This Is the One Book You Should Read in May

published May 6, 2022
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As the saying goes, “April showers bring May flowers.” So, enjoy the *hopefully* warmer weather and clear skies by taking one of this month’s new book releases to your favorite outdoor reading spot. Don’t forget the sunscreen and allergy medicine! 

One book to note is Jhumpa Lahiri’s “Translating Myself and Others,” a collection of ten candid and personal essays on translation and self-translation. In 2012, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author took up residence in Rome to fully immerse herself in Italian, which Lahiri fell so in love with that she wrote an entire book in the language. Titled “In Other Words,” the book was translated to English by Ann Goldstein and published in 2015 in the U.S.

Lahiri has since written memoirs and other works of fiction in both English and Italian, her most recent being the subtle and melancholy “Whereabouts,” that she initially wrote in Italian and translated to English herself. (Side note, “Whereabouts” is a lovely read that beautifully captures the delicateness of the mundane, I highly recommend it!) Now, “Translating Myself and Others” features pieces Lahiri has written over the last several years, ranging from lectures to essays and even translator’s notes from past releases. 

While the talk of translated works may sound boring for some, “Translating Myself and Others” makes the topic digestible and approachable, showcasing her brilliance as both a novelist and translator. The thought-provoking collection makes for a sharp and luminous exploration of Lahiri’s relationship to language, translation, and literature and made me want to finally tackle my goal of learning a second language. BRB, downloading Duolingo…

Other noteworthy releases this month include: 

Welcome to Old Hollywood’s sparkling, golden age, except in this world, the movie business is run by dark magic and treacherous creatures. Paired with the time’s overt racism, one would think Luli Wei would choose to stay away from the city of dreams. But none of that will stop the Chinese American wannabe actress from her aspirations of starring on the big screen. Author Nghi Vo writes a unique and enthralling fantasy novel that paints a vivid picture of a murky, magical Hollywood and one woman’s rise to frame. 

Crackling with electricity, compassion, and energy, Leila Mottley’s debut “Nightcrawling” gives voice to Kiara, a fierce yet vulnerable young heroine trying to find her way on the streets of Oakland California. She and her brother Marcus are high school dropouts living in a broken family due to rampant prison sentences and death. Then Kiara’s life is further cracked open when a misunderstanding leads to an unintended prostitution encounter. While Nightcrawling deals with heavy, yet essential, topics, Mottley’s tender prose softens the darkness — let yourself surrender to the power of this book. 

I’m not freaking out, your freaking out. Finally, Elif Batuman, bestselling author of the Pulitzer Prize finalist novel “The Idiot,” has blessed us with the long-awaited sequel. In “Either/Or,” we are dropped right back into the late ’90s as Selin, now a sophomore at Harvard, reflects on her confusing summer, paddles into the world of parties and sex, and travels abroad. As with “The Idiot,” Batuman’s quirky, dry wit drives the novel and makes for a comedic and enthralling read. Yet it’s clear Batuman’s writing has evolved and improved since the release of “The Idiot” in 2017. If you can wait, “Either/Or” will make the perfect campus novel to enjoy in the fall. But if you can’t — I know I couldn’t — get ready for a strong cup of intoxicating nostalgia tea. 

Braiding the real and the surreal, witty and deeply insightful, the 18 interconnected short stories in “She Is Haunted” masterfully explore issues of intimacy and connection, death and grief, charged mother-daughter relationships, Asian identity, and our ever-changing world.

This horrifying and creepy novel will hook you from the first unsettlingly spine-tingling page. One Goodreads reviewer called it “Rosemary’s Baby and The Stepford Wives,” and that couldn’t be more spot-on. At the beginning of “Just Like Mother,” you meet Maeve as she searches for her cousin Andrea. The pair were separated 20 years prior after escaping from a cult and haven’t been able to get in contact since. That’s all you need to know about this marvelous mix of some of the best disturbing/thriller genre elements — good luck. 

And a few more noteworthy May books, in case none of the above releases caught your eye:

“Set on You” by Amy Lea: Romance lovers, this one’s for you! This rom-com centers on Crystal, a mid-size body-positive fitness influencer who finds competition, and chemistry, with new gym-goer Scott. 

“The High Desert” by James Spooner: From the creator of Afro-punk comes this coming-of-age graphic memoir as a teenage James Spooner attempts to find community and identity through punk. 

“The Hurting Kind” by Ada Limón: A tender and moving poetry collection about interconnection between ourselves, our ancestors, and the natural world. 

“Inheritance: A Visual Poem” by Elizabeth Acevedo: Author of the National Book Award-winning novel-in-verse The Poet X teamed up with artist Andrea Pippins for a graphic long-form poem about the beautiful intricacies of Black hair and Afro-Latinidad.  

“Liarmouth: A Feel-Bad Romance” by John Waters: The name says it all, “Lairmouth” is a messy, dysfunctional roller coaster of crime and sex. 

“Son of Elsewhere” by Elamin Abdelmahmoud: From BuzzFeed News culture writer and Pop Chat podcast hosts comes this rich and entertaining essay collection about faith, Blackness, and of course, pop culture, plus the challenges and rewards that come with finding your place in the world. 

“Half-Blown Rose” by Leesa Cross-Smith: The author of “This Close to Okay” has returned with a sexy, colorful romance novel that will transport you through the streets of Paris.