If your spring cleaning involves Kondo-ing your book collection, good—you’re going to need some extra room for May’s stellar releases. From a collection by the beloved raconteur David Sedaris to Gabourey Sidibe’s rise-to-fame memoir to a slew of debuts from fresh young talent, these 12 books are worth a spot on your shelf.
Priestdaddy: A Memoir by Patricia Lockwood (May 2)
The poet Patricia Lockwood, who is known as “the Smutty-Metaphor Queen of Lawrence, Kansas” (as the New York Times once called her) and for her no-holds-barred Twitter presence, is now an equally funny memoirist. In Priestdaddy, she paints a sharply-observed picture of her eccentric family—including what it’s like to come of age as the daughter of a married Catholic priest, and the extended return to her family’s rectory as an adult.
Isadora: A Novel by Amelia Gray (May 23)
At the turn of the twentieth century, the American dancer Isadora Duncan found herself performing in tours across Europe and creating the foundation of what would later be known as modern dance. But in 1913, a personal tragedy changed everything. In her second novel, Amelia Gray delivers a piece of historical fiction based on Duncan’s life and losses (of which she experienced many), painting a portrait of a passionate, conflicted, and tragically doomed artist operating at the height of her craft. It's one of spring's most anticipated novels.
This Is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare by Gabourey Sidibe (May 1)
In 2009, native New Yorker Gabourey "Gabby" Sidibe, a then-unknown actress, was propelled into stardom with her emotionally devastating and raw portrayal of the titular character in Lee Daniels’s Precious. Which, of course, led her to an Oscar nomination and America's Sweetheart status. In her new memoir, sassily-titled This Is Just My Face, Sidibe tells the story of before, during, and after she became famous—from her mom’s subway-busking days to confronting her race and weight in Hollywood.
No One Can Pronounce My Name by Rakesh Satyal (May 2)
With another title like this, you might assume memoir, again. In fact, Satyal’s touching tale of Indian-Americans living in the Cleveland suburbia—two 40-somethings named Harit and Ranjana who serendipitously find each other, while in the midst of their own family dramas—is a novel, but it has the humor of lived experience. Harit dresses up in a sari to help his grieving mother cope with his sister’s untimely death; Ranjana deals with her husband’s adultering through romance writing. Together, they forge paths that intersect traditional Indian culture with American assimilation.
Into the Water by Paula Hawkins (May 2)
If you prefer your page-turners with a heart of darkness, then consider Paula Hawkins’s follow-up to her much-lauded Girl on the Train (even if the movie was a disaster). Set in the small English town of Beckford, the book begins with two similar but seemingly unconnected deaths: the drownings of a local teenager and the town’s middle-aged gossip. Shifting perspectives between her cast of characters with each chapter, Hawkins constructs a bracing, knotty ride in which the ghosts of the past come back to haunt those living in the present.
The Leavers by Lisa Ko (May 2)
Terror strikes for an 11-year-old Chinese boy when his mother, an undocumented immigrant, vanishes one day without warning. Left as a foster child, Deming (whose name is changed to Daniel) gets adopted into a white American family in upstate New York, where he must start anew and leave memories of his mother behind. Lisa Ko's The Leavers, which won the PEN/Bellwether Prize, may be a work of fiction, but the plot twists mirror America’s own urgent and timely political landscape.
One Day We'll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter: Essays by Scaachi Koul (May 2)
Anyone who has read the longform pieces by Buzzfeed writer Scaachi Koul knows the woman has wit and razor-sharp words to spare. In her debut collection of personal essays about growing up Indian-Canadian, Koul dives head-first into all the areas she won’t be silenced on: challenging traditional Indian gender roles, anxiety about body hair, simply existing as a woman in the modern-day workforce, just to name a few. These relatable personal essays are proof that Koul is still “coming-of-age” as a first-generation adult, with even her most ungraceful anecdotes offered up as vital life lessons.
The Awkward Age by Francesca Segal (May 16)
It’s a plotline that only sounds like a romcom: A middle-aged man and woman, both parents of teenage children, decide to get married—but the two teens, a boy and a girl, aren’t having any of it (of course they hate each other, as well as their respective step-parents). In this novel of intense family dynamics, the two parents attempt to find middle ground with their kids, and try their best to not compromise their own happiness, and their relationship, along the way.
Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki (May 9)
Something unsettling begins to stir in this contemporary tale when an aging, affluent mother named Lady hires a lively au pair, simply known as S, to live in the back house of her Hollywood Hills home. Things go swimmingly at first, but the close friendship between Lady and S turns awry as more secrets are spilled: S grows emotionally enrapt with Lady’s teenage son, Lady’s dark past comes rushing back to haunt her. It's a juicy Hollywood drama fit for the Real Housewives era.
Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami (May 9)
It’s been a few years since we’ve gotten something new from Japan’s master of magical realism, but this new seven-story collection draws us right back into his signature realm—one of lonely men with wandering imaginations, mysterious cats, and subtle-yet-surreal narratives that reveal the supernatural layer operating beneath our everyday lives.
We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby (May 30)
“Block people and pretend they died,” begins a recent post on Samantha Irby’s bitches gotta eat, the comedian and essayist’s online home for her hilarious and refreshingly honest prose. This month she releases a new, Issa Rae- and Roxane Gay-recommended collection of essays on topics from body image to awkward sex to The Bachelorette. (And if you can’t wait until the end of the month, her 30-page Kindle Single is out now.)
Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977–2002) by David Sedaris (May 30)
If reading David Sedaris in The New Yorker and listening to him on This American Life among other outlets for the past couple decades hasn't felt akin to being privy to his diaries—after all, don't we know all about his sisters, his boyfriend, and everything else about him by now? —then the publication of his diaries panning forty years will be peak Sedaris. The book, which starts in his drug-addict youth, is a real journey, and catnip for his most loyal fans.
Jinnie Lee and Maura M. Lynch are founders of the literary site STET.