Back in January, I shared my most anticipated books of 2022. Most of those books have been released now and publishers have announced more new releases for the second half of the year, so I thought it would make sense to take another look ahead to see what new book releases I am also looking forward to in 2022. Here they are in order of publication date (starting with the ones that are closest to being released).
At the bottom of this post, I’ll talk about some upcoming releases that could be interesting, but I want some more information or feedback on before committing.
Properties of Thirst, Marianne Wiggins (8/2)
From the publisher (Simon & Schuster):
Rockwell “Rocky” Rhodes has spent years fiercely protecting his California ranch from the LA Water Corporation. It is here where he and his beloved wife Lou raised their twins, Sunny and Stryker, and it is here where Rocky has mourned Lou in the years since her death.
As Sunny and Stryker reach the cusp of adulthood, the country teeters on the brink of war. Stryker decides to join the fight, deploying to Pearl Harbor not long before the bombs strike. Soon, Rocky and his family find themselves facing yet another incomprehensible tragedy.
Rocky is determined to protect his remaining family and the land where they’ve loved and lost so much. But when the government decides to build a Japanese-American internment camp next to the ranch, Rocky realizes that the land faces even bigger threats than the LA watermen he’s battled for years. Complicating matters is the fact that the idealistic Department of the Interior man assigned to build the camp, who only begins to understand the horror of his task after it may be too late, becomes infatuated with Sunny and entangled with the Rhodes family.
Properties of Thirst is a novel that is both universal and intimate. It is the story of a changing American landscape and an examination of one of the darkest periods in this country’s past, told through the stories of the individual loves and losses that weave together to form the fabric of our shared history. Ultimately, it is an unflinching distillation of our nation’s essence—and a celebration of the bonds of love and family that persist against all odds.
When Wiggins’ last novel, Evidence of Things Unseen, was published fifteen years ago it became a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Part of my interest is in seeing if lightning strikes twice, but the book itself definitely sounds like it could be good. What really caught my eye, however, is this summary of Kirkus’ starred review of the book: “This majestic novel will satisfy those thirsting for an epic saga of love, family, and the complexities of the American way.”
All This Could Be Different, Sarah Thankam Mathews (8/2)
From the publisher (Viking):
From a brilliant new voice comes an electrifying novel of a young immigrant building a life for herself—a warm, dazzling, and profound saga of queer love, friendship, work, and precarity in twenty-first century America.
Graduating into the long maw of an American recession, Sneha is one of the fortunate ones. She’s moved to Milwaukee for an entry-level corporate job that, grueling as it may be, is the key that unlocks every door: she can pick up the tab at dinner with her new friend Tig, get her college buddy Thom hired alongside her, and send money to her parents back in India. She begins dating women—soon developing a burning crush on Marina, a beguiling and beautiful dancer who always seems just out of reach.
But before long, trouble arrives. Painful secrets rear their heads; jobs go off the rails; evictions loom. Sneha struggles to be truly close and open with anybody, even as her friendships deepen, even as she throws herself headlong into a dizzying romance with Marina. It’s then that Tig begins to draw up a radical solution to their problems, hoping to save them all.
A beautiful and capacious novel rendered in singular, unforgettable prose, All This Could Be Different is a wise, tender, and riveting group portrait of young people forging love and community amidst struggle, and a moving story of one immigrant’s journey to make her home in the world.
I admit that I was a bit nervous about this one when I first read the description because novels about finding yourself in young adulthood can be a bit, well, precious. I was convinced when Kirkus gave it a starred review and called it “Resplendent with intelligence, wit, and feeling.”
Babysitter, Joyce Carol Oates (8/23)
From the publisher (Knopf):
From one of America’s most renowned storytellers—the best-selling author of Blonde—comes a novel about love and deceit, and lust and redemption, against a backdrop of shocking murders in the affluent suburbs of Detroit.
In the waning days of the turbulent 1970s, in the wake of unsolved child-killings that have shocked Detroit, the lives of several residents are drawn together with tragic consequences.
Suspenseful, brilliantly orchestrated and engrossing, Babysitter is a starkly narrated exploration of the riskiness of pursuing alternate lives, calling into question how far we are willing to go to protect those whom we cherish most. In its scathing indictment of corrupt politics, unexamined racism, and the enabling of sexual predation in America, Babysitter is a thrilling work of contemporary fiction.
I’m a little iffy on Joyce Carol Oates but this sounds like it could be intriguing. She is considered a great American author but has never won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction despite being nominated five times. She’s like the Susan Lucci of the Pulitzers. Babysitter might be a tough sell for the Pulitzer next year because it sounds like it leans into being a thriller, but you can never count Oates out and it does sound interesting–especially if it leans into this story as part of an allegory about America.
I have access to an e-galley of this through Edelweiss, and I look forward to seeing how it is.
Didn’t Nobody Give a Shit What Happened to Carlotta, James Hannaham (8/30)
From the publisher (Little Brown):
From the author of the PEN/Faulkner Award winner Delicious Foods comes the raucous, irreverent, and harrowing story of a trans woman’s re-entry into life on the outside after more than twenty years in prison, over one consequential Fourth of July weekend
Carlotta Mercedes has been misunderstood her entire life. When she was pulled into a robbery gone wrong, she still went by the name she’d grown up with in Fort Greene, Brooklyn—before it gentrified. But not long after her conviction, she took the name Carlotta and began to live as a woman, an embrace of selfhood that prison authorities rejected, keeping Carlotta trapped in an all-male cell block, abused by both inmates and guards, and often placed in solitary.
In her fifth appearance before the parole board, Carlotta is at last granted conditional freedom and returns to a much-changed New York City. Over a whirlwind Fourth of July weekend, she struggles to reconcile with the son she left behind, to reunite with a family reluctant to accept her true identity, and to avoid any minor parole infraction that might get her consigned back to lockup.
Sold, sold, sold. I actually have access to an e-galley of this on NetGalley, and I am looking forward to diving in now that the release date is approaching.
The Marriage Portrait, Maggie O’Farrell (9/6)
From the publisher (Knopf):
The author of Hamnet—New York Times best seller and National Book Award winner—brings the world of Renaissance Italy to jewel-bright life in this unforgettable portrait of the captivating young duchess Lucrezia de’ Medici as she makes her way in a troubled court.
Florence, the 1550s. Lucrezia, third daughter of the grand duke, is comfortable with her obscure place in the palazzo: free to wonder at its treasures, observe its clandestine workings, and devote herself to her own artistic pursuits. But when her older sister dies on the eve of her wedding to the ruler of Ferrara, Modena and Reggio, Lucrezia is thrust unwittingly into the limelight: the duke is quick to request her hand in marriage, and her father just as quick to accept on her behalf.
Having barely left girlhood behind, Lucrezia must now enter an unfamiliar court whose customs are opaque and where her arrival is not universally welcomed. Perhaps most mystifying of all is her new husband himself, Alfonso. Is he the playful sophisticate he appeared to be before their wedding, the aesthete happiest in the company of artists and musicians, or the ruthless politician before whom even his formidable sisters seem to tremble?
As Lucrezia sits in constricting finery for a painting intended to preserve her image for centuries to come, one thing becomes worryingly clear. In the court’s eyes, she has one duty: to provide the heir who will shore up the future of the Ferranese dynasty. Until then, for all of her rank and nobility, the new duchess’s future hangs entirely in the balance.
Full of the beauty and emotion with which she illuminated the Shakespearean canvas of Hamnet, Maggie O’Farrell turns her talents to Renaissance Italy in an extraordinary portrait of a resilient young woman’s battle for her very survival.
I mean, do I need to justify why I’m interested in this one? I have it pre-ordered at Montana Book Company. And I cannot wait.
The Unfolding, A.M. Homes (9/6)
From the publisher (Viking):
In her first novel since the Women’s Prize award-winning May We Be Forgiven, A.M. Homes delivers us back to ourselves in this stunning alternative history that is both terrifyingly prescient, deeply tender and devastatingly funny.
The Big Guy loves his family, money and country. Undone by the results of the 2008 presidential election, he taps a group of like-minded men to reclaim their version of the American Dream. As they build a scheme to disturb and disrupt, the Big Guy also faces turbulence within his family. His wife, Charlotte, grieves a life not lived, while his 18-year-old daughter, Meghan, begins to realize that her favorite subject—history—is not exactly what her father taught her.
In a story that is as much about the dynamics within a family as it is about the desire for those in power to remain in power, Homes presciently unpacks a dangerous rift in American identity, prompting a reconsideration of the definition of truth, freedom and democracy—and exploring the explosive consequences of what happens when the same words mean such different things to people living together under one roof.
This sounds like something that could trip all of my anxiety buttons thanks to the news cycle since 2016, but I’ve heard good things about May We Be Forgiven and I’m always intrigued by very American books because, you know, the Pulitzer, so this seems like one I will need to try. I was granted access through NetGalley, and hopefully, I will be getting to it soon.
Less Is Lost, Andrew Sean Greer (9/20)
From the publisher (Little Brown):
For Arthur Less, life is going surprisingly well: he is a moderately accomplished novelist in a steady relationship with his partner, Freddy Pelu. But nothing lasts: the death of an old lover and a sudden financial crisis has Less running away from his problems yet again as he accepts a series of literary gigs that send him on a zigzagging adventure across the US.
Less roves across the “Mild Mild West,” through the South and to his mid-Atlantic birthplace, with an ever-changing posse of writerly characters and his trusty duo – a human-like black pug, Dolly, and a rusty camper van nicknamed Rosina. He grows a handlebar mustache, ditches his signature gray suit, and disguises himself in the bolero-and-cowboy-hat costume of a true “Unitedstatesian”… with varying levels of success, as he continues to be mistaken for either a Dutchman, the wrong writer, or, worst of all, a “bad gay.”
We cannot, however, escape ourselves—even across deserts, bayous, and coastlines. From his estranged father and strained relationship with Freddy, to the reckoning he experiences in confronting his privilege, Arthur Less must eventually face his personal demons. With all of the irrepressible wit and musicality that made Less a bestselling, Pulitzer Prize-winning, must-read breakout book, Less Is Lost is a profound and joyous novel about the enigma of life in America, the riddle of love, and the stories we tell along the way.
I nearly relegated this to the list of “maybe” titles but ultimately decided to list it with the books I’m looking forward to because let’s be real, I’m most likely going to read this simply because it is a sequel to a book that won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. And while it sounds like an unnecessary rehash of the plot of the original, the Pulitzer connection alone makes me feel obligated. Even though I don’t think Less deserved to win.
Best of Friends, Kamila Shamsie (9/27)
From the publisher (Riverhead):
From the acclaimed author of Home Fire, the moving and surprising story of a lifelong friendship and the forces that bring it to the breaking point.
Zahra and Maryam have been best friends since childhood in Karachi, even though—or maybe because—they are unlike in nearly every way. Yet they never speak of the differences in their backgrounds or their values, not even after the fateful night when a moment of adolescent impulse upends their plans for the future.
Three decades later, Zahra and Maryam have grown into powerful women who have each cut a distinctive path through London. But when two troubling figures from their past resurface, they must finally confront their bedrock differences—and find out whether their friendship can survive.
Thought-provoking, compassionate, and full of unexpected turns, Best of Friends offers a riveting take on an age-old question: Does principle or loyalty make for the better friend?
Kamila Shamsie’s previous novel, Home Fire, won the Women’s Prize and I heard a lot of good things about it… but I never got around to reading it. Maybe I’ll have better luck with her new book.
Our Missing Hearts, Celeste Ng (10/4)
From the publisher (Penguin):
Twelve-year-old Bird Gardner lives a quiet existence with his loving but broken father, a former linguist who now shelves books in a university library. Bird knows to not ask too many questions, stand out too much, or stray too far. For a decade, their lives have been governed by laws written to preserve “American culture” in the wake of years of economic instability and violence. To keep the peace and restore prosperity, the authorities are now allowed to relocate children of dissidents, especially those of Asian origin, and libraries have been forced to remove books seen as unpatriotic—including the work of Bird’s mother, Margaret, a Chinese American poet who left the family when he was nine years old.
Bird has grown up disavowing his mother and her poems; he doesn’t know her work or what happened to her, and he knows he shouldn’t wonder. But when he receives a mysterious letter containing only a cryptic drawing, he is pulled into a quest to find her. His journey will take him back to the many folktales she poured into his head as a child, through the ranks of an underground network of librarians, into the lives of the children who have been taken, and finally to New York City, where a new act of defiance may be the beginning of much-needed change.
Our Missing Hearts is an old story made new, of the ways supposedly civilized communities can ignore the most searing injustice. It’s a story about the power—and limitations—of art to create change, the lessons and legacies we pass on to our children, and how any of us can survive a broken world with our hearts intact.
I liked Little Fires Everywhere but I confess I had some quibbles with it (quibbles I think the TV adaptation smoothed out, actually). Still, I liked it enough to see what Ng has in store for her readers next.
The Hero of This Book, Elizabeth McCracken (10/4)
From the publisher (Ecco Press):
Ten months after her mother’s death, the narrator of The Hero of This Book takes a trip to London. The city was a favorite of her mother’s, and as the narrator wanders the streets, she finds herself reflecting on her mother’s life and their relationship. Thoughts of the past meld with questions of the future: Back in New England, the family home is now up for sale, its considerable contents already winnowed.
The woman, a writer, recalls all that made her complicated mother extraordinary—her brilliant wit, her generosity, her unbelievable obstinacy, her sheer will in seizing life despite physical difficulties—and finds herself wondering how her mother had endured. Even though she wants to respect her mother’s nearly pathological sense of privacy, the woman must come to terms with whether making a chronicle of this remarkable life constitutes an act of love or betrayal.
The Hero of This Book is a searing examination of grief and renewal, and of a deeply felt relationship between a child and her parents. What begins as a question of filial devotion ultimately becomes a lesson in what it means to write. At once comic and heartbreaking, with prose that delights at every turn, this is a novel of such piercing love and tenderness that we are reminded that art is what remains when all else falls away.
McCracken first caught my eye when her story collection The Souvenir Museum was longlisted for The National Book Award. I never caught up to that collection but I heard good things about it, so her name caught my attention when I was looking at upcoming releases. And while I’m not sure when I’ll be emotionally ready for a novel that so explicitly deals with death and grief, I am intrigued.
Demon Copperhead, Barbara Kingsolver (10/18)
From the publisher (HarperCollins):
Demon Copperhead is set in the mountains of southern Appalachia. It’s the story of a boy born to a teenaged single mother in a single-wide trailer, with no assets beyond his dead father’s good looks and copper-colored hair, a caustic wit, and a fierce talent for survival. In a plot that never pauses for breath, relayed in his own unsparing voice, he braves the modern perils of foster care, child labor, derelict schools, athletic success, addiction, disastrous loves, and crushing losses. Through all of it, he reckons with his own invisibility in a popular culture where even the superheroes have abandoned rural people in favor of cities.
I’ve never read David Copperfield, which is cited as the inspiration for this book, but I’m a fan of Barbara Kingsolver and I think adapting a Victorian story about a boy struggling through poverty to Appalachia sounds like a good fit. Can’t wait.
Liberation Day: Stories, George Saunders (10/18)
From the publisher (Random House):
The “best short-story writer in English” (Time) is back with a masterful collection that explores ideas of power, ethics, and justice and cuts to the very heart of what it means to live in community with our fellow humans. With his trademark prose—wickedly funny, unsentimental, and exquisitely tuned—Saunders continues to challenge and surprise: Here is a collection of prismatic, resonant stories that encompass joy and despair, oppression and revolution, bizarre fantasy and brutal reality.
“Love Letter” is a tender missive from grandfather to grandson, in the midst of a dystopian political situation in the (not too distant, all too believable) future, that reminds us of our obligations to our ideals, ourselves, and one another. “Ghoul” is set in a Hell-themed section of an underground amusement park in Colorado and follows the exploits of a lonely, morally complex character named Brian, who comes to question everything he takes for granted about his reality. In “Mother’s Day,” two women who loved the same man come to an existential reckoning in the middle of a hailstorm. In “Elliott Spencer,” our eighty-nine-year-old protagonist finds himself brainwashed, his memory “scraped”—a victim of a scheme in which poor, vulnerable people are reprogrammed and deployed as political protesters. And “My House”—in a mere seven pages—comes to terms with the haunting nature of unfulfilled dreams and the inevitability of decay.
Together, these nine subversive, profound, and essential stories coalesce into a case for viewing the world with the same generosity and clear-eyed attention Saunders does, even in the most absurd of circumstances.
I confess I found Saunders’ last story collection, Tenth of December, to be a bit overhyped, but I loved his last novel, the Booker Prize-winner Lincoln in the Bardo. It’s because of my enthusiasm for the latter that I pre-ordered this at Montana Book Company.
Seven Empty Houses, Samanta Schweblin and translated by Megan McDowell (10/18)
From the publisher (Riverhead):
The seven houses in these seven stories are empty. Some are devoid of love or life or furniture, of people or the truth or of memories. But in Samanta Schweblin’s tense, visionary tales, something always creeps back in: a ghost, a fight, trespassers, a list of things to do before you die, a child’s first encounter with a dark choice or the fallibility of parents.
This was the collection that established Samanta Schweblin at the forefront of a new generation of Latin American writers. And now in English it will push her cult status to new heights. Seven Empty Houses is an entrypoint into a fiercely original mind, and a slingshot into Schweblin’s destablizing, exhilarating literary world.
In each story, the twists and turns will unnerve and surprise: Schweblin never takes the expected path and instead digs under the skin and reveals uncomfortable truths about our sense of home, of belonging, and of the fragility of our connections with others. This is a masterwork from one of our most brilliant writers.
Like George Saunders, I’ve been on a journey with Samanta Schweblin. I loved her novella Fever Dream even though I’m pretty sure I didn’t understand everything about it. I was less enthused by the last story collection of her translated into English, Mouthful of Birds… but I’m still willing to give this a try.
Kiss Her Once For Me, Alison Cochrun (11/1)
From the publisher (Atria):
One year ago, recent Portland transplant Ellie Oliver had her dream job in animation and a Christmas Eve meet-cute with a woman at a bookstore that led her to fall in love over the course of a single night. But after a betrayal the next morning and the loss of her job soon after, she finds herself adrift, alone, and desperate for money.
Finding work at a local coffee shop, she’s just getting through the days—until Andrew, the shop’s landlord, proposes a shocking, drunken plan: a marriage of convenience that will give him his recent inheritance and alleviate Ellie’s financial woes and isolation. They make a plan to spend the holidays together at his family cabin to keep up the ruse. But when Andrew introduces his new fiancée to his sister, Ellie is shocked to discover it’s Jack—the mysterious woman she fell for over the course of one magical Christmas Eve the year before. Now, Ellie must choose between the safety of a fake relationship and the risk of something real.
I mean, we can’t be serious all the time. Sometimes you need some cinnamon bun energy in your life. It’s a queer holiday rom-com and I’m all about that.
Foster, Claire Keegan (US release 11/1)
From the publisher (Grove Atlantic):
It is a hot summer in rural Ireland. A child is taken by her father to live with relatives on a farm, not knowing when or if she will be brought home again. In the Kinsellas’ house, she finds an affection and warmth she has not known and slowly, in their care, begins to blossom. But there is something unspoken in this new household—where everything is so well tended to—and this summer must soon come to an end.
Winner of the prestigious Davy Byrnes Award and published in an abridged version in the New Yorker,this internationally bestselling contemporary classic is now available for the first time in the US in a full, standalone edition. A story of astonishing emotional depth, Foster showcases Claire Keegan’s great talent and secures her reputation as one of our most important storytellers.
Keegan’s exquisite novella Small Things Like These was published in the United States around the same time last year, so it’s not really surprising that they’re now releasing one of her older titles here hoping for lightning to strike twice. I’ve heard great things about this one from people in the UK who have read it, so I can’t wait.
The Magic Kingdom, Russell Banks (11/8)
From the publisher (Knopf):
From one of America’s most beloved storytellers—a profound novel about belief, betrayal, and the transformation of one corner of the country.
In 1971, a property speculator named Harley Mann begins recording his life story onto a reel-to-reel machine. Reflecting on his childhood in the early twentieth century, Harley recounts that after his father’s sudden death, his family migrated down to Florida’s swamplands—mere miles away from what would become Disney World—to join a community of Shakers. Led by Elder John, a generous man with a mysterious past, the colony devoted itself to labor, faith, and charity, rejecting all temptations that lay beyond the property. Though this way of life initially saved Harley and his family from complete ruin, when Harley began falling in love with Sadie Pratt, a consumptive patient living on the grounds, his loyalty to the Shakers and their conservative worldview grew strained and, ultimately, broke. As Harley dictates his story across more than half a century—meditating on youth, Florida’s everchanging landscape, and the search for an American utopia—the truth about Sadie, Elder John, and the Shakers comes to light, clarifying the past and present alike.
A dazzling tapestry of love and faith, memory and imagination, The Magic Kingdom questions what it means to look back and accept one’s place in history. With an expert eye and stunning vision, Russell Banks delivers a wholly captivating portrait of a man navigating Americana and the passage of time.
Banks is in a similar situation to Joyce Carol Oates: he’s been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction twice but never won. As he heads into the twilight of his career, can he catch the attention of the Pulitzer Board? This book sounds fascinating and like a true slice of Americana, which naturally means I’m intrigued. I have access to an e-galley on NetGalley and I can’t wait to dive in.
Carrie Soto is Back, Taylor Jenkins Reid (8/30) (Ballantine)
I really liked Daisy Jones and the Six but no other book by Reid has sparked my interest. This one sounds like it could be interesting, but for some reason I’ve started associating Reid with disinterest more than anything else.
The Birdcatcher, Gayl Jones (9/13)
I was really excited when I learned about Palmares, the Pulitzer Prize finalist that marked Jones’ return to literature after 22 years of absence… until I saw this review of the book (and all that it gets wrong). My enthusiasm for Jones’ work has tempered after that. And yet, I can’t help but feel interested in this author (who was discovered by Toni Morrison when she worked as an editor).
Lucy By the Sea, Elizabeth Strout (9/20)
The barrier for entry here is that I haven’t read any of Elizabeth Strout’s Lucy Barton novels, so I feel like I would need to catch up to those before I can even think about picking up this one.
Shrines of Gaiety, Kate Atkinson (9/27)
I’ve only read one book by Atkinson (Case Histories) and I feel like I’m missing out because people love her. But I remember only thinking that Case Histories was just okay. Should I go back and start again? Should I start over somewhere else?
The Passenger/Stella Maris, Cormac McCarthy (10/25 and 12/6)
I remember loving Cormac McCarthy’s The Road when I read it after it was published. And while I wasn’t a huge fan of No Country For Old Men, I did like it. So you would think I would be more excited. Why am I unsure? Because he isn’t releasing just one book, he’s releasing two: linked novels about a salvage diver and a woman in a psychiatric facility. Maybe it will be great… but it sounds a bit like a lot.
Toad, Katherine Dunn (11/1)
I tend to be very suspicious of anything published without an author’s consent, so that’s strike one against this book (Kathrine Dunn died in 2016 and this manuscript, which she never tried to publish, was found in her belongings). Strike two is that while I loved Geek Love when I read it as a twenty-year-old, I’m more than a little concerned that it wouldn’t have held up if I were to reread it.
The Last Chairlift, John Irving (10/18)
I always like the idea of John Irving’s books but I’ve yet to actually get along with any of them. That makes it difficult to muster any enthusiasm.
All the Broken Places, John Boyne (11/29)
Part of me wants to give John Boyne the benefit of the doubt since The Heart’s Invisible Furies was my favorite book of the year when I read it. Unfortunately, I hated his follow-up, Ladder to the Sky, and some of Boyne’s subsequent interviews haven’t been great… plus, I hear terrible things about The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. And this is a sequel to The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. Probably best not to get hopes up, then.