The story of a plantation during and after the Civil War, this is a corollary and corrective to the many plantation stories before it that unjustly focused on white slave-owners instead of the enslaved. Conjure Women is a necessary reckoning and a welcome addition to the canon of southern gothic lit.
Absolute fire. Keenly observed, incredibly astute, and certain to be controversial, this will be a book club staple for groups that want a delicious and provocative read. Is it even better than American Wife? Without question, yes, because this isn’t simply an emotional, well-told novelization of a public figure. This is a high stakes story of an America that might have been.
It is shocking to me that what sounded like a cheesy romance -- Midwestern widow has affair with Hollywood movie star -- is actually so, so smart! Liz Kay has done the impossible. Every bit of Monsters: A Love Story feels real and right, from Omaha to Hollywood. I plan to recommend it to anyone looking for a sharp, literate pageturner that just happens to have a rom-com plot. Love, love, love.
I read all of Fierce Kingdom with my heart in my throat, but it isn't simply a perfect thriller; it's also a beautifully written, entirely realistic meditation on motherhood. I dare anyone to read it in more than one sitting.
I haven't loved a collection of short stories this much since Lorrie Moore's Birds of America! Sittenfeld's characters might not always be likable, and their circumstances might not always be pleasant, but every detail feels specific, authentic, and fully recognizable. You Think It, I'll Say It establishes Curtis Sittenfeld as not just a writer of bestselling novels, but a master of the short form as well.
Marvelous from start to finish! January is a successful romance writer who’s lost her belief in love. Gus is a literary fiction wunderkind, struggling through the next great American white boy novel. They both have writer’s block, they used to be college rivals, and now they’re next door neighbors as well. Yeah, yeah, yeah, you know where it’s going... but getting there is a total delight. The tension is palpable, the banter is perfect, and the observations about literary versus genre fiction will thrill savvy readers of both. All the stars for a novel that’s perfect for the beach, an airplane, or anywhere you can steal a moment, because once you start reading you won’t want to stop.
Maybe you have a picture of Stephanie Danler in your head — an author photo from Sweetbitter, perhaps, or a beautiful shot from her Instagram. Her gorgeous exterior and current success belie a lonely childhood ravaged by her parents’ addictions. As the title suggests, Danler was left mainly to raise herself, making her initial success and ability to write such an honest memoir all the more remarkable. Stray is a marvelous sophomore effort, brimming with both vulnerability and grit.
In Megha Majumdar’s powerful debut, a casual Facebook comment in the wake of a terrorist attack leads to dire consequences for a young Indian girl. Utterly readable and completely unforgettable, A Burning is a novel of modern India that should be required reading for anyone who seeks a greater understanding of the world.
Has there ever been a more wonderful cover?! I’m happy to say that Sad Janet is worthy of this perfect dog in a turtleneck. Janet works at a dog rescue, avoids her parents, and has just broken up with her boyfriend. She’s depressed, refuses medication, and dreads the upcoming holidays. What next? Fans of Ottessa Moshfegh and Kimberly King Parsons won’t be able to put this one down. I sure couldn’t.
A singular debut with unforgettable characters — quirky, original, and affecting. I’ll think of Pizza Girl every time I have a slice.
In Sam Lansky’s memoir, the reader followed him through an adolescence of life-threatening addiction and into recovery. In Lansky’s first novel, the reader follows a late-twenties protagonist (also named Sam, also a writer/editor, also sober) through his relationships, break-ups, and career successes; from Manhattan to the Hamptons to Los Angeles; and — despite the fanciful trappings of a glamorous life — through a deep, crippling depression. What if, as Sam hears from an acquaintance, a shaman could solve our self-sabotage and heal the brokenness within us, all over the course of a weekend retreat? It seems too woo-woo for words, too LA, too unlikely... but what if? Here is a book about feeling empty even when one is surrounded by beautiful things; about feeling lonely even when one is madly in love; about feeling sad even when one is objectively successful. It is at once a uniquely LA story (Hollywood parties! The entertainment industry! Ayuhuasca!) and yet entirely universal. It entertains with brand names and pop culture references, but moves the reader deeply with its universal truths about connection and hope. I don’t know if narrator Sam and author Sam have as many similarities as it seems, but I love them both, with great tenderness, as a result of the beautiful vulnerability of Broken People.
I can't recommend A Star is Bored highly enough, especially if you are drawn to Hollywood stories (I sure am) or were a fan of Carrie Fisher (who wasn't?) or just want a page turner that is both hilarious and incredibly moving (don't we all?!). Although it's based on Byron Lane's time as Carrie Fisher's personal assistant, it's not a tell-all, and it's not gossipy. It's funny and tender and loving and so, so special.
Smart, compelling, and satisfying -- a perfect book club book about the myriad "what ifs" and different paths our lives might take. Written from the different perspectives of a long-married surgeon, her scientist husband, a young woman grieving the loss of her mother, and a brilliant academic at home with her baby, If, Then is the rare multiverse story that feels utterly real and believable in every scenario. Bonus: it also happens to feature the most realistic portrayal of new motherhood that I've ever read. Fans of Karen Thompson Walker, Celeste Ng, and Jennifer Egan should take note of Kate Hope Day's auspicious debut.
New York City in the 1990s has never felt as alive as it does on the pages of Dana Czapnik's The Falconer. In Lucy Adler we find a teen heroine who is wry, sharp, a force on and off the basketball court, in love with her best friend, and gradually exploring the dusky art scene via her cousin Violet. Lucy's voice is as unforgettable as the rest of the novel, and marks the emergence of a grand new talent in Dana Czapnik.
Part parenting memoir, part sociology text, compulsively readable, and entirely wise -- Small Animals is a welcome antidote to the barrage of competition and anxiety facing parents today. Read this alongside And Now We Have Everything by Meaghan O'Connell; give it as a baby shower present; pass it along to all your friends. The only thing that could make me want another infant is the opportunity to do it all over again with Kim Brooks' wisdom by my side.
Is this the memoir of a pampered daughter -- a horse-riding Florida prep school princess -- or is this the memoir of a neglected Chinese-Hawaiian girl struggling to raise herself amidst her parents' alcoholism, addiction, and domestic turmoil? Is this a child's perspective on the criminal excess of the Wolf of Wall Street's Jordan Belfort, and those in his orbit? Is this a rape survivor's coming of age? T Kira Madden's memoir is all of the above, as well as a stunning meditation on identity, adolescence, family, and forgiveness. Readers are rewarded with a climax as moving as the exceptional first chapter. This debut is fierce and unforgettable.
Where to start with the luminous, surprising, thoroughly entrancing Lights All Night Long? Lydia Fitzpatrick's debut stuns from the first sentence, when 15-year-old Russian exchange student Ilya arrives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and notes that the airport smells like toothpaste. Ilya struggles to make sense of his new home in suburban, evangelical America and grapples with the Russia he left behind -- specifically, the murky adolescence that saw his brother Vladimir descend into drugs and, allegedly, murder. Country and family, love and loyalty, addiction and violence, plus pure teenage coming-of-age: you won't read anything else like this all year.
I read this memoir in one marvelous sitting, alone on a plane. It's brilliant, devastating, and I'll never forget it.
Want more suburban family drama after Little Fires Everywhere? Ask Again Yes is even better.
I think this is Ann Patchett's best and yes, that includes Bel Canto! The best sibling saga I've read in ages.
Ocean Vuong's first novel is a stunning achievement -- raw, tender, and unforgettable. Little Dog's story is written as a letter to his mother who cannot read, as he examines his identity as a son, a child of Vietnam, a queer adolescent, a witness to addiction. Every single page is as beautiful as its title.