If you’re like us, you’re probably preparing for the longer and colder nights with a mix of excitement and trepidation. Sure, with time change comes the approach of the holidays, but here in Chicago the gift of snow often arrives far too often and plentiful.
But fear not, because November means it’s also the start of cozy evening reading! This month brings us a feast of captivating new releases to dig into, including a number of Chicago authors. Grab yourself one (or perhaps all twelve) of our most anticipated books and prepare to be entertained all the way to the New Year!
The Quail Who Wears the Shirt
By Jeremy T. Wilson
For readers who love a laugh with their fiction, let us introduce you to a writer you need to know: Jeremy T. Wilson. When Lee Hubbs accidentally hits and kills someone with his car, he unintentionally unleashes a raucous series of events in his Southern town where people have been mysteriously turning into quails. Wilson’s writing echoes the hallmark traits of some of the finest satirists working today, as The Quail Who Wears the Shirt is undeniably witty, surreal, and emotionally resonant.
The New Naturals
By Gabriel Bump
Gabriel Bump’s 2020 debut Everywhere You Don’t Belong was a standout from that year, and his latest release continues to build upon that momentum. The New Naturals is a kaleidoscopic portrait of a cast of unforgettable characters who find themselves desperate to escape their diminishing world, turning instead to an ambitious project to build a new utopia underground. Whereas Everywhere You Don’t Belong was marked by its young narrator’s sense of optimism, The New Naturals explores where we go once our hope has been exhausted in the face of economic, climate, and personal crisis. But Bump is a remarkably compassionate and talented writer, and he brings that care to every interaction to create a beautiful novel that moves seamlessly between grief and yearning.
Hot Springs Drive
By Lindsay Hunter
Roxane Gay Books
The third title in Roxane Gay Books’ inaugural list is from Chicago’s very own Lindsay Hunter, which is cause for celebration among our team. Jackie Newsome is an ex-emotional eater and mother of four who carries the grief of her deceased best friend Theresa. But when she tries to leave her old self behind, she finds that a new hunger chases her as motherhood threatens to subsume what little she has left. Hunter is at the top of her game in Hot Springs Drive, as she weaves a dark and consistently compelling tale about desire and the fragility of suburban idealism.
The Night Parade
By Jami Nakamura Lin
As a young woman with undiagnosed bipolar disorder, Jami Nakamura Lin’s adolescence was marked by periods of extreme rage and an array of psychiatric treatments. As she grew older and learned to better manage her episodes, she became frustrated with the familiar pattern she found in mental illness and grief narratives. The Night Parade is an answer to those flawed narratives. This genre-bending and emotionally resonant memoir offers a masterfully braided narrative of Lin’s experience with mental illness, the death of her father, the grieving process, and Japanese, Taiwanese, and Okinawan legends to interrogate the very notion of recovery. The result is a deeply textured portrait of the experiences that haunt us and the ways in which we can begin to feel whole again.
By Sigrid Nunez
Sigrid Nunez’s much anticipated follow-up to her National Book award-winning novel The Friend is finally here. Featuring a budding friendship between an adrift member of Gen Z and a spirited parrot named Eureka, The Vulnerables strikes the difficult balance of being both elegiac and comedic as it seeks to explore what it means to be alive during our complex moment in history. Like much of her work, Nunez’s latest seeks brief and blisteringly beautiful moments of connection, which burn ever brighter amid the haunting loneliness she crafts.
Other Minds and Other Stories
By Bennett Sims
Two Dollar Radio
Halloween may be behind us, but there’s always room on our shelf for books that satisfy and scare. Bennett Sims’s collection Other Minds and Other Stories does just that, bringing together twelve short stories about characters navigating the paranoia and obsession of everyday horrors both internal and external. A well-meaning locavore tries to butcher his chickens humanely, only to find himself absorbed into the absurd violence of the pecking order. A student applying for a philosophy fellowship struggles to predict the thoughts of his hypothetical judges, steering him towards delusion over the problem of other minds. Sims presents readers with unforgettable characters who are losing their grip on their own identities and the world around them, creating a collection that can be both terrifying and endless in its possibilities. Other Minds and Other Stories takes a refreshing approach to storytelling and achieves heights we rarely see in short fiction.
Correction: Parole, Prison, and the Possibility of Change
By Ben Austen
Ben Austen announced himself as a leading writer in the lineage of Chicago greats such as Nelson Algren and Studs Terkel with his book High-Risers, and he continues to show his skills as a reporter in his latest release. Correction: Parole, Prison, and the Possibility of Change is a powerful challenge to America’s carceral state, forcing readers to reckon with not only the inhumane conditions incarcerated people face but also our nation’s very idea of punishment and second chances. Austen is unflinching and unsparing in his every critique as he asks the questions at the heart of our justice system: What constitutes retribution and why do we decide to punish?
Alice Sadie Celine
By Sarah Blakely-Cartwright
Simon & Schuster
This compelling and dynamic debut adult novel from Sarah Blakely-Cartwright follows one woman’s affair with her daughter’s best friend that tests the limits of love and ambition. Set over the course of decades, Alice Sadie Celine follows Alice and Sadie’s longtime friendship and Celine’s decision to leave her husband to the radical movement of 1990s Berkley and eventual affair with Alice. Blakely-Cartwright brings wit and charm to the interior lives of her three characters, which make for unforgettable reading experience throughout.
Wings of Red
By James W. Jennings
In this exciting and insightful work of autofiction, James W. Jennings lays bare the absurdities of the New York City educational system while also offering a memorable look at the beauties and burdens of the city overall. June Papers is a twenty-eight-year-old substitute teacher who is also experiencing homelessness. With dreams of becoming a writer, June endures a host of trials and dilemmas as he reluctantly realizes that mentoring and teaching may be a path forward for him. While dreams of a better life echo throughout the book, Wings of Red never shies away from the harsh financial realities of living in modern New York City. While the American dream may be a fallacy, Jennings’s writing reaches for something better for his characters at every turn in spite of the crushing challenges they face.
By Rachel DeWoskin
University of Chicago Press
Transformative and transporting, the poems in Absolute Animal navigate the chaos of societal and mortal uncertainty to discover a sense of precision among disorder. Rachel DeWoskin is ever the inventive writer, moving seamlessly between formal sonnet sequences to deep examinations of romance and climate change. Absolute Animal is a delightfully precise and expansive collection, inviting us to ponder what truly enriches the experience of being human.
At Night He Lifts Weights
By Kang Young-Sook
Translated from the Korean by Janet Hong
The stories in At Night He Lifts Weights depict the horrors of ecological dystopia that we may already find ourselves in. An artist is plagued by desire for her mysterious double as disease spreads through an uncanny suburban landscape. A woman who believes she’s been exposed to radioactive radiation inherits a warehouse where those fleeing the city can store their possessions. Kang Young-Sook’s work is fascinatingly deceptive, as her stories appear quiet at first before slowly unraveling into something far more sinister.
Art Monsters: Unruly Bodies in Feminist Art
By Lauren Elkin
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
The idea for Lauren Elkin’s latest book came to her when she read the term “art monster” in Jennifer Offill’s 2014 novel Dept. of Speculation, which made her begin to reflect on the connections between art and monstrosity and its differences when the artist is a woman. Exploring a rich lineage of artists throughout the ages, Elkin examines the ways feminists have confronted the problem of how to tell the truth of their experiences and express the languages of bodies. Art Monsters honors the tradition of writers like Susan Sontag and Maggie Nelson with its rich study of history and critique.
Michael Welch is the Editor-In-Chief for the Chicago Review of Books. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Electric Lit, Iron Horse Literary Review, North American Review, and elsewhere. Find him at www.michaelbwelch.com and @MBWwelch.