It’s fair to say that 2021 hasn’t been the shining beacon of a year for which many of us once hoped. The past twelve months have been characterized by challenges ranging from the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection to the emergence of the omicron variant of COVID-19 to Baltimore’s escalating homicide rate.
As a result, life’s small satisfactions are especially welcome right now, reliable rewards that against the odds make us look forward to a new day — like the pleasure of opening a new book.
Luckily, some of Baltimore’s favorite authors are poised to publish in the early days of 2022.
Below are seven upcoming releases that will have you reaching for your wallet or library card, plus one bonus book that came out last fall. Inside their covers you may find characters who remind you of people you know, or a fresh perspective on old problems.
“Ain’t Burned All the Bright” by Jason Reynolds, with artwork by Jason Griffin
“And I’m sitting here wondering why my mother won’t change the channel,” reads a line in “Ain’t Burned All the Bright,” a spare and powerful meditation by an unnamed young Black man struggling to come to terms with the onslaught of racial violence in America and subsequent media coverage.
The words in this powerful prose poem were written by Maryland native Jason Reynolds, a New York Times bestselling children’s author and a 2018 Newberry Honor Medalist, while his best friend, Jason Griffin, created the striking mixed-media collages that comprise the artwork.
The title suggests that despite the narrator’s occasional despair, he continues to reach for the light.
“Ain’t Burned All the Bright” will be published Jan. 11 by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books. 384 pages, $19.99
“French Braid” by Anne Tyler
The quintessential Baltimore novelist returns with her 24th novel, which follows members of the Garrett family from their first and last vacation in the summer of 1959 to what the book jacket describes as “our pandemic present.”
Each of the five Garretts reacts differently when duties at home conflict with their own aspirations, from Mercy, who is consumed with her desire to create art, to her socially inept husband, Robin, to Lily, their boy-crazy middle child.
Perhaps no novelist in America chronicles more achingly or with greater insight than Tyler the way in which family members come close and pull apart and then regroup without ever quite breaking free of one another.
“French Braid” will be published March 22 by Alfred A. Knopf Publishers. 256 pages, $27.
“Gwendy’s Final Task” by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar
This is the third and final part of the “Gwendy’s Button Box” trilogy cowritten by Harford County resident Chizmar and his pal, the horror giant Stephen King. The novel is partly set in Castle Rock, Maine, the town King made famous.
Long ago, when Gwendy Peterson was 12, she was given a box for safekeeping that was irresistibly tempting, but dangerous. Pressing any one of the seven buttons could result in death and destruction. Now a successful novelist and rising political star, Senator Gwendy Peterson must keep the button box from the evil forces seeking to possess it.
“Gwendy’s Final Task” by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar will be published Feb. 15, 2022 by Cemetery Dance Publications. 408 pages, $28.
“Liarmouth: A Feel-Bad Romance: A Novel” by John Waters
“Liarmouth” is the cult filmmaker John Waters’ first novel; it tells the tale of Marsha Sprinkle, who steals suitcases from unwary travelers in airports.
“Dogs and children hate her,” the synopsis reads. “Her own family wants her dead. She’s smart, she’s desperate, she’s disturbed, and she’s on the run with a big chip on her shoulder.”
Though Waters began writing “Liarmouth” about three years ago, he says he didn’t find the genre switch particularly difficult.
“All my movies are fiction,” he said recently. “I think visually and I know how to write dialogue, so it wasn’t that much of a stretch.”
“Liarmouth: A Feel-Bad Romance” will be published May 3 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 256 pages, $26.
“Seasonal Work” by Laura Lippman
Lippman, a former reporter for The Baltimore Sun, is adept at spotting the kinks in our social fabric, the odd little contradictions of daily life that, if it weren’t for her playful and curious eye, might pass unexamined.
“Seasonal Work” is a new collection of short stories written in the past 15 years, including at least one featuring her most famous character, the Baltimore private investigator Tess Monaghan.
The author’s publicist say these tightly crafted gems revisit such familiar themes as “duplicity, homicide, family dysfunction, treacherous games, and love gone bad.”
“Seasonal Work: Stories” will be published Jan. 4 by William Morrow and Company. 336 pages, $26.99.
“Shelter: A Black Tale of Homeland, Baltimore” by Lawrence Jackson
Jackson, a professor of English and history at Johns Hopkins University, writes in “Shelter” that he was ambivalent about returning to the city where he grew up, ambivalent about relocating away from the West Baltimore where he grew up to Homeland, where most residents are white and which has a history of racial exclusion.
The series of essays that result, and that include the author’s reflections on a trip to the Eastern Shore and on an encounter at a university shuttle-bus stop has been described as part memoir, part spiritual biography of a city.
“Shelter: A Black Tale of Homeland, Baltimore” will be published April 19 by Graywolf Press. 344 pages, $17.
“Targeted” by Stephen Hunter
Stephen Hunter, a former Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic for The Washington Post (and previously, The Baltimore Sun) returns with his twelfth book featuring the master sniper Bob Lee Swagger in a plot based loosely on the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capital.
According to the synopsis, Swagger has been called before a congressional committee to defend himself on charges of reckless endangerment. But when the committee room is attacked and hostages are taken, Swagger must save the lives of his anti-gun nemeses.
“Targeted” will be published Jan. 18, by Atria/Emily Bestler Books. 384 pages, $28.99.
OK, so technically, this is cheating. “Poe for Your Problems: Uncommon Advice from History’s Least Likely Self-Help Guru” by Catherine Baab-Muguira isn’t being released in 2022; it was published just after Labor Day, 2021. And the author lives in Virginia, not the Free State.
But Baltimore loves its eccentrics, and Poe is arguably the oddball misfit of whom city residents are the most proud. Witness the name of our football team.
There is something irresistible about the notion that the Master of the Macabre was the 19th century’s answer to Ann Landers — especially when the chapters have such mock-earnest titles as “Embracing Your Inner Neurotic”; “Pathological Mate Selection” and “How to Conduct Yourself in a Feud.”
Bet you just laughed.
“Poe for Your Problems: Uncommon Advice from History’s Least Likely Self-Help Guru” was published Sept. 7 by Running Press. 256 pages, $18.