Columns > Published on January 30th, 2017

Storyville: 10 Highly Anticipated Books for 2017

Here is my personal list of books that I’m excited to read this year. It’s a wide range of titles, from big and small presses, so hopefully you find something you like.

'Behind Her Eyes' by Sarah Pinborough (Jan 13)

Description: “Louise is a single mom, a secretary, stuck in a modern-day rut. On a rare night out, she meets a man in a bar and sparks fly. Though he leaves after they kiss, she’s thrilled she finally connected with someone. When Louise arrives at work on Monday, she meets her new boss, David. The man from the bar…And then Louise bumps into Adele, who’s new to town and in need of a friend. But she also just happens to be married to David…As Louise is drawn into David and Adele’s orbit, she uncovers more puzzling questions than answers. The only thing that is crystal clear is that something in this marriage is very, very wrong. But Louise can’t guess how wrong―and how far a person might go to protect their marriage’s secrets.”—Amazon

Comments: This book is getting a lot of attention, and while I’ve never read anything by Sarah before, this looks like my kind of novel, for sure. And with blurbs from Joe Hill, Harlan Coben, John Connolly, Josh Malerman, and Sarah Langan—if I wasn’t already sold, they closed the deal. I expect this to echo Gillian Flynn, and that’s not a bad thing. If you liked the twists and turns of Gone Girl, this should be your next purchase.

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'Black Feathers: Dark Avian Tales' edited by Ellen Datlow (Feb 7)

Description: “A grieving widow takes comfort in her majestic winged neighbors, who enable her to cope with a predatory relative. An isolated society of women relies on a bird to tell their fortunes. A silent young girl and her pet bird might be the only hope a detective has of tracking down a serial killer in a tourist town. A chatty parrot makes illegal deals with the dying. A troubled man lives in isolation with only one friend for company―a jackdaw. In each of these fictions, you will encounter the dark resonance between the human and avian. You see in yourself the savagery of a predator, the shrewd stalking of a hunter, and you are lured by birds that speak human language, that make beautiful music, that cypher numbers, and seem to have a moral center. You wade into this feathered nightmare, and brave the horror of death, trading your safety and sanity for that which we all seek―the promise of flight.”—Amazon

Comments: Do I really have to sell you on anything edited by Ellen Datlow? With work by Stephen Graham Jones, Priya Sharma, Livia Llewellyn, Usman T. Malik, Joyce Carol Oates, Paul Tremblay, and Seanan McGuire this is sure to be a big hit.

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'Thirteen Views of the Suicide Woods' by Bracken MacLeod (March 14)

Description: “These stories inhabit the dark places where pain and resignation intersect, and the fear of a quiet moment alone is as terrifying as the unseen thing watching from behind the treeline. In the titular story, a young woman waits for her father to come home from the place where no one goes intending to return. A single word is the push that may break a man and save a life. The members of a winemaking community celebrate the old time religion found flowing in the blood of the vine. A desperate man seeking a miracle cure gets more than a peek behind the curtain of Dr. Morningstar’s Psychic Surgery. A child who dreams of escaping on leather wings finds rescue in dark water instead. Looking back over a life, a homeless veteran must decide to live in the present if he wants to save his future. In a Halloween Hell house, a youth pastor must face the judgment of a man committed to doing the Lord’s work. Fiery death heralds the beginning of a new life. A man who has been carrying pain with him his entire life gives up his last piece of darkness. And a still day beneath the sun illuminates the quiet sorrow of the last feather to fall.”—Amazon

Comments: Bracken has been blowing up, and that’s really no surprise. This debut collection of short stories looks amazing. If you’ve already enjoyed Mountain Home and/or Stranded, then this seems like the next logical step. At the intersection of noir and horror (what I’d call neo-noir) this should be a powerful mix of gritty realism and the supernatural. I can’t wait to dig in.

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'The Book of Joan' by Lidia Yuknavitch (April 18)

Description: “In the near future, world wars have transformed the earth into a battleground. Fleeing the unending violence and the planet’s now-radioactive surface, humans have regrouped to a mysterious platform known as CIEL, hovering over their erstwhile home. The changed world has turned evolution on its head: the surviving humans have become sexless, hairless, pale-white creatures floating in isolation, inscribing stories upon their skin. Out of the ranks of the endless wars rises Jean de Men, a charismatic and bloodthirsty cult leader who turns CIEL into a quasi-corporate police state. A group of rebels unite to dismantle his iron rule—galvanized by the heroic song of Joan, a child-warrior who possesses a mysterious force that lives within her and communes with the earth. When de Men and his armies turn Joan into a martyr, the consequences are astonishing. And no one—not the rebels, Jean de Men, or even Joan herself—can foresee the way her story and unique gift will forge the destiny of an entire world for generations. A riveting tale of destruction and love found in the direst of places—even at the extreme end of post-human experience—Lidia Yuknavitch’s The Book of Joan raises questions about what it means to be human, the fluidity of sex and gender, and the role of art as a means for survival.”—Amazon

Comments: I’ve been a big fan of Lidia’s work since The Chronology of Water, and this dystopian take on a re-imagined Joan of Arc sounds amazing. It’s a topical book that seems extremely appropriate for our times, and I’m sure it will be an inspirational read.

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'Borne' by Jeff Vandermeer (April 25)

Description: “In Borne, a young woman named Rachel survives as a scavenger in a ruined city half destroyed by drought and conflict. The city is dangerous, littered with discarded experiments from the Company―a biotech firm now derelict―and punished by the unpredictable predations of a giant bear. Rachel ekes out an existence in the shelter of a run-down sanctuary she shares with her partner, Wick, who deals his own homegrown psychoactive biotech. One day, Rachel finds Borne during a scavenging mission and takes him home. Borne as salvage is little more than a green lump―plant or animal?―but exudes a strange charisma…but as Borne grows, he begins to threaten the balance of power in the city and to put the security of her sanctuary with Wick at risk. What Borne will lay bare to Rachel as he changes is how precarious her existence has been, and how dependent on subterfuge and secrets. In the aftermath, nothing may ever be the same.”—Amazon

Comments: After the Southern Reach Trilogy, I’m pretty much stoked to read anything that Jeff VanderMeer puts out, and this definitely looks interesting. It has a darkness, but also hints of something magical, and transformative. I can tell you that in Annihilation, there were moments where I was transported—creatures revealed that I’d never seen before, a unique mix of horror and fascination, and I expect more of that with Borne. This is a title that is on everyone’s lips.

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'Woman No. 17' by Edan Lepucki (May 9)

Description: “A sinister, sexy noir about art, motherhood, and the intensity of female friendships, set in the posh hills above Los Angeles…High in the Hollywood Hills, writer Lady Daniels has decided to take a break from her husband. She’s going to need a hand with her young son if she’s ever going to finish her memoir. In comes S, a magnetic young artist, who will live in the secluded guest house out back, care for Lady’s young toddler son, and keep a watchful eye on her older, teenage, one. S performs her day job beautifully, quickly drawing the entire family into her orbit, and becoming a confidante for Lady. But as the summer wears on, S’s connection to Lady’s older son takes a disturbing, and possibly destructive, turn. Lady and S will move closer to one another as they both threaten to harm the things they hold most dear. Darkly comic, twisty and tense, this mesmerizing new novel defies expectation and proves Edan Lepucki to be one of the most talented and exciting voices of her generation.”—Amazon

Comments: This is another book that has been on a lot of lists. Comparisons to Steve Erickson and a blurb from Jennifer Egan certainly grabbed my attention. And they had me at “sinister, sexy noir,” right? This looks like another taut thriller, and if it echoes Erickson, I expect some weirdness, some surreal moments—perhaps a sprinkling of David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive.

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'We Are Never Meeting in Real Life: Essays' by Samantha Irby (May 30)

Description: “Sometimes you just have to laugh, even when life is a dumpster fire…Samantha Irby turns the serio-comic essay into an art form. Whether talking about how her difficult childhood has led to a problem in making “adult” budgets, explaining why she should be the new Bachelorette—she's ‘35-ish, but could easily pass for 60-something’—detailing a disastrous pilgrimage-slash-romantic-vacation to Nashville to scatter her estranged father's ashes, sharing awkward sexual encounters, or dispensing advice on how to navigate friendships with former drinking buddies who are now suburban moms—hang in there for the Costco loot—she’s as deft at poking fun at the ghosts of her past self as she is at capturing powerful emotional truths.”—Amazon

Comments: Sam is such a unique voice—hilarious, honest, raw, and deep. I loved Meaty, and expect this will be another rollercoaster ride. Luckily, we HAVE met in real life and I found her to be generous, humble, and very funny. If you like David Sedaris, then you might like what Sam is doing as well. I can’t wait to read this.

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'The Grip of It' by Jac Jemc (August 1)

Description: “…the eerie story of a young couple haunted by their new home. Julie and James settle into a house in a small town outside the city where they met. The move―prompted by James’s penchant for gambling, his inability to keep his impulses in check―is quick and seamless; [they] are happy to leave behind their usual haunts and start afresh. But this house, which sits between lake and forest, has plans for the unsuspecting couple. As [they] try to settle into their home and their relationship, the house and its surrounding terrain become the locus of increasingly strange happenings. The architecture―claustrophobic, riddled with hidden rooms within rooms―becomes unrecognizable, decaying before their eyes. Stains are animated on the wall―contracting, expanding―and map themselves onto Julie’s body in the form of bruises; mold spores taint the water that James pours from the sink. Together the couple embark on a panicked search for the source of their mutual torment, a journey that mires them in the history of their peculiar neighbors and the mysterious residents who lived in the house before Julie and James. Written in creepy, potent prose, The Grip of It is an enthralling, psychologically intense novel that deals in questions of home: how we make it and how it in turn makes us, inhabiting the bodies and the relationships we cherish.”—Amazon

Comments: I mean, after that description, how can you not be stoked to read this book? I’ve been a fan of Jac’s work for some time now and this sounds like the kind of book I’ve just been dying for her to write. At the intersection between literary and genre, this sounds like the kind of psychological horror (and thriller) that I love to read. It conjures up similarities to the work of Paul Tremblay, Gillian Flynn, and Sara Gran’s Come Closer. I expect this book to get under my skin—in a good way. (We’re working on getting an exclusive excerpt for Gamut.)

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'The Dark Net' by Benjamin Percy (August 1)

Description: “The Dark Net is real. An anonymous and often criminal arena that exists in the secret, far reaches of the Web, some use it to manage Bitcoins, pirate movies and music, or traffic in drugs and stolen goods. And now, an ancient darkness is gathering there as well. These demons are threatening to spread virally into the real world unless they can be stopped by members of a ragtag crew: Twelve-year-old Hannah, who has been fitted with the Mirage, a high-tech visual prosthetic to combat her blindness, wonders why she sees shadows surrounding some people. A technophobic journalist named Lela has stumbled upon a story nobody wants her to uncover. Mike Juniper—a one-time child evangelist who suffers from personal and literal demons—has an arsenal of weapons stored in the basement of the homeless shelter he runs. And Derek, a hacker with a cause, believes himself a soldier of the Internet, part of a cyber army akin to Anonymous. They have no idea what the Dark Net really contains.”—Amazon

Comments: If you haven’t read Ben’s previous work, you’ve been missing out (The Wilding, Red Moon, and The Dead Lands). If you HAVE been keeping up with his innovative mix of speculative and literary fiction already, then you know how great he is. This sounds like a creepy, psychological thriller, and I know it’ll be a wild ride.

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'Eat Only When You’re Hungry' by Lindsay Hunter (August 7)

Description: “In Lindsay Hunter’s achingly funny, fiercely honest second novel, Eat Only When You’re Hungry, we meet Greg―an overweight fifty-eight-year-old and the father of Greg Junior, GJ, who has been missing for three weeks. GJ’s been an addict his whole adult life, disappearing for days at a time, but for some reason this absence feels different, and Greg has convinced himself that he’s the only one who can find his son. So he rents an RV and drives from his home in West Virginia to the outskirts of Orlando, Florida, the last place GJ was seen. As we travel down the streets of the bizarroland that is Florida, the urgency to find GJ slowly recedes into the background, and the truths about Greg’s mistakes―as a father, a husband, a man―are uncovered.”—Amazon

Comments: Lindsay is another author I’ve been reading for a long time, pretty much devouring anything she puts out. What do I expect from this novel? Well, I imagine I’ll laugh—sometimes with her characters, and sometime at them. I know that she’ll speak the truth, reveal some harsh realities that will sober me up. And there will probably be something sexy thrown in, a bit of spicy to keep you on your toes. One thing I can say is that she never disappoints. (We’re working on getting an exclusive excerpt for Gamut.)

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Anything by Roxane Gay (Difficult Women, in January and Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, in August); Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King, TBA; Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, February; Black Mad Wheel by Josh Malerman, May; Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones, June; Made for Love by Alissa Nutting, July; Always Happy Hour by Mary Miller, January; Absolutely Golden by D. Foy, September; Aletheia by J.S. Breukelaar, March; Isadora by Amelia Gray, May; Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day by Seanan McGuire, January; BEHOLD! Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders, edited by Doug Murano, July; The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss, June.

About the author

Richard Thomas is the award-winning author of seven books: three novels—Disintegration and Breaker (Penguin Random House Alibi), as well as Transubstantiate (Otherworld Publications); three short story collections—Staring into the Abyss (Kraken Press), Herniated Roots (Snubnose Press), and Tribulations (Cemetery Dance); and one novella in The Soul Standard (Dzanc Books). With over 140 stories published, his credits include The Best Horror of the Year (Volume Eleven), Cemetery Dance (twice), Behold!: Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders (Bram Stoker winner), PANK, storySouth, Gargoyle, Weird Fiction Review, Midwestern Gothic, Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories, Qualia Nous, Chiral Mad (numbers 2-4), and Shivers VI (with Stephen King and Peter Straub). He has won contests at ChiZine and One Buck Horror, has received five Pushcart Prize nominations, and has been long-listed for Best Horror of the Year six times. He was also the editor of four anthologies: The New Black and Exigencies (Dark House Press), The Lineup: 20 Provocative Women Writers (Black Lawrence Press) and Burnt Tongues (Medallion Press) with Chuck Palahniuk. He has been nominated for the Bram Stoker, Shirley Jackson, and Thriller awards. In his spare time he is a columnist at Lit Reactor and Editor-in-Chief at Gamut Magazine. His agent is Paula Munier at Talcott Notch. For more information visit

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