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The Best New Books of May 2018

The Best New Books of May 2018

If you don’t already have plans for May 8, save the date for a trip to the bookstore. No less than six amazing new books drop that day, including a Chicago debut (Julia Fine, who was mentored by Audrey Niffenegger at Columbia College), new fiction from Rumaan Alam, and new poetry from Tommy Pico and Justin Phillip Reed. Scroll down for the rest of our May picks.


By Sheila Heti
May 1

From Henry Holt: “In Motherhood, Sheila Heti asks what is gained and what is lost when a woman becomes a mother, treating the most consequential decision of early adulthood with the candor, originality, and humor that have won Heti international acclaim and made How Should A Person Be? required reading for a generation.”


Welcome to Lagos
By Chibundu Onuzo
May 1

From Catapult: “Welcome to Lagos is a high-spirited novel about aspirations and escape, innocence and corruption. Full of humor and heart, it offers a provocative portrait of contemporary Nigeria that marks the arrival in the United States of an extraordinary young writer.”


The Wooden King
By Thomas McConnell
May 1

From Hub City Press: “In the spirit of Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale and Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See, The Wooden King explores denial, desire, and family drama against the lyrically rendered backdrop of World War II, deftly navigating “the simple difference between what we do and what we ought to do” in the face of rising totalitarianism.”

The Garbage Times / White Ibis
By Sam Pink
May 1

From Soft Skull Press: “Many writers are called original; Sam Pink is one for whom the term is beyond dispute. The stories in The Garbage Times take readers on a funny, despairing, raw, ecstatic journey to the rat-infested dive bars, restaurant kitchens, and alleys of Chicago.”


What Should Be Wild
By Julia Fine
Harper, May 8

“In this darkly funny, literary debut, a highly unusual young woman must venture into the woods at the edge of her home to remove a curse that has plagued the women in her family for centuries—an utterly original novel told with all the mesmerizing power of The Tiger’s Wife, The Snow Child, and Swamplandia!


Our Kind of Cruelty
By Araminta Hall
May 8

From MCD x FSG: “A spellbinding psychological thriller for fans of Gillian Flynn and Ruth Ware, with a refreshing twist—an unreliable male narrator. A riveting, darkly twisted novel about desire and obsession, Our Kind of Cruelty introduces Araminta Hall, a chilling new voice in psychological suspense.


By Tommy Pico
May 8

From Tin House Books: “From 2018 Whiting Award winner Tommy Pico, Junk is a book-length break-up poem that explores the experience of loss and erasure, both personal and cultural.”


By Justin Phillip Reed
May 8

From Coffee House Press: “Indecency is boldly and carefully executed and perfectly ragged. In these poems, Justin Phillip Reed experiments with language to explore inequity and injustice and to critique and lament the culture of white supremacy and the dominant social order. Political and personal, tender, daring, and insightful—the author unpacks his intimacies, weaponizing poetry to take on masculinity, sexuality, exploitation, and the prison industrial complex and unmask all the failures of the structures into which society sorts us.”


Compulsory Games
by Robert Aickman
May 8

From NYRB Classics: “The best and most interesting stories by Robert Aickman, a master of the supernatural tale, the uncanny, and the truly weird.”


That Kind of Mother
By Rumann Alam
May 8

From Ecco: “From the celebrated author of Rich and Pretty, a novel about the families we fight to build and those we fight to keep.”


See Also

The Ensemble
By Aja Gabel
May 15

From Riverhead Books: “The addictive novel about four young friends navigating the cutthroat world of classical music and their complex relationships with each other, as ambition, passion, and love intertwine over the course of their lives.”


The End of Chiraq:
A Literary Mixtape
Edited By Javon Johnson and Kevin Coval
Northwestern University Press, May 15

“A collection of poems, rap lyrics, short stories, essays, interviews, and artwork about Chicago, the city that came to be known as ‘Chiraq’ (‘Chicago + Iraq), and the people who live in its vibrant and occasionally violent neighborhoods. Tuned to the work of Chicago’s youth, especially the emerging artists and activists surrounding Young Chicago Authors, this literary mixtape unpacks the meanings of ‘Chiraq’ as both a vexed term and a space of possibility.”


By Bethany Morrow
May 22

From Unnamed Press: “A short novel grappling with memory, identity, and ownership in an alternate version of the 1920s where the elite’s memories can be removed and exist as clones.”


By Nick Drnaso
Drawn and Quarterly, May 22

“The follow-up to Nick Drnaso’s Beverly, winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, Sabrina depicts a modern world devoid of personal interaction and responsibility, where relationships are stripped of intimacy through glowing computer screens. Presenting an indictment of our modern state, Drnaso contemplates the dangers of a fake-news climate. Timely and articulate, Sabrina leaves you gutted, searching for meaning in the aftermath of disaster.”


Questions I Want to Ask You
By Michelle Falkoff
HarperTeen, May 29

“A mystery about family, secrets, and how to move forward when the past keeps pulling you back, perfect for fans of David Arnold and Jeff Zentner.”


View Comment (1)
  • I felt emotionally drained by the end of the Wooden King, and at the same time held by the theme of survival against all odds.

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