There are quite a lot of good books currently out, and it comes as no surprise that quite a lot of them are by ladies (no offense to men, who we hear can also write very fine books when they put their minds to it). As for our list, which you will find below, there is something for nearly everyone: Y.A., short stories, essay collections, novels, nonfiction, books you might have read a long time ago and probably should read again in their updated states now—they are here. If we missed a book you have been reading and loving that’s out now (or will be very soon), please share it in the fair comments below. Happy reading.
The Impossible Knife of Memory, by Laurie Halse Anderson (Viking Childrens, January 7). I read this important Y.A. novel in about two nights flat, falling in love with the characters, the heart-rending relationship between a teenage girl and her dad—a Vietnam vet struggling with PTSD—and Halse Anderson’s beautiful writing and deft plot development and pacing.
A Highly Unlikely Scenario, or a Neetsa Pizza Employee's Guide to Saving the World, by Rachel Cantor (Melville House, January 14). Girl, you had us at pizza. So layered! So warming! So incredibly delicious and also sustaining. (Just like this book.)
The UnAmericans: Stories, by Molly Antopol (W.W. Norton, February 3). It would be easy to feel just a little bit jealous of Antopol. She’s been described as “a writer with the emotional heft of Nicole Krauss and the penetrating wit of Philip Roth,” and this, her debut story collection, was selected for The National Book Foundation’s "5 Under 35" award in 2013. The thing is, it really is that good. She has her own wit that needs no comparison to Roth.
A Life in Men: A Novel, by Gina Frangello (Algonquin, February 4). The darkness in this complex, emotionally deep tale of female friendship and illness and men and women—and how one woman goes on in the absence of her friend—may not be immediately evident in the beachy cover image, but the beauty is.
Notes to Boys: And Other Things I Shouldn't Share in Public, by Pamela Ribon (Rare Bird, February 18). Ribon exposes her own mortifying teenage letters to those she has (not always advisedly) loved so we can learn from her mistakes without having to make our own. (Presuming we haven't already.) This is a public service.
Bark: Stories, by Lorrie Moore (Knopf, February 25). If you need a reason to go out and buy Moore’s latest story collection, her first in 15 years since Birds of America, wait, why are you not just already reading this book? You are wasting time.
Harriet the Spy: 50th Anniversary Edition, by Louise Fitzhugh (Delacorte, February 25). This special anniversary edition of the classic first published in 1964 contains tributes from Judy Blume, Meg Cabot, Lois Lowry, and others, as well as correspondence between Fitzhugh and her editor and publisher Ursula Nordstrom. Most importantly, it contains Harriet.
Boy, Snow, Bird, by Helen Oyeyemi (Riverhead, March 6). Oyeyemi sets her reinvisioning of the Snow White fairy tale in 1950s Massachusetts; in it, she brilliantly weaves together ideas of racial identity, how we see ourselves and one another, family secrets, human frailty, and love.
The Harm in Asking: My Clumsy Encounters with the Human Race, by Sara Barron (Three Rivers Press, March 25). Barron’s second memoir is real and cringe-worthy and relatable (but you already knew that), and she will make you laugh and laugh and laugh.
Sleep Donation: A Novella, by Karen Russell (Atavist, March 25). From the author of the Pulitzer-prize-nominated Swamplandia! and Vampires in the Lemon Grove comes this digital-only novella about a dystopian America in which growing numbers of humans have lost the ability to sleep. Read it on a night you don't have to, because you won't want to.
Veronica Mars: An Original Mystery, The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line, by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham (Vintage, March 25). O.K., yes, this book was co-written by a man. But he’s the guy who gave us Veronica Mars, and it's about Veronica Mars—picking up where the film leaves off—so, chances are, you're going to want to read it. We could not blame you one bit.
Dorothy Must Die, by Danielle Paige (April 1). Amy Gumm is a regular teenager (with pink hair and parent trouble) living in Kansas until she's whisked away to Oz via tornado. But Oz is now a dystopia ruled by an evil Dorothy. There's magic and teen angst and danger and all sorts of adventure, plus a touch of romance, in the captivating first of what will be a series by Paige.
The Empathy Exams, by Leslie Jamison (Graywolf, April 1). In her thoughtful, evocative essay collection, Jamison—who worked as a medical actor, playing out symptoms for medical students to diagnose—explores the way pain impacts us and how it helps us understand and relate to others.
Love Letters to the Dead, by Ava Dellaira (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, April 1). When Laurel is assigned to write a letter to a dead person in her English class, she chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, who has recently died, loved him. This exercise inspires a surge of letters to others, including Janis Joplin, Heath Ledger, Judy Garland, River Phoenix, and Amy Winehouse. As Laurel writes, more and more is revealed, and the conclusions are heartbreaking, but also empowering and beautiful.
Secret Lives, by Berthe Amoss (Lizzie Skurnick Books, April 1). Thank goodness for Lizzie Skurnick Books; she regularly brings back Y.A. classics some of us never got to read, and others may have forgotten about and should look to again as soon as possible. In this beautifully repackaged edition of Amoss's work, 12-year-old Addie Agnew, living with spinster aunts in a creepy old house (with a locked trunk in the attic!) in 1930s New Orleans, sets out to figure out the true story of her mother's death—and what's in that trunk.
Previously: A Conversation With Jolie Kerr
Jen Doll is a regular contributor to The Hairpin.