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11 excellent new books to read in May

From Emma Straub to Richard Russo, here are 11 new releases to devour

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It’s not time to check out mentally and grab a beach read just yet — and believe us, once you dive into one of these brilliant novels or scintillating works of nonfiction, you’ll be glad you didn’t turn your brain off. This May, we’re particularly thrilled about the return of a handful of modern greats: Louise Erdrich, Richard Russo, and a newer favorite, Emma Straub. Read on for the books you absolutely can’t miss this month.

Adam Haslett, Imagine Me Gone

Adam Haslett’s third book Imagine Me Gone examines the struggles a family of five endure in the face of mental illness. Told from alternating perspectives from each of the five, Imagine Me Gone spans several years to create an intimate story of a mother’s love for her children, unbreakable sibling bonds, and the everlasting effects of a father’s pain on a family. Read EW’s review here. (May 3)

Laura Barnett, The Versions of Us

Laura Barnett’s debut novel explores the moments in our lives that change the course of everything by presenting a man and a woman who cross paths on a country lane one day. The Versions of Us looks at three different outcomes of their lives depending on the choices they make after the first meeting. Dealing in love, betrayal, and heartbreak, Barnett studies the small factors and choices that affect our lives in the long haul. (May 3)

Richard Russo, Everybody’s Fool

Over 20 years after the initial release of Richard Russo’s 1993 novel Nobody’s Fool, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author returns to the world of working class anti-hero Donald “Sully’’ Sullivan, reinvigorating his small-town life and the charming characters that comprise it with humor and heart. (May 3)

Andrew Michael Hurley, The Loney

The first rule of supernatural horror should be “don’t mess with ancient shrines,” but thank goodness so many characters keep breaking it. This eerie debut novel, for one, is mostly set in the ‘70s, as an English family takes a pilgrimage to a holy site in the hopes of curing their disabled son. Let’s just say nothing good comes of it, especially once the mysterious, glamorous-seeming couple next door gets involved. (May 10)

Louise Erdrich, LaRose

In Erdrich’s gorgeously wrought first novel in four years, two families suffer earth-shattering heartbreak when Landreax Iron accidentally shoots his neighbors’ 5-year-old son, causing Landreaux and his wife, after a soul-searching session in the sweat lodge, to give their own 5-year-old son to the Ravich family to raise as their own. Filled with rich notions about the meaning of family (and of revenge), Erdrich’s emotional stunner isn’t one to miss. (May 10)

Jill Lepore, Joe Gould’s Teeth

New Yorker staff writer and Harvard historian Jill Lepore retraces her ferocious search for the long-lost, longest book ever written: a century-old manuscript by madman and scholar Joe Gould called The Oral History of Our Time. As she sifts through archives, scraps, diaries, and letters, Lepore dives into Gould’s enigmatic world, ultimately unearthing the fascinating secrets that comprised his life. (May 17)

Joe Hill, The Fireman

In works like Locke & Key and Horns, Joe Hill has proved himself a spine-tingling, mind-expanding supernatural storyteller on par with dear old dad Stephen King. His latest novel mashes up Fahrenheit 451 and The Stand in the form of a plague of spontaneous combustion, spreading across the country like wildfire. Only the mysterious title character seems capable of saving the world from fiery apocalypse, but then again, he might be insane. Read an excerpt here. (May 17)

Stephanie Danler, Sweetbitter

We’ve been raving about Sweetbitter here at EW for a solid five months now, and it’s finally almost here: Danler’s exquisite coming-of-age story about a young woman who moves to New York and gets a job at an iconic restaurant is like a luxurious glass of wine: We can describe it all we want, but you just need to taste it for yourself. Her voice is simply unforgettable. (May 24)

Neil Gaiman, The View from the Cheap Seats

Gaiman’s first nonfiction collection proves he’s just as skilled at describing real-life events as he is at conjuring dream lords and dead gods. The pieces range across format, genre, time, and topic, but they all exude love for the art of writing and reading – especially science fiction, fantasy, comics, children’s books, and the other genres that used to be derided as “lowbrow” or “cheap,” hence the title. Throughout, Gaiman writes about the value of public libraries and promotes his favorite obscure authors, all of it infused with the same message he famously gave the University of the Arts graduating class in 2012: Make good art. (May 31)

Kameron Hurley, The Geek Feminist Revolution 

The geek world is in a crisis, and not just because these days everyone knows what the Infinity Gems are. As women become more visible in areas like comic and video game development, some male fans have started to push back, leading to controversies like GamerGate or the 2015 Hugo Awards. Leave it to Kameron Hurley to provide the backlash to the backlash; her collection of essays straddle the whole of geekdom and prove, once and for all, that everyone has a place in that sphere. (May 31)

Emma Straub, Modern Lovers

Straub’s followup to 2014’s The Vacationers centers on a group of college friends, now middle-aged and living Brooklyn, and their teen children who are just about to leave the nest for college. Back in the day, Andrew, Elizabeth, and Zoe were in a band, but only their bandmate Lydia ever found real success — before she tragically died. Now, they have to come to terms with perhaps not being as cool as they once were, while some long-buried secrets bubble to the surface. It’s a lovely, satisfying early-summer read. (May 31)

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