January 2018 Books to Read!

The publishing year seems to begin slowly, but there are still several books coming this month that look very interesting and should be a nice start to 2018!

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.

January 9

The Memoirs of Two Young Wives
by Honoré de Balzac
translated from the French by Jordan Stump
NYRB Classics

Buy from Amazon.com here.
Buy from Amazon UK here.

Here is the blurb from NYRB Classics:

Two very intelligent, very idealistic young women leave the convent school where they became the fastest of friends to return to their families and embark on their new lives. For Renée de Maucombe, this means an arranged marriage with a country gentleman of Provence, a fine if slightly dull man for whom she feels admiration but nothing more. Meanwhile, Louise de Chaulieu makes for her family’s house in Paris, intent on enjoying her freedom to the fullest: glittering balls, the opera, and above all, she devoutly hopes, the torments and ecstasies of true love and passion. What will come of these very different lives?

Despite Honoré de Balzac’s title, these aren’t memoirs; rather, this is an epistolary novel. For some ten years, these two will—enthusiastically if not always faithfully—keep up their correspondence, obeying their vow to tell each other every tiny detail of their strange new lives, comparing their destinies, defending and sometimes bemoaning their choices, detailing the many changes, personal and social, that they undergo. As Balzac writes, “Renée is reason…Louise is wildness…and both will lose.” Balzac being Balzac, he seems to argue for the virtues of one of these lives over the other; but Balzac being Balzac, that argument remains profoundly ambiguous. “I would,” he once wrote, “rather be killed by Louise than live a long life with Renée.”

Winter
by Ali Smith
Pantheon

Buy from Amazon.com here.
Buy from Amazon UK here.

Here is the blurb from Pantheon:

The second novel in the Man Booker Prize–nominated author’s Seasonal cycle; the much-anticipated follow-up to Autumn (a New York Times, Washington Post, NPR, Financial Times, The Guardian, Southern Living, and Kirkus Reviews best book of the year).

Winter. Bleak. Frosty wind, earth as iron, water as stone, so the old song goes. And now Art’s mother is seeing things. Come to think of it, Art’s seeing things himself.

When four people, strangers and family, converge on a fifteen-bedroom house in Cornwall for Christmas, will there be enough room for everyone?

Winter. It makes things visible. Ali Smith’s shapeshifting Winter casts a warm, wise, merry and uncompromising eye over a post-truth era in a story rooted in history and memory and with a taproot deep in the evergreens, art and love.

The Same Night Awaits Us All
by Hristo Karastoyanov
translated from the Bulgarian by Izidora Angel
Open Letter Books

Buy from Amazon.com here.
Buy from Amazon UK here.

Here is the blurb from Open Letter Books:

In June of 1923, a military coup established Aleksandar Tsankov as the new leader of Bulgaria. His fascist policies—especially aimed at the Bulgarian Communist Party—led to the failed September Uprising and an extended period of martial law.

At that same time, Geo Milev—one of Bulgaria’s most beloved poets—started a politically charged literary magazine with Georgi Sheytanov, a notorious anarchist on the run. Eighteen months later, the government assassinated both of them, although Milev’s body wouldn’t be found for another thirty years.

In this multilayered historical novel that calls to mind Laurent Binet’s HHhH, Hristo Karastoyanov deconstructs this period, blending this adventurous tale of resistance with current-day reflections on what this period meant to Bulgaria and the world.

Phone
by Will Self
Grove Press

Buy from Amazon.com here.
Buy from Amazon UK here.

Here is the blurb from Grove Press:

Published to rave reviews in the United Kingdom, Phone tells the story of two men: Zack Busner and Jonathan De’Ath. Busner is a psychiatrist who has made his name through his unorthodox treatment of psychological damage, such as giving the controversial drug L-DOPA to patients ravaged by encephalitis, or administering LSD to World War II PTSD-sufferers. But now Busner’s own mind is fraying: Alzheimer’s is shredding his memory and his newest possession is a shiny smartphone given to him by his introverted grandson Ben. Meanwhile, Jonathan De’Ath, aka “the Butcher,” is an MI6 man who remains a mystery even to those closest to him, be it his washed-up old university lecturer father, his jumbling-bumbling mother, his hippy-dippy brothers, his spooky colleagues or multitudinous lovers. All of De’Ath’s acquaintances apply the “Butcher” epithet to him, and perhaps there is only one person who thinks of him with tenderness, a man he keeps top secret, encrypted in the databanks of his steely mind: Colonel Gawain Thomas, husband, father, highly-trained tank commander, and Jonathan De’Ath’s long-time lover. As Busner’s mind totters and Jonathan and Gawain’s affair teeters, they come to face the interconnectedness of all lives, online and off, while an irritating phone continues to ring… ring… ring…

The Afterlives
by Thomas Pierce
Riverhead Books

Buy from Amazon.com here.
Buy from Amazon UK here.

Here is the blurb from Riverhead Books:

Jim Byrd died. Technically. For a few minutes. The diagnosis: heart attack at age thirty. Revived with no memory of any tunnels, lights, or angels, Jim wonders what–if anything–awaits us on the other side.

Then a ghost shows up. Maybe. Jim and his new wife, Annie, find themselves tangling with holograms, psychics, messages from the beyond, and a machine that connects the living and the dead. As Jim and Annie journey through history and fumble through faith, they confront the specter of loss that looms for anyone who dares to fall in love. Funny, fiercely original, and gracefully moving, The Afterlives will haunt you. In a good way.

Fools and Mortals
by Bernard Cornwell
Harper

Buy from Amazon.com here.
Buy from Amazon UK here.

Here is the blurb from Harper:

In the heart of Elizabethan England, Richard Shakespeare dreams of a glittering career in one of the London playhouses, a world dominated by his older brother, William. But he is a penniless actor, making ends meet through a combination of a beautiful face, petty theft and a silver tongue. As William’s star rises, Richard’s onetime gratitude is souring and he is sorely tempted to abandon family loyalty.

So when a priceless manuscript goes missing, suspicion falls upon Richard, forcing him onto a perilous path through a bawdy and frequently brutal London. Entangled in a high-stakes game of duplicity and betrayal which threatens not only his career and potential fortune, but also the lives of his fellow players, Richard has to call on all he has now learned from the brightest stages and the darkest alleyways of the city. To avoid the gallows, he must play the part of a lifetime . . . .

Showcasing the superb storytelling skill that has won Bernard Cornwell international renown, Fools and Mortals is a richly portrayed tour de force that brings to life a vivid world of intricate stagecraft, fierce competition, and consuming ambition.


January 16

Little Reunions
by Eileen Chang
translated from the Chinese by Jane Weizhen Pan and Martin Merz
NYRB Classics

Buy from Amazon.com here.
Buy from Amazon UK here.

Here is the blurb from NYRB Classics:

Now available in English for the first time, Eileen Chang’s dark romance opens with Julie, living at a convent school in Hong Kong on the eve of the Japanese invasion. Her mother, Rachel, long divorced from Julie’s opium-addict father, saunters around the world with various lovers. Recollections of Julie’s horrifying but privileged childhood in Shanghai clash with a flamboyant, sometimes incestuous cast of relations that crowd her life. Eventually, back in Shanghai, she meets the magnetic Chih-yung, a traitor who collaborates with the Japanese puppet regime. Soon they’re in the throes of an impassioned love affair that swings back and forth between ardor and anxiety, secrecy and ruin. Like Julie’s relationship with her mother, her marriage to Chih-yung is marked by long stretches of separation interspersed with unexpected little reunions. Chang’s emotionally fraught, bitterly humorous novel holds a fractured mirror directly in front of her own heart.

The Largesse of the Sea Maiden
by Denis Johnson
Random House

Buy from Amazon.com here.
Buy from Amazon UK here.

Here is the blurb from Random House:

The Largesse of the Sea Maiden is the long-awaited new story collection from Denis Johnson. Written in the luminous prose that made him one of the most beloved and important writers of his generation, this collection finds Johnson in new territory, contemplating the ghosts of the past and the elusive and unexpected ways the mysteries of the universe assert themselves.

Finished shortly before Johnson’s death, this collection is the last word from a writer whose work will live on for many years to come.


January 23

The Juniper Tree
by Barbara Comyns
NYRB Classics

Buy from Amazon.com here.
Buy from Amazon UK here.

Here is the blurb from NYRB Classics:

Bella Winter has hit a low. Homeless and jobless, she is the mother of a toddler by a man whose name she didn’t quite catch, and her once pretty face is disfigured by the scar she acquired in a car accident. Friendless and without family, she’s recently disentangled herself from a selfish and indifferent boyfriend and a cruel and indifferent mother. But she shares a quality common to Barbara Comyns’s other heroines: a bracingly unsentimental ability to carry on. Before too long, Bella has found not only a job but a vocation; not only a place to live but a home and a makeshift family. As Comyns’s novel progresses, the story echoes and inverts the Brothers Grimm’s macabre tale The Juniper Tree. Will Bella’s hard-won restoration to life and love come at the cost of the happiness of others?

Ms Ice Sandwich
by Mieko Kawakami
translated from the Japanese by Louise Heal Kawai
Pushkin Press

Buy from Amazon.com here.
Buy from Amazon UK here.

Here is the blurb from Pushkin Press:

A boy is obsessed with a woman who sells sandwiches. He goes to the supermarket almost every day, just so he can look at her face. She is beautiful to him, and he calls her “Ms Ice Sandwich”, and endlessly draws her portrait.

But the boy’s friend hears about this hesitant adoration, and suddenly everything changes. His visits to Ms Ice Sandwich stop, and with them the last hopes of his childhood.

A moving and surprisingly funny tale of growing up and learning how to lose, Ms Ice Sandwich is Mieko Kawakami at her very best.


January 30

Transit Comet Eclipse
by Muharem Bazdulj
translated from the Bosnian by Nataša Milas
Dalkey Archive

Buy from Amazon.com here.
Buy from Amazon UK here.

Here is the blurb from Dalkey Archive:

A Jesuit and an English ambassador make a journey to Petrograd across a gloomy, often desolate eighteenth-century Eastern Europe in order to sight a rare transit of the sun by Venus. A Moldovan student coming of age at the end of the twentieth century, and in the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s break-up, flees to the west in search of a less gloomy life, only to find more of the sordid, inhumane experience she had hoped to leave behind. A boy known only as the Writer, under the sway of Paul Auster’s novels, searches for his theme and finally settles on an eighteenth-century Yugoslav Jesuit known for his fascination with rare astronomical events. In these subtly linked novellas, Muharem Bazdulj takes the reader across several centuries of Yugoslav history, finding in three very different sets of circumstances a common longing to escape the desperation and depression of life in the east.

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By | 2018-01-02T14:01:33+00:00 January 2nd, 2018|Categories: News|5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. stu (@stujallen) January 2, 2018 at 5:25 pm

    The Muharem appeal to me Trevor I read his earlier book Byron and the beauty and meet him for a mint tea with his uk publisher

  2. Trevor Berrett January 2, 2018 at 5:53 pm

    That’s cool to hear, Stu! I haven’t read any of his books yet, but I would like to change that.

  3. Tredynas Days January 3, 2018 at 12:39 pm

    I like the look of the Balzac, but have a backlog of old Penguin Classics of his to read first. The Denis Johnson should also be good. And i like B. Comyns’s quirky style and her edge of darkness. Great list, Trevor.

  4. David January 3, 2018 at 4:16 pm

    I am not one who usually gets excited about new publications. Books don;t have a best before date and there are so many books published in the last … well, several hundred years anyway … that new ones usually need to get in line. The one from the list above I am interested in is Denis Johnson’s book. The reason for my interest is that The New Yorker published one of the stories in it in late 2017 and many of us thought it might be an excerpt from something longer. I am curious to know if that is the case or not.

  5. David January 3, 2018 at 4:17 pm

    Ugh. Typos can be annoying, but html typos can be a disaster. Mea culpa.

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