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2017 holds much literary promise

| Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017, 9:00 p.m.
Author George Saunders
Chloe Aftel/Random House
Author George Saunders

A new year dawns, a slew of new books to consider. Releases for the first quarter of 2017 include unpublished stories by an iconic American writer, a first-time novelist who also is one of the most respected American contemporary writers, a collection of essays on the merits of idleness and walking, and a science fiction story about the first Czech astronaut.

“Lincoln in the Bardo,” (Random House, $28), George Saunders

The acclaimed short-story writer and essayist releases his first novel. Set in 1862 in the aftermath of the death of Abraham Lincoln's son, Willie, the story takes place at a graveyard over a single night.

“I'd Die for You and Other Lost Stories” (Scribner, $24), F. Scott Fitzgerald

“I'd Die for You” is being promoted as the last of Fitzgerald's unpublished stories. Edited by Anne Margaret Daniel, the majority of the selections were submitted to magazines and accepted, but never printed. A few of the stories were submitted as movie treatments, but rejected, and some were deemed too controversial to publish.

“Home Sweet Home” (Knopf, $26.95), April Smith

In the 1950s, the Kusek family moves from New York to South Dakota. When the father, a World War II pilot, decides to run for the U.S. Senate, his wife's brief interest in the Communist Party threatens the family. By the author of “A Star for Mrs. Blake.”

“Flaneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London” (Farrar, Straus, Giroux, $27), Lauren Elkin

Flaneuse is the feminine term for flaneur: those who dawdle, or walk about a city, in observation. Elkin concentrates on writers and artists George Sand, Jean Rhys, Agnès Varda, Virginia Woolf, Martha Gellhorn and Sophie Calle, and how their art and creativity was influenced by their surroundings.

“The Hearts of Men,” (Ecco 26.99), Nickolas Butler

The lives of two men who met as Boy Scouts in the early '60s converge again. Set in rural Wisconsin, the story spans 60 years and multiple generations. By the author of “Shotgun Lovesongs.”

“Human Acts,” (Hogarth, $22), Han King

During a student demonstration in South Korea, a young boy is killed, setting off a wave of connected emotions and stories among those who knew him. King won the Man Booker Prize for literature for her 2016 novel, “The Vegetarian.”

“Somebody with a Little Hammer,” (Knopf, $25.95), Mary Gaitskill

Essays about Norman Mailer, John Updike, Celine Dion and cultural issues by the author of the novels “The Mare” and “Veronica.”

“Rusty Puppy,” (Mulholland, $26), Joe R. Lansdale

The Texas-based writer revisits his Hap and Pine private detective series. The story examines racial profiling in a small town.

“Autumn,” (Pantheon, $24.95), Ali Smith

The first in a series of four with Winter, Spring and Summer to follow, Smith's novel anticipates a post-Brexit England through the eyes of an art teacher and the man — now 101 — who turned her on to art.

“Homesick for Another World,” (Penguin, $26), Otessa Moshfegh

A short-story collection by the Boston-based writer who has drawn comparisons to Flannery O'Connor. Moshfegh's first novel, “Eileen,” won the PEN/Hemingway Award for debut fiction in 2015.

“Exit West” (Riverhead, $26), Mohsin Hamid

In an unnamed country besieged by refugees, a love story blooms between a young couple forced to flee when their city collapses. By the author of the novel “How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia.”

“The World to Come: Stories,” (Knopf, $25.95), Jim Shepard

Shepard's short stories come from atypical viewpoints and characters. In his new collection, he writes about historical characters — a World War II British submariner, an 18th century French balloonist, a wife in the wilds of the American frontier — with distinct voices.

“The Refugees,” (Grove, $25), Viet Thanh Nguyen

The winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2015 for “The Sympathizer,” Nguyen's new book examines the lives of those caught between Vietnam and America.

“The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley,” (Dial, $27), Hannah Tinti

A father who has raised his daughter, Loo, on an endless road trip from New York to Alaska comes under scrutiny as she grows older. From the author of “The Good Thief.”

“South and West: From a Notebook,” (Knopf, $21), Joan Didion

The noted essayist and writer relives a road trip she took with her husband, John Gregory Dunne, in 1970 through Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi via the notebooks she kept. There's also a section about the Patty Hearst trial Didion covered for Rolling Stone magazine in 1976; she never wrote the story until now.

“Ill Will,” (Ballantine, $28), Dan Chaon

A middle-aged psychologist's life in Cleveland is upended when his adopted brother, convicted of murdering an aunt and uncle, is released from prison after DNA exonerates him. When a patient starts telling stories about the murders of college boys, the psychologist becomes involved in an amateur investigation.

“The Man Who Shot Out My Eye is Dead,” (Ecco, $24,99) Chanelle Benz

A debut short-story collection featuring tales about adventurers, including siblings who become outlaws, a 16th-century monk and a diplomat's daughter who disappears, then emerges as a woman with multiple identities.

“Spaceman of Bohemia,” (Little, Brown, $26), Jaroslav Kalfar

An orphaned Czech boy raised in the countryside becomes his country's first astronaut. On a mission to Venus, the astronaut finds a way to atone for his father's past as a Communist informer.

“White Tears,” (Knopf, $26.95), Hari Kunzru

Billed as a ghost story; two young New Yorkers obsessed with music stumble upon a musician playing in Central Park. When one of them posts the musician's songs on the internet as a blues singer's from the 1920s, a collector insists the recordings are real.

“Pachinko,” (Grand Central, $27), Min Jin Lee

The saga of a Korean family exiled to Japan in the early 1900s, and how successive generations are forced to adapt and compromise. By the author of “Free Food for Millionaires.”

“The Underworld,” (Norton, $25.95), Kevin Canty

After a fire ravages a small Idaho silver mining town in the 1970s, survivors struggle to make sense of their new reality. By the author of “Winslow in Love.”

“I Brake for Moose and Other Stories” (Braddock Avenue Books, $13), Geeta Kothari

These short stories, by the director of the Writing Center at the University of Pittsburgh, concentrate on unexamined lives in America: a man from the former country of Yugoslavia dealing with grief, an African woman forced to hide her identity, a woman who returns to India to spread her mother's ashes in the Ganges. Kothari also is the nonfiction editor at the Kenyon Review.

Rege Behe is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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