By Christine Sneed
Lauren Groff, “Fates and Furies” (novel, 9/15)
Groff’s new novel about a foundering marriage has received, not surprisingly, a lot of ecstatic buzz. She is so talented that reading her work is alternately a thrilling and an I-will-never-be-this-good-of-a-writer experience. Behold her dazzling sentences, understanding of the human heart, and her imaginative leaps into the real and the fantastical.
Erica Jong, “Fear of Dying” (novel, 9/8)
More than forty years after Jong wowed and scandalized readers alike with her sexually frank (and fearless) novel “Fear of Flying,” Jong is back with another adventurous heroine, Vanessa Wonderman (a close friend of Isadora Wing), who isn’t interested in disappearing into senescence without a…ahem, bang.
Jenny Lawson, “Furiously Happy” (nonfiction, 9/22)
In this memoir, Lawson explores her longtime struggles with mental illness. As her publisher phrases it, “A hysterical, ridiculous book about crippling depression and anxiety? That sounds like a terrible idea. But terrible ideas are what Jenny does best.” I’m in.
Lori Ostlund, “After the Parade” (novel, 9/22)
This debut novel from Flannery O’Connor award-winning short story writer and native Minnesotan, Lori Ostlund has been racking up excellent advanced reviews. A thoughtful and witty examination of love, commitment and the desire for adventure, my hunch is that “After the Parade” will be a favorite of both critics and readers.
Joe Meno, “Marvel and a Wonder” (novel, 9/1)
Chicago literary fixture and longtime Columbia College fiction professor has a new novel out that is being likened to Faulkner and to Melville’s “Moby Dick”–with horses. Meno’s stylistic inventiveness, humane curiosity and fictional range are always impressive.
Bonnie Jo Campbell, “Mothers, Tell Your Daughters” (stories, 10/5)
National Book Award finalist Campbell is a master of the short story, and this follow-up to her stunning collection “American Salvage” is likely to be named one of the best books of the year. Campbell writes with empathy and insight about characters often on the verge of emotional, financial, or physical catastrophe. And she does it all without melodrama.
Michael Witwer, “Empire of Imagination: Gary Gygax and the Birth of Dungeons & Dragons” (nonfiction, 10/6)
This is the first comprehensive biography of a legendary cultural icon, which includes the complete story behind his invention of the mythic game Dungeons & Dragons. Whether you played the game or not, this is a compelling book and likely will be a big seller this fall.
Floyd Skloot, “Approaching Winter” (poetry, 10/5)
This is Skloot’s eighth poetry collection, and it is filled with wonder, literary mischief (Samuel Beckett, for one, makes an appearance) and reverence: for the natural world, for the experiences of fatherhood, for life itself. Skloot is a gifted poet, essayist and fiction writer, and this new collection will doubtless earn him many more admirers.
Vanessa Blakeslee, “Juventud” (novel, 10/13)
Local indie press Curbside Splendor continues to distinguish itself as a literary trendsetter with Blakeslee’s debut novel, “Juventud.” This is an ambitious, wide-ranging story about a privileged young Colombian woman. Class, family ties, and the blinding optimism of youth: Blakeslee isn’t shying away from some of the big, timeless issues.
Chrissy Kolaya, “Charmed Particles” (novel, 11/10)
This is such an accomplished debut novel based in part on the cultural and economic controversy that occurred when the Fermi Lab came to town in the seventies. Kolaya handles an intriguing and sympathetic cast of characters with aplomb–it’s a brainy, witty page-turner, and marks the start of what I hope will be a long career for Kolaya as a novelist.
Michael Marmot, “The Health Gap: The Challenge of an Unequal World” (11/3)
Marmot is the current president-elect of the World Medical Association and one of the planet’s leading doctors and public intellectuals. In this book, he shows us how social injustice is the greatest killer in the world and explains how socio-economic status directly affects our health and wellbeing.
Scott Nadelson, “Between You and Me” (novel, 11/10)
An entertaining and thoughtful novel offers moments, alternately, of great comedy and emotional depth: in 1981, Nadelson’s protagonist, Paul Haberman, marries an attractive single mother and becomes the family’s breadwinner and underappreciated stepfather to two children. By the time we read the last page, we’re in 2001; his stepchildren have been launched into adulthood, and the world itself has also changed irrevocably.
Marcela Sulak and Jacqueline Kolosov, editors, “Family Resemblance: An Anthology and Exploration of 8 Hybrid Literary Genres” (anthology, 11/4)
Possibly the first anthology on the planet to map out the family tree of hybrid genres, “Family Resemblance” features work by a diverse and supremely talented group of writers that includes Maggie Nelson, Nick Flynn, Etgar Keret, Rachel Zucker, Khadijah Queen and Terrance Hayes. Local publisher Rose Metal Press continues to publish innovative and exciting books.
Christine Sneed is one of Chicago’s most acclaimed and prolific novelists. Her debut story collection, “Portraits of a Few of the People I’ve Made Cry” was published to considerable favor in 2010, and she followed with the novel “Little Known Facts” in 2013 and “Paris, He Said” came out this spring.