Our recommended books this week lean into the fantastical and otherworldly, with creepy story collections from Rachel Harrison (“Bad Dolls”) and Bora Chung (“Cursed Bunny”), as well as one novel about a convicted murderer grappling with his haunted past (Kevin Chen’s “Ghost Town”) and another about a graduate student recruited to write a book about the Devil (Luke Dumas’s “A History of Fear”). If you prefer your fiction a little more down to earth, we also recommend novels set in 1920s South Africa or 1980s Queens. In nonfiction, we have a memoir from the supermodel Paulina Porizkova, a biography of the jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins and a timely journalistic account of the effort to track down crypto-criminals. Happy reading.
Harrison’s feminist horror novels are some of the most original and entertaining out there, and this story collection is right up there with her longer works. Filled with women on the cusp of change, they explore the dark side of being female in the 21st century.
“These characters aren’t spunky, overly sexualized final girls escaping a madman with a chain saw, but complex women facing the pain of being alive. Harrison slides a scalpel beneath the seemingly smooth surface of their lives to expose their messy interiors.”
From Danielle Trussoni’s horror column
Berkley | Ebook, $2.99
A HISTORY OF FEAR
In this engrossing debut horror novel, an American graduate student in Edinburgh signs a contract to write a history of the Devil in Scotland. Though the money is good, he wonders if the Devil, “sensing one of his kind,” has singled him out for the job. He writes the book anyway, with deleterious effects on his sanity and his life.
“Dumas’s layered and atmospheric writing shines when he describes Scotland, the cultural collisions of Americans abroad and the terrors of uncovering a twisted family legacy.”
From Danielle Trussoni’s horror column
Atria | $27.99
The Good, the Bad and the Beautiful
Throughout the supermodel’s taut, haunting memoir in essays, she’s upfront about aging in a beauty-obsessed culture (it’s not easy). But the real surprises concern her tumultuous marriage to the rock star Ric Ocasek — and what she discovered when he died.
“For readers seeking juice from celebrity memoirs, Porizkova doesn’t scrimp. … The memoir truly comes alive — in style and substance — when Porizkova smashes the facade of her glamorous marriage.”
From Michelle Ruiz’s review
The Open Field | $27
At once exquisitely intimate and globally ambitious, the South African writer’s debut novel rips apart a biracial family of four in Cape Town in the late 1920s, when the country’s Immorality Act effectively outlawed relationships between white and Black people.
“Full of a wild, roaming intelligence that drifts into both intense philosophical exploration and acknowledgments of the unknowable. Yet the book is a swift, brutal read, full of suspense about the big and small questions of living.”
From V.V. Ganeshananthan’s review
HarperVia | $26.99
The Life and Music of Sonny Rollins
For this generous, comprehensive account of the great horn player — a useful standard on current methods in jazz biography — Levy has scoured personal archives and the public record, interviewed Rollins and many others in depth, and made thorough use of Rollins’s diaries, letters and ephemera at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
“I worry … that a narrative-hungry, impatient culture prefers to hear about jazz rather than listen to it. But this book, a brimming and organized compendium, something to keep returning to like Rollins’s records, is not part of that problem.”
From Ben Ratliff’s review
Hachette | $35
Past misdeeds of all kinds — a careless flush of a toilet, a debt unpaid, a company’s corrupt practices, an animal tortured — resurface and haunt the present in these 10 gripping and prodigiously creepy stories, translated from the Korean by Anton Hur.
“Even as Chung presents a catalog of grotesqueries that range from unsettling to seared-into-the-brain disturbing, her power is in restraint. … We go willingly with Chung, even as part of us already suspects we are being led to our peril.”
From Violet Kupersmith’s review
Algonquin | Paperback, $17.99
ROSES, IN THE MOUTH OF A LION
Set in the Corona neighborhood of Queens, this coming-of-age novel follows a Pakistani -American fifth grader in the 1980s, just beginning to bridle at the restrictions placed on her as a girl — by her parents and by other members of her first-generation conservative Muslim community.
“Where a lesser book might have stooped to stereotypes about Muslims or immigrants, Rehman shows readers the complexities within Razia’s community. Individuals are allowed to be surprising, even to themselves, in this deft and empathetic novel.”
From May-lee Chai’s review
Flatiron | $27.99
Chen’s novel, translated by Darryl Sterk, begins with a man returning to his rural hometown in Taiwan after serving time for murder in Germany, then shifts to his family’s perspectives in a multigenerational drama of sexual awakening, trauma and cultural change.
“Through the scrim of the family’s overlapping — and hotly contested — memories, we get a pleasantly dense evocation of a rural town becoming enmeshed, through the second half of the 20th century, in increasingly globalized, increasingly fast-moving, networks of industry and capital.”
From Peter C. Baker’s review
Europa | $27
TRACERS IN THE DARK:
The Global Hunt for the Crime Lords of Cryptocurrency
Greenberg’s propulsive real-life thriller centers on the people who investigate crypto-criminals, in a high-stakes virtual arms race.
“In the Bitcoin age, a lot of people have tried to test … the belief that they could hide under a digital invisibility cloak. They were, as Andy Greenberg details, badly misinformed.”
From Mark Gimein’s review
Doubleday | $32.50