Five Upcoming Books You Should Read Immediately

From small nightmares to a “gay slacker dramedy.”

Sarah Smarsh, She Come by It Natural (Oct. 13)

Sarah Smarsh's debut, Heartland, came out at just the right time. In 2018, city dwellers had an appetite for rural tell-alls, and Smarsh's working-class background in Kingman County, Kansas, was her story to tell. Her second release is someone else's story, but it is no less compelling: She Come by It Natural is a living elegy for Dolly Parton, the woman she represents and the lines she straddles at the intersection of class, gender and image. Throughout the book, Parton and Smarsh are in unspoken dialogue with one another, sharing common language and struggle through the beauty of country music.

Destiny O. Birdsong, Negotiations (Oct. 13)

Released by Portland publisher Tin House, Destiny O. Birdsong's debut collection of poems writes of a nation bowing under the weight of its shortcomings. Negotiations is made rich by its natural complexity, with few stones left unturned––poems address silencing, fetishization, tokenism and cultural appropriation with fierce honesty, the sum of which amount to an artfully written love letter to Black women in America. In Birdsong's debut, every angle of the self is worthy of recognition.

Corey Sobel, The Redshirt (Oct. 13)

It is all too easy to watch college sports and fail to acknowledge that there are humans behind the trophies and padding and jumbotron pixels. Corey Sobel, a former Division One football player, slices this world open in The Redshirt, a fictional account of what happens when players are treated like property and crooked versions of masculinity run amuk. Sobel writes about King College, an imaginary low-level D1 program in the deep South, but swapping in UVA or Duke––Sobel's alma mater––is no big stretch.

Lincoln Michel and Nadxieli Nieto, Tiny Nightmares (Oct. 13)

Whether or not we are granted any semblance of a Halloween remains to be seen, but the pumpkins are out at the grocery store and that's all that really matters. Edited by two authors who have dubbed this their "Frankenbaby," Tiny Nightmares gives readers a collection of bite-sized horror stories from a sprawling cast of new and veteran writers. In the book, no monster is too outlandish or too real––there is horror in vampires who mend their own broken hearts, just as there is horror in global warming and online radicalization.

Bryan Washington, Memorial (Oct. 27)

Those who read and loved Bryan Washington's 2019 collection of short stories Lot have been waiting on bated breath for his fiction debut, slated for release at the end of the month. Memorial is a love story that is equal parts sweet and aching—a "gay slacker dramedy" that is meant to make you feel better after reading it, not worse. A day-care instructor and a line cook live in Houston's increasingly gentrified Third Ward, muddling through the awkwardness and confusion of life at the crossroads of identity.

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