Faithful readers of this column may recall that I have subscribed to Publishers Weekly for decades, sometimes via my employer, other times on my own, and that I have particularly relished the special issues featuring Spring and Fall Announcements. They used to be huge, in the old days, but even now (and even with the magazine’s unrelenting determination to be Woke and Woker) I hunker down with these seasonal features. This year, the magazine happens to be celebrating its 150th anniversary.
The June 20 issue provides a selection of Fall titles in 15 categories, ranging from Art & Architecture to SF, Fantasy & Horror. (Weirdly, “Religion” is not included in these big surveys but gets treated separately in another issue, with “Spirituality” and such.) For the last several days, I have browsed the categories in bite-sized chunks. If I try to run through the whole shebang in one go, or even just two sessions, everything starts to blur.
Each of the categories is curated by a different editor, and each one begins with a highlighted Top 10 before proceeding to the main list, which is alphabetical by publisher. The Top 10 for Literary Fiction (a category that seems ridiculous to me, but that’s the industry label), curated by David Varno, begins with Bliss Montage: Stories, by Ling Ma: “One woman learns the painful rituals of Yeti lovemaking,” etc. It concludes with Sacrificio, by Ernesto Mestre-Reed: “The Cuban American’s first novel in almost two decades revolves around a young queer man who joins a group of counterrevolutionaries in late-1990s Havana.”
Some of the titles listed in these overviews were already familiar to me—for instance, in Art, Architecture, & Photography, a translation into English of Julia Voss’s biography of Hilma af Klint, which I’m very much looking forward to—but many I learned about here. And I look at the ads as well. I was happy to see that Broadleaf Books, where my dear friend Lil Copan exercises her editorial gifts, has a full-page ad that highlights Diane Glancy’s Home Is the Road: Wandering the Land, Shaping the Spirit, due in November. (The same ad features a couple of titles I’m not so crazy about; such is life.)
If I had curated the Poetry section, A. E. Stallings’s This Afterlife would have been included in the Top 10, but Maya Popa didn’t have room for it, what with Saeed Jones’s Alive at the End of the World—“Considerations of white supremacy appear alongside poems about Aretha Franklin and Diahann Carroll, showing the prevalence of perilous contrast in modern America.” Chen Chen’s Your Emergency Contact Has Experienced an Emergency, which “interrogates mass violence, the Covid epidemic, and being queer and Asian America during the Trump era,” is also in the running. A whole lot of interrogating going on.
As always, my copy of this issue is thick with Post-it Notes. Delight in the ongoing abundance mixes with irritation and weariness with absurd posturing. A full-page ad for Abbeville Press features (among other goodies) what looks like a big, gorgeous book titled African Textiles ($175: oof). The Top 10 for Science is loaded (but don’t get me started on Politics & Current Events). A snapshot (as we used to say) of the culture in 2022. Happy reading.
John Wilson is a contributing editor for The Englewood Review of Books and senior editor at The Marginalia Review of Books.
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