Five Books You Need To Read This Month: February

It’s a new month, so here are five new titles we think you need to read this month!

This month we’re featuring a mixture of fiction and non-fiction, with a couple of debut releases alongside some more established writers. This month we take in the US-Mexico Border, the fictional island of Neverness and war torn Sarajevo.

As always these titles should be available at all the usual retailers both online and IRL; but please do support your local independent bookstores where you can, they need our support.

The Adulterants – Joe Dunthorne

The Adulterants is the much anticipated third novel from British author Joe Dunthorne. Dunthorne is one of my favourite authors, and it’s been about seven years since his last novel Wild Abandon, so to say I’ve been eagerly anticipating this one is an understatement. If you’re wondering why his name sounds familiar, Dunthorne also penned 2008 novel Submarine, which was adapted for the big screen under the direction of Richard Ayoade, and starring Craig Roberts. Dunthorne has a knack for crafting wonderfully off-kilter and quirky plots, filled with equally quirky characters, and The Adulterants appears to be on trend.

The novel follows the story of Ray, a freelance tech journalist, who’s life is basically at rock-bottom, and not really by chance. But he’s about to learn that things truly can get worse. The Adulterants is a tragicomic tale of modern living, told through the eyes of a misanthropic underachiever who writes listicles in his boxer shorts, and hasn’t quite managed to “grow up”. I’ve not had too much of a chance to delve into the novel yet, but from the little I’ve read it looks set to be another quirky classic, full of Dunthorne’s trademark caustic wit.

The Adulterants is available now through Penguin Australia

Restless Souls – Dan Sheehan

Restless Souls is the debut novel from the New York based Irish journalist and author Dan Sheehan. As the helpful Venn diagram on the cover suggests the novel is part comedy, part tragedy and part road trip novel, and explores the lives of three young men attempting to grapple with tragedy, both current and historic. The novel follows Tom, a returning soldier, and his childhood friends Baz and Karl, as they journey to an experimental Californian PTSD clinic in a bid to help Tom overcome the darkness he feels on his return home. As you’d expect the novel promises to be darkly comic, and provide a strong portrayal of fraternal friendship.

In recent years I have read and thoroughly enjoyed the work of a number of Irish writers, including Paul Murray, Colum McCann and Colin Barrett. So it is certainly encouraging to see both McCann and Barrett write enthusiastically and with great praise about Sheehan and his debut. There is no denying that Irish fiction has been in fine form for many years now, and Restless Souls suggests that trend is in no danger of drawing to a close. Sheehan appears to be onto a winner here, with a strong and striking debut.

Restless Souls is available February 13th through Hachette Australia

This Will Be My Undoing – Morgan Jenkins

This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the intersection of black, female and feminist in (white) America is the debut collection from essayist and writer Morgan Jerkins. The collection was named as one of the most anticipated titles of the year by a host of outlets, including Esquire, Vogue and The Huffington Post. In the collection Jerkins offers insightful and incisive commentary on contemporary culture, African-American history, popular culture and feminism. Given our current climate, this book will no doubt ruffle a few feathers, as many before it have, but that’s no bad thing. Jerkins’, though still young, is a fierce and uncompromising critic, and one who’s work needs to be read, and read widely!

Jerkins is an Associate Editor with the literary journal Catapult and has had her work published in The New Yorker, Rolling Stone and the New York Times to name only a few. And is equally at home writing about Sailor Moon and other popular culture, as she is writing about black female sexuality and systemic racism. This Will Be My Undoing will likely appeal to readers and fans of Roxane Gay, Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, Reni Eddo-Loge and Angela DavisThis Will Be My Undoing has been getting great press and is a great addition to the burgeoning collection of books dealing with race, feminism, and the ways in which they collide.

This Will Be My Undoing is available now digitally from Harper Collins Australia

Folk – Zoe Gilbert

Folk, the debut novel from Zoe Gilbert – the 2014 Costa Short Story Award winner – is set on the remote island village of Neverness. It is a world far removed from our own, where the villagers tales come to life around them. It is a fantastical and ambitious debut, which draws on a rich tapestry of famous folk and fairytales; there is a character with a wing for an arm, and a whole heap of somewhat ridiculously wonderful names, all befitting the elaborate world Gilbert has fashioned.

Folk has been garnering plenty of positive reviews, and whilst there has been some criticism of the novel’s pace and rhythm, it has been drawing favourable comparisons to the work of Angela Carter (presumably The Bloody Chamber?) for its “powerful sense of mythology”. The comparison alone was more than enough to pique my interest. With Folk Gilbert has created a richly imagined and exquisite work that should appeal to many.

Folk is available now through Bloomsbury Publishing

The Line Becomes A River – Francisco Cantú

The Line Becomes A River is a timely new memoir from former US Border Patrol Agent Francisco Cantú. The book details life on the border, tracking people and drug smugglers, detaining illegal crossers caught in the desert, and hauling in those that died making the crossing. The US-Mexican Border has been a hot topic in US political discourse over the last couple of years, thanks in part to Trump’s plan to build a wall, and have Mexico pay for it. But so often the debate is framed in impersonal terms, and for all the rhetoric its easy to forget the human face behind the statistics (on both sides). The Line Becomes A River sheds a light on the human aspect of the border and immigration debate, whilst also humanising those tasked to protect the nation’s borders.

The Line Becomes A River is undoubtedly going to be a contentious book for many readers. Some early reviews posted on Goodreads, for example, purport that Cantú is simply profiting of the suffering of those crossing the border. Cantú, who left the patrol in 2012, is also of Mexican descent which again brings a different perspective to the border debate. Early reviews have been positive, with critics praising Cantú’s prose and his attempts to correct the deceit of some political rhetoric.

The Line Becomes A River is available February 12th through Penguin Australia