Heading out of town this month? Save some room in your suitcase for one of these nine new must-reads. From Roxane Gay’s powerful new memoir to an oral history of NYC’s early-2000s rock revival, there's a lot of good company to keep here, wherever you are.
Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan (May 23)
If you’re wondering why Kevin Kwan’s name sounds familiar, it’s because his uproarious debut Crazy Rich Asians is being adapted to film—and the director is dead-set committed to hiring an all-Asian cast, unheard of in Hollywood. Thank god for Kwan, or else people probably would have thought “Asian books” were strictly limited to melodramas like Memoirs of a Geisha or The Joy Luck Club. In Rich People Problems—Kwan’s third installment in his Crazy Rich Asians series—even more insane family hijinks unfold when greed and jealousy get fortune-hungry schemers up in a wild tizzy. Catch up on the whole saga before the film’s release.
Meet Me in the Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock and Roll in New York City 2001-2011 by Lizzy Goodman (May 23)
Whether or not you believe the Strokes saved rock and roll, there’s no putting down this Please Kill Me-esque oral history of New York’s early-aughts rock revival. Writer Lizzy Goodman interviewed over 200 musicians, managers, label execs, and journalists to chronicle the rebirth of the city’s music scene and the proliferation of “downtown cool” from Manhattan’s East Village to the rest of the world. Between the origin stories of bands like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TV on the Radio, and LCD Soundsystem, the book transports you to a time before people knew how to download music, when Vice was just a free magazine in the pizza place, and when Williamsburg was “no” for cab drivers. What emerges is a portrait of New York—and the music industry—that will simply never exist again, for better or worse.
The Answers: A Novel by Catherine Lacey (June 6)
What if you could outsource every facet of your relationship—emotional support, mundane conversation, sex, even fighting—to multiple, designated partners? Such is the experiment Mary, the protagonist of Catherine Lacey’s second novel, finds herself in while playing the part of “Emotional Girlfriend” for a mysterious man as a way to pay off some hefty medical bills. While dishing out a plot worthy of a Black Mirror episode, Lacey spends quality time in her characters’ minds as they wrestle with existential questions about love and intimacy and the weirdness of having a body at all. The a follow-up to her 2014 debut, the melancholic mini-masterpiece Nobody Is Ever Missing, is a heady, sometimes-absurdist journey.
Would Everybody Please Stop? by Jenny Allen (June 6)
As a survivor of ovarian cancer, humorist Jenny Allen has been through a lot already. So it makes sense that in her new book of essays, Would Everybody Please Stop?, Allen feels free to sweat the smaller things, from flirting disasters to not understanding the latest viral internet whatevers—as well as contemplating the heavier notions of being sick, like how chemo made her lose all her hair. In the vein of comedian Tig Notaro, Jenny Allen has a refreshing no-shits-given approach to her second chance at life.
Everybody’s Son by Thrity Umrigar (June 6)
Be forewarned: this novel is not a beach read. Thrity Umrigar, who has previously explored themes of race and social class, returns with a story about a young black boy, Anton, who is adopted by a wealthier white family when his mother, a drug addict rape victim, gets thrown in jail. Years later, when Anton grows up and uncovers the truth about his past, he must confront the man he is becoming versus the man he was (likely) fated to be, if it weren’t for the series of events that led to his privileged upbringing. It's a book that will leave you unsettled and haunted.
Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay (June 12)
How lucky we are to have a no-bullshit voice like Roxane Gay, who tirelessly champions women, POC, LGBTQ, and other marginalized people with such clarity and empathy. In her new memoir Hunger, Gay puts herself vulnerably on full display for readers, telling the personal story about her body, self-image, and volatile relationship with food. She recently tweeted: “One day we will talk about fat related microaggressions.” Honestly, that day really needs to be today. If anyone, Gay will have people listening.
Surpassing Certainty by Janet Mock (June 13)
There are plenty (read: too many) “What I Learned in my 20s” books, but none will be as important as Janet Mock’s memoir Surpassing Certainty. In it, Mock—who had just fully transitioned into a woman as a 20-year-old college student—takes readers on an incredible coming-of-age journey through a decade of exploring her newfound sexuality, opening up to those she trusted, and finding her place as a writer and, eventually, a trans icon. In a time when trans people are too often misunderstood and targets of violence and harassment, this book should be required reading.
Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman by Anne Helen Petersen (June 20, Penguin Group)
BuzzFeed’s Anne Helen Petersen has a Ph.D. in Hollywood gossip, so who better than her to write a book about today’s most provocative public figures? Here, she devotes 10 chapters to uniquely “unruly" women—from Serena Williams (“Too Strong”) to Kim Kardashian (“Too Pregnant”) to Madonna (“Too Old”)—and explores the media’s response to their boundary-pushing behavior. Not surprisingly, much of the discussion centers around the constant policing of women’s bodies; Petersen examines the way the media talks about Williams’ athletic build, Kardashian’s baby bump, and Lena Dunham’s unapologetic nudity on Girls. The book is both a recent history of censorship and a call to action: “A hope,” Petersen writes, “that someday, the only rules a woman will have to abide by are those she sets for herself.”
How to Fall In Love With Anyone by Mandy Len Catron (June 27)
You may already read “To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This,” Mandy Len Catron widely shared 2015 essay for the New York Times’ Modern Love column. In it, Catron and a fellow psychologist Arthur Aron’s steps for falling in love: 36 vulnerable-making questions followed by four uninterrupted minutes of eye contact—and it works. Two TED Talks later, Catron expands upon her viral essay with a new book of personal anecdotes and scientific research, all in a quest to try to make sense of this crazy-making thing we call love.
Jinnie Lee and Maura M. Lynch are founders of the literary site STET.
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