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1.22.2016


Books We Can’t Wait to Read in 2016
ALTERNATING CURRENT STAFF PICKS

2016 is looking to be another promising year for fantastic books, and we’ve been hankering to get our hands on some real gems. From short stories to poetry collections to quirky nonfiction, here are a few of the books coming out this year (or rumored to!) that Alternating Current staffers can’t wait to get their hands on. (Hint, hint, for those who want to send them in for review! We’re ready, and they’ll go to the top of the pile!)


KEVIN CATALANO’S PICKS:

The Rope Swing: Stories  |  Jonathan Corcoran
I was fortunate enough to be Jonathan’s classmate in the MFA program at Rutgers University-Newark, and had the opportunity to read some of his short stories. He has a unique voice and a talent for transforming ugly realities into something beautiful and poignant. I am excited to live with his debut collection, which Jayne Anne Phillips calls, “linked stories of love, loss, the economic tyranny of neglect and exploitation, and the lifelong alliance between those who stay and those who leave.”

The Narrow Door  |  Paul Lisicky
Lisicky is one of the most underrated authors I can think of. His work consistently experiments with language, style, genre, and form. What makes him a special talent, however, is how he lays bare the rawness of grief and joy and all other ineffabilities of emotion with such purity that the reader truly lives another life when reading his prose. Since The Narrow Door examines the intimacies of personal and environmental loss in Lisicky’s life, I am bracing for an emotional experience that Pam Houston says is as “raw as Jeff Tweedy fresh from rehab.”

The Unfinished World  |  Amber Sparks
I was lucky enough to read an ARC of this, and believe me, you want to get it when it comes out. In this incredibly innovative and esoteric collection, The Unfinished World, Amber Sparks offers a diverse collection of stories—and a poignant novella—that tilts our known reality. Sometimes she gives us nightmare, sometimes magic, sometimes the absurdity of half-awakeness—but always beauty.


AMANDA JEAN’S PICKS:

Assassin’s Fate  |  Robin Hobb
Hobb once swore she was done writing stories about royal bastard-turned-assassin FitzChivalry Farseer and his mysterious BFF, the Fool, but lo and behold, she’s back at it. This is the final book in her The Fitz and the Fool trilogy. If you’ve never read her Elderlings ’verse, there’s dragons, magic, and intrigue galore—think somewhere between George R. R. Martin and Lynn Flewelling—and the relationship between Fitz and the Fool is fascinating and occasionally heartbreaking. I’m super anxious to find out what happens to Fitz’s daughter, Bee, who is probably more narratively compelling than Fitz ever dreamed of being.

A Gentleman’s Position  |  K. J. Charles
I work as an editor of LGBTQIA romance, which is probably not well-known to people outside of the genre. K. J. Charles is one of my favorites (Her writing is crisp and meticulously researched and always a fun time.). This is the latest in a gay Regency romance series—Hell yes!—published by Loveswept, an imprint of Penguin-Random House. As you can imagine, I’m pretty stoked that a great example of queer romance is being brought to a more mainstream audience. A Gentleman’s Position delves into the drama of class dynamics with an honorable lord falling for his scheming valet.


L. A. LANIER’S PICK:

The Border of Paradise  |  Esmé Weijun Wang
Thanks to Social Media, I had the pleasure of reading Wang’s essay, “Fashioning Normal,” on Catapult and was engrossed by her style of writing. I felt I was often in whatever room she entered or wanted me to. That alone was enough to stir excitement about her releasing a novel this year. I cannot wait to see how her unique voice crafts a work of fiction by blending aspects of mental health and cultures. In short, The Border of Paradise is the multiple-perspective story of a young man who takes to traveling the world after a premature family inheritance, his struggles with neuroses, and the serious relationships he forms with two very different women and the pasts they must confront.


LORI HETTLER’S PICKS:

8th Street Power & Light  |  Eric Shonkwiler
In 2014, I fell hard and fast for Eric’s debut novel, Above All Men, a bleak and gorgeous story about the beginning of the end of the world. And in 2015, he solidified his place amongst my all-time favorite authors with the release of his collection, Moon Up, Past Full. Needless to say, I am eagerly awaiting the release of 8th Street Power & Light, book two in the Above All Men trilogy. This one follows David’s son Sam and is set several years in the future in an abandoned Midwestern city. September cannot come fast enough!

Waste  |  Andrew F. Sullivan
I had the pleasure of hanging with Andrew a few years back in Boston at AWP,and when he alerted me to his upcoming novel, Waste, I knew I had to add it to my wish list. Taking place in Ontario in the late eighties, two men hit a lion with their car and never report the freak accident. As they try to shake the incident that haunts them, a man named Astor goes on the hunt in search of it. It sounds deliciously dark and right up my alley! It drops in March.

Sex & Death  |  Ben Tanzer
I have a confession. I’ve got a big ole soft spot for Ben Tanzer. So when I was first alerted to his January release, Sex and Death, I did a quick internet search to learn more about it. It didn’t give up much as far as its content was concerned (The book hadn’t yet been added to Goodreads when I wrote this, and the publisher’s website only displays the cover and an author blurb.), but really, what more do you need to know about this collection of nine short stories? It’s Ben’s. Everything he writes is gold.

And Turns Still the Sun at Dusk Blood-Red  |  Hosho McCreesh & Christopher Cunningham
I’m a sucker for good poetry and when I first read Hosho’s A Deep and Gorgeous Thirst, I knew it would be a long-lasting love affair. This new collaboration with Christopher Cunningham is a companion piece to Sunlight at Midnight, Darkness at Noon—a collection of letters they wrote to one another in the first year of their friendship. In Blood-Red, he and Christopher pulled lines from those letters, swapped lists, and wrote 26 new poems each, which were then typed up on their respective typewriters as double-manuscript broadsides. The concept is amazing and the poems are complete stand alones so you can enjoy them with or without having read their predecessor. I love the idea behind the book and can’t wait to tuck into more Hosho!

Here’s another author I can’t seem to get enough of lately, which is perfect since he’s been cranking out a lot of great stuff. It’s a collection of poems, observations, lists, letters, notes, bullshit aphorisms, and general tales of ordinary crabbiness. And it drags itself into the light in March!


AL KRATZ’S PICKS:

Mr. Splitfoot  |  Samantha Hunt
The early reviews I’ve read of Mr. Splitfoot have me looking forward to reading it. It sounds hard to pin down in a brief recap, but the reviews had me at “subversive ghost story.” The novel is a dual narrative. One storyline is about Ruth and Nat, best friends who grow up in a foster home run by a religious fanatic. The second story is about an older Ruth trying to help her pregnant niece. It sounds like a great read with powerful prose, character, and structure.

The Vegetarian  |  Han Kang
The Vegetarian is the story of a Korean woman who goes vegetarian after a series of vivid and violent dreams. Her body then undergoes a strange transformation that has caused comparisons to Kafka. It was originally published in Korea as three separate novellas. I am really looking forward to this unique novel to explore a world I don’t know much about and to dive into philosophy and examination of the dilemmas of self we all face. (So I sneaked in a 2015 book; who’s counting?)

She  |  Michelle Latiolais
And from the awesome world of Twitter, I received a recommendation from Matt Sumell, who wrote one of my favorite short story collections, Making Nice. He told me about She, by Michelle Latiolais. She comes with high praise from the Los Angeles Times, who have declared her as close to Alice Munro as a writer can get, but with a modern edge. The novel, She, is about a fifteen-year old who runs away to Los Angeles to escape a strict evangelical upbringing. Covering the harsh experiences of Los Angeles, a city as beautiful as it is ugly, this will be a great spring read right before going there for AWP.

Jared Yates Sexton has a third short story collection due out from Split Lip Press in early 2016. It’s called, I Am the Oil of the Engine of the World, and is billed to feature his wildest and most experimental pieces. The Hook and The Haymaker and An End to All Things each had such a unique and strong voice; I can’t wait to read what he has to offer in experimental form.


KERI KELLERMAN’S PICK:

Float  |  Anne Carson
One of my favorite things about Anne Carson is her willingness to abandon boundaries and explore the times and spaces between them. Her forthcoming collection of twelve individual booklets features different voices and structures, including one with a three-woman chorus of Gertrude Steins. That’s all I need to hear. The book is scheduled for release on October 25, 2016, from Knopf, a few weeks before my birthday. Let’s consider it a gift.


ERIC SHONKWILER’S PICKS:

Fallen Land  |  Taylor Brown
I was lucky enough to meet Taylor Brown while on a book tour a couple years back, and you’ve never met a nicer fellow. I’m cheating a bit by selecting his debut novel, Fallen Land, as I was also lucky enough to read it already. Nevertheless, having just come out, I’m eager to see people come to recognize Brown’s mastery of prose style, and his ability to exercise what is often an under-utilized muscle when it comes to “muscular prose”—the heart. Fallen Land is a novel on the periphery of the Civil War, following Callum, a young gunslinger, and Ava, a woman unfortunate enough to cross paths with Callum’s band of marauders. Callum decides to free Ava from the clutches of his former friends, stealing a horse and riding off with her straight into the path of General Sherman’s March to the Sea. A work that would be timeless if it weren’t so entrenched in history, Fallen Land is a hell of a novel from a capable writer.

LaRose  |  Louise Erdrich
I’ve long been a fan of Louise Erdrich, and of late each new book from her has been a gift to the reading world. Her last two, Shadow Tag and Round House, are truly beautiful works, and LaRose sounds like an almost perfect fusion of those two and her landmark novel, Love Medicine. LaRose is the story of the Iron and Ravich families, close as the book begins and made inextricable from a harrowing accident at the hands of Landreaux Iron that leaves the Ravich family mourning the death of their five-year-old son, Dusty. Inspired by an old tradition, the Irons decide to give their own son, LaRose, to the stricken family. This act binds and slowly heals them, but leaves both families vulnerable to the machinations of an outside force. Readers of Erdrich will notice that this plot contains her classic high notes, and since her powers have only seemed to grow, I’m eagerly awaiting this one.


MOIRA McCORD CROOKS’ PICKS:

Margaret the First  |  Danielle Dutton
Margaret the First dramatizes the life of Margaret Cavendish, the shy, gifted, and unconventional 17th-century Duchess. Margaret wrote and published volumes of poems, philosophy, feminist plays, and utopian science fiction at a time when being a writer was not an option open to women. As part of the royal court and daughter of prominent Royalists, she was exiled at the overthrow of King Charles I in 1642. As the English Civil War raged on, Margaret spent time in France and Belgium and married William Cavendish, First Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Author Danielle Dutton, whose previous works include the story collection, Attempts at a Life, and the experimental novel, Sprawl, opens the world of this unusual and fascinating woman and her passion for writing, and the marriage that enabled her success. Returning to England ten years later as a celebrated author, Cavendish was the first woman ever to be invited to the Royal Society of London and the last for another two hundred years.

The Queen of the Night  |  Alexander Chee
The Queen of the Night is the much-anticipated sophomore novel from Alexander Chee. His first novel, Edinburgh, is a winner of the Michener Copernicus Prize, the AAWW Lit Award, and the Lambda Editor’s Choice Prize, and was a Publisher’s Weekly Best Book of the Year and a Booksense 76 selection. Inspired by successful singer Jenny Lind, Chee’s protagonist Lilliet Berne, a famous soprano in the Second Empire French Opera, is offered an original role in a new opera that she discovers is based on a part of her life she’d hoped to keep secret. In the process of searching for the source of the spilled secret, Lilliet must face a past that she’d hoped to forget. Doing so, she sets in motion events that could damage her career and happiness. The Queen of the Night has been named the most anticipated novel of 2016 by Entertainment Weekly, The Huffington Post, Bustle, Book Riot, The Millions, Bookish, Brooklyn Magazine, and the BBC.

I got the chance to meet Sunil Yapa briefly at a bar after a reading in San Francisco, and this book has been on my radar ever since. As a person, he was smart, funny, and kind. He seemed capable of great humanity, and I have no doubt that this book proves it with a perfect mix of heart and rage. Yapa’s debut novel is set amidst the heated conflict of Seattle’s 1999 World Trade Organization protests and centers around the fates of seven people whose lives change forever in one afternoon of peaceful demonstrations that erupt into violence and police brutality.

We Love You, Charlie Freeman  |  Kaitlyn Greenidge
I heard Kaitlyn Greenidge read at Molasses Books in Brooklyn back in October of 2014, so I’ve been ready for this one. As a partially deaf person, I always latch on to well-written, quirky stories about deaf culture and understanding. In Greenidge’s debut of language, race, and history, a young African American girl teaches her family and herself to sign when she becomes frustrated by the limitations of cross-race communication in her predominantly white town, leading to her family being uprooted for an experiment involving taking a chimpanzee into their family and teaching him to sign.

Winn came to my attention when she submitted her work to Alternating Current. I was blown away by her line control in her poetry, and our external award judges were, too, later choosing her poem, “Baldwin Apples,” as the winner of Alternating Current’s poetry prize. Her micro-chapbook, Haunting the Last House on Holland Island, is due from Porkbelly Press in March, and I’m ready for it now, now, now.

I await this one with eager hands and jealous eyes. Alternating Current was one day too slow to capture this submitted gem from the clutches of Stillhouse Press, so now we have to wait until fall with the rest of the chumps! The stories are, across the board, lively, original, humorous, and full of adorable love. These are stories with heart. They come at situations from new angles, or are so odd as to catch you off-guard, but above all, they give you the feels. Add this one to your watch list!

The Girl Wakes  |  Carmen Lau
Alternating Current has some serious gold stars lined up this year, and this one kicks it all off. Our Electric Book Award winner, Carmen Lau’s full-length story and novella collection is for the girl in all of us—whatever horrors that might mean. Dark, strange, lyrical, full of frustrated desire and whimsy, this collection paints a vivid picture of femininity in the clutches of fantasy, reflecting the brutality of growing up a girl. Warning: there are several witches within. There is also a tender heart, a painful core, and a disastrous coming-of-age of every and any girl, told through dreams and metaphorical fairytales that mirror real life and are not for the faint of heart.

This collection of poems detailing 366 days of sunrises from solstice to solstice to solstice is filled with moments of beauty, joy, and great turns of phrase. It is one of the most purely enjoyable reads I have had the pleasure of reading in quite some time, and we’re thrilled to have it on Alternating Current’s 2016 docket.

A Room in Dodge City  |  David Leo Rice
Here is the final juicy tidbit on Alternating Current’s 2016 schedule that you must get on your to-read list. I’ll let my reading panel sell this novel-in-vignettes to you like they sold it to me: “This book reads as though David Lynch snorted powdered David Lynch, and then started rewriting Bob Dylan’s best songs—‘Stuck Inside of Mobile,’ ‘Ballad of a Thin Man,’ ‘Desolation Row’—and smashed them all together into a single completely warped town. It defies plot. It defies interpretation. It is so flawlessly executed, so perfectly logical according to its own logic, that there is almost no reason for us to judge it by ours. This book is fucking crazy; maybe we should publish it?” Right? It’s like that, but better. Sit back for a wild, agitating, merciless, nihilistic ride.

The Longest Night  |  Andria Williams
The awesome Taylor Brown turned me on to this one, and now I’m psyched to get my paws on it. (Yeah—I said psyched. I’m a product of the eighties.) Based on a true story of the only fatal nuclear accident to occur in America, The Longest Night is a deeply moving debut novel about a young couple whose marriage is tested when they move to an army base rife with love triangles, life-or-death conflicts, and a dramatic cover-up. It explores the intricate makeup of a marriage, the shifting nature of trust, and the ways we try to protect the ones we love. And if awesome authors whose work I admire are endorsing it, then I’m getting in line.

I know very little about this, but that title, right? The description says it’s “Mordantly funny, dryly sensual, written with a staggering lightness of touch,” and that “the debut novel in English by Swedish sensation Lina Wolff is a black and Bolaño-esque take on the limitations of love in a dog-eat-dog world.” So I’m pretty excited for that.

This is exactly the type of book that I love. Quirky nonfiction stories about those historical figures who “may be conmen or conwomen, adventurers, fabulists, and/or delusional, but they all share the extreme passion for life.” Books like this remind us that, although most of history is dark, it doesn’t have to be without humor, without merit, or without that sensational realization that the middle-of-the-road just isn’t any way to live.

Ghost County: Poems  |  John McCarthy
John McCarthy is one of the neatest human beings I’ve met (briefly, at AWP, where everyone meets everyone in ten-minute spurts). He’s bubbly and energetic and a sweetheart, and just in talking to him for a few short minutes, I already know that this debut poetry collection, full of “lifetimes spent traveling in pickup trucks across the Midwest, exploring spaces between love and its imperfect manifestations, with personal meditations about heritage, loss, and the desire to reimagine the past and future,” will be awesome. And not just because everything MG Press publishes is awesome. That’s beside the point. But also true.


TIM WASEM’S PICK:

Here I Am  |  Jonathan Safran Foer
Everyone has a book that changed things. A book that you weren’t looking for, a book that you didn’t recognize in what you’d read up until you found it, a book whose influence on you unfolded over years. In high school, at the Big Bang of my interest in writing, my sister handed me a copy of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. I read it on a loop. I gave my copies away. At sunset, camping in the rim of the Grand Canyon just after my high school graduation, I gave a copy to a guy a decade older than me. I still think about whether he read it or not and if it helped in any way. For years I’ve been tracking Foer’s progress on the next novel, and in September that will end. For now. Here I Am is slated for release this year after rumors of projects surfaced and faded over the years (such as the now-halted Escape from Children’s Hospital). Here I Am will follow a Washington family dealing with a failed marriage, the fallout of the invasion of Israel, and an enormous earthquake.






• The selections are the opinions of the respective contributors to this post. • Permalink • Tag: The Spark •

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