Beginnings and Endings

Clockwise from left: G.P. Putnam’s Sons; Random House; Scribner; G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Breezy reads for long days in the sun, unforgettable debuts, the conclusion to one of our favorite literary series — no matter what you’ve in the mood for, there’s a great new book for you to pick up this May. 

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The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

Hoang, author of one of 2018’s best romance novels in The Kiss Quotient, returns with a new book based on the story of her mother. Khai, a Vietnamese-American 20-something on the spectrum, meets his match in Esme, a young woman from Ho Chi Minh City who his mother has sent to marry him. (May 7)

China Dream by Ma Jian 

Widely acclaimed Chinese novelist Jian, who has lived in exile in the U.K. over the past few decades, offers a startling exposé of China’s moral crises in the rare dystopian book that is set in the present-day, rather than the future. That it’s an absurd, wild ride makes its eye-opening effect that much more unsettling. (May 7

Exhalation by Ted Chiang

Chiang, best known for writing the story that inspired the film Arrival, returns with a new collection that offers provocative, sci-fi-tinged inquiries into what makes us human. The first story, particularly, is an instant classic. (May 7)

The Farm by Joanne Ramos

Read this grippingly realistic dystopian novel while you wait for the return of The Handmaid’s Tale. Ramos depicts a near-future of capitalist rule and an infertility crisis, in which surrogates are placed under complete corporate control at a “farm” called Golden Oaks. Our guide into this world, a Filipina immigrant and mother named Jane, guides us through this disturbing world as she sacrifices her body for a chance at a better life. (May 7)

Finale by Stephanie Garber

Garber’s best-selling, critically acclaimed Caraval trilogy comes to a thrilling and surprising conclusion with Finale. And if you haven’t read it’s predecessors, this is one fantasy series that’s worth catching up on. (May 7)

The Flight Portfolio by Julie Orringer

Coming off her debut novel, 2010’s lauded Holocaust epic The Invisible Bridge, Julie Orringer returns to the same era in her second. This time, her hero lives in the margins of history: Varian Fry, an obscure American who almost single-handedly took on the task of saving Europe’s creative brain trust. (May 7)

Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep 

Cep delves into the mind and work of Harper Lee in a book that meditates on true-crime and mystery conventions. Furious Hours uncovers the case of an Alabama serial killer from the 1970s, and how it inspired Lee to write a reported book that would rival Truman Capote’s classic In Cold Blood. (May 7)

The Guest Book by Sarah Blake

The third novel from the author of The Postmistress is an American epic in the truest sense, spanning three generations of a powerful family that owns a small island off the coast of Maine. In the present day, Evie Milton uncovers the unsettling truth of her parents’ — and their parents’ — lives; in the process, Blake humanely but grippingly explores the heart of a country whose past is based in prejudice. (May 7)

Her Royal Highness by Rachel Hawkins 

G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

The second book in Hawkins’ Royals series, Highness tells a lesbian Royal family love story(!), set against the highlands of Scotland. (May 7)

Rough Magic by Lara Prior-Palmer

Think the next Educated or Wild. Palmer’s memoir of beating the odds to become a horse champion is an inspiring saga of perseverance — and a classic underdog tale. (May 7)

The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames

Grames’ witty and deeply felt family saga begins in a pre-WWII Italian village, where young Stella Fortuna learns the hard truths of life (and death) as she grows up with an abusive father and immigrates with her family to the U.S. (May 7)

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

We loved Acevedo’s debut novel The Poet X, which won last year’s National Book Award for young-adult literature. Her follow-up centers on high-schooler Emoni, who balances big responsibilities with a passion for cooking. (May 7)

The Unpassing by Chia-Chia Lin

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Lin showcases stunning prose in her bleak but affecting debut, which centers on a Taiwanese family living in Alaska, wrestling with grief over the death of a child. (May 7)

The Behavior of Love by Virginia Reeves

Reeves’ follows up her Man Booker Prize-longlisted debut Work Like Any Other with this investigation of romantic connection, unfurling a love triangle between a behavioral psychiatrist, his artist wife, and an epileptic young woman who’s been placed in his care. (May 14)

Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips

Phillips’ anticipated first novel traverses the Kamchatka peninsula at the northeastern edge of Russia, peering in on the lives of a range of residents over the course of a year as a shocking crime goes unsolved. (May 14)

Once More We Saw Stars by Jayson Greene

Eliciting praise from the likes of Cheryl Strayed and Jonathan Lethem, Greene’s memoir meditates on how to move on from the unimaginable — the death of a child — and once again find meaning and hope. (May 14)

Orange World by Karen Russell

The brilliant Swamplandia! author returns to the short-story form in this explosive new collection. (May 14)

Out East by John Glynn

Glynn’s memoir is perfectly evocative of long, lazy summers, taking place over a few months in Montauk and charting the blossoming of friendships, the heat of new romances, and the journeys to self-discovery. (May 14)

The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins

Collins’ blistering historical thriller follows Frannie, a servant and former slave, and her attempts to survive accusations of murdering her employer and his wife. The main problem: She was found covered in their blood, and cannot remember what happened. (May 21)

How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper

Roper’s darkly humorous debut centers on a cynical man working in public-health, who’s been lying to his officemates about having a family. But when he falls for a new employee, he’s forced to confront his lie — and consider a new way of living. (May 28)

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