It’s easy to overlook December books. Most publications are looking back, creating “best of the year” lists by now. Publishers are starting to look at 2018. The holidays have folks looking forward to time off. Because of all of this, December is not a hot publishing month. That doesn’t mean, though, that there are no worthwhile books coming out this month. There are! And here are a few I’m excited about.
Which ones have I missed that you’re excited about?
The links to Amazon.com are affiliate links, so if you purchase the book (or any item) by going there from this page, we’ll make a bit of money for the site. Do not feel obligated, of course — we’ll keep going regardless! Release dates are based on the U.S. release date, but I’ve linked to U.K. pages as well.
by Marina Tsvetaeva
translated from the Russian Jamey Gambrell
Here is the blurb from NYRB Classics:
Marina Tsvetaeva ranks with Anna Akhmatova, Osip Mandelstam, and Boris Pasternak as one of Russia’s greatest twentieth-century poets. Her suicide at the age of forty-eight was the tragic culmination of a life buffeted by political upheaval. The essays collected in this volume are based on diaries she kept during the turbulent years of the Revolution and Civil War. In them she records conversations of women in the markets, soldiers and peasants on the train traveling from the Crimea to Moscow in October 1917, fighting in the streets of Moscow, a frantic scramble with co-workers to dig frozen potatoes out of a cellar, and poetry readings organized by a newly minted Soviet bohemia. Alone in Moscow with two small children, no income, and a missing husband, Tsvetaeva struggled to feed her daughters (one of whom died of malnutrition in an orphanage), find employment in the Soviet bureaucracy, and keep writing poetry. Her keen and ruthless eye observes with compassion and humor—bringing the social, economic, and cultural chaos of the period to life. These autobiographical writings not only give a vivid eyewitness account of Russian history but provide vital insights into the workings of Tsvetaeva’s unique poetics.
No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters
by Ursula K. Le Guin
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Here is the blurb from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt:
Ursula K. Le Guin on the absurdity of denying your age: “If I’m ninety and believe I’m forty-five, I’m headed for a very bad time trying to get out of the bathtub.”
On cultural perceptions of fantasy: “The direction of escape is toward freedom. So what is ‘escapism’ an accusation of?”
On breakfast: “Eating an egg from the shell takes not only practice, but resolution, even courage, possibly willingness to commit crime.”
Ursula K. Le Guin has taken readers to imaginary worlds for decades. Now she’s in the last great frontier of life, old age, and exploring new literary territory: the blog, a forum where her voice—sharp, witty, as compassionate as it is critical—shines. No Time to Spare collects the best of Ursula’s online writing, presenting perfectly crystallized dispatches on what matters to her now, her concerns with this world, and her unceasing wonder at it: “How rich we are in knowledge, and in all that lies around us yet to learn. Billionaires, all of us.”
by Georges Simenon
translated from the French by Howard Curtis
Here is the blurb from Penguin Books:
When a young woman with a dark past is found dead on the streets of Paris, Inspector Maigret is on the case. The forty-third book in the new Penguin Maigret series.
A young woman named Lulu, who has a history of brushes with the law and once lived on the streets of the 18th arrondissement, is found murdered in Paris. Maigret is called to the scene and soon learns that her boyfriend, a musician, has gone into hiding upon reading the news of her death. And when the Inspector learns that the young victim was pregnant, he begins to suspect the case might be more sinister than he imagined.
by Fiona Mozley
Here is the blurb from Algonquin Books:
The family thought the little house they had made themselves in Elmet, a corner of Yorkshire, was theirs, that their peaceful, self-sufficient life was safe. Cathy and Daniel roamed the woods freely, occasionally visiting a local woman for some schooling, living outside all conventions. Their father built things and hunted, working with his hands; sometimes he would disappear, forced to do secret, brutal work for money, but to them he was a gentle protector.
Narrated by Daniel after a catastrophic event has occurred, Elmet mesmerizes even as it becomes clear the family’s solitary idyll will not last. When a local landowner shows up on their doorstep, their precarious existence is threatened, their innocence lost. Daddy and Cathy, both of them fierce, strong, and unyielding, set out to protect themselves and their neighbors, putting into motion a chain of events that can only end in violence.
As rich, wild, dark, and beautiful as its Yorkshire setting, Elmet is a gripping debut about life on the margins and the power—and limits—of family loyalty.
Spy of the First Person
by Sam Shepard
Here is the blurb from Knopf:
The final work from the Pulitzer Prize–winning writer, actor, and musician, drawn from his transformative last days
In searing, beautiful prose, Sam Shepard’s extraordinary narrative leaps off the page with its immediacy and power. It tells in a brilliant braid of voices the story of an unnamed narrator who traces, before our rapt eyes, his memories of work, adventure, and travel as he undergoes medical tests and treatments for a condition that is rendering him more and more dependent on the loved ones who are caring for him. The narrator’s memories and preoccupations often echo those of our current moment—for here are stories of immigration and community, inclusion and exclusion, suspicion and trust. But at the book’s core, and his, is family—his relationships with those he loved, and with the natural world around him. Vivid, haunting, and deeply moving, Spy of the First Person takes us from the sculpted gardens of a renowned clinic in Arizona to the blue waters surrounding Alcatraz, from a New Mexico border town to a condemned building on New York City’s Avenue C. It is an unflinching expression of the vulnerabilities that make us human—and an unbound celebration of family and life.
The Vanishing Princess: Stories
by Jenny Diski
Here is the blurb from Echo:
Jenny Diski’s prose is as sharp and steely as her imagination is wild and wondrous. When she died of cancer in April 2016, after chronicling her illness in strikingly honest essays in the London Review of Books, readers, admirers, and critics around the world mourned the loss. In a cool and unflinching tone that came to define her singular voice, she explored the subjects of sex, power, domesticity, femininity, hysteria, and loneliness with humor and honesty,
The stories in The Vanishing Princess showcase a rarely seen side of this beloved writer, channeling both the piercing social examination of her nonfiction and the vivid, dreamlike landscapes of her novels. In a Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale turned on its head, a miller’s daughter rises to power and wealth to rule over her kingdom and outwit the title villain. “Bathtime” tells the story of a woman’s life through her attempts to build the perfect bathtub, chasing an elusive moment of peace. In “Short Curcuit,” the author mines her own bouts in and out of mental institutions outside London to question whether those we think are mad are really the sanest among us.
Longtime fans of Diski and those who have discovered her since her death will find much to treasure here, in her only short story collection, released in the US for the very first time. The Vanishing Princess is another vital stop on Jenny Diski’s journey for meaning and beauty in her prolific writing, one that feels as fresh and necessary as if it were brand-new.
by Yasunari Kawabata
translated from the Japanese by Michael Emmerich
Here is the blurb from New Directions:
Beautifully spare and deeply strange, Dandelions?exploring love and madness?is Kawabata’s final novel, left incomplete when he committed suicide in April, 1972. The book concerns Ineko’s mother and Kuno, the young man who loves Ineko and wants to marry her. The two have left Ineko at the Ikuta Mental Hospital, which she has entered for treatment of a condition that might be called “seizures of body blindness.” Although her vision as a whole is unaffected, she periodically becomes unable to see her lover Kuno’s body: when this occurs, Ineko breaks down. Whether or not her condition actually constitutes madness is a topic of heated discussion between Kuno and Ineko’s mother… In this tantalizing book, Kawabata explores the incommunicability of desire as well as desire’s relation to the urge to hide. With Dandelions, Kawabata carries the art of the novel, where he always suggested more than he stated, into mysterious new realms.
Her Mother’s Mother’s Mother & Her Daughters
by Maria José Silveira
translated from the Portuguese by Eric M.B. Becker
Open Letter Books
Here is the blurb from Open Letter Books:
Spanning 500 years of Brazilian history, Her Mother’s Mother’s Mother and Her Daughters chronicles a family of women, beginning in 1500 with the birth of Inaiá, daughter of a Tupiniquim warrior, and ending in 2001 with Inaiá’s distant descendent, Maria Flor. As each new daughter takes the place of her mother, and the mothers before her, Maria José Silveira’s captivating, cinematic prose takes us through the formation of the country itself, as well as through the roles, customs, challenges, and intrigues of the women within it.
Subversive and refreshing, Silveira blends great storytelling with personal politics to critique the machismo, authoritarianism, and abuses of power prevalent in Brazilian culture.
Women & Power: A Manifesto
by Mary Beard
Here is the blurb from Liveright:
At long last, Mary Beard addresses in one brave book the misogynists and trolls who mercilessly attack and demean women the world over, including, very often, Mary herself. In Women & Power, she traces the origins of this misogyny to its ancient roots, examining the pitfalls of gender and the ways that history has mistreated strong women since time immemorial. As far back as Homer’s Odyssey, Beard shows, women have been prohibited from leadership roles in civic life, public speech being defined as inherently male. From Medusa to Philomela (whose tongue was cut out), from Hillary Clinton to Elizabeth Warren (who was told to sit down), Beard draws illuminating parallels between our cultural assumptions about women’s relationship to power?and how powerful women provide a necessary example for all women who must resist being vacuumed into a male template. With personal reflections on her own online experiences with sexism, Beard asks: If women aren’t perceived to be within the structure of power, isn’t it power itself we need to redefine? And how many more centuries should we be expected to wait?