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Staff Picks: Our Favorite New Books Coming in May

Every month, we share the books we can't wait to read. From a perennial Nobel Prize favorite's final novel, to a deep-dive tribute to a '90s icon, to a debut novel by an up-and-coming literary star, there's something here for every reader.
Tertulia staff •
May 1st, 2023


The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese (May 2)

At 700+ pages, The Covenant of Water is not a book recommendation I make lightly. But as a big fan of sprawling intergenerational family dramas from authors like Gabriel García Márquez and Salman Rushdie, this sweeping epic that follows three generations of a South Indian family haunted by a curious affliction (or is it a curse?) piques my interest. — Emmanuel Hidalgo-Wohlleben

Araña and Spider-Man 2099: Dark Tomorrow by Alex Segura (May 2)

I'm not a YA reader but I loved Segura's Secret Identity. He's great at writing strong women protagonists, so a book featuring a teenaged Latina in the Spider-Verse juggling teenage problems and taking on powerful enemies from another time dimension decades in the future? Mi reina. I'll definitely be gifting this to some younger relatives. You can also check out an excerpt here. Erica Landau

Chain-Gang All-Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah (May 2)

I've been waiting for this one all year. Adjei-Brenyah's short fiction collection Friday Black is what inspired me to write stories of my own. I have no doubt his new debut novel will be groundbreaking. — Iliyah Coles

Even If Everything Ends by Jens Liljestrand (May 9)

This debut novel and first foray into cli-fi by Swedish journalist Jens Liljestrand tells a familiar tale: a family struggling to cope with the new reality of living in a decisively hostile climate. Still, I am excited to see what unique contributions he brings to this burgeoning genre. — Emmanuel Hidalgo-Wohlleben

Tomás Nevinson by Javier Marías (May 23)

This final novel by legend and perennial Nobel Prize favorite Javier Marías seems unconventional as far spy novels go. Set in Spain in the '90s, the book focuses on Tomás, a former British Secret Service spy ripped out of retirement for one last mission: a difficult, morally ambiguous assignment tracking down a terrorist in Northern Spain. As an Iberophile, I'm embarrassed to admit Marías is a major blindspot in my reading history, but that ends now with this book. — Fernanda Gorgulho

Fourteen Days by Margaret Atwood, et al. (May 30)

I don't care that it's probably too soon for fiction inspired by the COVID-19 crisis. I can't turn down a 25+ author supergroup that includes Margaret Atwood, John Grisham, Celeste Ng and (my personal hero) Ishmael Reed collaborating on a pandemic novel. It's just too surreal to pass up. Erica Landau


A Renaissance of Our Own: A Memoir & Manifesto on Reimagining by Rachel E Cargle (May 16)

I loveeee Rachel Cargle. I follow her on Instagram and her feed gives me life. This is a woman who taught herself how to love who she is, and built everything she has from the ground up. I cannot wait to read her wisdom! — Iliyah Coles


Homegrown: Timothy McVeigh and the Rise of Right-Wing Extremism by Jeffrey Toobin (May 2)

Jeffrey Toobin hasn't had the most distinguished couple of years, but his new book about Timothy McVeigh, the homegrown American terrorist who murdered 168 people, including 19 children, in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing looks to be an important contribution in a time when right wing extremist violence is on the rise. — Emmanuel Hidalgo-Wohlleben

The Power of Trees: How Ancient Forests Can Save Us If We Let Them by Peter Wohlleben and Jane Billinghurst (May 2)

The latest of five books dedicated to trees from celebrated German forester and ecowriter Peter Wohlleben argues that the best way to save our forests is to let them save themselves. No amount of new tree-planting schemes, he says, can replicate the regenerative ability that already-existing tree communities possess. Some have questioned the veracity of Wohlleben's science. Fair. But I think overall, his holistic approach provides a valuable contribution to ecological commentary. What Wohlleben does best is push us to rethink how we view other forms of living. Trees may not communicate as loudly as we do, but as Wohlleben suggests, that doesn't mean the messages they send are of any less importance. — Emmanuel Hidalgo-Wohlleben (no relation to Peter Wohlleben)

The World: A Family History of Humanity by Simon Sebag Montefiore (May 16)

It's important to read about the past for valuable lessons about the future. But I'm not gonna lie... stories of blood and betrayal is the hook here. I'll eat this book up. Covering history from the Caesars to the Trumps—as well as the innocents, enslaved or repressed people of their eras— this is the superstar historian's most ambitious work yet! — Romi Raimundo

Why Sinéad O'Connor Matters by Allyson McCabe (May 23)

Few songs stop me in my tracks like "Nothing Compares 2 U." I've been waiting for a book like McCabe's because, even though I wasn't around when the song came out, grappling with what happened to O'Connor — at her peak no less — carries important lessons that resonate today. The woman behind that sublime voice was a fierce, complicated, tormented, defiant badass. Yet somehow, she remains an enigma — despite publishing a memoir — because of how quickly and completely she was discarded from the music world for refusing to compromise her beliefs. The industry and world have ostensibly changed, but it's essential to remember and honor those who went before us. — Fernanda Gorgulho

The Male Gazed: On Hunks, Heartthrobs, and What Pop Culture Taught Me About (Desiring) Men by Manuel Betancourt (May 30)

I'm brand new to the work of author and social observer Manuel Betancourt, but I don't need a hard sell for sparkling critique mixed with intimate millennial storytelling about hunks and heartthrobs. This memoir-in-essays about the (thirst) traps and nascent possibilities within masculinity by Betancourt sounds important, timely, and also like tremendous fun. I haven't been this excited for a work of pop culture criticism in a while. — Erica Landau

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