One of the most perfect debuts in recent memory, The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker is the story of the working friendship between Mel Vaught and Sharon Kisses, two young women working in the traditionally male-dominated field of independent animation. At first, the book may seem like the predictable story of a friendship strained by success, but Whitaker serves up a series of curveballs that take Mel and Sharon far from their comfort zones and into their tumultuous pasts.
For fans of Thomas Pynchon, David Foster Wallace and rock and roll/punk, beloved cult author Steve Erickson delivers a kind of playlist in novel form with Shadowbahn, a surreal novel in which the Twin Towers suddenly appear in the Badlands of South Dakota, broadcasting a strange music heard by the legion of pilgrims who begin moving in their direction while the stillborn twin of Elvis Presley awakens within.
Long-out-of-print, Mrs. Caliban by Rachel Ingalls is the story of a romance between a housewife and an aquatic monster escaped from the Institute of Oceanographic Research. What follows is part fairy tale and part horror, not to mention that it makes The Shape of Water look tame by comparison.
Fourth in Renee Gladman’s ongoing series about a mysterious city, Houses of Ravicka is the best one yet, the story of Ravicka’s Comptroller as he searches for a house that has become untethered in space. Gladman’s novel winds up being a sublime, deeply poetic mood piece about what it feels like to be out of place even at home, or in one’s native country.
One of the greatest French writers of all time has been rescued from obscurity for English readers by translator Kit Schluter in The King in the Golden Mask by Marcel Schwob, which collects 21 tales of the fantastic set during all stages of human history and featuring witchcraft, plagues, kings, priests, Protestants, and pirates.
The brilliant Amelia Gray surprised her audience, accustomed to her weirder work, with the relatively straight Isidora. But the life of dancer Isadora Duncan turns out to be weird enough on its own to be a perfect match for Gray’s talents, as she follows her in the aftermath of the drowning of Duncan’s two children, confronting rivals for her fortune and her own sanity.
The biggest rediscovery of 2017 has got to be Claude McKay’s Amiable with Big Teeth, a totally lost masterpiece of the Harlem Renaissance that follows various factions of the Harlem intelligentsia as they jockey for power while organizing support for the liberation of Ethiopia. What follows is a political thriller that examines the fraught relationship between Communism and black liberation.
A stunning debut about what happens when an East Delhi family suddenly comes into a fortune, The Windfall by Diksha Basu is a riotous comedy of manners that manages to be a tragedy, satire, and extremely observant class-comedy all at once. To boot, Diksha Basu’s modern India is made intimately real on every page thanks to her gift for sensual detail and pitch-perfect characterization.
There’s an unbelievable amount of story packed into the relatively slim The Reef by Juan Villoro. For starters, an ex-rock star named Tony Góngora is trying to solve the murder of a scuba-diver in a hotel beset by guerrilla warfare. What follows includes Japanese pop groups, killer bees, and The Velvet Underground.
One of the more obscure titles by Loving author Henry Green, the recently-republished Nothing is secretly the masterful writer’s best and most bizarre novel. Almost completely written in dialogue, it portrays a conspiracy to break up a marriage using idle talk, rumormongering, and the subtle art of implication. The result is a one-of-a-kind experience, a book about both everything and nothing in one.