These 12 stories by the Nigerian-born Adichie—who, at 31, has already published two critically acclaimed novels (Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun)—provide a wise and minutely observed update of the American-immigrant experience. Her narrators, mostly young African women, navigate the exotic terrain of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, their perceptions sharpened by homesickness. Macy's, for instance, can take on the eerie grandeur of an imperial palace. Alfred A. Knopf, 224 pp., $24.95

The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work
By Alain de Botton, June

This collection of rapturous, essay-like studies adds to de Botton's list of genre-tweaking books on the philosophy of everyday life. Posing himself the question, "When does a job feel meaningful?" he visits the world's largest accountancy firm, a rocket science laboratory, and a Slovenian aviation conference. This might be boring were de Botton not capable of finding an ancient, Borgesian mystique in the day-to-day lives of financial specialists and aeronautics experts. Pantheon, 336 pp., $26

Maybe sorta like Henry Miller: Osborne
Kris Van Exel/Corbis
Maybe sorta like Henry Miller: Osborne

Bite the Hand That Feeds You: Essays and Provocations
By Henry Fairlie, June

Fairlie is credited with coining the phrase "The Establishment," a fact that seems to summarize both the eminence and the anti-conservative ferocity of this British-born journalist, who died in 1990. In 32 timely and relentlessly witty essays, ranging from the political ("A Cheer for American Imperialism") to the whimsical ("The Importance of Bathtubs"), Fairlie proves why he was widely considered to be one of the best multidisciplinary journalists of the last 50 years. Yale University Press, 368 pp., $30

The Essays of Leonard Michaels
By Leonard Michaels, July

Divided into autobiographical and critical essays, this collection offers fans of Michaels's fiction deeper insight into his personal background and literary tastes. "My Yiddish" documents the effects that Yiddish had on his conversational sentence structure, while "On Love" examines the appearance of the "pornographic void" in Henry James, Joyce, and Nabokov. All relatively short, the essays possess a clipped intensity traceable to Michaels's adoration for Isaac Babel. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 222 pp., $25

The Tanners
By Robert Walser, translated by Susan Bernofsky, July

Reading Robert Walser for the first time, his indebtedness to Kafka seems so obvious as to border on plagiarism. That is, until you realize The Trial came out almost 20 years after The Tanners—first published in 1907 and only now appearing in English for the first time. Max Brod remembers Kafka laughing out loud as he read Walser's early stuff. A kind of fairy tale of youthful mischief, workplace ennui, and "Kafka-esque" paradox, The Tanners is a contender for Funniest Book of the Year. New Directions, 368 pp., $24.95

Anonymous Celebrity
By Ignácio de Loyola Brandão, translated by Nelson H. Vieira, August

This novel tells the story of an unknown young man in São Paulo who is suicidally driven to become famous. To achieve such, he is compiling a "Manual of Instructions," written in the form of Brazilian pulp serials, with headlines like "It's Important to Humiliate Others," "Avoid Being Listed Second in Photo Captions," and "The Adorable Arrogance of Julia Roberts." A savage satirist, Brandão has created a protagonist as complex and intriguing as he is hopelessly immoral. Dalkey Archive Press, 400 pp., $15.95

The Lost Origins of the Essay
Edited by John D'Agata, August

The novelist Ben Marcus has called John D'Agata the "single-handed, shrewd champion" of the lyric essay—a relatively new category of writing, examples of which D'Agata lashed together in 2003's The Next American Essay. This time, he takes the reader back 5,000 years to the mysterious Ziusudra of Sumer, then makes his way from essays by Heraclitus, Sei Shonagon, and Sir Francis Bacon to Fernando Pessoa, Octavio Paz, and Marguerite Duras. D'Agata's own gemlike segues give this massive collection a swift, narrative feel. Graywolf Press, 650 pp., $20

Nog
By Rudolph Wurlitzer, August

"Nog is to literature what Dylan is to lyrics," wrote The Village Voice's Jack Newfield in 1968. Pynchon hailed it as a "sign that the Novel of Bullshit is dead and some kind of re-enlightenment is beginning to arrive." Nog—part quest novel, part Western, part artifact of late-'60s acid culture—pushes the boundaries of selfhood in a highly readable and often hilarious way. (Interesting factoid: Wurlitzer's unpublished screenplay Zebulon inspired Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man.) Two Dollar Radio, 141 pp., $15.50

The Skating Rink
By Roberto Bolaño, translated by Chris Andrews, August

Dios mío, another Bolaño novel. And this isn't the last: New Directions has six more books in the chamber (the next of which is titled Monsieur Pain). The Skating Rink's setup is similar to that of The Savage Detectives: Three alternating male narrators—loosely affiliated with Mexico City's underground poetry scene, naturally—report on the tumultuous activities of Nuria Martí, a beautiful and elusive figure-skating champion. Passion, mystery, seedy bars, and Bolaño's Olympian irony are here, as always. New Directions, 208 pp., $21.95

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