9 much-anticipated new works from authors working outside their typical genres

9 much-anticipated new works from authors working outside their typical genres

I’m constantly scanning the bookish horizons to see what’s coming my way, especially now that summer reading season is right around the corner.

I’ve noticed something interesting about this year’s new releases: we’re seeing an unusual number of books from authors writing outside their typical genres. Novelists are writing essays, memoirists are writing stories—sometimes for the first time ever, sometimes for the first time in many years.

Jeffrey Eugenides started the trend in late 2017; the rest of these are 2018 releases. Some I’ve read and enjoyed; others are on my nightstand or wish list. I’d love to hear your thoughts in comments: tell me what you plan to read from this list, and what titles would you add to it?

Series: Authors Working Outside Their Typical Genres
You Think It, I’ll Say It: Stories

You Think It, I’ll Say It: Stories

Curtis Sittenfeld has a reputation as a "skewerer of subjects" from her bestsellers Prep, American Wife, and, most recently, her Jane Austen Project novel Eligible. This new collection includes ten stories exploring class, gender roles, and the misconceptions that underpin our lives, by covering Ivy League schools, high school tormentors, and suburban mothers. Release date: April 24 2018. More info →
Calypso

Calypso

Author:
David Sedaris is no stranger to the short-form, but unlike his previous collections, these new tales from life all center around one theme: middle age, mortality, and the importance of family bonds. Think Peter Mayle in Provence, only on the Carolina coast, where even in his vacation home he finds "it's impossible to take a vacation from yourself." Sedaris's observations are full of his trademark biting wit; Kirkus calls this "Sedaris at his darkest—and best." Release date: May 29 2018. More info →
Florida

Florida

Author:
Lauren Groff has already written three bestselling novels (one of which Barack Obama chose as his favorite novel of the year in 2015). More than ten years ago she moved back to her home state of Florida, and many were surprised to hear that her Fates and Furies follow-up would be a collection of short stories centered around the history, ecosystem, and psyche of Florida through characters that are wives, mothers, homeless women. The publisher says, "the stories in this collection span characters, towns, decades, even centuries. Storms, snakes, and sinkholes lurk at the edge of everyday life." Release date: June 5 2018. More info →
Awayland: Stories

Awayland: Stories

Author:
Magical realism and home seem like an unusual mix of topics, but The New York Times Book Review says Ramona Ausubel "finds a way to record the tensions between the forces that animate us but ultimately can't be dissected." Reviewers use words like "offbeat," "whimsical," and "weird and wonderful." The collection includes eleven stories, but pay special attention to "Fresh Water from the Sea." Release date: March 6 2018. More info →
Fresh Complaint: Stories

Fresh Complaint: Stories

This is the first book of short stories from Pulitzer Prize-winning Jeffrey Eugenides, author of The Virgin Suicides, Middlesex, and The Marriage Plot, including ten tales narrating the stories of a young traveler, a failed poet, an art-loving husband and father, a high school student from an immigrant family. (Note for audiophiles: Cynthia Nixon reads two of the stories on the audiobook.) Release date: October 3 2017. More info →
Feel Free: Essays

Feel Free: Essays

Author:
In her first essay collection since 2009's Changing My Mind, Zadie Smith discusses good books, Billie Holiday, rap, Facebook, and why we love libraries. Smith is a regular contributor to the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books; these essays primarily appeared first in those publications. NPR says "reading Feel Free is a lot like hanging out with a friend who's just as at home in a museum as she is binge-watching a sitcom." Release date: February 6 2018. More info →
What Are We Doing Here?: Essays

What Are We Doing Here?: Essays

I love Robinson's fiction; she's known for quiet yet powerful novels like Gilead and Lila. In her preface, Robinson says "We have surrendered thought to ideology. I know it is conventional to say we Americans are radically divided, polarized. But this is not more true than its opposite—in essential ways we share false assumptions and flawed conclusions that are never effectively examined because they are indeed shared." Publishers Weekly calls these fifteen essays "sometimes cranky and rambling, but always passionate." Release date: February 20 2018. More info →
Look Alive Out There: Essays

Look Alive Out There: Essays

Author:
Sloane Crosley, bestselling author of The Clasp, describes the transition to nonfiction like this: "I was working on fiction for so long, and that was so freeing in some ways. 'Oh good, I get to make everything up!' But then it's sort of horrifying in other ways, where you're like, 'I have to make everything up. I'm responsible for everything.'" So here, Crosley returns to the form of her 2008 collection I Was Told There'd Be Cake, describing the events of her "madcap life"—everything from playing herself on Gossip Girl to climbing active volcanoes. Her new work has been compared to Dorothy Parker, Nora Ephron, and David Sedaris. Release date: April 3 2018. More info →
I Am, I Am, I Am

I Am, I Am, I Am

In O'Farrell's new memoir-of-sorts, she tells the story of her life through seventeen brushes with death. I didn't quite believe the premise when I first heard it (Seventeen brushes? Really?), but O'Farrell doesn't mess around with this heart-pounding collection, in which she recounts near-misses with car accidents, murderers, anaphylaxis, a childhood bout with encephalitis, and more. There's obviously some sensitive content here, but I'd like to especially point out that O'Farrell's heart-rending essay on miscarriage is some of the finest writing I've seen on the subject (a subject that's not covered enough in literature). Release date: February 6 2018. More info →

What titles would YOU add to this list?

P.S. 10 engaging audiobooks read by their authors, and 8 novels that are delightfully self-aware about the writing process.

8 comments

  1. I just started the Look Alive Out There yesterday and it’s great so far! Really captures the ridiculousness of NYC with humor and relatability.
    I’m also planning to read You Think It, I’ll Say It, Florida, and I Am, I Am, I Am.
    Didn’t realize there was a new Sedaris…I love dark, so may have to listen to that on audio!

  2. Sarah R says:

    I will read Florida only because I love the state. I was in the minority, but Fates and Furies was a big old miss for me! I am very excited for Curtis Sittenfeld’s short story collection. She is one of my go-to authors.

    I have read Fresh Complaint and Feel Free and loved them.

    • S says:

      Hated/very very strongly disliked Fates and Furies but read every horrible word til the last page just to see if something in the end made me understand all the rave reviews…it didn’t and I kicked myself for not putting it down earlier. Very few books have given me that reaction so I don’t think I will pick up her latest!

  3. Megan says:

    I attempted “What are we doing here?” and got about 1/3 through before giving up….with the intention of coming back later…I hope(!). I found it to be a challenging read (I’ve never had to look up so many words while reading in my first language!) and I plan to try the audio version. Since they were mostly speeches, that may be a better format for these pieces (they were tough!).

  4. Byrd says:

    I love this topic, but did anyone else think, yuck, all essays and short stories? (Probably just me being narrow minded about my reading…)

    • Nancy says:

      It’s not just you. Essays and short stories seem to me like taking vitamins. Having said that, I did add I Am, I Am, I Am to my to-read list. And I really liked Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies, which I read last year after seeing it recommended by Anne.

  5. Eva says:

    I always enjoy David Sedaris books, along with his pieces for NPR’s This American Life! Such dark, witty humor makes for a really interesting perspective. I’m glad to see a lot of authors choosing the short story form, it’s one of my favorite styles to consume!!

    Eva | http://www.shessobright.com

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