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The Best New Books of May 2019

The Best New Books of May 2019

May is the start of summer when it comes to books, movies, and cities south of the Mason Dixon Line (but definitely not in Chicago). That means we’ve got some heavy-hitters on tap, including sci-fi superstar Ted Chiang of Arrival fame, Elizabeth Acevedo of The Poet X fame, and though it didn’t make our best-of cut, a new novel from the author of The Silence of the Lambs, Thomas Harris (Cari Mora, his first in 13 years).

By Ted Chiang
Knopf, May 7

“From the acclaimed author of Stories of Your Life and Others—the basis for the Academy Award –nominated film Arrival—comes a groundbreaking new collection of short fiction: nine stunningly original, provocative, and poignant stories. These are tales that tackle some of humanity’s oldest questions along with new quandaries only Ted Chiang could imagine.”

Light from Other Stars
By Erika Swyler
Bloomsbury, May 7

“Eleven-year-old Nedda Papas is obsessed with becoming an astronaut. In 1986 in Easter, a small Florida Space Coast town, her dreams seem almost within reach–if she can just grow up fast enough. Theo, the scientist father she idolizes, is consumed by his own obsessions. Laid off from his job at NASA and still reeling from the loss of Nedda’s newborn brother several years before, Theo turns to the dangerous dream of extending his living daughter’s childhood just a little longer. The result is an invention that alters the fabric of time.”

With the Fire on High
By Elizabeth Acevedo
HarperTeen, May 7

“Teenage mother Emoni Santiago dreams of turning her talent for cooking into a career, if she can balance her responsibilities and realities with her ambitions.”

Furious Hours
By Casey Cep
Knopf, May 7

“The stunning story of an Alabama serial killer and the true-crime book that Harper Lee worked on obsessively in the years after To Kill a Mockingbird.”

The Guest Book
By Sarah Blake
Flatiron Books, May 7

“From the New York Times bestselling author of The Postmistresscomes a novel that is The Hours meets the Forsyte Saga, about a love affair between the daughter of a great American family and an upstart trying to break into polite society.”

Tears of the Trufflepig
By Fernando A. Flores
MCD x FSG Originals, May 14

“A surreal debut novel set on the Texas/Mexico border, blending magical realism, sci-fi, and political parable to tell the story of an everyday man’s tumble into a bizarre and sinister criminal underworld.”

Home Remedies: Stories
By Xuan Juliana Wang
Hogarth, May 14

“In twelve stunning stories of love, family, and identity, Xuan Juliana Wang’s debut collection captures the unheard voices of an emerging generation. Young, reckless, and catapulted toward uncertain futures, here is the new face of Chinese youth on a quest for every kind of freedom.”

Origins: How Earth’s History Shaped Human History
By Lewis Dartnell
Basic Books, May 14

“From the cultivation of the first crops to the founding of modern states, Origins reveals the breathtaking impact of the earth beneath our feet on the shape of our human civilizations.”

See Also

The Dreamt Land: Chasing Water and Dust Across California
By Mark Arax
Knopf, May 21

“The Dreamt Land weaves reportage, history and memoir to confront the “Golden State” myth in riveting fashion. No other chronicler of the West has so deeply delved into the empires of agriculture that drink so much of the water. The nation’s biggest farmers–the nut king, grape king and citrus queen–tell their story here for the first time.”

By Jo Walton
Tor Books, May 21

“From Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award-winning Jo Walton, a magical re-imagining of the man who remade fifteenth-century Florence—in all its astonishing strangeness.”

Last Day
By Domenica Ruta
Spiegel & Grau, May 28

“With sparkling wit, verbal ingenuity, and wild imagination, Ruta has created an alternate world in which an ancient holiday brings into stark reflection our deepest dreams, desires, hopes, and fears. In this tour-de-force debut novel she has written a dazzling, haunting love letter to humanity and to our planet.”

By Ingeborg Bachmann
Translated by Philip Boehm
New Directions, May 28

“Malina invites the reader on a linguistic journey, into a world that stretches the very limits of language with Wittgensteinian zeal and Joycean inventiveness, where Ingeborg Bachmann ventriloquizes—and in the process demolishes—Proust, Musil, and Balzac, and yet filters everything through her own utterly singular idiom. Malina is, quite simply, unlike anything else; it’s a masterpiece.”

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  • Three new books — Nicholas Christakis’s “Blueprint,” Adam Rutherford’s “Humanimal” and E.O. Wilson’s “Genesis” — explore the biology behind human social life, suggesting that our tendency to form large groups may bring out the best in us.

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