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2017 Pop Culture Preview

20 Books We Can't Wait to Read in 2017

From Roxane Gay's female-driven short stories to Paula Hawkins' follow-up to the chilling 'The Girl on the Train,' these are the reads we're dying to crack open this year

1 / 20

'Difficult Women' by Roxane Gay (Jan. 3)

Grove Press

List is chronological.

Who cares that this one's already out? Roxane Gay is a force in the world of feminism—and the world in general. Difficult Women is a collection of short stories depicting just that: women leading complex, diverse, colorful lives. Expect to delve into the tales of abducted sisters, a black engineer, an ambitious stripper and more. Gay is a master of memoir, personal essay, creative nonfiction and lyrical prose, which gives her writing a smart, modern edge that's hard to look away from. Brooke Bunce

2 / 20

'Carve the Mark' by Veronica Roth (Jan. 17)

Katherine Tegen Books

Fans of Divergent were happy to hear series author Veronica Roth wasn't going to take too long with her next science-fiction/Y.A. contribution. Carve the Mark is the first of two new books the writer is creating, said to have a Star Wars feel to them thanks to a storyline focusing on a boy and his brother who have been kidnapped and brought to a foreign planet. Jeff Benjamin

3 / 20

'The Animators' by Kayla Rae Whitaker (Jan. 31)

Random House

When two college best friends create a critically acclaimed animated film, they feel they're on the verge of making it big. With that feeling, though, they become ensconced in all the burdens success can bring. Whitaker's debut novel explores female friendship, creative choice, self-doubt and reckoning with the past—all within the backdrop of the male-dominated field of animation. –Brooke Bunce

4 / 20

'Universal Harvester' by John Darnielle (Feb. 7)

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

The Mountain Goats' leading man is following up his devastatingly beautiful debut novel, Wolf in White Van, with a haunting tale of '90s small-town mystery. Jeremy, a video store employee in Nevada, Iowa, decides to investigate when customers complain of strange alterations being made to tapes they've rented. Like Darnielle's songwriting, his prose is overflowing with melancholy grace, a directness that can verge on uncomfortable and a raw truthfulness that catches in your chest. –Brooke Bunce

5 / 20

'Lucky You' by Erika Carter (March 1)

Counterpoint Press

If you've felt like you need to escape the world we live in, Carter's debut novel is for you. When three women in their early twenties trade their dead-end jobs as waitresses in Arkansas for a rural cabin in the Ozark Mountains, they hope to find all the answers to the questions adulthood has given them. But as time has shown again and again, a change in location doesn't always mean a change in outlook. –Brooke Bunce

6 / 20

'The Walking Dead Vol. 27: The Whisperer War' by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard (March 7)

Image Comics

TWD, always high-quality, has served up some of its best work in the last couple years. "The Whisperer War" is drawn entirely with 16-panel layouts, cramming in tons of story and keeping us right there with a huge host of characters. It’s astonishingly harrowing and satisfying, and the best villain in the series' history is finally unleashed again—in a very different capacity. Zach Dionne

7 / 20

'South and West: From a Notebook' by Joan Didion (March 7)


Nobody captures a place better than Joan Didion—just read a page of Slouching Towards Bethlehem as proof. South and West was born of two never-before-seen entries from Didion's notebooks. One, a road trip she took with her husband through Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama; the other, a scrapped assignment for Rolling Stone detailing the 1976 Patty Hearst trial and some reflections on San Francisco. As with all of Didion's work, it's sure to be filled with intelligent prose that only she, one of the most legendary modern female authors, can bring. –Brooke Bunce

8 / 20

'Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions' by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (March 7)


A lot of the world was introduced to Adichie through her fierce monologue on Beyoncé's "***Flawless," but she's been spilling the truth long before 2013. When she received a letter from a childhood friend asking how to raise a girl as a feminist, Adichie responded with 15 powerful suggestions, captured in this manifesto. This slim book might only take you a day to read, but we're guessing it's one you'll be loaning to everyone in your life. –Brooke Bunce

9 / 20

'How to Be a Bawse: A Guide to Conquering Life' by Lilly Singh (March 28)

Ballantine Books

There's a reason Lilly Singh has garnered more than 10 million loyal subscribers on YouTube and become one of the platform's most recognizable faces: Girl's got a lot to say. And luckily it'll all be neatly packaged in her inspirational book How to Be a Bawse. If you're hesitant to wonder if Singh really has conquered that whole "life" thing, well, she announced this book during an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon at her side so, yeah, sounds like she's a credible source. ­–Jeff Benjamin

10 / 20

'Saga Vol. 7' by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (April 4)

Image Comics

It's uncanny how perfectly Saga reads on an issue-by-issue basis and in collected form. This one covers the "War for Phang" arc, where all our main characters are jumbled up into interesting groupings, where Hazel has her first kiss, and where Alana and Marko are expecting baby number two. –Zach Dionne

11 / 20

'Bitch Planet Vol. 2: President Bitch' by Kelly Sue DeConnick and artist Valentine De Landro (April 5)

Image Comics

The comics that comprised this arc will have taken more than a year to trickle out by the time #10 arrives, and the long wait will be rewarded with another must-have trade paperback. Having read four of the five issues that'll comprise this one, we can only offer the most insistent recommendation that you get into/keep up with this marvel of intersectional progressive values and representation. (We have to rep for the single issues, too, though: each one ends with like eight pages of essays, articles, education and fan participation. –Zach Dionne

12 / 20

'Too Much and Not the Mood' by Durga Chew-Bose (April 11)

FSG Originals

The title comes from the last sentence of Virginia Woolf's A Writer's Diary, meaning that she was tired of having to correct and edit her writing in order to please others. Chew-Bose has set out to do the same in this collection of essays, which is sure to be as poignant and direct as all of her cultural criticism is. –Brooke Bunce

13 / 20

'Anything Is Possible' by Elizabeth Strout (April 25)

Random House

The Pulitzer-winner behind Olive Kitteridge is back with her fastest return ever, following 2016's My Name Is Lucy Barton. This actually ties in with that book, embedding with various characters from the margins of Barton. The structure sounds like it'll remind us of Olive, which is thrilling—with that book, Strout proved herself a true maestro of the novel-in-stories. –Zach Dionne

14 / 20

'Trajectory' by Richard Russo (May 2)

Random House Large Print

The Maine-based author joins the pack of scribes coming back just one year after their last book. This one's a 256-page collection of four stories, a gear we're eager to see the Empire Falls Pulitzer-winner drive in. –Zach Dionne

15 / 20

'The Dinner Party' by Joshua Ferris (May 2)

Little, Brown & Company

2015's To Rise Again at a Decent Hour couldn't quite compete with And Then We Came to the End's high-wire satire act, or The Unnamed's poignant, riveting allegory, but now we're going to see what Ferris can accomplish in a short story collection. Its official description promises looks into "a disastrous gathering that exposes the cracks in a seemingly solid relationship," "a retired widower looking for connection in all the wrong places" and "a man pathologically incapable of having a normal social interaction with his mover." –Zach Dionne

16 / 20

'Into the Water' by Paula Hawkins (May 2)

Riverhead Books

If you haven't been living inside a hole, then you've heard about—and maybe even read—Hawkins' debut, The Girl on the Train, which got the Hollywood film treatment in October 2016. Into the Water is about a single mother found dead at the bottom of a river, not long after a teenage girl was found dead in the same place. It's sure to be full of the twists, mind tricks and terse thrills that made Train a bestseller. –Brooke Bunce

17 / 20

'And We're Off' by Dana Schwartz (May 2)


And We're Off comes at the perfect time, as we all remember how much we loved Gilmore Girls with its Netflix reboot. Dana Schwartz focuses on the story of 17-year-old artist Nora and her trip to explore Europe...with the mother she’s been feuding with over her future. While our protagonists don't have a chummy Lorelei-Rory relationship (at first...), there's loads of mother-daughter banter and self-exploration from which anyone can learn something. –Jeff Benjamin

18 / 20

'Sour Heart: Stories' by Jenny Zhang (August 1)


Zhang revealed herself as a poetic force after her piece "How It Feels" was nominated for a National Magazine Award. Next, she explored the injustice of the white poet Michael Derrick Hudson taking on a Chinese pen name. (She's also been writing magic in Rookie for a long time). Now, her first collection of short stories is set to be the first book published by Lena Dunham's imprint, Lenny. The work will dive deep into the lives of adolescent girls growing up in New York City, and we're excited for Zhang's always unique, always beautiful perspective on what it's like to find your place. –Brooke Bunce

19 / 20

'Sing, Unburied, Sing' by Jesmyn Ward (Sept. 5)


The vital Mississippi author is back with her first novel since 2011's National Book Award–winning Salvage the Bones. Making us even more eager to read than if she'd been radio silent all that time, Ward has stayed busy with nonfiction. She penned a 2013 memoir (Men We Reaped) that exemplifies the injustices that spawned #BlackLivesMatter just a month before publication, and edited 2016’s The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race, another must-read book for our times. –Zach Dionne

20 / 20

'And So On' by Kiese Laymon (TBA)

CORAL GABLES, FL - JULY 11: Author Kiese Laymon signs copies of his book "Long Division" at Books and Books on July 11, 2013
Vallery Jean/FilmMagic

Apparently dropping the novel Long Division and the memoiristic essay collection How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America within a month of each other worked well for this Mississippi visionary. He's got two more in the works simultaneously, and while 309: A Fat Black Memoir should be great, the formal inventiveness in Long Division has the still-mysterious novel And So On just a smidge higher on our list. –Zach Dionne

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Photo of the day

HOLLYWOOD, CA - APRIL 30: NSYNC is honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on April 30, 2018 in Hollywood, Californ

Apr 30: *NSYNC 4EVER

It’s been a while since the guys of *NSYNC reunited. Since their epic onstage reunion at the 2013 MTV VMAs and JC’s 40th birthday, the guys have been doing their own thing, until today! Justin, JC, Joey, Lance and Chris got together to celebrate their new star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and as if the day couldn’t get any better, JC reminds us that tomorrow it’s gonna be MAY.