2017 wasn’t an easy year for any of us, but the escapism found in reading is a tried-and-true method of forgetting about the world around us for a little bit. The issue with books in 2017, though, was that they were written in a pre-Tr*mp America, and published in a post-Tr*mp one, leaving nearly everything published this year feeling somewhat outdated from the outset.
The good news for books in 2018 is that this new batch of novels will feel more timely than those published last year. From a dystopian novel about reproductive rights to an anthology of essays on rape culture to a collection of short stories including one following Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail, these 10 books by women coming out in 2018 are bound to strike the perfect balance between escapism and timeliness.
1. The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin (Putnam)
Publication date: January 9
1n 1969, the four siblings of the Gold family visit a psychic on the Lower East Side who tells them when each of them will die. Armed with this knowledge, the siblings’ lives move in dramatically different directions over the next five decades: Simon escapes to San Francisco, looking for love; Klara becomes a magician in Las Vegas; Daniel, seeking security, chooses a life as a doctor; and Varya becomes an academic who studies longevity.
The epic novel is steeped in magical realism and Jewish lore, and I’m largely intrigued by the premise: If you knew the day you were going to die, would you live it any differently?
2. Red Clocks by Leni Zumas (Little, Brown)
Publication date: January 16
This dystopian novel takes place in an America that no longer seems all that dystopian: Roe vs. Wade has been overturned, and abortion is illegal again, as is in-vitro fertilization. Five women find themselves learning how to navigate these barriers: a single high school teacher struggling to get pregnant; a 19th century explorer, about whom the teacher is writing a biography; her student, a pregnant teenager with no options; a mother of two in a loveless marriage; and a forest-dwelling healer who brings them all together when she’s put on trial during a modern day witch hunt.
For those of you waiting with baited breath for season two of The Handmaid’s Tale, this novel promises to follow in the tradition of Margaret Atwood’s classic while addressing the reproductive rights issues that will undoubtedly still be in the forefront in 2018.
3. White Houses by Amy Bloom (Random House)
Publication date: February 13
Renowned storyteller and “writer’s writer” Amy Bloom now brings us a bio-fiction about the widely-discussed romance between Eleanor Roosevelt and the journalist Lorena Hickok. Told from Hickok’s perspective, this novel explores the growing intimacy between the two women, as Hickok moves into the White House as “first friend,” and then later takes on a professional role in the administration. Her friendship with Franklin grows, which only complicates her relationship with Eleanor, and the novel expands to include several decades spanning the intricate relationships between all three of them.
Based loosely on the real letters between Hickok and Roosevelt, this novel is sure to excite American history buffs and any readers interested in the complexities of gender and sexuality, especially during a time when those lines were not meant to be blurred.
4. Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi (Grove Atlantic)
Publication date: February 13
This highly anticipated debut novel explores the inner life of Ada, a young Nigerian woman with a volatile past and a growing division between the identities inside herself. When Ada moves to America for college, she finds herself not only split between the two countries, but also split by the multiple personalities inside of her that are increasing in power and agency. After a traumatic assault, Ada’s selves crystallize, are given names — Ashugara and Saint Vincent — and Ada herself begins to lose grasp on reality as the alternate selves take control.
Narrated by the various selves within Ada, Freshwater explores questions of identity and mental health in a wildly original fashion, and is sure to usher in Emezi as an exciting new literary voice.
5. The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer (Riverhead Books)
Publication date: April 3
Living legend Meg Wolitzer’s much anticipated follow-up to The Interestings is The Female Persuasion, a coming-of-age-novel which concerns itself with the question of what it means to be a modern woman. Greer Kadetsky, a college freshman, becomes enthralled with 63-year-old feminist icon Faith Frank during an on-campus lecture. The novel charts Greer’s years after college and her growing working and personal relationship with Faith, which slowly pulls her away from her high school sweetheart. As Greer follows Faith down an exciting professional path, she begins to learn some dirty truths about power, ambition, and ego, and about what it takes to be a successful woman now.
At nearly 500 pages, there’s no doubt that this cross-generational novel, written in Wolitzer’s trademark engrossing style, will be one you’ll want to sink your teeth into.
6. You Think It, I’ll Say It by Curtis Sittenfield (Random House)
Publication date: April 24
Curtis Sittenfield, author of the masterful coming-of-age novel Prep and razor-sharp observer of gender roles, class, and the human condition, now graces us with her first collection of short stories. These 10 stories explore the discontented inner lives of seemingly thriving people: a shy Ivy league student obsessed with a classmate; a high-powered lawyer grappling with memories of being bullied as a child; seemingly happy married people yearning for something else; and even a story that follows Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail.
I recommend starting with “The Prairie Wife,” published in The New Yorker last year, to whet your whistle.
7. The Pisces by Melissa Broder (Random House)
Publication date: May 1
Melissa Broder — poet, Twitter celebrity, and author of the hysterical, devastating essay collection, So Sad Today — now pens her first novel, which promises to be as weird, smart, and sexy as the rest of her oeuvre. Lucy is an academic who’s been writing a dissertation on Sappho for nine years and hits rock bottom after her boyfriend of nine years breaks up with her. But when she moves to Los Angeles for the summer to house-sit for her sister, Lucy comes across an attractive swimmer at the beach — who turns out to be an actual merman.
The Pisces promises to be a mix of realism, fantasy, and eroticism, and I for one am excited to read about some straight-up merman sex.
8. Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture, edited by Roxane Gay (Harper Perennial)
Publication date: May 1
Roxane Gay is one of the most preeminent thinkers and writers of our time, and this collection of essays is bound to be essential reading for 2018. Hand-picked by Gay, these essays explore rape, assault, and harassment in its myriad forms, from first-hand accounts of rape to social commentaries, and include contributions from actors Gabrielle Union and Ally Sheedy, and writers Lyz Lenz, Amy Jo Burns, and Claire Schwartz. There’s no doubt that this collection will be searing, heartbreaking, and an absolute necessity.
9. Choose Your Own Disaster by Dana Schwartz (Grand Central Publishing)
Publication date: June 19
Dana Schwartz — author of the YA novel And We’re Off, creator of the too-real parody Twitter account @GuyInYourMFA, and former writer at The Observer who famously penned a scathing letter to Jared Kushner about his father-in-law’s use of anti-Semitism during the 2016 campaign — now brings us a memoir about the terrible decisions she made in her early 20s presented in the internet-friendly format of the personal quiz. As she takes us on a series of bad dates and bad choices, Schwartz tries to figure out who she is, and who she’s still becoming.
If it’s anything as close to as funny and genuine as Schwartz’s Twitter presence, this is sure to be a laugh-out-loud and touching memoir for the internet age.
10. My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh (Penguin Press)
Publication date: July 10
After Ottessa Moshfegh’s first novel, Eileen, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2016, the literary world has been waiting with baited breath for her follow-up. The novel’s nameless narrator, a recent Columbia graduate, seems to have it all: money, looks, a job at a hip art gallery, a Wall Street boyfriend. But of course, there’s still something missing, and the narrator takes us through a year under the influence of prescribed psychotic drugs meant to “heal” her. Both touching and darkly funny, I think it’s safe to assume that this narrator’s year is going be anything but restful and relaxing.
You can read an excerpt on Vice here, which has me counting down the days until July 10.
Mandy Berman is the author of Perennials. She received an MFA in Writing from Columbia University and teaches writing at the College of Staten Island. She lives in Brooklyn, where she is working on her second novel. Follow her on Twitter @mandyberman.