New Reads

From new novels from beloved writers to compelling non-fiction examinations of our modern world, so far 2018 has already delivered some excellent reads. Here are eight that are worth your consideration.

Miss Ex-Yugoslavia
by Sofija Stefanovic

If you’re going to have the audacity to document a beauty contest that pits immigrants and refugees from different sides of a conflict against each other for your film class, it seems only fair to compete yourself. That’s exactly what led Serbian-born Stefanovic to strut her stuff alongside her fellow contestants from Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Slovenia for the title of Miss Ex-Yugoslavia.This stand-out memoir chronicles Stefanovic’s life from her childhood to early twenties, coming back and forth between Yugoslavia and Australia during the Yugoslav wars. The contrast between the Belgrade streets (where she once encountered a tiger cub being walked on a leash), to the ant hill-pocked back yard in Whyalla, South Australia (a remote town known for its BHP steel factory) ensures that Stefanovic’s story is as unique and wacky as it is important.

Feel Free
by Zadie Smith

Reading British-born Smith’s brilliant second collection of essays might be the closest we’ll ever get to a real-life conversation with the fiercely private writer, whose prolific work includes five novels. But in her new essay collection, she shares original and intimate thoughts on subjects ranging from Jay-Z to Facebook to Karl Ove Knausguard, all while extrapolating what it means to live in an increasingly polarized America. All in all, the opportunity to inhabit Smith’s mind is at once delightful, challenging and important.

The Opposite of Hate: A Field Guide to Repairing Our Humanity
by Sally Kohn

As a liberal commentator on Fox News for two years and now on CNN, Kohn developed a reputation as an outspoken progressive who could talk openly with conservatives, finding a way to communicate respectfully no matter how much she disagreed with an opposing point of view. But over the last few years she found herself slipping into anger despite herself. Frustrated and worried about the hate she saw engulfing the planet, Kohn decided to research and attempt to understand where the root of our prejudices come from and why they make us do terrible things. She willingly turns the lens of herself and enlists the help of experts to add historical context. Most importantly, this isn’t all doom and gloom; thankfully, Kohn is funny and warm as she shares the best ways to shift the hate and dissolve the barriers between those of us with divergent views.

Back Talk
by Danielle Lazarin

Whether Danielle Lazarin is writing about the intimate moments between psychic sisters and estranged siblings, or the awkward exchanges between teenagers and their peculiar parents, she has the rare ability to evoke an entire ecosystem of human behavior in just a few pages. The word “haunting” is so often overused, but in this case, it is an accurate description of how these stories, set between New York and Paris, maneuver their way into your thoughts long after reading.

FutureFace: A Family Mystery, An Epic Quest and the Secret To Belonging
by Alex Wagner

Remember the Time cover that showed “the new face of America”—a woman created by a computer from a mix of several faces? When Wagner saw that face in 1993, she thought, “That’s me!” Her mother had immigrated to America from Rangoon, Burma, in 1965, escaping a military dictatorship; her father, from northeast Iowa, claimed he was Irish American with roots from Luxembourg. Sure, she’d thought about her competing identities before, but it wasn’t until one day many years later when she was visiting the border fence dividing Arizona and Mexico as the anchor of a cable news show that something clicked inside of her. Who was she? And what of her own family’s history of migrations and escapes? Thus begins Wagner’s page-turning endeavor to uncover the truth about her ancestry.

Look Alive Out There
by Sloane Crosley

Whether she’s searching for her “uncle,” who starred in 117 adult films between 1973 and 1987, or attempting to reclaim her identity from a man holding her internet domain name hostage, Crosley wields her wit and commands all of your attention in her third collection of insightful and hilarious personal essays. Her psychic connection to Tracy Emin’s artwork called Everyone I Have Ever Slept With prompts one of her more poignant pieces and lingers, like so many of her stories, long after reading.

A Long Way From Home
by Peter Carey

Until now, the double Booker prize-winning Peter Carey has, in his own words, “avoided a direct confrontation with race, and the question of what it might mean to be a white Australian.” In his new novel, Carey returns to the remote country towns of his childhood to address this fraught history head-on. When husband and wife, Titch and Irene Bobs, enter an 10,000-mile 17-day car race around the country as a publicity stunt for Titch’s used car business, they enlist the help of their neighbor and their expert navigator Willie Bachhuber. What Willie uncovers about his heritage along the way morphs their bonds and brings to light the shameful treatment of Australia’s Indigenous people.

Laura & Emma
by Kate Greathead

Laura believes that her greatest gift to the planet is to not have children. She doesn’t hate sex, but doesn’t particularly like it either and “the idea of being expected to do it all the time seemed exhausting.” But a one-night stand with an appealing man posing as a family friend (I won’t spoil how surprising this scenario is) soon changes the no-children part of the equation. Cut to Laura as a single mother—albeit one with a nice Upper East Side living situation and a robber baron great-grandfather—and you’ve got a funny and odd in-the-best-way book that reflects a slice of New York life in the ’80s and ’90s.