Chicagoans know that you can’t officially say goodbye to winter until May arrives, so it’s not an exaggeration to say that we’re thrilled to welcome in the start of the new month!
With summer clearly in our view, it’s time to start thinking about your warm weather reading plans. We’re talking books that you’ll want to take outside with you so you can enjoy some sun and a great read. Thankfully, May is set to be a standout month for book lovers, with plenty of exciting new releases to check out.
So here’s your sign to step into summer with a great book!
By Juan Gabriel Vásquez
Translated from the Spanish by Anne McLean
From the author of The Sound of Things Falling and the International Booker finalist The Shape of the Ruins comes Retrospective, an epic novel about a Colombian man and his family who are caught up in the sweep of history and revolution. Sergio Cabrera and his sister Marinella were raised first as children of famous actors and then as trained rebel fighters for Mao’s Cultural Revolution working with guerrillas in the Colombian countryside. Juan Gabriel Vásquez has created a remarkable family saga that spans from the Spanish Civil War to the global upheaval of the 1960s while maintaining the intimacy that comes with a family caught in the center of a world turned upside down.
Good Night, Irene
By Luis Alberto Urrea
Little Brown and Company
A new novel from Luis Alberto Urrea is always cause for celebration, and Good Night, Irene is sure to please. Urrea takes inspiration from his mother’s service in the Red Cross in this novel about an elite group of women who provide camaraderie and solace for frontline Allied soldiers on the Western front. Their work places them in grave danger amid some of the bloodiest battles of World War II, which leads to a utterly harrowing and triumphant read from start to finish.
Meet Me Tonight In Atlantic City
By Jane Wong
Tin House Books
Meet Me Tonight in Atlantic City is one of the standout memoirs of 2023 thus far. Jane Wong’s debut tells a complex portrait of growing up in her family’s Chinese restaurant on the Jersey Shore in the late 1980s, a life which is threatened by her father’s gambling addiction which ultimately leads to the loss of their business. Weaving together a story about childhood, family, the love of food, and identity, Meet Me Tonight in Atlantic City is alive with the beauty that comes with looking back on one’s life with grace and new understanding.
By Anne Berest
Translated from the French by Tina Kover
The Postcard is a can’t-miss novel from acclaimed French author Anne Berest. When Anne (the fictional character of the novel) finds an anonymous postcard among the usual holiday cards from her maternal great-grandparents who died in Auschwitz, she sets off to discover who sent it and why. Her journey leads her through the history of her family and exposes the secrets her ancestors hid for generations.
Chain Gang All Stars
By Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s 2018 debut collection Friday Black announced him as one of our generation’s most exciting writers. Chain Gang All Stars shares many of the author’s trademarks, including absurdist scenarios rooted in our country’s deep inequities and intense violence balanced by dark humor. The book follows top women gladiators Loretta Thurwar and Hamara “Hurricane Staxxx” Stacker, two stars of a highly-controversial and popular gladiatorial program in America’s increasingly dominant private prison industry in which contestants fight for their freedom. Adjei-Brenyah’s work can often be horrifying with great purpose, as it expresses the urgency of our deeply broken system of “justice.”
Foster Dade Explores the Cosmos
By Nash Jenkins
We’re eagerly anticipating Chicago author Nash Jenkins’s debut novel, which follows a nameless narrator who inherits a scandalous former student’s dorm at an elite boarding school. Part Prep and part The Secret History, Foster Dade Explores the Cosmos tells a compelling mystery that uncovers the harmful reaches of privilege, power, and toxic masculinity. Jenkins’s writing is a joy to read, with plenty of humor and intense emotional reckonings that come with growing up in the early years of the twenty-first century.
By Lesley Harrison
Poetry that explores the breadth of our world often provides the best reading experience, and Lesley Harrison’s Kitchen Music certainly does that. With meditations on whale hunts and lost children, Manhattan sky towers, and the sound of the gamelan in the Gulf of Bothnia, this collection is both expansive in scope and beautifully sparse in its language. Every word is savored, creating moments of stunning lyricism and powerful silence.
By R.F. Kuang
William Morrow & Company
Authors June Hayward and Athena Liu were supposed to be twin rising stars, but their careers take differing paths as Athena becomes a literary darling and June’s pursuits sputter. So when June witnesses Athena’s death in a freak accident, June steals Athena’s just-finished experimental novel about the unsung contributions of Chinese laborers during World War I and passes it off as her own. A prescient novel about diversity, racism, and cultural appropriation, Yellowface is a witty and sharp social critique that will have readers hooked from page one.
King: A Life
By Jonathan Eig
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Chicago author Jonathan Eig provides an exciting and deeply researched look at one of the most well-known civil rights icons in United States history: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. King: A Life is a revelatory new portrait that depicts MLK as a deep thinker, a brilliant strategist, and a committed radical who led one of history’s greatest movements. Eig—a bestselling biographer whose past subjects include Muhammad Ali, Jackie Robinson, and Lou Gehrig—proves again why Ken Burns called him a “master storyteller” with this incredible achievement.
By Theodore McCombs
At the end of the Victorian era, a handful of public intellectuals advocated for tolerance of the “Uranian”—a man who loved other men. In five speculative stories, Theodore McCombs teases the boundaries between coexisting realities and explores the question of queer difference from one surprising vantage after another. Uranians has already received praise from one of today’s greatest genre-bending authors Carmen Maria Machado, marking this a short story you need on your May release radar.
Mothers and Dogs
By Fabio Morábito
Translated from the Spanish by Curtis Bauer
If you’re like us, you have an appetite for unsettling short stories. Drawing from everyday life in Mexico and abroad, Mothers and Dogs tears at the distinctions between sanity and madness, life and death, and safety and danger. These fifteen stories expose the desperation in our everyday lives, from two brothers who find themselves worrying more about a dog locked in an apartment that hasn’t been fed than they do about their dying mother to a man’s evening jog that turns into a savage battle between runners.
By Max Porter
We’re excited to see the return of Booker Prize longlister Max Porter with Shy, a deeply felt story about a few strange hours in the life of a troubled teenage boy as he escapes a home for “very disturbed young men.” The novel exists in a fascinating liminal space: a painful and unexplored past and an uncertain future. Porter is at his finest here, as he questions how mischievous wonder and anarchic energy can curdle into something more disturbing and violent.
Michael Welch is the Editor-In-Chief for the Chicago Review of Books. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Kenyon Review Online, Iron Horse Literary Review, North American Review, and elsewhere. Find him at www.michaelbwelch.com and @MBWwelch.