January 16th, 2015 | 6:00am

As we begin 2015, our recommenders are heading into the wilderness. These books range widely through time and space, each embracing its own unique heart of contradiction—exile and home; passion and failure; reason and chaos; doubt and confidence. Heavy with both fictional biography and memoir, we bring you familiar faces from the dark woods of alienation and obsession. Dive into the new year with these five maps by which to recognize yourself and find a path through the forest.

Recommended: The Same Roads Back by Frank Dullaghan, The Season of Migration by Nellie Hermann, Swimming Studies by Leanne Shapton, A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines by Janna Levin, Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson.

January 15th, 2015 | 6:00am

 

Andrea Scott reads her poem, “Arab Springs,” from Issue 06.

 

reviewed by Kelly Fordon
January 13th, 2015 | 6:00am

Fans of Megan Mayhew Bergman’s first short-story collection, Birds of a Lesser Paradise, which appeared in 2012, have been looking forward to her second collection ever since. The premise of Bergman’s new book, Almost Famous Women, is immediately intriguing. Bergman culled through the annals of history to locate women who brushed up against fame, thanks to proximity to famous people or now-forgotten accomplishments. Publisher’s Weekly commended her for this “feminist reclamation” of narratives largely ignored; a compilation of 13 fictionalized tales of women including James Joyce’s daughter, Lucia; Butterfly McQueen, the actress who played Prissy in “Gone with the Wind”; Allegra Byron, Lord Byron’s cast-off daughter; and Dolly Wilde, Oscar Wilde’s impetuous, drug-addled, niece.

reviewed by Francesca de Onis
January 8th, 2015 | 6:00am

A bee
Staggers out
Of the peony.
 

Richard Flanagan’s new novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North, begins with an enigmatic haiku by Basho, a 17th century Japanese poet, which evokes a state of sublime consummation or mortal exhaustion, in other words, how love and war, beauty and horror are inextricably entwined.

Photo by author
January 7th, 2015 | 6:00am

Photo by author

I expect the countless eyes and cameras that have adored this place to have dulled it. But I see all colors in the desert; and they’re not tainted, as far as I can tell. I try to learn the terms and reasons for why it became the way it is. I don’t forget one name—desert varnish: the volcanic gleam over rusty red cliffs, as if spread by palette knife—and I repeat it in my head every time I pass it.