made it through winter, and as a reward, there are dozens of fantastic new books awaiting us this spring — truly, you could find a new appealing book for every flowering tree on your block.
These next few months are packed with thrilling debuts and welcome returns — a delicious mix of literary fiction, juicy romances, clever speculative fiction, and eerie murder mysteries. There are wise, spooky stories from
House of Cotton by Monica Brashears to Greek Lessons by Han Kang, super fun romps from Curtis Sittenfeld’s Romantic Comedy to , and a few stand-out, personal nonfiction entries: Heidi Julavits’ Bad Summer People by Emma Rosenblum Directions to Myself,Nicole Chung’s A Living Remedy, and Samantha Leach’s . Fans of feminist, speculative fiction will devour The Elissas My Murder by Katie Williams and Ink Blood Sister Scribe by Emma Törzs. Anyone interested in stories about sex work can turn to Emma Cline’s novel The Guest or Sophia Giovannitti’s memoir Working Girl: On Selling Art and Selling Sex. A handful of novels mix queer longing with the surreal ( The Skin and Its Girl by Sarah Cypher, Dykette by Jenny Fran Davis, and All-Night Pharmacy by Ruth Madievsky), and for those who love a good skewering, there are at least two media-industry satires ( Yellowface by R. F. Kuang and Homebodies by Tembe Denton-Hurst) and at least one extraordinary art critique ( Monsters by Claire Dederer).
Book lovers are blessed with many months’ worth of reading in this promising new set.
1 House of Cotton April 4
Mythic, agile, and alluring all at once, this novel begins when a broke and lonesome 19-year-old, Magnolia, accepts an oily stranger’s curious but lucrative job offer: to “model” as recently deceased women at his family’s funeral home, in an attempt to give closure to their families. The slippery relationship between the living and the dead only gets more haunted from here. Brashears writes about Black Appalachia with a provocative incandescence.
2 Natural Beauty April 4
In Ling Ling Huang’s confident debut, the author taps into
her own experience as a professional violinist to write about a young musician who dreams of playing piano with the world’s most elite orchestras — only to find herself shunted into a job at a swanky beauty store. 3 A Living Remedy April 4
Nicole Chung returns with a memoir about family, loss, and love. Set mostly during the early days of the COVID pandemic,
A Living Remedy addresses the heartbreak of sick parents, healthcare insecurity, and the faltering American middle-class. Chung writes with empathy and righteous rage about the most painful of subjects: "Sickness and grief throw wealthy and poor families alike into upheaval, but they do not transcend the gulfs between us, as some claim — if anything, they often magnify them." 4 Enter Ghost April 4
Titled after a stage direction in Hamlet — “
enter GHOST” — Hammad’s second novel begins when Sonia, a Palestinian actor living in London, finally returns home for a long-delayed family visit and to act in a West Bank production of the play . Sonia is tough and sophisticated (she plans a matching blue lingerie set for the border control she knows will unfairly strip-search her at the Israeli border), and Hammad’s prose is just as exquisite and wise as her main character. 5 Romantic Comedy April 4
This plucky, effervescent novel delivers on its titular promise:
Romantic Comedy is indeed romantic and funny. The story is centered around an SNL-stand-in sketch show TNO (short for The Night Owls) and one of its staff writers: the cynical, clever, and barbed Sally Milz. She composes a sketch about how the men of TNO often date gorgeous, famous women, but she’s never seen one of the women writers date any hunky dude celebrities. Will the next TNO host/musical guest — a charmingly cheesy, long-haired singer — change this pattern? 6 Fire Rush April 4
Set in the early ‘80s reggae club scene on the outskirts of London,
Fire Rush centers on Yamaye, a young woman who finds solace in the pulsing beats of dance halls. When a series of violent incidents threaten her community, Yamaye journeys to the Bristol underground and to Jamaica, where she finally faces her past. From the get, Fire Rush is rhythmic and riveting. 7 Old Flame April 11
Hinging around an unplanned pregnancy,
Old Flame is (of course) about big decisions, but it’s also about the little ones. Prentiss creates a portrait flush with life — a life of persistent ambitions, friendships and motherhood, the promise of new beginnings, and the whiplash of old returns. Old Flame is a novel about how we organize our lives and keep true to ourselves. 8 Adelaide April 18
In this romance, an American woman moves to “dreamy London,” where she falls in love with an Englishman who’s horrible at texting. Will his in-person charms be enough to salvage their relationship? Not likely!
9 Greek Lessons April 18
Greek Lessons, two characters connect over their losses: one has lost his vision, the other her capacity for language. They’re haunted — as Kang writes of the speechless Greek teacher, “words and sentences track her like ghosts” — but together they manage to create something new. Spare and deceptively tranquil, Greek Lessons maintains its startling precision throughout. 10 The Forgotten Girls: A Memoir of Friendship and Lost Promise in Rural America April 18 The Forgotten Girls is a memoir about how place shapes people. As children, Potts and her best friend — two smart, book-hungry girls — would look at a map and promise to escape their very religious, tumultuous Ozarks community; as adults, only one of them would make it out of their town. 11 The Skin and Its Girl April 25
On the first page of this book, a baby is born with vivid, cobalt blue skin. Across the world from the baby’s home in the Pacific Northwest, her family’s legacy — a centuries-old soap factory — is destroyed by an airstrike in Palestine. Poetic, queer, and highly inventive,
The Skin and Its Girl is an enchanting, memorable story. 12 Rosewater April 25
When the main character is a poet, you know you’re in for a lyrical, keenly-observed novel. In
Rosewater, that character is Elsie: she’s a queer, funny, and very tired poet-slash-bartender who’s sleeping with her coworker. When Elsie is unexpectedly evicted from her apartment, she reconnects with her childhood friend, Juliet, and finds that all her yearning might just lead her back to where she started. 13 Monsters: A Fan’s Dilemma April 25
The rare polemic that’s full of greedy love for the good stuff in this world,
Monsters is an expansion of Dederer’s instant classic Paris Review essay from 2017, “What Do We Do with the Art of Monstrous Men.” With a larger canvas, she lets both her cast of monsters and our culpability grow, and manages to one-up herself over and over again. Cooly pensive on an overheated subject, Dederer writes powerfully about art’s ability to move us, teach us, and entrap us. 14 Homebodies May 2
This media industry satire stars a fantastic protagonist: Mickey Hayward, a queer Black writer who has bravery and wit in spades. Her story, as the title
Homebodies suggests, is intimate and personable — and it also includes a riveting scandal. 15 Oh My Mother!: A Memoir in Nine Adventures May 9
Connie Wang’s memoir examines her relationship with her “stubborn and charismatic” mother, as the pair go on an
Eat, Pray, Love-style joyride around the world. From taking edibles in Amsterdam, to visiting “restaurants the size of department stores” in Jinan China, to shuffling through Versailles to visiting a Magic Mike strip spectacular in Las Vegas, this mother-daughter duo are an irresistible pair. 16 The Guest May 16
This book is chilling and dangerous-feeling, like a gust of wind from a car driving a little too close to you. In
The Guest, a calculating but myopic young grifter has several days to kill in the Hamptons before her much older lover’s summer party. Her main tasks are (1) finding a place to sleep and (2) running from the consequences of her actions. As she paints a vicious portrait of avoidance, Cline reveals herself as a master illustrator of the poor decision: “A bad idea had its own relentless logic, a momentum that was queasy but also correct.” 17 Berlin May 16
Berlin, a brilliant young liar named Daphne moves from England to Berlin to study German, fib about her philosophy degree, and indulge in the fantastic tumult of her extraordinary mind. The protagonist contends with creepy stalkers, big pangs of loneliness, chaotic nascent friendships, the emotional ravages of eating disorders, and good old existential angst. And still, the novel fizzes with insight and excruciatingly funny jokes! 18 The Postcard May 16 The Postcard opens with the arrival of — your instincts are right — a postcard. It’s vulnerable and daring form of communication: “bare like those teenage girls who run around with exposed arms and no coat in the wintertime.” And from there, this French novel continues to supply nimble and unexpected truths. 19 Dykette May 16
A face-off between three queer couples in a contained country home? There’s a whiff of
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf in this wry, horny battle-of-the-lovers, and also the sensation of piecing together some gossip on Instagram. Dykette makes a strong case for mixing goofiness with sexiness in contemporary fiction. 20 Meet Me Tonight in Atlantic City May 16
In her debut memoir, Jane Wong recalls coming of age in the late 1980s on the Jersey Shore, frying crab rangoon and playing in the walk-in fridge in her family’s Chinese restaurant. In this “love song of the Asian American working class,” Wong writes with candor, vexation, and compassion, reminiscing about food (oranges “the size of small planets”), family (“a waltz of kin”), youth (Bath & Body Works glitter hand gel, a “chandelier of blinding beauty”), and Atlantic City (“steel blue, the color of whales they’ll never see”).
21 Girl Juice May 23
This graphic novel is led by Bunny— a bossy, funny, sex-brained hero who lives by the motto,
to stay hot and simple forever. She and her three housemates are like a filthier, gig-economy-era Sex and the City foursome. Naturally, there are antics at every turn. 22 Yellowface May 23
Fantasy writer R. F. Kuang comes for the publishing world in this satire.
Yellowface begins with two literary pals from Yale who’ve achieved starkly different levels of success: Chinese-American Athena Lui publishes best-sellers that Netflix thirsts over, while “basic white girl” June Hayward can barely swing a deal for her debut novel. When Athena dies, with June as the only witness, she makes a plan to pass off Athena’s new script (about Chinese laborers in WWI) as her own and pretends to be an Asian-American woman. Haunting, twisty, and audacious! 23 Bad Summer People May 23
Gossipy, summer fun has landed on the salty beaches of Fire Island. Starting in the manner of
a The White Lotus season with a body washed ashore by the ocean, Bad Summer People proceeds to introduce a set of moneyed, manipulative white folks, whose lives are immediately upended. But don’t worry: their affairs and machinations continue apace. Spritzed with flinty observations of beach-goers “methodically sipping their wines,” Rosenblum’s created a delicious, dishy trip of a novel. Editor’s note: Rosenblum is the chief content officer of BDG, which owns Bustle. 24 The Late Americans May 23
The Late Americans, Taylor explores the blush-inducing intricacies of social interactions. Over the course of a year, Taylor follows a wide cast of characters (meatpacking workers, mathematicians, poets, and landlords) as they court, provoke, confront, and encircle each other. It’s a dextrous illustration of complex people with even more complex desires. 25 Ink Blood Sister Scribe May 30
As its punchy title suggests, Törzs’ speculative fiction is confident and powerful.
Ink Blood Sister Scribe centers two half-sisters who continue their family’s tradition of guarding a collection of ancient, magic texts. It’s an enchanting book about enchanted books. 26 Horse Barbie May 30
This memoir’s title,
Horse Barbie, comes from the nickname Rocero’s beauty pageant competitors bestowed on her during adolescence — a name inspired by her long neck and hair, dark skin, and striking physique. Rocero’s story covers her childhood in the Philippines, her days as a nationally-adored trans model, her closeted modeling career in the U.S. — and her coming out and subsequent trans advocacy. She writes with vivid, swift prose about a thrilling, brave life. 27 Working Girl: On Selling Art and Selling Sex May 30
This memoir about a young artist looking for a solution to her “near categorical hatred of work” begins with the author trying sex work, and couching it as part of her artistic practice. As Giovannitti writes: “Making art can justify a recklessness that making money doesn’t.” Giovannitti writes with candor and complexity about a life at the center of two of her greatest cultural preoccupations: sex and capitalism.
28 Pageboy June 6
Spanning summer nights at queer bars to icky red carpet glamor,
Pageboy details Page’s coming into queerness and his trans identity, plumbing the depths of performance, authenticity, and personal truth. 29 Everything’s Fine June 6
When Jess starts as an analyst at Goldman Sachs, she’s overlooked, underestimated, and made to feel existentially lonely as the only Black woman on the floor. Unexpectedly, she finds support from her white, conservative college enemy: Josh. As their romance takes shape, Jess comes into a political awakening.
30 My Murder June 6
Speculative, comic fiction built around a feminist critique of the control of women’s bodies: what a mix! In
My Murder, Lou is brought back to life by a government project after dying at the hands of a serial killer. Now, in addition to continuing her marriage and caring for her child, Lou still has to figure out the mystery of her murder. It’s a lot to put on one person, even if she is a clone! 31 The Elissas: Three Girls, One Fate, and the Deadly Secrets of Suburbia June 6
In this heartbreaking nonfiction project, Leach tries to understand the death of her childhood friend Elissa, who was sent to an institution for troubled teens during her high school years. The story expands to include Elissa’s two friends, Alyssa and Alissa, who would later pass away. Leach’s “attempt to make sense of the senseless” is a personal, carefully-crafted examination, and it doesn’t flinch as it approaches the distressed heart of American culture.
Editor’s note: Leach is Bustle’s entertainment editor-at-large. 32 Loot June 13
A talented young carpenter is hired to carve a huge tiger automaton at a palace, to celebrate India’s return from British captivity. Heists, the legacy of colonialism, and the creative maturity of an artist:
Loot has it all. 33 The Mythmakers June 13
In Keziah Weir’s controlled, tense debut novel, a floundering young journalist reads an excerpt from a book by a successful novelist — and it’s about her!
The Mythmakers follows her as she untangles her long-ago meeting with the author and tries to understand his life, asking all the while, “who gets to tell a story?” 34 Directions to Myself: A Memoir of Four Years June 27
This is a memoir about navigation in every sense. When rape allegations surface on the college campus where she teaches, Julavits investigates how to raise her young son to be the best possible young man. Julavits pairs this exploration with memories of herself as a youth, sailing on the jagged coast of Maine. As always, Julavits writes with sparkling insight and stunning clarity.
35 Ripe July 11
Sarah Rose Etter’s
Ripe begins with an evisceration of contemporary San Francisco, laid to waste by the tech industry. The protagonist is just a year into a coveted job at a startup and already dependent on cocaine and extreme compartmentalization. She’s also continually haunted by a black hole — a sucking void that hovers next to her whenever the “melancholy gets too great.” This surreal book makes images as real as anything else; as Etter writes: “There is safety in metaphors. The truth is far more terrifying.” 36 All-Night Pharmacy July 11 All-Night Pharmacy reads like an endless Los Angeles party: aglow with fervency and bursting with drugs, sex, desperate actors, energy healers, strippers, and eccentrics. At its heart, the book is a twinned character portrait of two sisters on the edge of adulthood. It’s stylish and smart — its gloss only hints to its depth, like the uncanny glisten of a see-through acrylic nail.
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