Swamplandia! By Karen Russell, out now
A family of alligator wrestlers that runs a tourist attraction (Swamplandia!) deep in the Everglades falls apart when their star performer dies, leaving behind a 13-year-old to save the day in this quasicoming-of-age tale.
To Sound in the Know: The Washington Heights-based author is one of The New Yorker’s 20 Under 40 (29!), whose first story collection, St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, was a critical success in 2007. Feel free to be jealous.
West of Here By Jonathan Evison, out now
This novel jumps back and forth between 19th-century settlers building a dam in Washington, and their modern-day descendants who want to tear it down to let the fish run free.
To Sound in the Know: As a teenager, Evison was in a punk band that included future members of Pearl Jam and Soundgarden. Who’s the big success now, Vedder?
Smoking Typewriters: The Sixties Underground Press and the Rise of Alternative Media in America By John McMillian, out Feb. 17
Historian (and the proud recipient of a PhD from Columbia) McMillian looks at the rise of the 1960s press, including The East Village Other, and the influence of the industry that evolved from papers being passed out on street corners to having circulations totaling in the millions.
To Sound in the Know: McMillian is currently at work on a book about the rivalry between The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
Other People We Married By Emma Straub, out Feb. 22
The debut collection of a dozen short stories that takes place in a dozen different locales has earned Straub comparisons to Lorrie Moore.
To Sound in the Know: Straub works at BookCourt in Brooklyn, and also designs posters and other sign-like objects for her company (along with her husband) m e.
When the Killing’s Done: A Novel By T.C. Boyle, out Feb. 22
A Park Service ranger trying to protect an island off the coast of Santa Barbara from invasive animals clashes with a local, dreadlocked businessman in his exploration of humanity’s failing relations with nature, and each other.
To Sound in the Know: Boyle changed his middle name from John to Coraghessan when he was 17, which he says means "Take two and call me in the morning" in Gaelic.
Mr. Funny Pants By Michael Showalter, out Feb. 24
Part memoir, part essay, part random riffs with a dose of meta-gazing on the writing process by this Brooklyn resident.
To Sound in the Know: Showalter, who teaches screenwriting at NYU, was cofounder of The State and Stella and cowrote Wet Hot American Summer.