The Humans by Matt Haig (Simon & Schuster)
When an extraterrestrial visitor arrives on Earth, his first impressions of the human species are less than positive. Taking the form of Professor Andrew Martin, a prominent mathematician at Cambridge University, the visitor is eager to complete the gruesome task assigned him and hurry back home to the utopian world of his own planet, where everyone enjoys immortality and infinite knowledge. He is disgusted by the way humans look, what they eat, their capacity for murder and war, and is equally baffled by the concepts of love and family. But as time goes on, he starts to realize there may be more to this weird species than he has been led to believe. Disguised as Martin, he drinks wine, reads poetry, develops an ear for rock music and a taste for peanut butter. Slowly, unexpectedly, he forges bonds with Martin’s family, and in picking up the pieces of the professor’s shattered personal life, he begins to see hope and beauty in the humans’ imperfections and begins to question the mission that brought him there.
William Shakespeare’s Star Wars by Ian Doescher (Quirk Books)
Return once more to a galaxy far, far away with this sublime retelling of George Lucas’s epic Star Wars in the style of the immortal Bard of Avon. The saga of a wise (Jedi) knight and an evil (Sith) lord, of a beautiful princess held captive and a young hero coming of age, Star Wars abounds with all the valor and villainy of Shakespeare’s greatest plays. ‘Tis a tale told by fretful droids, full of faithful Wookiees and fearstome Stormtroopers, signifying…pretty much everything. Reimagined in glorious iambic pentameter-and complete with twenty gorgeous Elizabethan illustrations-William Shakespeare’s Star Wars will astound and edify Rebels and Imperials alike. Zounds! This is the book you’re looking for.
The Madonna on the Moon by Rolf Bauerdick (Knopf)
November 1957: As Communism spreads across Eastern Europe, strange events are beginning to upend daily life in Baia Luna, a tiny village nestled at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains. As the Soviets race to reach the moon and Sputnik soars overhead, fifteen-year-old Pavel Botev attends the small village school with the other children. Their sole teacher, the mysterious and once beautiful Angela Barbulescu, was sent by the Ministry of Education, and while it is suspected that she has lived a highly cultured life, much of her past remains hidden. But one day, after asking Pavel to help hang a photo of the new party secretary, she whispers a startling directive in his ear: “Send this man straight to hell! Exterminate him!” By the next morning, she has disappeared. With little more to go on than the gossip and rumors swirling through his grandfather Ilja’s tavern, Pavel finds curiosity overcoming his fear when suddenly the village’s sacred Madonna statue is stolen and the priest Johannes Baptiste is found brutally murdered in the rectory. Aided by the Gypsy girl Buba and her eccentric uncle, Dimitru Gabor, Pavel’s search for answers leads him far from the innocent concerns of childhood and into the frontiers of a new world, changing his life forever.
The Arrivals by Melissa Marr (William Morrow)
Chloe knew she shouldn’t have gone into the bar last night. Now, in addition to a pounding headache and weak limbs, she’s got the guilt of five years sobriety down the drain. When she wakes, she’s not in the world she knows. She’s in The Wasteland, a world populated by monsters and unfamiliar landscapes, in the company of people just like her, pulled to the Wasteland out of time and place, for reasons no one knows or understands. Once there, though, their mission is clear: keep the peace, protect each other, and try not to die, because sometimes, after six days of death, you might not wake up. But things are changing in the Wasteland. And for Jack and Kitty, brother and sister from a Wild West frontier town; Edgar, a Prohibition rumrunner and Kitty’s former lover; Francis, a former hippie and general peacemaker; Melody, a mentally-unbalanced 50s housewife; and Hector, a former carnival artist, the careful balance they’ve been keeping for years is about to be upset. All of them, and Chloe, are about to get the answer they’ve been looking for years: why have they been brought to the Wasteland in the first place? And will it be possible for them to get back home?
Tampa by Alissa Nutting (Ecco)
Celeste Price is an eighth grade English teacher in suburban Tampa. She is attractive. She drives a red Corvette. Her husband, Ford, is rich, square-jawed, and devoted to her. But Celeste’s devotion lies elsewhere. She has a singular sexual obsession, one that drives her every decision-fourteen year old boys. Celeste pursues her craving with sociopathic meticulousness and forethought; her sole purpose in becoming a teacher was to fulfill her passion and give her the pick of the lot. And as our novel opens, fall semester at Jefferson Jr. High is just beginning.
In mere weeks, Celeste has chosen and lured the charmingly modest Jack Patrick into her web. Jack is enthralled and in awe of his eighth-grade teacher, and, most importantly, willing to accept Celeste’s terms for a secret relationship-car rides after dark, rendezvous at Jack’s house while his single father works the late shift, and body-slamming encounters in Celeste’s empty classroom between periods. Ever mindful of the forces threatening their affair-the perpetual risk of exposure, Jack’s father’s own attraction to Celeste, and the ticking clock as Jack leaves innocent boyhood behind-the hyperbolically insatiable Celeste bypasses each hurdle with swift planning and shameless determination, even when the solutions involve greater misdeeds than the affair itself. In slaking her sexual thirst, Celeste Price is remorseless and deviously free of hesitation, a monstress of pure motivation. She deceives everyone, is close to no one, and cares little for anything but her pleasure.
The Unknowns by Gabriel Roth (Reagan Arthur Books)
Eric Muller has been trying to hack the girlfriend problem for half his life. As a teenage geek, he discovered his gift for programming computers-but his attempts to understand women only confirm that he’s better at writing code than connecting with human beings. Brilliant, neurotic, and lonely, Eric spends high school in the solitary glow of a screen. By his early twenties, Eric’s talent has made him a Silicon Valley millionaire. He can coax girls into bed with ironic remarks and carefully timed intimacies, but hiding behind wit and empathy gets lonely, and he fears that love will always be out of reach. So when Eric falls for the beautiful, fiercely opinionated Maya Marcom, and she miraculously falls for him too, he’s in new territory. But the more he learns about his perfect girlfriend’s unresolved past, the further Eric’s obsessive mind spirals into confusion and doubt. Can he reconcile his need for order and logic with the mystery and chaos of love?
The Exiles by Allison Lynn (New Harvest)
A couple escaping the opulent lifestyle of Manhattan’s Upper East Side move to Newport, Rhode Island, only to be confronted by the trappings of the life they tried to leave behind. Nate, a midlevel Wall Streeter, and his longtime girlfriend Emily are effectively evicted from New York City when they find they can no longer afford their apartment. An out presents itself in the form of a job offer for Nate in Newport-complete with a bucolic, small, and comparatively affordable new house. Eager to start fresh, they flee city life with their worldly goods packed tightly in their Jeep Cherokee. Yet within minutes of arriving in Rhode Island, their car and belongings are stolen, and they’re left with nothing but the keys to an empty house and their bawling 10-month-old son. Over the three-day weekend that follows, as Emily and Nate watch their meager pile of cash dwindle and tensions increase, the secrets they kept from each other in the city emerge, threatening to destroy their hope for a shared future.
Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall (Gallery Books)
In the summer of 1963, nine-year-old spitfire Starla Claudelle runs away from her strict grandmother’s Mississippi home. Starla hasn’t seen her momma since she was three-that’s when Lulu left for Nashville to become a famous singer. Starla’s daddy works on an oil rig in the Gulf, so Mamie, with her tsk-tsk sounds and her bitter refrain of “Lord, give me strength,” is the nearest thing to family Starla has. After being put on restriction yet again for her sassy mouth, Starla is caught sneaking out for the Fourth of July parade. She fears Mamie will make good on her threat to send Starla to reform school, so Starla walks to the outskirts of town, and just keeps walking. . . . If she can get to Nashville and find her momma, then all that she promised will come true: Lulu will be a star. Daddy will come to live in Nashville, too. And her family will be whole and perfect. Walking a lonely country road, Starla accepts a ride from Eula, a black woman traveling alone with a white baby. The trio embarks on a road trip that will change Starla’s life forever. She sees for the first time life as it really is-as she reaches for a dream of how it could one day be.
Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer (St. Martin’s Griffin)
When Maxon met Sunny he was seven years, four months, and eighteen days old. Or, he was 2693 rotations of the earth old. Maxon was different. Sunny was different. They were different together. Now, twenty years later, they are married, and Sunny wants, more than anything, to be “normal.” She’s got the housewife thing down perfectly, but Maxon, a genius engineer, is on a NASA mission to the moon, programming robots for a new colony. Once they were two outcasts who found unlikely love in one another: a wondrous, strange relationship formed from urgent desire for connection. But now they’re parents to an autistic son. And Sunny is pregnant again. And her mother is dying in the hospital. Their marriage is on the brink of imploding, and they’re at each other’s throats with blame and fear. What exactly has gone wrong? Sunny wishes Maxon would turn the rocket around and come straight the hell home. When an accident in space puts the mission in peril, everything Sunny and Maxon have built hangs in the balance. Dark secrets, long forgotten murders, and a blonde wig all come tumbling to the light. And nothing will ever be the same…
The Investigation by Philippe Claudel (Anchor)
The Investigator, a humble and ordinary man, has been ordered to conduct an Investigation into a series of suicides that have taken place at the Enterprise-a huge, sprawling complex in an unnamed Town. But the Investigator’s train is delayed. When he finally arrives, no one is there to meet him at the station. When he reaches the Enterprise, he is denied entrance. The harder the Investigator tries to fulfill his task, the more senseless obstacles he encounters: regulations hamstring him, street layouts befuddle him, and-perhaps most unnervingly-he senses someone watching and recording his every movement. In this highly original and absorbing work, Claudel turns his masterful storytelling toward a sweeping critique of the contemporary world. Like Kafka, Beckett, and Huxley, Claudel’s dark fable shows that the most looming questions of our time can only be countered with piercing intelligence and considerable humor.
Homesick by Roshi Fernando (Vintage)
It’s New Year’s Eve 1982. At Victor and Nandini’s home in southeast London, family and friends gather to ring in the new year. Whiskey and arrack have been poured, poppadoms are freshly fried, and baila music is on the stereo. Upstairs, the teenagers have gathered around the television to watch The Godfather again while drinking pilfered wine. Moving back and forth in time, from the 1970s to the present day, and from London to Sri Lanka and back again, we follow Victor and Nandini’s children: Rohan, Gehan, and in particular dyslexic Preethi-funny, brash, and ultimately fragile. We also meet troubled Lolly and her beautiful sister Deirdre; wonderful Auntie Gertie; and terrible Kumar, whose dark deed will haunt the family.
Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan (Anchor)
The year is 1972. The beautiful Serena Frome has just completed her maths degree at Cambridge and has taken a job with MI5, England’s famous counter-intelligence agency. Soon she lands an assignment in Operation Sweet Tooth: the secret funding of anti-Communist artists and writers. Her “target,” Tom Healy, is a promising young writer. Serena falls in love with Tom’s stories, then with Tom himself-all while posing as a representative of an arts foundation. But how long can Serena keep such a weighty secret from the man she loves? And what happens to the truth when everyone-from storytellers to spies-is wrapped up in their own fictions? Ian McEwan keeps us guessing in this deft, unforgettable tale.
Summertime All the Cats are Bored by Philippe Georget (Europa Editions)
It’s the middle of a long hot summer on the French Mediterranean shore. The town is full of tourists and the at the Perpignan police headquarters, Sebag and Molino, two tired cops who are being slowly devoured by dull routine and family worries, deal with the day’s misdemeanors and petty complaints without a trace of enthusiasm. But out of the blue a young Dutch woman is brutally murdered on a beach at Argelès, and another disappears without a trace in the alleys of the city. A serial killer obsessed with Dutch women? Maybe. The media goes wild. Gilles Sebag finds himself thrust into the middle of a diabolical game. If he intends to salvage anything. He will have to put aside his domestic cares, forget his suspicions about his wife’s faithfulness, ignore his heart murmur, and get over his existential angst. He waits joylessly, patiently, and lets himself go. The stone house may end up being his grave. Who’s doing what, who’s chasing who?
Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures by Emma Straub (Riverhead Trade)
In 1920, Elsa Emerson, the youngest and blondest of three sisters, is born in idyllic Door County, Wisconsin. Her parents own the Cherry County Playhouse, and more than anything, Elsa relishes appearing onstage, where she soaks up the approval of her father and the embrace of the audience. But when tragedy strikes her family, her acting becomes more than a child’s game of pretend. While still in her teens, Elsa marries and flees to Los Angeles. There she is discovered by Irving Green, one of the most powerful Hollywood executives; he refashions her as a serious, exotic brunette and renames her Laura Lamont. With her new identity and her name in lights, Laura’s career takes off, as does her affair with Irving, who becomes her great love. Laura experiences all the glamour and extravagance of the heady pinnacle of stardom in the studio-system era as she becomes an Academy Award-winning actress-and a genuine movie star. But fame has its costs, and while Laura tries to balance career, family, and personal happiness, she realizes that Elsa Emerson might not be gone completely.
Show World by Wilton Barnhardt (Picador)
Wilton Barnhardt is a writer of rare and extraordinary talent who has yet to walk the same ground twice. WithShow World, he offers a contemporary woman’s story that will haunt its every reader. Samantha Flint, the figure at the book’s center, flees the Midwest for Smith College to shake her past, to invent a future she can live with. There she meets the redoubtable Mimi Mohr; together and apart they move from New York City to D.C. to Los Angeles. Yet even as each new city takes them to fresh heights of power and wealth, everything Sam wants seems to elude her—and after a series of lapses, both desperate and careless, she finds her dreams have turned against her. A work of wicked satire, acerbic humor, and unmatched imagination, Show World is Wilton Barnhardt’s clear-eyed estimate of America and what we all want out of her.
Masks of Anarchy by Michael Demson, Summer Mcclinton (Verso)
Masks of Anarchy tells the extraordinary story of Percy Shelley’s poem “The Masque of Anarchy,” from its conception in Italy and suppression in England to the moment it became a catalyst for protest among New York City workers a century later. Shelley penned the poem in 1819, after hearing of the Peterloo Massacre, where British cavalrycharged peaceful political demonstrators near Manchester. His words would later inspire figures as wide-ranging as Henry David Thoreau and Mahatma Gandhi-and also Pauline Newman, the woman the New York Times called the “New Joan of Arc” in 1907. Newman was a Jewish immigrant who worked in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, and came to be a leading organizer-and the first female organizer-of one of America’s most powerful unions, the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union. As she marched with tens, sometimes hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers in the streets, Shelley’s poem never ceased to inspire her. ”Shake your chains to earth like dew,” it implores. “Ye are many-they are few.”
Sign up for our newsletter to have the best of Book Riot delivered straight to your inbox every two weeks. No spam. We promise.