18 New Books for May

This month, we’ve got our eyes on Forbidden City, Siren Queen, The Immortal King Rao, and 15 other titles by writers from the West.

alta may book picks
Alta
1 ANON, BY STEVEN SEIDENBERG
anon, steven seidenberg
Omnidawn

Short quips about a myriad of life’s questions make for a rhythmic, musical book of poetry that manages to address the full gamut of what it means to be a human being. Omnidawn, May 10

BUY THE BOOK

2 CALIFORNIA: AN AMERICAN HISTORY, BY JOHN MACK FARAGHER
california an american history, john mack faragher
Yale University Press

Faragher tells how a variety of cultures, languages, and ways of living clashed, overtook, and melded together to make California the most multicultural state in the U.S. Featuring a vibrant cast of characters, including an elementary student who defended her Japanese classmates after Pearl Harbor, California: An American History is very much a people’s history of the Golden State. Yale University Press, May 10

BUY THE BOOK

3 CITY OF ORANGE, BY DAVID YOON
city of orange, david yoon
G.P. Putnam’s Sons

In Yoon’s novel, a man wakes in a desert wasteland with a head wound and no memory of his past. After gathering clues from an old man, a crow, and a little boy, he remembers that he lived in California and may have had a wife and daughter. Grief-stricken, he seeks to recover his history, a quest that ends up challenging his very notion of reality. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, May 24

BUY THE BOOK

4 EMBRACE FEARLESSLY THE BURNING WORLD, BY BARRY LOPEZ
embrace fearlessly the burning world, barry lopez
Random House

Lopez’s final work includes essays written just months before his death, on Christmas 2020. In addition to some poignant childhood stories, this collection adds to Lopez’s legacy as a writer and naturalist. Random House, May 31

BUY THE BOOK

5 FORBIDDEN CITY, BY VANESSA HUA
forbidden city, vanessa hua
Ballantine Books

Hua’s historical novel imagines 16-year-old Mei at the forefront of the Chinese Cultural Revolution as an unexpected lover and confidante of Chairman Mao Zedong. Yet jealous women, including Mao’s wife, are eager to undermine Mei’s newfound influence. And Mei—clever and driven though she may be—soon feels conflicted about her role in the revolution and her proximity to power. Ballantine Books, May 10

BUY THE BOOK

6 THE HIGH SIERRA: A LOVE STORY, BY KIM STANLEY ROBINSON
the high sierra, kim stanley robinson
Little, Brown and Company

A love letter to an awe-inspiring landscape, Robinson’s latest book also offers a rich history of the High Sierra’s Indigenous peoples and the visionaries who preserved the land for future generations. Teeming with maps and trail advice, The High Sierra is both a travel compendium and a meditation on the sacred relationship between humans and nature. Little, Brown and Company, May 10

BUY THE BOOK

7 THE HURTING KIND, BY ADA LIMÓN
the hurting kind, ada limÓn
Milkweed Editions

The winner of a National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry returns with a new collection driven by sensitivity: to emotions, to love, and to the connections between people and the animal world. At the center here is an appreciation for nature and for family—parents, in particular. Written during the pandemic, the book does not shy away from loss but simultaneously embraces joy and beauty. Milkweed Editions, May 10

BUY THE BOOK

8 THE IMMORTAL KING RAO, BY VAUHINI VARA
the immortal king rao, vauhini vara
W.W. Norton & Company

This debut novel by technology reporter Vara takes place in a dystopian future where the Board of Corporations runs the world. To save the planet from environmental disaster, a character named Athena accesses the memories of her father, King Rao, to tell the world’s “Shareholders” his story, which she believes has the power to unite people for a common good. W.W. Norton & Company, May 3

BUY THE BOOK

9 THE LAST DAYS OF ROGER FEDERER: AND OTHER ENDINGS, BY GEOFF DYER
the last days of roger federer and other endings, geoff dyer
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

What happens to the greats as they age? That’s the central question of this book, which considers the lifetime achievements of not just Federer but also John Coltrane, Beethoven, and Friedrich Nietzsche, to name a few. Dyer’s ruminations on his own aging add an element of memoir to the essays here. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, May 3

BUY THE BOOK

10 THE LETTERS OF THOM GUNN, BY THOM GUNN
the letters of thom gunn, thom gunn
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Edited by August Kleinzahler, Michael Nott, and Clive Wilmer, The Letters of Thom Gunn collects some of the poet’s correspondence, giving context to his intimate poems. Gunn’s letters address his mother’s suicide when he was a teenager, his adult life in San Francisco with partner Mike Kitay, and the experiences that inspired his books Moly and The Man with Night Sweats. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, May 24

BUY THE BOOK

11 LIBERALISM AND ITS DISCONTENTS, BY FRANCIS FUKUYAMA
liberalism and its discontents,  francis fukuyama
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

The author of The Origins of Political Order returns with an analysis of American polarization based on conservative and liberal approaches to liberalism. Fukuyama argues that both the far right and the far left have lost sight of the tenets of liberalism, which he insists are necessary to fix our ever-fracturing democracy. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, May 10

BUY THE BOOK

12 MA AND ME, BY PUTSATA REANG
ma and me, putsata reang
MCD X FSG

Reang’s mother left war-ravaged Cambodia for the Philippines when the author was an infant. But when Reang came out to her mother in her 20s, a fissure emerged in their relationship, one that continued to grow after she became engaged to a woman. Her memoir is wise and loving, an honest account of immigration and generational trauma. MCD X FSG, May 17

BUY THE BOOK

13 OUT OF THE CORNER, BY JENNIFER GREY
out of the corner, jennifer grey
Ballantine Books

Dirty Dancing made Grey a star in 1987, but her career stalled just as quickly as it had taken off. In this memoir, she revisits her youth and the early roles she played in New York and Los Angeles. Grey also writes candidly about the plastic surgeries that became the punch line of many jokes and derailed her image. The result is a story of both coming-of-age and comebacks. Ballantine Books, May 3

BUY THE BOOK

14 POP SONG: ADVENTURES IN ART AND INTIMACY, BY LARISSA PHAM
pop song, adventures in art and intimacy, larissa pham
Catapult

Pham turns her gaze inward in this beautiful book about what it means to love someone and where (physically and emotionally) we go to find this love. Moving fluidly from commentary to reflection, she chronicles her own travels and travails to explore the intangible space between one’s personal experience and what we share with others. Catapult, May 4

BUY THE BOOK

15 THE PRIVATE LIVES OF PUBLIC BIRDS: LEARNING TO LISTEN TO THE BIRDS WHERE WE LIVE, BY JACK GEDNEY
the private lives of public birds,  learning to listen to the birds where we live, jack gedney
Heyday Books

In this magical study, Gedney gathers 15 essays on 15 unique species of western birds. Bird-watchers, nature lovers, and anyone curious about avian life will find joy in this blend of poetry and biological writing, complete with illustrations of each bird by Anna Kus Park. Heyday Books, May 17

BUY THE BOOK

16 SIREN QUEEN, BY NGHI VO
siren queen, nghi vo
Tor.com

Real ancient magic imbues the deals struck by producers, managers, and starlets in this eerie take on pre-Code Hollywood that showcases the allure and power of the old studio system while also upping the ante. Luli Wei, a Chinese American actress aware of the meager roles available to her, is willing to pay the price to become a star, even as the sacrifices she makes bring threatening consequences. Tor.com, May 10

BUY THE BOOK

17 VALLEYESQUE, BY FERNANDO A. FLORES
valleyesque, fernando a flores
MCD X FSG

In Flores’s short story collection, the U.S.-Mexico border is a place rife with unsavory characters, time-bending story lines, and honest people desperately clinging to the past to escape the present. Collapsing reality into fantasy, Valleyesque offers a surreal trip into a world where the impossible and the painfully real exist in tandem. MCD X FSG, May 3

BUY THE BOOK

READ THE ALTA REVIEW

18 YERBA BUENA, BY NINA LACOUR
yerba buena, nina lacour
Flatiron Books

Two women struggling to reckon with their pasts meet at a luxurious Los Angeles restaurant, the Yerba Buena, and sparks fly. One is a celebrated, mysterious bartender who fled home at 16, and the other is embroiled in a scandalous affair. As their lives take sharp turns, the characters are forced to reconcile with their choices and, ultimately, to decide about each other. Flatiron Books, May 31

BUY THE BOOK

This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
More From Books