By: Em Perper
Greeting, literary voyeurs! In light of an absolute monsoon of new releases on Tuesday 5/2, Sneak Peek is going to look a little different this week. Instead of spotlighting three or four titles, I’m going to overwhelm you with short descriptions of 15 of the coolest debuts. Blame the iced cold brew with almond milk and vanilla I just ordered. Let’s get started!
Two women, two drownings, one river, and one girl left behind to put the pieces together: Into the Water is the highly anticipated follow-up from the queen of psychological suspense, Paula Hawkins—best known as the author of The Girl on the Train.
Novel Destinations: A Travel Guide to Literary Landmarks from Jane Austen’s Bath to Ernest Hemingway’s Key West by Shannon McKenna Schmidt and Joni Rendon includes information about more than 500(!) literary-minded sites around the world. You, too, can road trip like Kerouac or muse like Kafka.
‘Round Midnight refers to the “Midnight Room,” a classic Las Vegas casino where the lives of four very different women—a Mexican immigrant, a newly married Philippine woman, a young Black teacher, and club owner June Stein—are changed one evening. Laura McBride’s novel spans 60 years, as Vegas changes from a small gambling town to a household-name travel destination.
Priestdaddy by poet Patricia Lockwood (“Tricia” to her legion of fans) is a memoir unlike any other, in which Twitter’s Poet Laureate describes in transcendental prose growing up as the daughter of a Catholic priest. When she and her husband, Jason, have to move back home in the midst of a financial setback, Lockwood takes notes on her parents’ larger-than-life personalities and conversations and organizes her childhood memories, traumatic and hilarious alike.
The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein relies on historical analysis of primary documents to make the case that federal, state, and local forces have long colluded, consciously, to segregate neighborhoods beginning in the 1920s and lasting into our present day, resulting in political and cultural unrest,
Ginny Moon, our protagonist, is an autistic teen who grew up in the foster system. She’s restless in her “forever home” and determined to reunite with her most precious possession—a doll left in the clutches of her abusive biological mother. Benjamin Ludwig’s new novel is an unusual and touching bildungsroman with a heroine you’ll not soon forget.
No One Can Pronounce My Name by Rakesh Satyal is a novel about finding your place in the world—within your family, within your community, and within yourself. Outside of Cleveland, fortysomething Harit, an Indian immigrant, wears a sari to emulate his late sister and comfort ailing mother. Elsewhere, Ranjana, also an Indian immigrant, is concerned that her husband has taken up with another woman and writes paranormal romances in secret. When Harit and Ranjana’s paths cross, a strange but necessary friendship blossoms.
Daisy Johnson, the author of Fen: Stories, revivifies the English fenlands in this collection. She blends myth, folklore, and realism in stories about houses in love, starving teenagers, and resurrected fox-boys.
Kamau Bell is a stand-up comedian and the host of CNN’s United Shades of America. His new book, The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell, is part sociopolitical commentary, part memoir. Bell tackles fatherhood, the political spectrum, his own interracial marriage, law enforcement, being a Black nerd, and finding his comedic identity.
The Best of Adam Sharp by Grame Simsion is about the what-might-have-beens of love won, lost, and found again. Fans of Simsion’s bestselling The Rosie Project will surely enjoy Adam Sharp’s adventure.
Polly, an undocumented Chinese immigrant, goes to work one day and never returns. She leaves behind 11-year-old Deming, who is eventually adopted by a white couple and renamed Daniel. Daniel is torn between assimilation and community, while Polly grapples with her choices and mistakes. Set in New York and China, Daniel and Polly’s voices alternate throughout The Leavers by Lisa Ko. Author Ann Patchett writes, “If you want to understand a forgotten and essential part of the world we live in, The Leavers is required reading.”
Qiu Miaojin died when she was only 26 years old, but she continues to be regarded as a countercultural icon in her native Taiwan and beyond. Notes of a Crocodile, one of her best-known works internationally, is now available in English. It’s a seminal work of queer fiction, detailing the experiences of gay and lesbian teens in Taiwan.
Three years after her husband’s unexpected death, young widow Lilian Girvan is appreciating the simple things: raising her two daughters, working as an illustrator, and watching T.V. When Lilian’s boss signs her up for a gardening class so she can illustrate a vegetable encyclopedia, she has to leave her comfort zone and dig deep. Friendship and plants bloom alike in The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman.
One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul is a frank and funny essay collection about pop culture, anxiety, life as a woman of color in cosmopolitan Canada, and the wilds of the internet. Kirkus Reviews’ starred assessment called Koul “an iconoclast;” Publishers Weekly declared ODWABDANOTWM “simultaneously uproarious and affecting.”
Hala Alyan, a Palestinian-American poet, is the author of Salt Houses, a family saga about the effects of invasion and displacement. After the Six-Day War of 1967, Salma and her family are uprooted; over the next several decades, they scatter to the United States, Europe, and different parts of the Middle East. Through well-wrought characters and tender storytelling, Alyan “does for the Palestinians what Khaled Hosseini did for the people of Afghanistan [in The Kite Runner],” according to Library Journal.