6
A confident debut novel set in India and America about the unbreakable bond between two girls. From the menacing nooks of India’s underworld to the streets of Seattle, this searing novel traces the nuances of adulthood and the enduring power of childhood bonds.
The Last Equation of Isaac Severy: A Novel in Clues
By Nova Jacobs
Touchstone, March 6
This literary mystery is described as “The Family Fang meets The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry”. This captivating story about a struggling bookseller whose recently deceased grandfather, a famed mathematician, sends her on a quest for an elusive and a potentially dangerous mathematical formula is cerebral, eccentric and endearing.
Men and Apparitions
By Lynne Tillman
Soft Skull Press, March 13
Lynne Tillman’s much anticipated new novel after 12 years revolves around a cultural anthropologist who turns his anthropological lens on masculinity, art and memory. A profoundly wise and remarkably supple novel from an outstanding writer.
Edited by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan
The Feminist Press at CUNY, March 13
Through an array of fiction, memoir, and poetry, this extremely timely anthology in these xenophobic times gives an authentic view of the Asian diasporic community. With a foreword by Viet Thanh Nguyen, this is a stimulating collection about what home means to different people, featuring works by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan,Alexander Chee, Sharlene Teo among others.
By Rebecca Kauffman
Counterpoint Press, March 20
Novels about friendships are the new fad but trust me when I tell you that this one is truly superlative. A gracefully endearing story which delves deeply into the nature of childhood friendship while also shining a light on chronic illness and LGTBQ rights.
The Female Persuasion
By Meg Wolitzer
Riverhead Books, April 3
One of the highlights of 2018, this dazzling novel about embracing womanhood and ambition is a timely read. An electric read about the flame we all believe is flickering inside of us, waiting to be seen and fanned by the right person at the right time.
Heads of the Colored People: Stories
By Nafissa Thompson-Spires
Atria / 37 INK, April 10
A dazzling mix of dark, funny and wicked stories about black identity in the so-called post-racial era. Reminiscent of the catchy intelligence of Paul Beatty and Junot Diaz, this debut audaciously tackles race and identity politics.
By Laura Lindstedt
Oneworld Publications, April 10
Seven women find themselves in a purgatory-like space, trying to figure out how they got here and where to move on. This incredibly audacious work plays with genres from essay to poetry and explores the question of what follows death in this feminist fable.
The Life List of Adrian Mandrick
By Chris White
Touchstone, April 17
Described as H Is for Hawk meets Grief Is the Thing with Feathers, this poignant novel is about a pill-popping anesthesiologist and avid birder who embarks on a quest to find one of the world’s rarest species. An immensely affecting observation of human nature and foibles.
Slave Old Man
By Patrick Chamoiseau
Translated from the French and Creole by Linda Coverdale
The New Press, May 1
This novel comes from the Prix Goncourt winning French writer who is hailed by Milan Kundera as the “heir of Joyce and Kafka”. A propulsive and captivating story of an elderly slave’s daring escape into the wild from a plantation in Martinique, with his master and a fearsome hound on his heels.
Invitation to a Bonfire
By Adrienne Celt
Bloomsbury Publishing, June 5
This is a remarkable story of a dangerous love triangle, inspired by the infamous Nabokov marriage, with a spellbinding psychological thriller at its core. An alluring modern reimagining of the relationship between Vera and Nabokov.
By Lauren Groff
Riverhead Books, June 5
Hands down my most anticipated book of next year from the phenomenal writer of Fates and Furies. Her upcoming short story collection span characters, towns, decades, even centuries, but Florida — its landscape, climate, history, and state of mind — becomes its gravitational center: an energy, a mood, as much as a place of residence. This will be a sureshot winner!
The Great Believers
By Rebecca Makkai
Viking, June 19
The lyrical author of Music For Wartime and The Hundred-Year House returns with a historical novel set during the 1980s AIDS epidemic in Chicago, as well as present-day Paris.
By R.O. Kwon
Riverhead Books, July 31
This debut novel follows a Korean American student who gets involved with a radical, North Korea-based cult. Lauren Groff calls it “God-haunted, willful, [and] strange.”
Help the Chicago Review of Books and Arcturus make the literary world more inclusive by becoming a member, patron, or sponsor. Each option comes with its own perks and exclusive content. Click here to learn more.
A Karachi-based critic, bylines in Book Riot, Vol1Brooklyn, Brooklyn Mag, The Spectator, Irish Times and elsewhere. Can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org