Jarry Lee / BuzzFeed 1. MEM by Bethany C. Morrow The Unnamed Press, bethanycmorrow.com What really makes us human? Bethany C. Morrow seeks to answer just that in her haunting novel MEM — set in an alternate version of our world in 1920s Montreal where scientists extract people's memories as Mems, who look like clones and experience one memory loop repeatedly until they "expire." When it's discovered that one Mem, Dolores Extract #1, can make her own memories, she's allowed to live freely — for a time. Mem is so original and imaginative and emotionally affecting; you'll find yourself rooting for Dolores and definitely won't be able to put this book down. Publication date: May 22Get it from Amazon for $20.09, Barnes & Noble for $20.38, or a local bookseller through IndieBound here. 2. The Ensemble by Aja Gabel Riverhead Books, Darcie Burrell If you've ever been part of a band or orchestra, then you know just how much drama can abound among musicians. Aja Gabel's debut novel The Ensemble centers around the four friends who make up the Van Ness Quartet: Brit, Daniel, Henry, and Jana, each wildly different but electric together despite the ups and downs of their career in music. Gabel examines the intricate complexities of their intense friendship, loyalties, and ambitions over a decade and a half in this book, which itself reads quite like a lyrical composition. You'll come for the music and stay for Gabel's realistic portrait of modern friendship.Publication date: May 15Get it from Amazon for $11.94, Barnes & Noble for $24.15, or a local bookseller through IndieBound here. 3. The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath by Leslie Jamison Little, Brown and Company, Beowulf Sheehan The Recovering is Leslie Jamison's incredibly honest and personal memoir of alcoholism, and also a larger investigative history of substance abuse in America. Jamison examines iconic artists shaped by their addictions (including David Foster Wallace and Denis Johnson), and the complexities of their recovery stories, which are often untold, as well as her own. You'll find Jamison's personal story especially moving if you've known someone who struggled with their drinking or another addiction. This is a poignant, heartfelt, deeply brave masterpiece that opens up an important conversation, and Jamison writes so eloquently about such a difficult topic.Publication date: April 3Get it from Amazon for $19.49, Barnes & Noble for $20.48, or a local bookseller through IndieBound here. 4. Wade in the Water by Tracy K. Smith Graywolf Press, Rachel Eliza Griffiths US Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith returns with Wade in the Water, a new collection of poems that feels both timely and timeless. In lines that are as lyrical as they are wise (and so poignant you'll want to write them down immediately), Smith makes connections between the current state of American culture and its history — police brutality, slavery, immigration, the Civil War, the Declaration of Independence (which she turns into an erasure poem). What does it mean to be an American, to be a woman in a society still dominated by men? Smith captures memories, found language, music, and the voices of the past to get to the beating heart of our nation today — and you'll feel it in every fiber of your being while reading. Publication date: April 3Get it from Amazon for $9.15, Barnes & Noble for $21.64, or a local bookseller through IndieBound here. 5. Census by Jesse Ball Ecco, James Foster Jesse Ball's Census is a tender, beautifully wrought father-and-son story (if you're like me, you will probably be moved to tears). When a retired surgeon learns he is dying, he signs up as a census taker for a government bureau in order to take one last trip with his adult son, who has Down syndrome. The journey that ensues is at once strange and touching as they collect the stories of the people living in towns named only after letters of the alphabet; along the way, he must grapple with how to say farewell to his son. This is a deeply moving testament to familial love, and will especially resonate if you've dealt with the loss of a loved one.Publication date: March 6Get it from Amazon for $19.59, Barnes & Noble for $20.29, or a local bookseller through IndieBound here. 6. How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee Mariner Books, M. Sharkey Alexander Chee writes from so many perspectives: He is a Korean-American gay man, a writer, a reader, a teacher, and an activist, just to name a few. In How to Write an Autobiographical Novel, Chee imparts wisdom from his multifaceted life on how to create art and find oneself in contemporary times amid our current politics. Throughout, Chee always speaks from the heart and with heartwarming honesty. This is a beautiful, moving collection of essays that will leave you feeling like you have more direction in your own life. Publication date: April 17Get it from Amazon for $14.39, Barnes & Noble for $14.56, or a local bookseller through IndieBound here. 7. The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer Riverhead Books, Nina Subin Meg Wolitzer returns with a new novel that speaks to the complexities of ambition and friendships between women. In The Female Persuasion, college freshman Greer Kadetsky's life is irrevocably changed after meeting her feminist icon, the powerful and persuasive 63-year-old Faith Frank. You'll see yourself in Greer if you've ever longed for a bigger purpose in life, or felt deeply inspired and influenced by a public figure you admire. This is a timely, realistic look at feminism, mentorship, activism, and inspiration that's also a joy to read. Publication date: April 3Get it from Amazon for $16.80, Barnes & Noble for $16.80, or a local bookseller through IndieBound here. 8. That Kind of Mother by Rumaan Alam Ecco, David A. Land What is it like to raise two children of different races together? In Rumaan Alam's novel That Kind of Mother, Rebecca Stone tackles just that after she ends up adopting the baby of her newborn son's black nanny, who died suddenly in childbirth. Alam writes with empathy and insight about motherhood, race, and adoption, and every one of his characters feels real and complex. You'll relate to Rebecca's anxieties and loneliness even if you're not a parent. The ways in which she must confront her own privilege are thought provoking, and the whole book is so beautiful and moving. Publication date: May 8Get it from Amazon for $21.18, Barnes & Noble for $21.93, or a local bookseller through IndieBound here. 9. Barracoon: The Story of the Last "Black Cargo" by Zora Neale Hurston Fotosearch / Getty Images, Amistad If you're a fan of Zora Neale Hurston (and let's be real, who isn't?) you'll love the literary icon's previously unreleased book Barracoon, which tells the true story of the American slave trade's last survivor, Cudjo Lewis. Lewis was shuttled to America with over a hundred other slaves aboard the last "Black Cargo" ship, and Barracoon deep dives into the atrocities of US history through Hurston's interviews with him, which took place over three months in 1927. Lewis at the time was 90 years old, and Hurston captures his life story, emotions, and dialect with great empathy and heart. This is an essential, eye-opening account of the past you'll feel grateful to have read.Publication date: May 8Get it from Amazon for $22.49, Barnes & Noble for $22.49, or a local bookseller through IndieBound here. 10. Not Here by Hieu Minh Nguyen Coffee House Press, hieuminhnguyen.com Hieu Minh Nguyen's poetry collection Not Here will transport you through the entire spectrum of human emotion — these poems will move you, reflect your loneliness, imbue you with hope, and fill you with nostalgia and joy. Nguyen speaks to the anxieties and tensions of being Vietnamese-American and queer, and the conflicting desires of belonging and forging your own identity. This book is so beautiful, so raw in its emotion and vulnerability. Nguyen's lines will break your heart and put it back together more whole and feeling than before. Publication date: April 10Get it from Amazon for $16.16, Barnes & Noble for $16.17, or a local bookseller through IndieBound here. 11. Stray City by Chelsey Johnson Custom House, chelseyjohnson.com Chelsey Johnson's novel Stray City captures a vivid portrait of '90s Portland, Oregon, and its lesbian community. When 24-year-old artist Andrea Morales drunkenly has sex with a man one night (on the heels of realizing her ex-girlfriend and best friend are getting together), she winds up pregnant and surprisingly chooses to keep the baby. A decade later, we see her as an adult with her daughter, Lucia, and how she's grown and made a new life despite the judgments of her gay friends and community (which she calls the "Lesbian Mafia") and her religious parents. Throughout, Johnson's writing is very funny yet emotionally tender, and ultimately is a heartwarming celebration of found families and our desire to belong.Publication date: March 20Get it from Amazon for $14.99, Barnes & Noble for $17.18, or a local bookseller through IndieBound here. 12. A Lucky Man by Jamel Brinkley Graywolf Press, graywolfpress.org The nine stories in Jamel Brinkley's collection A Lucky Man are about black men grappling with their place in the world, their pasts, their friendships, and their families — boys coming of age and encountering firsthand how privilege is tied to race and class, brothers navigating strained relationships, parents and children disappointing each other. Brinkley shows both the great beauty and ugliness of humanity — but always with empathy — and captures the ways in which our world is defined and divided by power. A Lucky Man feels so real and alive, much like its characters, that you'll be eager to read whatever Brinkley writes next.Publication date: May 1Get it from Amazon for $21.06, Barnes & Noble for $21.36, or a local bookseller through IndieBound here. 13. The Pisces by Melissa Broder Hogarth, Lord Byron If you've ever contemplated having sex with a merman, Melissa Broder's hilarious debut novel The Pisces is for you (and if you haven't, you'll probably still enjoy reading it). When PhD student Lucy has a post-breakup breakdown, she heads to LA to house-sit for her sister — but gets way, way more than she expected when she encounters a merman on the beach. (Spoiler: There's a lot of sex. A lot. Get ready to get weird.) Despite the whimsically absurd premise, you'll find Lucy incredibly relatable if you too have ever felt burnt out or anxious from your work, gone through a breakup, tried dating, or felt like you hit rock bottom (which is to say, everyone!). Publication date: May 1Get it from Amazon for $16.51, Barnes & Noble for $17.17, or a local bookseller through IndieBound here. 14. Heads of the Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires Atria / 37 INK, Adrianne Mathiowetz Photography Nafissa Thompson-Spires shows off her versatility and fresh talent in her collection Heads of the Colored People, which explores conversations about contemporary black identity with sharp satire with a wide variety of stories. There are ones about everything from a police shooting to young girls feeling defined by their family's (upper-middle) class and trying to learn how to be "more black." Some will make you laugh out loud, others will move you, and through it all you'll marvel at how unique, urgent, and fearless the whole collection is.Publication date: April 10Get it from Amazon for $15.31, Barnes & Noble for $16.07, or a local bookseller through IndieBound here. 15. The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea Little, Brown and Company, Nicole Waite Photography Miguel Angel De La Cruz ("Big Angel"), patriarch of the De La Cruz family, is dying from cancer, so he decides to throw one last birthday bash. But then his mother dies in the days leading up to the party, which soon becomes a bittersweet celebration, with guests sharing tales of their family's legacy and heritage. With flashbacks, we learn about their struggles immigrating to America (Big Angel learned English through a dictionary), their regrets, and their stories of lifelong love. Urrea vividly captures the heart and soul of a Mexican-American community in San Diego that leaps to life on the page, and by the time you're done reading, you'll feel as if you're part of the family too.Publication date: March 6Get it from Amazon for $17.70, Barnes & Noble for $18.59, or a local bookseller through IndieBound here. 16. Eye Level by Jenny Xie Graywolf Press, Teresa Mathew US Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Hererra chose Jenny Xie as the winner of the Academy of American Poets' 2017 Walt Whitman Award, and it's easy to see why in her debut collection Eye Level. Xie's poems take us on a journey to new places (Vietnam, Cambodia, even a Greek island) in such vivid detail that you'll feel as if you really traveled, as well as to new questions about immigration, identity, and loneliness. How do we really find home? What do we lose when we leave? Reading Eye Level feels like taking a trip with someone who truly sees you, and the world, as it is.Publication date: April 3Get it from Amazon for $14.44, Barnes & Noble for $14.47, or a local bookseller through IndieBound here. 17. Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture by Roxane Gay Harper Perennial, roxanegay.com Roxane Gay's Not That Bad, an anthology of essays on rape culture and sexual harassment in the US, feels especially urgent in the #MeToo era. Curated and edited by Gay, Not That Bad features fearlessly honest pieces from thoughtful contributors — including Gabrielle Union and Lyz Lenz — about their experiences with the violence and misogynistic behaviors women so frequently face. If you've ever been harassed, patronized, or discredited just for being a woman, you will recognize and relate to the harrowing stories in these essays. Publication date: May 1Get it from Amazon for $15.29, Barnes & Noble for $15.39, or a local bookseller through IndieBound here. 18. Look Alive Out There by Sloane Crosley MCD, Caitlin Mitchell By the time you're done reading Sloane Crosley's delightful new essay collection Look Alive Out There, you'll feel like you've made a new best friend — and an extraordinarily witty friend at that. Even when Crosley writes about climbing volcanoes in Ecuador or making a cameo appearance on Gossip Girl (as herself!), she is always refreshingly honest and relatable. But beyond being hilarious (trust me, you'll be literally laughing out loud throughout), she also writes with deep insight about modern human life. Look alive out there, because this book will make you feel it. Publication date: April 3Get it from Amazon for $17.10, Barnes & Noble for $17.96, or a local bookseller through IndieBound here. 19. In a Day's Work: The Fight to End Sexual Violence Against America’s Most Vulnerable Workers by Bernice Yeung The New Press, Twitter: @bmyeung Bernice Yeung's In a Day's Work is an urgent, shocking exposé of the sexual assault and harassment that poor female workers, many of whom are immigrants who came to the US for a better life, are subjected to. What Yeung discovered in researching the book and speaking to these women is devastating — their reports of abuse and violence were often ignored by their employers, and their workplace conditions are often abhorrent — but also inspirational: You'll come away with immense respect for these immigrants who continue to resist and challenge the discrimination and treatment they've received. In a Day's Work will make you angry, as it should — this is a powerful work of investigative journalism that lifts the curtain on stories that have been hidden for too long.Publication date: March 20Get it from Amazon for $19.27, Barnes & Noble for $20.75, or a local bookseller through IndieBound here. 20. The Merry Spinster by Mallory Ortberg Holt Paperbacks, Daniel Mallory Ortberg If you've ever wished that fairytales were darker and more like horror stories, well, you're in luck, because the short story collection The Merry Spinster delivers just that — your favorite classic tales retold to be more unsettling and sometimes even downright disturbing. (You'll especially love these if you followed Ortberg's "Children's Stories Made Horrific" column on the Toast). Remember The Velveteen Rabbit and The Little Mermaid? Well now you certainly won't forget them, AND you'll be scared (don't say I didn't warn you). Ortberg's writing is snarky and clever, and the whole collection is delightfully mischievous, so be prepared — you're in for a treat. Publication date: March 13Get it from Amazon for $11.59, Barnes & Noble for $12.14, or a local bookseller through IndieBound here. 21. Though I Get Home by YZ Chin The Feminist Press at CUNY, yzchin.com YZ Chin's debut short story collection Though I Get Home will make you feel as if you're in Malaysia, with Chin's atmospheric writing and rich descriptions of the country and its culture. Chin's fourteen stories are connected, sharing characters as well as timely political themes threaded throughout (free speech and censorship, social justice, art as protest). At heart is a writer who gets sent to a detention camp and must grapple with her identity in the wake of her newfound notoriety, but there's also a grandfather who participates in rain-betting, and a whole cast of other colorful characters. Not only is the writing fascinating and immersive, but this collection will also bring Malaysia's social and political scenes to life in your mind.Publication date: April 10Get it from Amazon for $16.71, Barnes & Noble for $16.95, or a local bookseller through IndieBound here. Which new spring book are you most excited to read? Tell us in the comments below!