Daniel Alarcon's first book, the story collection "War by Candlelight," was the kind of debut young writers dream about. Praised in newspapers nationwide, the book was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award and established Alarcon as a writer to watch. With the upcoming publication of his first novel, "Lost City Radio," in February, Alarcon seems poised to leap to the forefront of a new generation of authors for whom fiction is less a matter of interior pursuits than a way to be engaged. Taking place in an unnamed Latin American country in the aftermath of an extended civil war, "Lost City Radio" revolves around a radio host and her quest to find her long-lost husband. Alarcon, who lives in Oakland and is the distinguished visiting writer at Mills College, has crafted a novel about what happens when we go missing, individually and as a culture, and what, if anything, we can do to be found.
Miranda July seems to be everywhere. In 2005, she wrote, directed and starred in the feature film "Me and You and Everyone We Know," an odd and angular drama about love and longing in Los Angeles, and her stories have appeared in the Paris Review, Harper's and the New Yorker. In May, her first collection of short fiction, "No One Belongs Here More Than You," will be published. For July, storytelling is a self-conscious process but no less essential for being so. In these pieces, she reveals her tricks even as she performs them, speaking directly to her readers, stopping and starting narratives in the middle but somehow never losing sight of the bigger picture: the desire for connection that propels her work.
Almost 15 years ago, British critic Jon Savage wrote the definitive history of punk rock with the monumental "England's Dreaming." In April, he will return with "Teenage: The Creation of Youth Culture," which reaches to the 1890s to trace the roots of adolescence as a social movement rather than a stage of life. Savage is a masterful researcher and writer, and he makes startling connections, writing about topics as diverse as Anne Frank, Peter Pan and Los Angeles' zoot suit riots. Perhaps most interesting, he ends his book in 1945, which he calls "Year Zero," a self-conscious echo of the punk epoch he chronicled with such depth.
-- DAVID L. ULIN