Can you believe the holiday season is already here?
While December is often a time to look forward to the New Year, the publishing industry never stops. If you’re looking for a book to accompany you on your winter travels or need to sprint to complete your reading goals, there are plenty of exciting releases this month for you to choose from.
Happy holidays and even happier reading from all of us at the Chicago Review of Books!
Super Sad Black Girl
By Diamond Sharp
The Chicagoans among us are rejoicing for the release of Diamond Sharp’s debut poetry collection. Super Sad Black Girl is a both soaring love letter to her hometown and a tender meditation on what it means to be free as a Black woman. From Lorraine Hansberry to Gwendolyn Brooks, Sharp calls upon the city’s literary idols to navigate the speaker’s own struggles and search for answers. Save room on your shelf, because Super Sad Black Girl is a book you’ll want to set next to some of Chicago’s great poets.
Things We Found When the Water Went Down
By Tegan Nia Swanson
Looking for a little mystery during the holidays? Then look no further than Tegan Nia Swanson’s debut novel, a dark and ethereal read about a young woman in search of her mother who went missing after being accused of murder. When a miner is found murdered on the frozen shore of a North County lake, people are quick to blame Marietta Abernathy, an outspoken environmental activist and recluse. Described as a “Nordic eco-noir with a shot with magical realism,” Things We Found When the Water Went Down is set to captivate fans of literary mysteries.
By Bora Chung
Translated from the Korean by Anton Hur
Sharp, wildly inventive, and slightly demented (in the most enjoyable way, of course), Cursed Bunny is an electric first impression for readers in the United States. Shortlisted for the 2022 International Booker Prize, this collection of short stories from rising star Bora Chun blends horror, sci-fi, fairy tales, and speculative fiction to form something of a literary Frankenstein. All we can say is buckle in, because when these stories take their horrific turn there’s no setting them down.
A Dangerous Business
By Jane Smiley
Knopf Publishing Group
Jane Smiley’s Perestroika in Paris kept many of us at the CHIRB company during the early days of the pandemic, and now the Pulitzer Prize-winning author is back with a fascinating murder mystery set in Gold Rush California. A Dangerous Business follows two young prostitutes who pursue the trail of two missing girls. Smiley has crafted a dangerous world for our heroines—from the lawlessness of the Wild West to the rumblings of an approaching Civil War—but this novel balances that danger with a striking beauty.
The Splendid Ticket
By Bill Cotter
What would you do if you won the lottery? For Angie Bigelow, that question becomes reality when she learns her ticket has earned her $324 million. In this darkly comedic novel, Bill Cotter explores the effects of an unexpected fortune on Angie and her broken family, as she struggles to decide whether to share her earnings with the father of her children and inveterate gambler, Dean Lee Grandent. The Splendid Ticket is fast-paced, frenetic, and wildly entertaining.
By Cormac McCarthy
Knopf Publishing Group
It’s head-spinning to think we went from having no new Cormac McCarthy books in over a decade to having two in the span of a few months. Stella Maris, the second volume of the new The Passenger series, is a deeply prodding and inwardly focused novel about a young woman who admits herself to a psychiatric hospital in 1972. Whereas The Passenger echoes some of the raw adrenaline-spiking aspects of McCarthy’s past works, Stella Maris is a largely philosophical endeavor written entirely in dialogue. The result is a more-than-welcome addition to this prolific author’s bibliography.
How to Turn Into a Bird
By María José Ferrada
Translated from the Spanish by Elizabeth Bryer
Tin House Books
After years of working in a factory outside of Santiago, Chile, Ramón accepts a job looking after a Coca-Cola billboard by the highway, which ultimately leads him to an even stranger decision: he’ll live on this billboard. But while many in town are quick to dismiss him as having lost his mind, his twelve-year-old nephew Miguel is enchanted by his uncle’s new life. How to Turn Into a Bird offers us a captivating view of society from above—a coming-of-age tale with a fascinating twist.
No One Left to Come Looking for You
By Sam Lipsyte
Simon & Schuster
Welcome to Sam Lipstye’s depiction of the East Village in the early 90s, a place filled with dive bars, DIY music venues, drugs, and plenty of strange personalities. Darkly funny and playfully mysterious, No One Left to Come Looking for You follows Jack S., a young rock musician searching for his lead singer who went missing with his prized bass. Lipstye presents us with an unforgettable cast of witty and weird characters throughout Jack’s search, stitching together a page-turning love letter to a past era of New York City that still offered promise and prosperity to young artists pursuing their dreams.
The Easy Life
By Marguerite Duras
Translated from the French by Emma Ramadan and Olivia Baes
We’re thrilled to see the work of Marguerite Duras finally get its long-awaited English translation. The Easy Life is the story of Francine Veyrenattes, a twenty-five-year-old woman suffering from intense grief and detachment after witnessing a series of tragedies on her family farm in rural France. Hoping to cleanse herself of the pain, she leaves for the coast, only to find herself continuing to unravel. For fans of philosophical novels, this is a perfectly unsettling and knotty read.
Grocery Shopping with My Mother
By Kevin Powell
Grocery Shopping with My Mother is a strikingly beautiful and heart-wrenching poetry collection borne out of Kevin Powell’s weekly trips to the grocery store to help his ill mother. Crafted like an album, these poems celebrate his love for his mother and dive deep into the complexities of vulnerable and honest relationships.
Roses, in the Mouth of a Lion
By Bushra Rehman
Our editors always love to read well-written stories about female friendship and queer love, and Bushra Rehman’s new novel fits that description perfectly. Enchanting and playfully mischievous, Roses, in the Mouth of a Lion tells the story of Razia, who becomes caught in the middle of a budding attraction to her classmate Angela, a newcomer to her close-knit Pakistani-American community. Rehman writes about heritage, faith, and young love with the care and gravity that a coming-of-age tale deserves.
Flames From the Earth: A Novel from the Lódz Ghetto
By Isaiah Spiegel
Translated from the Yiddish by Julian Levinson
Northwestern University Press
Northwestern University Press has brought this powerful and poetic Yiddish novel to English translation for the first time, which is something we can all be thankful for. Flames from the Earth is an autobiographical story that weaves together the material author Isaiah Spiegel wrote while imprisoned in the Lódz Ghetto, which he recovered from a cellar upon returning from Auschwitz after the war.