Monday, January 1, 2018
January 1-5, 2018: New Books for the New Year
[Whatever else 2018 brings for us all, I hope it brings lots more great writing and voices to read and engage with and learn from and share. To that end, here are five recent or upcoming books that I’m excited to read—please share your own nominees or suggestions in comments for a crowd-sourced weekend reading list!]
1) Ta-Nehisi Coates, We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy: Coates has been in the news quite a bit recently for (to me) a particularly frustrating reason: Cornel West’s attacks on him for focusing too narrowly on white supremacy as the fundamental American ill. But whatever one’s stance on that particular contest (and I’ll say that I’m thoroughly Team Coates and leave it at that), we cannot in any case lose sight of the vital role that Coates plays as one of our best public writers and scholars. His latest book on both the Obama presidency/era and the transition into the Trump one extends and deepens that role, and I’m excited to delve into more fully in the new year.
2) Attica Locke, Bluebird, Bluebird: The post hyperlinked under her name reflects how long and how fully I’ve enjoyed Locke’s mystery novels, which (as Matthew Teutsch has argued) consistently link race, community, and history to genre conventions in unique and deeply compelling ways. Her newest novel, which has already been picked up as a potential FX series, is #1 on my list of fiction I need to read as soon as possible in 2018.
3) Jesmyn Ward, Sing, Unburied, Sing: Ditto what I said above about Locke when it comes to Ward’s books, both her fiction (as referenced in the post hyperlinked under her name) and her family and cultural memoir. With Sing Ward has returned to fiction, and by all accounts written another great American novel, one both located in longstanding traditions such as the road novel and passionately engaged with our contemporary moment and society. What else is there to say?
4) Francisco Cantu, The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border: I know significantly less about the last two (both forthcoming in early 2018) books I’ll highlight here (and again would love to hear about more new or upcoming titles in comments!), and won’t pretend otherwise. What makes this book so interesting to me is that it’s written by a former Border Patrol agent but seems willing and able to consider with nuance and empathy the circumstances and identities of those individuals, families, and communities seeking to cross the US-Mexico border in both documented and undocumented ways. We need voices and texts like that much, much more than we need big, beautiful walls.
5) Alexander Chee, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: We also need great writing about writing—about how to do it, the overt subject of novelist Chee’s collection of essays; but also and especially about why we do it, about the individual and collective stakes of writing and reading and books and literature. I look forward to seeing how Chee presents those broader topics alongside his more specific literary and writing subjects.
Crowd-sourced post this weekend,
PS. You know what to do!