By Alyse Mgrdichian
As we roll into the new year, there are lots of new things to experience and enjoy: from food and (covid safe) travel to friends and DIYs, this is a year of opportunity. And if you’re looking for new books to read, 2022 has lots to offer! Here are 20 new and upcoming books you should check out.
1. Enjoy Me Among My Ruins (Juniper Fitzgerald)
FEMINIST PRESS (Jul. 12, 2022)
Combining feminist theories, the X-Files fandom, and personal memoir, Enjoy Me Among My Ruins draws together a kaleidoscopic archive of Juniper Fitzgerald’s experiences as a queer sex-working mother. Plumbing the major events that shaped her life, and interspersing her childhood letters written to cult icon Gillian Anderson, this experimental manifesto contends with dominant narratives placed upon marginalized bodies and ultimately rejects a capitalist system that demands our purity and submission over our survival.
2. Turn Up the Ocean (Tony Hoagland)
GRAYWOLF PRESS (Jul. 22, 2022)
Over the course of his celebrated career, Tony Hoagland ventured fearlessly into the unlit alleys of emotion and experience. The poems in Turn Up the Ocean examine with an unflinching eye and mordant humor the reality of living and dying in a time and culture that conspire to erase our inner lives. Hoagland’s signature wit and unparalleled observations take in longstanding injustices, the atrocities of American empire and consumerism, and our ongoing habit of looking away. In these poems, perseverance depends on a gymnastics of skepticism and comedy, a dogged quest for authentic connection, and the consolations of the natural world. Turn Up the Ocean is a remarkable and moving collection, a fitting testament to Hoagland’s devotion to the capaciousness and art of poetry.
3. Peach Blossom Spring (Melissa Fu)
LITTLE, BROWN, & CO. (Mar. 15, 2022)
Within every misfortune there is a blessing and within every blessing, the seeds of misfortune, and so it goes, until the end of time. It is 1938 in China and, as a young wife, Meilin’s future is bright. But with the Japanese army approaching, Meilin and her four-year-old son, Renshu, are forced to flee their home. Relying on little but their wits and a beautifully illustrated hand scroll, filled with ancient fables that offer solace and wisdom, they must travel through a ravaged country, seeking refuge.
Years later, Renshu has settled in America as Henry Dao. Though his daughter is desperate to understand her heritage, he refuses to talk about his childhood. How can he keep his family safe in this new land when the weight of his history threatens to drag them down? Yet how can Lily learn who she is if she can never know her family’s story? Spanning continents and generations, Peach Blossom Spring is a bold and moving look at the history of modern China, told through the story of one family. It’s about the power of our past, the hope for a better future, and the haunting question: What would it mean to finally be home?”
4. A Comb of Wishes (Lisa Stringfellow)
QUILL TREE BOOKS (Feb. 8, 2022)
Set against the backdrop of Caribbean folklore, Lisa Stringfellow’s spellbinding middle grade debut tells of a grieving girl and a vengeful mermaid. Ever since her mother’s death, Kela feels every bit as broken as the shards of glass, known as ‘mermaid’s tears,’ that sparkle on the Caribbean beaches of St. Rita. So when Kela and her friend Lissy stumble across an ancient-looking comb in a coral cave, with all she’s already lost, Kela can’t help but bring home her very own found treasure.
Far away, deep in the cold ocean, the mermaid Ophidia can feel that her comb has been taken. And despite her hatred of all humans, her magic requires that she make a bargain: the comb in exchange for a wish. But what Kela wants most is for her mother to be alive. And a wish that big will exact an even bigger price…
5. Chouette (Claire Oshetsky)
ECCO (Nov. 16, 2022)
An exhilarating, provocative novel of motherhood in extremis. Tiny is pregnant. Her husband is delighted. ‘You think this baby is going to be like you, but it’s not like you at all,’ she warns him. ‘This baby is an owlbaby.’
When Chouette is born small and broken-winged, Tiny works around the clock to meet her daughter’s needs. Left on her own to care for a child who seems more predatory bird than baby, Tiny vows to raise Chouette to be her authentic self. Even in those times when Chouette’s behaviors grow violent and strange, Tiny’s loving commitment to her daughter is unwavering. When she discovers that her husband is on an obsessive and increasingly dangerous quest to find a ‘cure’ for their daughter, Tiny must decide whether Chouette should be raised to fit in or to be herself—and learn what it truly means to be a mother.
6. The Anomaly (Herve Le Tellier, Tran. Adriana Hunter)
OTHER PRESS (Nov. 23, 2022)
Who would we be if we had made different choices? Told that secret, left that relationship, written that book? We all wonder—the passengers of Air France 006 will find out. In their own way, they were all living double lives when they boarded the plane: Blake, a respectable family man who works as a contract killer. Slimboy, a Nigerian pop star who uses his womanizing image to hide that he’s gay. Joanna, a Black American lawyer pressured to play the good old boys’ game to succeed with her Big Pharma client. Victor Miesel, a critically acclaimed yet largely obscure writer suddenly on the precipice of global fame. About to start their descent to JFK, they hit a shockingly violent patch of turbulence, emerging on the other side to a reality both perfectly familiar and utterly strange. As it charts the fallout of this logic-defying event, The Anomaly takes us on a journey from Lagos and Mumbai to the White House and a top-secret hangar. An ingenious, timely variation on the doppelgänger theme, this ambitious story taps into the parts of ourselves that elude us most.
7. Tastes Like War (Grace M. Cho)
FEMINIST PRESS (May 18, 2021)
Grace M. Cho grew up as the daughter of a white American merchant marine and the Korean bar hostess he met abroad. They were one of few immigrants in a xenophobic small town during the Cold War, where identity was politicized by everyday details—language, cultural references, memories, and food. When Grace was fifteen, her dynamic mother experienced the onset of schizophrenia, a condition that would continue and evolve for the rest of her life. Part food memoir, part sociological investigation, Tastes Like War is a hybrid text about a daughter’s search through intimate and global history for the roots of her mother’s schizophrenia. In her mother’s final years, Grace learned to cook dishes from her parent’s childhood in order to invite the past into the present, and to hold space for her mother’s multiple voices at the table. And through careful listening over these shared meals, Grace discovered not only the things that broke the brilliant, complicated woman who raised her—but also the things that kept her alive.
8. The Book of Perilous Dishes (Doina Rusti, Tran. James Christian Brown)
NEEM TREE PRESS (Mar. 23, 2022)
“1798: A magical, dark adventure. Fourteen-year-old Patca, initiated in the occult arts, comes to Bucharest for her uncle, Cuviosu Zăval, to retrieve the Book of Perilous Dishes. The recipes in this magical book can bring about damaging sincerity, forgetfulness, the gift of prediction, or hysterical laughter. She finds her uncle murdered and the book missing. All that Zăval has left her is a strange map she must decipher. Traveling from Romania and France to Germany to do so, Patca’s family’s true past and powers are revealed, as is her connection to the famous and sublime chef, Silica.
9. Voice of the Fish: A Lyric Essay (Lars Horn
GRAYWOLF PRESS (Jun. 7, 2022)
Lars Horn’s Voice of the Fish, the latest Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize winner, is an interwoven essay collection that explores the trans experience through themes of water, fish, and mythology, set against the backdrop of travels in Russia and a debilitating back injury that left Horn temporarily unable to speak. In Horn’s adept hands, the collection takes shape as a unified book: short vignettes about fish, reliquaries, and antiquities serve as interludes between longer essays, knitting together a sinuous, wave-like form that flows across the book.
10. Here Lies (Olivia Clare Friedman)
GROVE PRESS (Mar. 22, 2022)
Louisiana, 2042. Spurred by the effects of climate change, states have closed graveyards and banned burials, making cremation mandatory and the ashes of loved ones state-owned unless otherwise claimed. In the small town of St. Genevieve, Alma lives alone and struggles to grieve in the wake of her young mother Naomi’s death, during which Alma failed to honor Naomi’s final wishes. Now, Alma decides to fight to reclaim Naomi’s ashes, a journey of unburial that will bring into her life a mysterious and fiercely loyal stranger, Bordelon, who appears in St. Genevieve after a storm, as well as a group of strong, rebellious local women who, together, teach Alma anew the meaning of family and strength.
With poignance, poeticism, and deep insight in Here Lies, Olivia Clare Friedman gives us a stunning portrait of motherhood, friendship, and humanity in an alternate American South torn asunder by global warming.
11. Beasts of a Little Land (Juhea Kim)
ECCO (Dec. 7, 2021)
In 1917, deep in the snowy mountains of occupied Korea, an impoverished local hunter on the brink of starvation saves a young Japanese officer from an attacking tiger. In an instant, their fates are connected—and from this encounter unfolds a saga that spans half a century. In the aftermath, a young girl named Jade is sold by her family to Miss Silver’s courtesan school, an act of desperation that will cement her place in the lowest social status. When she befriends an orphan boy named JungHo, who scrapes together a living begging on the streets of Seoul, they form a deep friendship. As they come of age, JungHo is swept up in the revolutionary fight for independence, and Jade becomes a sought-after performer with a new romantic prospect of noble birth. Soon Jade must decide whether she will risk everything for the one who would do the same for her.
12. Sleeping Alone (Ru Freeman)
GRAYWOLF PRESS (Jun. 7, 2022)
In this collection of rich and textured stories about crossing borders, both real and imagined, Sleeping Alone asks one of the fundamental questions of our time: What is the toll of feeling foreign in one’s land, to others, or even to oneself? A cast of misfits, young and old, single and coupled, even entire family units, confront startling changes wrought by difficult circumstances or harrowing choices.
These stories span the world, moving from Maine to Sri Lanka, from Dublin to Philadelphia, paying exquisite attention to the dance between the intimate details of our lives and our public selves. Whether Ru Freeman is capturing secrets kept by siblings in Sri Lanka, or the life of itinerants in New York City, she renders the nuances of her characters’ lives with real sensitivity, and imbues them with surprising dignity and grace.
13. Violets (Kyung-Sook Shin, Tran. Anton Hur)
FEMINIST PRESS (Apr. 21, 2022)
San is twenty-two and alone when she happens upon a job at a flower shop in Seoul’s bustling city center. Haunted by childhood rejection, she stumbles through life—painfully vulnerable, stifled, and unsure. She barely registers to others, especially by the ruthless standards of 1990s South Korea. Over the course of one hazy, volatile summer, San meets a curious cast of characters: the nonspeaking shop owner, a brash coworker, kind farmers, and aggressive customers. Fueled by a quiet desperation to jump-start her life, she plunges headfirst into obsession with a passing magazine photographer. In Violets, best-selling author Kyung-Sook Shin explores misogyny, erasure, and repressed desire, as San desperately searches for both autonomy and attachment in the unforgiving reality of contemporary Korean society.
14. Thin Places (Kerri ni Dochartaigh)
MILKWEED EDITIONS (Apr. 12, 2022)
Kerri n. Dochartaigh was born in Derry, on the border of the North and South of Ireland, at the very height of the Troubles. She was brought up on a council estate on the wrong side of town. But for her family, and many others, there was no right side. One parent was Catholic, the other was Protestant. In the space of one year they were forced out of two homes, and when she was eleven a homemade petrol bomb was thrown through her bedroom window. Terror was in the very fabric of the city, and for families like Kerri’s, the ones who fell between the cracks of identity, it seemed there was no escape.
In Thin Places, a mixture of memoir, history and nature writing, Kerri explores how nature kept her sane and helped her heal, how violence and poverty are never more than a stone’s throw from beauty and hope, and how we are, once again, allowing our borders to become hard, and terror to creep back in.
15. Elder Race (Adrian Tchaikovsky)
TOR (Nov. 16, 2022)
Lynesse is the lowly Fourth Daughter of the queen, and always getting in the way. But a demon is terrorizing the land, and now she’s an adult (albeit barely) with responsibilities (she tells herself). Although she still gets in the way, she understands that the only way to save her people is to invoke the pact between her family and the Elder sorcerer who has inhabited the local tower for as long as her people have lived here (though none in living memory has approached it). But Elder Nyr isn’t a sorcerer, and he is forbidden to help, and his knowledge of science tells him the threat cannot possibly be a demon…
16. Wonderlands: Essays on the Life of Literature (Charles Baxter)
GRAYWOLF PRESS (Jul. 12, 2022)
Charles Baxter’s new collection of essays, Wonderlands, joins his other works of nonfiction, Burning Down the House and The Art of Subtext. In the mold of those books, Baxter shares years of wisdom and reflection on what makes fiction work, including essays that were first given as craft talks at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.
The essays here range from brilliant thinking on the nature of wonderlands in the fiction of Haruki Murakami and other fabulist writers, to how request moments function in a story. Baxter is equally at home tackling a thorny matter such as charisma (which intersects with political figures like the disastrous forty-fifth US president) as he is bringing new interest to subjects such as list-making in fiction.
17. The Immortal King Rao (Vauhini Vara)
W.W. NORTON & CO. (May 3, 2022)
Athena Rao must reckon with the memory of her father, King Rao― literally. Through biotechnological innovation, he has given her his memories. His Dalit childhood on an Indian coconut plantation in the 1950s is as alive to her as her own existence in a prison cell, accused of her father’s murder.
Egocentric, brilliant, a little damaged, King Rao had a visionary idea: the personal computer known as the Coconut. His wife, Margie, was an artist with a marketing genius. Together they created a new world order, led by a corporate-run government. Athena’s future is now in the hands of its Shareholders–unless she can rejoin the Exes, a resistance group sustaining tech-free lifestyles on low-lying islands.
18. A Thing of Beauty: Travels in Mythical and Modern Greece (Peter Fiennes)
ONEWORLD PUBLICATIONS (Nov. 30, 2021)
What do the Greek myths mean to us today? It’s now a golden age for these tales – they crop up in novels, films and popular culture. But what’s the modern relevance of Theseus, Hera, and Pandora? Were these stories ever meant for children? And what’s to be seen now at the places where heroes fought and gods once quarrelled?
Peter Fiennes travels to the sites of some of the most famous Greek myths, on the trail of hope, beauty and a new way of seeing what we have done to our world. Fiennes walks through landscapes— stunning and spoiled—on the trail of dancing activists and Arcadian shepherds, finds the ‘most beautiful beach in Greece’, consults the Oracle, and loses himself in the cities, remote villages and ruins of this storied land.
19. Panics (Barbara Molinard, Tran. Emma Ramadan)
FEMINIST PRESS (Aug. 9, 2022)
A close friend and prot.g. of Marguerite Duras, Barbara Molinard (1921–1986) wrote and wrote feverishly, but only managed to publish one book in her lifetime: the surreal, nightmarish collection Panics. These thirteen stories beat with a frantic, off-kilter rhythm as Molinard obsesses over sickness, death, and control. A woman goes to disastrous measures to escape beloved houseguests, mysterious surgeons dismember their patient, and the author narrates to Duras how she was stopped from sleeping in a cemetery vault, only to be haunted by the pain of sleeping on its stone floor.
20. The Cat Who Saved Books (Sosuke Matsukawa, Tran. Louise Heal Kawai)
HarperVia (Dec. 7, 2021)
Bookish high school student Rintaro Natsuki is about to close the secondhand bookstore he inherited from his beloved bookworm grandfather. Then, a talking cat appears with an unusual request. The feline asks for—or rather, demands—the teenager’s help in saving books with him. The world is full of lonely books left unread and unloved, and the cat and Rintaro must liberate them from their neglectful owners. Their mission sends this odd couple on an amazing journey, where they enter different mazes to set books free. Through their travels, the cat and Rintaro meet a man who leaves his books to perish on a bookshelf, an unwitting book torturer who cuts the pages of books into snippets to help people speed read, and a publishing drone who only wants to create bestsellers. Their adventures culminate in one final, unforgettable challenge—the last maze that awaits leads Rintaro down a realm only the bravest dare enter . . .
Article originally Published in the February / March 2022 Issue: New & Upcoming.