Features

11 Must-Read Books For May

The editors' favorite books out this month.

The world still feels strange, but the publishing industry continues to bring us fun, thoughtful, and deliciously written books. Here are the CHIRB editors’ 11 favorites hitting shelves this month.

Vagablonde
By Anna Dorn
Unnamed Press

Vagablonde is a darkly humorous, rollercoaster ride through the Los Angeles music scene about a woman who wants two things, the first is to live without psychotropic medication, and the second is to experience success as an artist. A cautionary tale about viral fame, Vagablonde speaks directly to our time in biting detail.”

Vanishing Monuments
By John Elizabeth Stintzi
Arsenal Pulp Press

“Alani Baum, a non-binary photographer and teacher, hasn’t seen their mother since they ran away with their girlfriend when they were seventeen — almost thirty years ago. But when Alani gets a call from a doctor at the assisted living facility where their mother has been for the last five years, they learn that their mother’s dementia has worsened and appears to have taken away her ability to speak. As a result, Alani suddenly find themselves running away again — only this time, they’re running back to their mother.”

Shiner
By Amy Jo Burns
Riverhead Books

“An hour from the closest West Virginia mining town, fifteen-year-old Wren Bird lives in a cloistered mountain cabin with her parents. They have no car, no mailbox, and no visitors-except for her mother’s lifelong best friend. Every Sunday, Wren’s father delivers winding sermons in an abandoned gas station, where he takes up serpents and praises the Lord for his blighted white eye, proof of his divinity and key to the hold he has over the community, over Wren and her mother. But over the course of one summer, a miracle performed by Wren’s father quickly turns to tragedy.”

A Children’s Bible
By Lydia Millet
W.W. Norton & Co.

“Pulitzer Prize finalist Lydia Millet’s sublime new novel―her first since the National Book Award long-listed Sweet Lamb of Heaven―follows a group of twelve eerily mature children on a forced vacation with their families at a sprawling lakeside mansion. Contemptuous of their parents, who pass their days in a stupor of liquor, drugs, and sex, the children feel neglected and suffocated at the same time. When a destructive storm descends on the summer estate, the group’s ringleaders―including Eve, who narrates the story―decide to run away, leading the younger ones on a dangerous foray into the apocalyptic chaos outside.”

My Baby First Birthday
By Jenny Zhang
Tin House Books

“Radiant and tender, My Baby First Birthday is a collection that examines innocence, asking us who gets to be loved and who has to deplete themselves just to survive. Jenny Zhang writes about accepting pain, about the way we fetishize womanhood and motherhood, and reduce women to their violations, traumas, and body parts.” 

The Bird Way: A New Look at How Birds Talk, Work, Play, Parent, and Think
By Jennifer Ackerman
Penguin Press

“From the New York Times bestselling author of The Genius of Birds, a radical investigation into the bird way of being, and the recent scientific research that is dramatically shifting our understanding of birds–how they live and how they think.”

Brown Album : Essays on Exile and Identity
By Porochista Khakpour
Vintage

Brown Album is a stirring collection of essays, at times humorous and at times profound, drawn from more than a decade of Porochista’s work and with new material included. Altogether, it reveals the tolls that immigrant life in this country can take on a person and the joys that life can give.”

Yours, Jean
By Lee Martin
Dzanc Books

“Based on a true crime and ideal for readers of The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers and Elizabeth Strout’s beloved Anything Is Possible, Pulitzer Prize finalist Lee Martin’s Yours, Jean is a powerful novel about small town manners and the loneliness that drives people to do things they never imagined.”

The Index of Self-Destructive Acts
By Christopher Beha
Tin House Books

“Through baseball, finance, media, and religion, Beha traces the passing of the torch from the old establishment to the new meritocracy, exploring how each generation’s failure helped land us where we are today.”

Only the River
By Anne Raeff
Counterpoint

“Fleeing the ravages of wartime Vienna, Pepa and her family find safe harbor in the small town of El Castillo, on the banks of the San Juan River in Nicaragua. There her parents seek to eradicate yellow fever while Pepa falls under the spell of the jungle and the town’s eccentric inhabitants. But Pepa’s life―including her relationship with local boy Guillermo―comes to a halt when her family abruptly moves to New York, leaving the young girl disoriented and heartbroken.”

The Down Days
By Ilze Hugo
Skybound Books

“In the aftermath of a deadly outbreak—reminiscent of the 1962 event of mass hysteria that was the Tanganyika Laughter Epidemic—a city at the tip of Africa is losing its mind, with residents experiencing hallucinations and paranoia. Is it simply another episode of mass hysteria, or something more sinister? In a quarantined city in which the inexplicable has already occurred, rumors, superstitions, and conspiracy theories abound.”


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