Best of the West
(Thomas Dunne Books, $26, out February 3)
By Judd Trichter
If it’s possible to wrap Star Wars and Blade Runner into the same sketchy gumshoe package, this might be the closest thing to such a delicious sci-fi confection. Downtown Los Angeles and the LAPD get a futuristic makeover in the name of bionic love in Trichter’s debut novel, whose title is a spin-off of philosopher Walter Benjamin’s The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. Android salesman Eliot Lazar falls for a product named Iris that’s been taken apart and scattered across the black market. To save his iSoulmate, Lazar must dodge an adept sleuth and frequent fisticuffs. What ensues is a neo-noir adventure punctuated by wild quirks (e.g. talking robo-privates) and underpinned by the marvels of Trichter’s (de)fleshed-out, automaton-based society.
(Simon & Schuster, $24, out February 17)
By Maz Jobrani
What if you were a terrorist and didn’t even know it? While growing up as an Iranian in America, actor Maz Jobrani found himself questioning his non-involvement in the 1979-1981 Iranian hostage crisis. Obviously Jobrani was not (and is not) a terrorist, but the idea took some getting used to for the boy who emigrated Stateside with his parents during the Iranian Revolution. Despite decades of xenophobic remarks and suggestions, Jobrani vowed to break into the entertainment industry. You might recognize him from 13 Going on 30, The Interpreter, and True Blood—or as a founding member of the Axis of Evil Comedy Tour. This memoir details Jobrani’s rough track toward American assimilation as well as his shift from stereotypical terrorist stand-in to bona fide TV star.
(Simon & Schuster, $25, out February 17)
By Stephanie Kegan
The book sets up like so: For the last dozen years, someone has been sending letter bombs to California universities, and the culprit could be closer to Natalie Askedahl than she thinks. The 48-year-old wife and mother grapples with aiding or outing her estranged brother (a disturbed math prodigy who conjures up images of Ted Kaczynski) in this literary drama. How anyone could ever detest the UC or Cal State system so much is beyond us, but hey, if it’s in the name of a three-dimensional, semi-rational antihero? You’ve got our attention.
Best of the Rest
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $24, out February 3)
By David Duchovny
We’ve all seen celebrity-penned books, but how often does a bizarre celebrity-penned fairytale cross our radar? Duchovny’s called his debut novel a “fable for adults,” which is obviously code for a “fable defaming meat eaters.” The book follows a trio of animals and their fearless leader, a cow named Elsie, who escape a farm and go searching for countries where they won’t be eaten. For what it’s worth, Duchovny has a master’s degree in English literature from Yale and has always considered himself a writer (not an actor, OK?). So if you want something less controversial than Lena Dunham’s memoir, more peculiar than Gene Wilder’s autobiography, and as educationally qualified as James Franco’s collection of poetry, then look no further; The arts-and-letters deities have bequeathed this wonderfully madcap book to satisfy that very itch.
(Riverhead Books, $28, out February 3)
By Nick Hornby
NPR called Hornby’s latest “a book made for binge-reading,” citing its endless string of wild scenarios and crisp, clever dialogue. (That kind of makes it sound like Orange is the New Black, huh? Well, it doesn’t take place in prison, so keep waiting til summer for Piper.) Hornby’s novel follows 21-year-old Barbara Parker as she transforms herself into Sophie Straw, an ascendant TV starlet hellbent on making it in London. There’s a healthy serving of pure entertainment, as well as discussion circulating what is entertainment?, in here. If you enjoyed About a Boy or A Long Way Down, this addition to the Hornby oeuvre shouldn’t disappoint.
(HarperCollins, $28, out February 24)
By Kim Gordon
In this candid memoir from one of the founding members of Sonic Youth, Gordon takes readers on a back-stage rush through the rise and raze of her band. While their ride through the music industry was architected to appear wild and fun, SY’s inner workings were on a venomous slowburn to oblivion. Gordon’s nearly 20-year marriage to Thurston Moore paralleled the dowfall. Aside from the drama, the book—which has been compared to Patti Smith’s Just Kids—also features a record-by-record breakdown of SY’s discography. Necessarily so, Gordon’s life has been a blur of the personal and the professional. Girl in a Band exposes the overlap with all of its fascinating highs and lows.
(Flatiron Books, $28, out February 3)
By Paul Fischer
If all the hubbub surrounding The Interview piqued your North Korean curiosity, we’ve got a couple suggestions to fuel your obsession: Guy Delisle’s Pyongyang and Paul Fischer’s nonfiction thriller. The former is a quick, hilarious graphic novel—that, fun fact, almost got turned into a movie with Steve Carell—about a Canadian animator’s brief stint working in the country; the latter mashes up incisive cinematic analysis and near-unbelievable history to recount how Kim Jong-Il kidnapped a South Korean filmmaker and actress to bolster the Hermit Kingdom’s cinematic footprint. It was a strategy that clearly worked so well: The forced partnership produced complex political hits you’ve never seen such as Salt and the monster flick Pulgasari. Nothing like a good kidnapping to get you amped for Valentine’s Day.