Books are important to society, any society. To engage with the printed word, the hallmark of fact and knowledge, is necessary now more than ever. We don’t know how you feel about the recent presidential election, but one outcome for us is a re-entrenchment of our belief in fiction as the most powerful method to experience what it’s like to live in someone else’s shoes—and such an experience is vital to citizenship, compassion, and a healthy society.
We’ve never been so encouraged and inspired to be a part of a group—which includes you, Rooster reader—that says, Truth matters. Art matters. Books matter.
And so here is a superlong, certainly arbitrary, too-much-pored-upon list of 120 books that we feel represents some of the finest—if not the finest—works of fiction published in English (mostly in the United States) in 2016.
Usual caveats apply: We know we screwed up. Certain beloved titles got missed, and certain beloved titles we found mediocre. Our picks derive from our own reading and that of our friends, and also from TMN readers. From award lists, newspaper picks, and random books that showed up in the mail from indie presses. We listened to the staff of Powells.com, our marvelous book sponsor, and the staff of many wonderful bookstores nationwide. Plus a random bartender on Sunset Blvd., a woman in a New York subway, and multiple mothers-in-law.
So here’s the deal. Please support Field Notes, our presenting sponsor—check out all the goodies that’d make great gifts for yourself and others! And please support Powell’s, our books sponsor, by following the links on any of the books below and buying a couple treats.
Enjoy the list, and we’ll see you with the final shortlist soon. Plus contests! Judge lists! Other new things! It’s going to be great. Happy holidays.
Power-listers, perhaps you’d like a spreadsheet of the full list? We get a cut from purchases made through the list links. Book descriptions are excerpted from publishers’ summaries and edited for length.
The Kindness of Enemies by Leila Aboulela
Natasha, a half-Russian, half-Sudanese professor of history, is researching the life of Imam Shamil, the 19th-century Muslim leader who led the anti-Russian resistance in the Caucasian War. When Natasha discovers her star student, Oz, is descended from the warrior—and possesses Shamil’s priceless sword—the Imam’s story comes vividly to life. As their relationship intensifies, Natasha confronts issues she had long avoided: her Muslim heritage. When Oz is suddenly arrested, Natasha realizes everything she values stands in jeopardy.
Rich and Pretty by Rumaan Alam
Sarah works at a charity and is planning her wedding. Lauren is single and working in publishing, deflecting her parents’ worries about her life. Each woman envies—and is horrified by—aspects of the other’s life. Once they were inseparable; for a long a time now, they’ve been apart. Can two women who rarely see each other, selectively share secrets, and lead different lives still be best friends? Is it their abiding connection—or just force of habit?
The Daredevils by Gary Amdahl
A 12-year-old boy from a wealthy San Francisco family watches his city disappear in the earthquake and fires of 1906. As he grows up, he learns politics is meta-acting, and he and his girlfriend—a Connecticut mill girl on the verge of national recognition as a spokesperson for workers—embark on a speaking tour with an anti-railroad, pro-farmer group and take their political, philosophical, and artistic ethos to the farthest limits of the real and the unreal, where they find there is no useful distinction between the two.
Enchanted Islands by Allison Amend
Frances works as a secretary for the Office of Naval Intelligence. There she is introduced to Ainslie Conway, an intelligence operator. When it’s arranged for Frances and Ainslie to marry and carry out a mission on the Galápagos Islands, the couple’s identities—already hidden from each other—are further buried. Inspired by the midcentury memoirs of Frances Conway, this is the story of an independent American woman at the brink of World War II.
The Bones of Grace by Tahmima Anam
When a twist of fate sends Zubaida Haque from Boston back to her hometown in Bangladesh, society compels her to marry her childhood friend and settle into a traditional life. While her family is pleased, Zubaida seethes with discontent. Desperate, she moves to Chittagong to work on a documentary about the beaches where ships are destroyed. As she witnesses a ship being torn down, Zubaida, torn between social mores, will make a choice from which she can never turn back.
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
Childhood friends Patricia and Laurence didn’t expect to see each other after parting ways under mysterious circumstances in middle school. Now they’re adults, and the planet is falling apart. Laurence is an engineer working to avert catastrophic breakdown. Patricia is a graduate of a hidden academy for the world’s magically gifted, and works to repair the world’s growing ailments. Little do they realize something bigger than them is determined to bring them together—to save the world, or plunge it into a new dark ages.
The Never-Open Desert Diner by James Anderson
Ben Jones lives a life of relative solitude, working in one of the most beautiful and desolate areas of the Utah desert, a haven for those looking to hide from the world. But when he meets Claire, he is drawn into a love affair that has serious and life-threatening consequences not only for them both, but for others who have made this desert their sanctuary. Ultimately their passion reignites a decades-old tragedy at a roadside café referred to by the locals as The Never-Open Desert Diner.
Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood
Felix was at the top of his game as artistic director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival. After an act of unforeseen treachery, Felix is exiled, haunted by memories of his beloved lost daughter. And brewing revenge, which finally arrives in the shape of a theater course at a nearby prison, where Felix and his inmate actors will put on a Tempest and snare the traitors who destroyed him. But will it remake Felix as his enemies fall?
Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty by Ramona Ausubel
Labor Day, 1976. Summering at Martha’s Vineyard, Fern and Edgar—married with three children—suddenly learn: There is no more money. The once-charmed family quickly unravels. Distressed, Fern and Edgar are tempted away on separate adventures: she on a trip with a stranger, he on a sailing voyage with another woman. The children are left for days with no guardian, in an improvised Neverland helmed by Cricket, age nine.
13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad
Growing up in suburban hell, Lizzie has never liked the way she looks. She starts dating guys online, but she’s afraid to send pictures: She knows no one would want her if they could really see her. She grows up and gets thin, navigating double-edged validation from her mother, her friends, her husband, her reflection in the mirror. But no matter how much she loses, will she ever see herself as anything other than a fat girl?
The Throwback Special by Chris Bachelder
Twenty-two men gather every fall to painstakingly reenact the November 1985 play in which Joe Theismann had his leg horribly broken live on Monday Night Football. Over the course of a weekend, these fans reveal their secret hopes, fears, and passions as they choose roles, spend a long night of the soul preparing for the play, and finally enact their bizarre ritual for what may be the last time.
How to Set a Fire and Why by Jesse Ball
Lucia’s father is dead, her mother is in a mental hospital, and now she’s been kicked out of school—again. She spends her days riding the bus to visit her mother and following the only rule that makes any sense to her: Don’t do things you aren’t proud of. But when she discovers her new school has a secret Arson Club, her story becomes one of misguided friendship and, ultimately, destruction.
The Life of Elves by Muriel Barbery
The harmony between living beings turns to discord, and an epic battle between forces is being waged on Earth and in the mysterious land of mist, where the elves dwell. But humankind cannot hope to win this battle alone. Victory depends on help from the inhabitants of a world hidden from human sight. Hope rests with Maria and Clara, two girls whose prodigious artistic talents and deep connections with nature make communion with the numinous realm possible.
Rush Oh! by Shirley Barrett
1908: After her mother’s death, 19-year-old Mary Davidson is tasked with providing support to her father’s whaling crews while caring for her siblings. Her world is upended when the handsome John Beck arrives, pleading to join the crews. As her family struggles to survive, and as she navigates sibling rivalries and a consuming love for John, Mary discovers a darker side to these men who hunt the seas, and the truth of her place among them.
Yiddish for Pirates by Gary Barwin
Set in the years around 1492, Moishe leaves home to join a ship’s crew, where he meets Aaron, a parrot who becomes his companion. But Inquisition Spain is a dangerous time to be Jewish, and Moishe joins a band of Jews trying to preserve some forbidden books. When all Jews are expelled from Spain, Moishe travels to the Caribbean, becomes a pirate, and seeks revenge on the Spanish while seeking the ultimate booty: the Fountain of Youth.
The Mothers by Brit Bennett
Mourning her mother’s recent suicide, 17-year-old Nadia takes up with Luke, 21, a former football star. The pregnancy that results—and the subsequent cover-up—have an impact that goes far beyond youth. As Nadia hides her secret from everyone, including her best friend Aubrey, the years move quickly. Soon, the three are adults, living in debt to their choices that summer, and dogged by the question: What if they had chosen differently?
Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett
Living a mostly solitary existence on the outskirts of a small coastal village, an unnamed young woman experiences the details of daily life—the best ways of eating porridge or recollecting an encounter with a cluster of cows—all suffused with the almost synesthetic intensity of the physical world as we remember it from childhood.
Peacekeeping by Mischa Berlinski
When failed politician and former deputy sheriff Terry White goes broke, he takes a job at the UN and is sent to a remote Haitian town. There, Terry is swept up in local politics and befriends an earnest judge, who he convinces to oppose the corrupt Sénateur Maxim Bayard in an upcoming election. When Terry falls in love with the judge’s wife, the electoral drama threatens to become a disaster.
Orphans of the Carnival by Carol Birch
Julia Pastrana stood apart from the other carnival acts. Fluent in English, French, and Spanish, an accomplished musician—but all anyone noticed was her utterly unusual face. A shaman gives her a potion and says she’ll find a man within the year. Sure enough, Julia soon meets a charming showman who catapults Julia onto the global stage. As they travel the world, the two fall into an easy intimacy, but the question of whether he truly cares for her or if his management is just a gentler form of exploitation lingers heavily.
Tell the Wind and Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan
Lucie Manette was born in the Dark half of the city, but careful manipulations won her a home in the Light, celebrity status, and a rich, loving boyfriend. Now she just wants to keep her head down, but her boyfriend has a dark secret of his own—one involving an apparent stranger who is destitute and despised. Lucie alone knows the young men’s deadly connection, and even as the knowledge leads her to make a grave mistake, she can trust no one with the truth.
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Good on Paper by Rachel Cantor
Shira’s life hasn’t turned out as planned. Her Ph.D. on Dante hasn’t gotten her a job, and her career as a translator hasn’t taken off. Then she gets a call from an Italian poet who insists she’s the only one who can translate his newest book. Stunned, Shira realizes that—just like that—her life can change. There’s only one problem: It all hinges on the translation, and as Shira starts working on the book’s intricate passages, she realizes it may in fact be impossible to translate.
Moonglow by Michael Chabon
A speculative history that attempts to reconstruct the mysterious origins and fate of Chabon Scientific Co., an authentic mail-order novelty company whose ads for scale models of human skeletons, combustion engines, and space rockets were once a fixture in the back pages of Esquire, Popular Mechanics, and Boy’s Life. It is a tale of, above all, the destructive impact—and the creative power—of the keeping of secrets and the telling of lies.
The Wangs vs. the World by Jade Chang
Immigrant businessman Charles Wang built a cosmetics empire and made a fortune. Now he’s been ruined by the financial crisis. He pulls his children out of schools he can no longer afford, and together with their stepmother, Barbra, they depart their foreclosed Bel-Air home to the upstate New York hideout of his eldest daughter. But Charles may have to choose between keeping his family intact and finally fulfilling his dream of starting anew in China.
The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee
Lilliet Berne is a sensation of the Paris Opera, a legendary soprano with every accolade except an original role, every singer’s chance at immortality. When one is finally offered to her, she realizes with alarm that the libretto is based on a hidden piece of her past. Only four could have betrayed her: one is dead, one loves her, one wants to own her. And one, she hopes, never thinks of her at all.
And Again by Jessica Chiarella
Four terminally ill patients have been selected for the SUBlife pilot program, granting them new, genetically perfect copies of their former bodies. But the fresh start they’ve been given is anything but perfect. Without their old bodies, their new physical identities are lost. As each tries to re-enter their previous lives, they are faced with the question: How much of your identity rests not just in your mind, but in your heart, your body?
The Girls by Emma Cline
Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. A lonely teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and its charismatic leader. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence.
Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn
At an opulent resort in Montego Bay, Margot hustles to send her younger sister, Thandi, to school. Taught as a girl to trade her sexuality for survival, Margot is ruthlessly determined to shield Thandi from the same fate. When plans for a new hotel threaten their village, Margot sees not only an opportunity for her own financial independence but also perhaps a chance to admit a shocking secret: her forbidden love for another woman.
The Red Car by Marcy Dermansky
Leah’s friend Judy has died in a car accident and left Leah her most prized possession: the red sports car she died in. Leah takes off for San Francisco to claim the car, and in sprawling days defined by sex, sorrow, and unexpected delight, Leah revisits past lives and loves in search of a self she abandoned long ago. Piercing through Leah’s surreal haze is the enigmatic voice of Judy, as sharp as ever, commenting on Leah’s every move.
The Wonder by Emma Donoghue
Tourists flock to a small Irish village, to the cabin of 11-year-old Anna O’Donnell, who believes herself to be living off manna from heaven, and a journalist is sent to cover the sensation. Hired to keep watch over the girl, Lib Wright, a veteran of Florence Nightingale’s Crimean campaign, soon finds herself fighting to save the child’s life.
Froelich’s Ladder by Jamie Duclos-Yourdon
When Froelich disappears from the fourth-tallest ladder in the world, his nephew’s quest to find him interlaces with the journeys of two spunky young women who outwit their guardians. In a Wild West populated with immigrants, skittish Civil War veterans, hungry clouds, a circus menagerie, and a few murderers, this fairy-tale twist on the American dream explores the conflict between loyalty and ambition, and the need for connection, even at the highest rungs.
Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton
Margaret Cavendish, the unconventional 17th-century duchess, wrote and published volumes of poems, philosophy, feminist plays, and utopian science fiction at a time when “being a writer” was not an option for women. Her work earned her fame and infamy in England: She was “Mad Madge,” an original tabloid celebrity. Yet Margaret was also the first woman to be invited to the Royal Society of London—a mainstay of the Scientific Revolution—and the last for another 200 years.
American Housewife by Helen Ellis
The American housewives wear lipstick, pearls, and sunscreen, even when it’s cloudy. They casserole. They pinwheel. And they kill a party crasher, carefully stepping around the body to pull cookies out of the oven. These stories take us from a haunted prewar Manhattan apartment building to the set of a rigged reality television show, from the unique initiation ritual of a book club to the getaway car of a pageant princess on the lam.
Sudden Death by Álvaro Enrigue
In a brutal tennis match that could decide the fate of the world, the painter Caravaggio and the poet Quevedo battle it out. In England, Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII behead Anne Boleyn, and her crafty executioner transforms her legendary locks into the most sought-after tennis balls of the time. And in a remote Mexican colony a bishop reads Thomas More’s Utopia and thinks that instead of a parody, it’s a manual.
LaRose by Louise Erdrich
After Landreaux Iron accidentally shoots five-year-old Dusty Raviche—the best friend of LaRose, his own five-year-old son—he and his wife follow an ancient means of retribution, giving LaRose to their grieving friends: “Our son will be your son now.” As the years pass, LaRose becomes the linchpin linking the Irons and the Raviches. But when a vengeful man with a grudge against Landreaux begins hurling accusations of a cover-up the day Dusty died, he threatens the tenuous peace that has kept the families whole.
Mississippi Noir by Tom Franklin
From the introduction by Tom Franklin: “Welcome to Mississippi, where a recent poll shows we have the most corrupt government in the United States. Where we are first in infant mortality, childhood obesity, childhood diabetes, teenage pregnancy, adult obesity, adult diabetes. We also have the highest poverty rate in the country. And, curiously, the highest concentration of kick-ass writers in the country too…I could go on, and in fact I do, in this very anthology…Welcome to the bottom.”
Youngblood by Matt Gallagher
The US military is preparing to withdraw from Iraq, and newly minted lieutenant Jack Porter struggles to accept how it’s happening—through alliances with warlords who have Arab and American blood on their hands. Day after day, Jack tries to assert his leadership in the sweltering, dreary atmosphere of Ashuriyah. But his world is disrupted by the arrival of veteran Sergeant Daniel Chambers, whose aggressive style threatens to undermine the fragile peace the troops have worked hard to establish.
Night Prayers by Santiago Gamboa
Juana promised to do everything to protect her brother Manuel. In order to take him far from the violent streets of Bogotá, she works as a high-priced escort. When things spin out of control, she’s forced to flee, leaving her beloved brother behind. Their story reaches the ears of the Colombian counsel general in New Delhi, who takes it upon himself to reunite the two siblings—a feat that may be beyond his power.
The Book of Memory by Petina Gappah
Memory is an albino woman languishing in Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison in Harare, Zimbabwe, where she has been convicted of murder. As part of her appeal, her lawyer insists that she write down what happened as she remembers it. As her story unfolds, Memory reveals that she has been tried and convicted for the murder of Lloyd Hendricks, her adopted father. But who was Lloyd Hendricks? Why does Memory feel no remorse for his death? And did everything happen exactly as she remembers?
The Lightkeepers by Abby Geni
Miranda is a photographer who travels to an archipelago off California. Her only companions are the scientists studying there, quirky refugees from the mainland. Shortly after her arrival, Miranda is assaulted by one of the island inhabitants. A few days later, her assailant is found dead. As she grapples with what has happened to her, Miranda falls under the thrall of the legends of the place nicknamed “the Islands of the Dead.” And when more violence occurs, each member of this strange community falls under suspicion.
The Regional Office Is Under Attack! by Manuel Gonzales
One organization—The Regional Office—and its female assassins protects the globe from annihilation. A prophecy suggests someone from inside might bring about its downfall. And now, the Regional Office is under attack. Rose is a young assassin leading the attack, eager to prove herself on her first mission. Defending the Regional Office is Sarah, fiercely devoted to the organization that took her in. On the day of the attack, Rose and Sarah’s lives collide, and the world as they know it just might end.
We Love You, Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge
The Freemans have been invited to rural Massachusetts to take part in an experiment: Live in an apartment with Charlie, a young chimp, teach him sign language, and welcome him into their family. Isolated in their new, nearly all-white community by race and their strange living situation, the Freemans come undone. When one of them discovers the history of the institute’s questionable studies, the secrets of the past begin to invade the present.
What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell
On a warm autumn day, an American teacher enters a public bathroom beneath Sofia’s National Palace of Culture. There he meets Mitko, a charismatic young hustler, and pays him for sex. He returns to Mitko again and again over the next few months, drawn by hunger and loneliness and risk, and finds himself ensnared in a relationship in which lust leads to mutual predation, and tenderness can transform into violence.
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Effia and Esi are born into different villages in 18th-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, Esi is imprisoned in the castle’s dungeons, sold into the Gold Coast’s slave trade, and shipped off to America. Over the next two centuries, their descendents alternately struggle: between the slave trade and British colonization in Africa, and from the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of 20th-century Harlem, to the present day.
Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett
When Margaret’s fiancé, John, is hospitalized for depression in 1960s London, she faces a choice: carry on with their plans, or back away from the suffering it may bring. She decides to marry him. From this act of love and faith, their eldest son, Michael, a brilliant, anxious music fanatic, makes sense of the world through parody. Over the span of decades, his younger siblings struggle along with their mother to care for Michael’s increasingly troubled and precarious existence.
Monterey Bay by Lindsay Hatton
In 1940, 15 year-old Margot Fiske arrives on the shores of Monterey Bay. John Steinbeck is hiding out from his burgeoning fame at the lab of Ed Ricketts, who quickly becomes the object of Margot’s fascination. She wrangles a job as Ricketts’s sketch artist and begins drawing the strange and wonderful sea creatures he pulls from the bay. When Margot begins an affair with Ricketts, she sets in motion a chain of events that will affect not just the two of them, but the future of Monterey as well.
Before the Fall by Noah Hawley
En route to New York, a private jet filled mostly with privileged passengers, plunges into the ocean. The only survivors: a down-on-his-luck painter and a four-year-old who is now the sole member of a wealthy family. In the aftermath, coincidences point to a conspiracy. Was it merely chance so many influential people perished? Or was something more sinister at work? Events soon threaten to spiral out of control in a storm of media outrage and accusations.
War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans
The life of Urbain Martien—artist, soldier, survivor of World War I—lies contained in two notebooks he left behind when he died in 1981. His grandson, a writer, retells his grandfather’s story, the notebooks revealing Urbain’s life: Urbain as the child of a lowly church painter, retouching his father’s work; fighting in the war that altered the course of history; marrying the sister of the woman he truly loved; being haunted by an ever-present reminder of the artist he had hoped to be and the soldier he was forced to become.
The Fireman by Joe Hill
A plague is spreading across the country: Dragonscale marks its hosts with black and gold marks—before they burst into flames. Harper Grayson and her husband are expecting a child—now she’s showing the telltale marks. Her husband leaves, as chaos gives rise to vigilantes exterminating those they believe carry the contagion. But Harper isn’t as alone as she fears: A stranger, known as the Fireman, strolls the ruins, a madman with Dragonscale who has learned to control the fire within himself.
The Nix by Nathan Hill
Samuel Andresen-Anderson—college professor, stalled writer—has a Nix of his own: his mother, Faye. He hasn’t seen her in decades, not since she left when he was a boy. Now she’s back, having committed an absurd crime that electrifies the nightly news, the internet, and a politically divided country. The media paints Faye as a radical hippie with a sordid past, but as far as Samuel knows, his mother was an ordinary girl who married her high-school sweetheart. Which version of his mother is true? Two facts are certain: She’s facing some serious charges, and she needs Samuel’s help.
Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt
Ruth and Nat are orphans, packed into a house full of abandoned children run by a religious fanatic. To entertain their siblings, they channel the dead. Decades later, Ruth’s niece, Cora, finds herself accidentally pregnant. After years of absence, Aunt Ruth appears, mute and full of intention. She is on a mysterious mission, leading Cora on an odyssey across the entire state of New York on foot. Where is Ruth taking them? Where has she been? And who—or what—has she hidden in the woods at the end of the road?
To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey
In the winter of 1885, Col. Allen Forrester leads a small group on an impossible expedition into the untamed Alaska Territory. Meanwhile, on her own at the barracks, his pregnant wife Sophie yearns to travel alongside her husband. She does not know the winter will require as much of her as it does her husband. The truths each will discover over the course of that fateful year change their lives—and the lives of those who hear their stories long after they’re gone.
The Vegetarian by Han Kang
Yeong-hye and her husband had lived an ordinary life, but when splintering, graphic images start haunting her thoughts, she decides to purge her mind and renounce eating meat. In a country where societal mores are strictly obeyed, Yeong-hye’s decision to embrace a more “plant-like” existence is a shocking act of subversion. Her now-dangerous endeavor will take Yeong-hye—impossibly, ecstatically, tragically—far from her once-known self altogether.
Dirt Road by James Kelman
After his mother’s death, 16-year-old Murdo and his father travel from rural Scotland to visit his aunt and uncle in Alabama. On their way from the airport, Murdo joins a family playing zydeco music, leaving with a gift of two CDs of southern American songs. “Ye meet people and they have lives, but ye don’t,” thinks Murdo. While at their relatives’ house, the grieving father and son share no words of comfort, Murdo losing himself in music while his reticent and protective dad escapes through books.
Sheriff of Babylon Vol. 1: Bang. Bang. Bang. by Tom King
Baghdad, 2003. The reign of Saddam Hussein is over. The Americans are in command. And no one is in control. Cop turned military contractor Christopher Henry knows that better than anyone. He’s here to train up a new Iraqi police force, and one of his recruits has just been murdered. With civil authority in tatters and dead bodies clogging the streets, Chris is the only person in the Green Zone with any interest in finding out who killed him—and why.
I Hate the Internet by Jarett Kobek
What if you told the truth and the whole world heard you? What if you lived in a country swamped with internet outrage? What if you were a woman in a society that hated women? In 2013 San Francisco, as billions of tweets fuel the city’s gentrification and the human wreckage piles up, a group of friends suffers the consequences of being useless in a new world that despises the pointless and unprofitable.
The Sleep Garden by Jim Krusoe
In an underground apartment building called “the Burrow,” “twilight souls” inhabit the space between life and death. Interwoven with their stories are those of inhabitants of the living world: a retired sea captain, a psychotic former child actor, and the technicians who monitor the Burrow, making sure its occupants have a constant supply of oxygen and food.
High Dive by Jonathan Lee
In September 1984, a bomb was planted at the Grand Hotel in the seaside town of Brighton, England, set to explode in 24 days when the British prime minister would be staying there. Over the next four weeks, as the PM’s arrival draws closer, three lives will be transformed: Dan, a young IRA explosives expert; Moose, a former star athlete, now the deputy hotel manager; and Freya, his teenage daughter.
Breaking Wild by Diane Les Becquets
Driven to spend days alone in the wilderness, Amy Raye Latour, mother of two, is compelled by the quiet and the rush of nature. But this time, her venture into a remote area leaves her on the verge of the precarious edge that she’s flirted with her entire life. When Amy Raye doesn’t return to camp, ranger Pru Hathaway and her dog respond to the missing person call.
A Gambler’s Anatomy by Jonathan Lethem
Bruno Alexander travels the world winning large sums of money from amateurs who think they can challenge his acumen at backgammon. Fronted by his manager, Bruno arrives in Berlin after a troubling run of bad luck in Singapore. Perhaps it was the chance encounter with his crass childhood acquaintance Keith and his smoldering girlfriend Tira. Or perhaps it was the emergence of a blot that distorts his vision so he has to look at the board sideways.
Each Vagabond by Name by Margo Orlando Littell
When a group of travelers descends on a sleepy town, Zaccariah Ramsy, owner of the local bar, finds himself drawn into their world. Meanwhile, Stella Vale, Ramsy’s former love, believes her long-lost daughter might be among those who begin to rob townspeople’s homes. As tensions between the residents and newcomers rise, Stella and Ramsy must decide whether they will remain isolated from the world―or reach for new possibilities.
The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan
Three schoolboys are at the Delhi marketplace when a bomb goes off. One, Mansoor, survives, bearing the physical and psychological effects of the bomb. After a brief stint at university in America, Mansoor returns to Delhi, where his life becomes entangled with the mysterious and charismatic Ayub, a fearless activist whose own allegiances and beliefs are more malleable than Mansoor could imagine.
Cities I’ve Never Lived In by Sara Majka
A young New England woman must begin her life afresh after a divorce. Traveling the roads of Maine and the train tracks of Grand Central Station, moving from vast shorelines to the unmade beds of strangers, she turns to storytelling as a means of working through the world and understanding herself.
Thus Bad Begins by Javier Marías
Juan de Vere, nearly finished with his university degree, takes a job as personal assistant to Eduardo Muriel, a once-successful film director—and an irresistible idol to the young man. On the periphery of their lives is Dr. Jorge Van Vechten, a family friend implicated in unsavory rumors that Muriel now asks Juan to investigate. As Juan draws closer to the truth, he uncovers only more questions.
The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel
In Lisbon in 1904, a young man named Tomás discovers an old journal that hints at the existence of an artifact that would redefine history; he sets out in search of it. Thirty-five years later, a Portuguese pathologist finds himself drawn into the consequences of Tomás’s quest. Fifty years on, a Canadian senator takes refuge in his ancestral village in northern Portugal, where the century-old quest will come to an unexpected conclusion.
Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
In 2007, Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant, lands a job as a chauffeur for a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. Jende hopes the new job will enable him, his wife, and his young son to live a better life in America. Then, with the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers, a tragedy changes all their lives forever, and the Jongas must decide whether to continue fighting to stay in a recession-ravaged America or give up and return home to Cameroon.
The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride
Upon her arrival in London, an 18-year-old Irish girl begins anew as a drama student, with all the hopes of any young actress searching for the fame she’s always dreamed of. She struggles to fit in, but soon she forges friendships and finds a place for herself in the big city. Then she meets an established actor, 20 years older, and the clamorous relationship that ensues is one that will change her forever.
The North Water by Ian McGuire
Brutal and bloodthirsty, Henry Drax is a harpooner on a Yorkshire whaler bound for the Arctic. Also aboard for the first time is Patrick Sumner, an ex-army surgeon with a shattered reputation. In India, Sumner thought he had experienced the depths to which a man can stoop, but now, trapped in the belly of the ship with Drax, he encounters pure evil. As the true purposes of the expedition become clearer, the confrontation between the two men plays out amid the freezing darkness of an arctic winter.
The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney
Ireland, post-crash. Ryan is a 15-year-old drug dealer desperate not to turn out like his alcoholic father. Georgie is a prostitute whose willingness to feign a religious conversion has dangerous repercussions. Maureen has returned to Cork after 40 years in exile to discover the son she was forced to give up years ago has grown into the most fearsome gangster in the city. Seeking atonement, Maureen threatens to destroy everything her son has worked for.
Hystopia by David Means
At the bitter end of the 1960s, President John F. Kennedy is entering his third term in office. The Vietnam War rages on, and the president has created a vast federal agency, the Psych Corps, dedicated to maintaining the nation’s mental hygiene by any means necessary. Soldiers returning from the war have their battlefield traumas “enfolded”—wiped from their memories through drugs and therapy—while veterans too damaged to be enfolded roam at will in Michigan, evading the government and reenacting atrocities on civilians.
The Last Days of New Paris by China Miéville
In the chaos of 1941 Marseille, an American engineer—and occult disciple—unwittingly unleashes the power of dreams and nightmares, changing the war and the world forever. Nine years later, a lone Surrealist fighter walks a new, hallucinogenic Paris, where Nazis and the Resistance are trapped in unending conflict, and the streets are stalked by living images. To escape, he must join forces with an American photographer—but new secrets will emerge that will test their loyalties—to each other, to Paris old and new, and to reality.
Sweet Lamb of Heaven by Lydia Millet
Fleeing her political hopeful husband, the cold and unfaithful Ned, Anna and their six-year-old daughter go into hiding in a run-down motel on the Maine coast. But the longer they stay, the less the guests in the dingy motel look like typical tourists—and the less Ned resembles a typical candidate. As his pursuit of Anna and their child moves from threatening to criminal, Ned begins to alter his wife’s world in ways she never could have imagined.
Not All Bastards Are From Vienna by Andrea Molesini
In the autumn of 1917, Refrontolo—a small community north of Venice—is invaded by Austrian soldiers. The Spada family owns the largest estate in the area, where 17-year-old orphan Paolo lives with his grandparents, aunt, and staff. With the battlefront nearby, the Spada home become a bastion of resistance. When Paolo is recruited to help with a covert operation, his life is put in irrevocable jeopardy.
Jerusalem by Alan Moore
In the half a square mile of decay and demolition that was England’s Saxon capital, eternity is loitering between the firetrap housing projects. Embedded in the grubby amber of the district’s narrative among its saints, kings, prostitutes, and derelicts, a different kind of human time is happening, a soiled simultaneity that does not differentiate between the petrol-colored puddles and the fractured dreams of those who navigate them.
The Unseen World by Liz Moore
Ada Sibelius is raised by David, her brilliant, socially inept single father, who directs a computer science lab in 1980s-era Boston. When her father’s mind begins to falter, leaving Ada virtually an orphan, she is taken in by one of David’s colleagues. Soon she embarks on a journey into a virtual universe to uncover her father’s secrets: a process that carries her from childhood to adulthood.
The Sport of Kings by C. E. Morgan
Hellsmouth, an indomitable Thoroughbred with the blood of Triple Crown winners in her veins, runs for the glory of the Forge family, one of Kentucky’s oldest and most powerful dynasties. Henry Forge has partnered with his daughter, Henrietta, in an endeavor of raw obsession: to breed the next Secretariat. But when Allmon Shaughnessy, an ambitious young black man, comes to work on their farm, the violence of the Forges’ history are brought starkly into view.
Travelers Rest by Keith Lee Morris
The Addisons-Julia, Tonio, and 10-year-old Dewey—are driving home after collecting Uncle Robbie from rehab. When a blizzard strikes, they seek refuge at a crumbling hotel where the physical laws of the universe are bent. Once inside, the family is separated. With each passing hour, dreams and memories blur, tearing a hole in the fabric of our perceived reality and leaving the Addisons in a ceaseless search for one another.
Lions by Bonnie Nadzam
The Walkers have been settled on the barren, high plains of Colorado for generations. The presence of a traveling stranger sets off a chain reaction when the patriarch succumbs to a heart attack. The devastated son, Gordon Walker, is forced to choose between leaving for college with his girlfriend and staying with his family. As more families abandon the area, Gordon is faced with what seem to be their reasonable choices and the burden of betraying his own heart.
The Little Red Chairs by Edna O’Brien
Arriving in a small Irish town, the mysterious Dr. Vladimir Dragan is a poet, a self-proclaimed holistic healer, and a welcome disruption to village life. Before long, the beautiful Fidelma McBride falls under his spell—until one morning, when Dr. Vlad is revealed to be a notorious war criminal and mass murderer. In disgrace and utterly alone, Fidelma embarks on a journey with the prospect of redemption.
City of Secrets by Stewart O’Nan
In 1945, with no homes to return to, Jewish refugees by the thousands set out for Palestine. Those who made it relied on the underground to shelter them; taking fake names, joining those fighting for the independence of Israel. One such survivor, Brand, now drives a taxi through the streets of Jerusalem. Haunted by memories, he reclaims his faith and joins the revolution, accepting secret missions which grow more and more dangerous.
What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi
In this short-story collection, keys not only unlock elements of characters’ lives, they promise further labyrinths on the other side. In “Books and Roses” one special key opens a library, a garden, and clues to at least two lovers’ fates. In “Is Your Blood as Red as This?” an unlikely key opens the heart of a student at a puppeteering school. And in “If a Book Is Locked There’s Probably a Good Reason for That Don’t You Think,” a key keeps a mystical diary locked (for good reason).
Version Control by Dexter Palmer
Rebecca has reclaimed her life, finding her way out of her depression following a tragedy years ago. She spends her days working for the dating site where she first met her husband. But she has a persistent sense everything around her is somewhat off-kilter. Meanwhile, her husband’s dedication to his invention (which he would prefer you not call a “time machine”) has effectively stalled his career. But he may be closer to success than either of them can possibly imagine.
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
One Sunday afternoon, Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating’s christening party uninvited. Before evening falls, he has kissed Franny’s mother—thus setting in motion the dissolution of their marriages and the joining of two families. Over the course of five decades, the Keating and Cousins children forge a lasting bond that is based on a shared disillusionment with their parents and the strange and genuine affection that grows up between them.
Stork Mountain by Miroslav Penkov
A young Bulgarian immigrant in America returns to the country of his birth. Retracing the steps of his estranged grandfather, the boy finds himself on the border of Bulgaria and Turkey. It is a place of pagan mysteries and black storks nesting in giant oaks; a place where every spring, possessed by Christian saints, men and women dance barefoot across live coals in search of rebirth. Old ghosts come back to life and forgotten conflicts, in the name of faith and doctrine, blaze anew.
Black Deutschland by Darryl Pinckney
Jed—young, gay, black, out of rehab and out of prospects in his hometown of Chicago—flees to the city of his fantasies, a museum of modernism and decadence: Berlin. But history, both personal and political, can’t be avoided. Whether it’s the judgment of the cousin he grew up with, the lure of white wine, a gang of racists, or the ravaged visage of Rock Hudson flashing behind the face of every white boy he desperately longs for, the past never stays past.
Listen to Me by Hannah Pittard
Mark and Maggie’s drive east to visit family has gotten off to a rocky start. Adding to the stress, Maggie—recently mugged at gunpoint—is lately not herself, and Mark is at a loss about what to make of it. When they are forced to stop for the night at a remote inn, Maggie’s paranoia reaches an all-time high. But when Mark finds himself threatened in a dark parking lot, it’s Maggie who takes control.
Grief Is the Thing With Feathers by Max Porter
In the wake of his wife’s sudden death, a husband their two sons are visited by Crow. This self-described “sentimental bird,” who “finds humans dull except in grief,” threatens to stay with the wounded family until they no longer need him. As the pain of loss lessens, Crow’s efforts are rewarded and the little unit of three begins to recover.
A Hundred Thousand Worlds by Bob Proehl
Nine-year-old Alex and his mother, Valerie, are on a cross-country road trip to meet his estranged father. They make stops along the way so Val, a former sci-fi TV show actress, can appear at comic book conventions. As they travel, encountering superheroes, monsters, and time travelers, Val and Alex are drawn into the orbit of the comic-con regulars. And Alex begins to realize the story his mother told him about their journey might have a very different ending.
Mister Monkey by Francine Prose
Mister Monkey—a screwball children’s musical about a pet chimpanzee—is the kind of family favorite that survives far past its prime. Margot, who plays the chimp’s lawyer, knows the production is dreadful, and bemoans the failure of her acting career. She’s settled into the drudgery of playing a humiliating part—until the day she receives a mysterious letter from an anonymous admirer.
Barkskins by Annie Proulx
In the late 17th century two penniless young Frenchmen, René Sel and Charles Duquet, arrive in New France. Bound to a lord in exchange for land, they become wood-cutters—barkskins. René suffers hardship, but Duquet runs away and becomes a fur trader. Over the next 300 years, their descendents travel the world, seizing what they can of a presumed infinite resource, leaving the modern-day characters face to face with possible ecological collapse.
Principles to Live By by David Adams Richards
John Delano is a broken man, seemingly at the end of everything: the end of his career as a police officer; the end of his marriage; the end of his search for the truth of what happened to his missing son; the end of his quest for personal redemption; even, perhaps, the end of his life. Only one small thing keeps him going: his conviction that he has a final case to solve, centered around the disappearance years ago of a young foster child.
A Song to Take the World Apart by Zan Romanoff
Hanging out with Chris was supposed to make Lorelei’s life normal. He’s in a band, which means he can teach her about the music that was forbidden in her house growing up. The more she listens, though, the more she can feel her own voice locked up in her throat, and how she longs to use it. And as she starts exploring the power, the foundations of Lorelei’s life start to crumble. There’s a reason the women in her family never want to talk about what their voices can do.
Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff
Chicago, 1954. When his father goes missing, 22-year-old Army veteran Atticus Turner embarks on a road trip to New England to find him, accompanied by his Uncle George—publisher of The Safe Negro Travel Guide—and his childhood friend Letitia. On their journey to the manor of Mr. Braithwhite—heir to the estate that owned one of Atticus’s ancestors—they encounter both mundane terrors of white America and malevolent spirits that seem straight out of the weird tales George devours.
Everybody’s Fool by Richard Russo
Roughly a decade since we were last with Miss Beryl and Sully on New Year’s Eve 1984, the irresistible Sully, who in the intervening years has come by some unexpected good fortune, is staring down a cardiologist’s estimate that he has only a year or two left, and it’s hard work trying to keep this news from the most important people in his life: Ruth, the married woman he carried on with for years…the ultra-hapless Rub Squeers, who worries that he and Sully aren’t still best friends…Sully’s son and grandson, for whom he was mostly an absentee figure (and now a regretful one).
Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple
Eleanor has a plan. She will shower and get dressed. She will have her poetry and yoga lessons. She will initiate sex with her husband, Joe. Then it all goes awry. Her son plays hooky. Joe goes on vacation (without telling Eleanor). Then an encounter with a former colleague produces a graphic memoir whose dramatic tale threatens to reveal a buried family secret.
Problems by Jade Sharma
Maya has a smart mouth, time to kill, and a heroin hobby that isn’t much fun anymore. She’s been able to get by in New York on her wits and a dead-end bookstore job, but when her husband leaves her and her favorite professor ends their affair, her barely calibrated life descends into chaos, and she has to make some choices.
Marrow Island by Alexis M. Smith
It has been 20 years since Lucie Bowen left the islands. Twenty years ago, the May Day Quake set loose catastrophic waves along the coast, shattering thousands of lives. Now, Katie, her best friend from those days, writes with strange news. Marrow Island is no longer uninhabitable, no longer abandoned. She is part of a community that has conjured life again from Marrow’s soil. Lucie returns. Her instincts tell her there’s more to the community and their charismatic leader than its members want her to know.
Ginny Gall by Charlie Smith
Delvin Walker is just a boy when his mother flees their Chattanooga home, accused of killing a white man. Taken in by the proprietor of the town’s leading Negro funeral home, he discovers a rare peace in a hostile world. After a series of devastating events, Delvin fears being accused of murdering a white boy and leaves town. Delvin rides the rails, meets fellow travelers, falls in love, and sees an America sliding into the Great Depression.
Swing Time by Zadie Smith
Two brown girls dream of being dancers—but only one, Tracey, has talent. The other has ideas: about rhythm and time, about black bodies and black music, what constitutes a tribe, or makes a person truly free. It’s a close but complicated childhood friendship that ends abruptly in their early twenties, never to be revisited, but never quite forgotten, either.
My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
Lucy Barton, a writer, married with two young children, is in the hospital in New York City due to an infection from a simple appendix operation. Her mother, whom she hasn’t seen in years, comes from Amgash, Ill., to visit her, and sits by her bedside, reminiscing about people she and Lucy know from Lucy’s childhood, before Lucy went off to college and never returned.
The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
Years of simmering tensions finally reach a breaking point as Melody, Beatrice, and Jack Plumb gather to confront their older brother, Leo, fresh from rehab. Melody has an unwieldy mortgage and looming college tuition for her teenage twins. Jack has secretly borrowed against the beach cottage he shares with his husband. And Bea, a once-promising writer, can’t finish her overdue novel. Can Leo rescue his siblings? Brought together as never before, the siblings must grapple with old resentments, present-day truths, as well as finally acknowledge the choices they have made.
All That Man Is by David Szalay
Nine men. Each of them at a different stage in life, each of them away from home, and each of them striving—in the suburbs of Prague, in an overdeveloped Alpine village, beside a Belgian motorway, in a dingy Cyprus hotel—to understand what it means to be alive, here and now.
Black Wave by Michelle Tea
Fleeing drugs, disastrous romance, and ’90s San Francisco, Michelle heads for LA. After it’s announced the world will end in a year, life becomes increasingly weird. Living in an abandoned bookstore, dating Matt Dillon, and keeping an eye on the apocalypse, Michelle begins a new novel, a sprawling exploration to complement her promises of maturity and responsibility. But as she tries to make queer love and art without succumbing to self-destructive vice, Michelle wonders how much she’ll have to compromise her artistic process if she’s going to properly ride out doomsday.
The Bricks That Built the Houses by Kate Tempest
At a party in London, Becky meets a woman named Harry. They connect, they part, and they reconnect when Becky starts, coincidentally, dating Harry’s brother. When Harry is forced to set out on the lam, Becky goes with her. But are they meant for each other? Or no good for each other at all?
Wreck and Order by Hannah Tennant-Moore
Feeling stuck, Elsie strikes out for adventure on her 21st birthday. From a dingy coastal California bar to a cramped Brooklyn apartment to a poverty-stricken Sri Lankan village, Elsie meets people who challenge her, treat her badly (and who she treats badly), are selfless and generous, and are exasperated by her neediness—but she can’t figure out how not to need them.
Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe
Lucas and Katya were boarding school seniors when, blindingly in love, they decided to have a baby. Seventeen years later, after a decade of absence, Lucas is newly involved in his daughter Vera’s life. But after Vera suffers a terrifying psychotic break at a high school party, Lucas takes her to Lithuania, his grandmother’s homeland, for the summer. Here, in the city of Vilnius, Lucas hopes to save Vera from the sorrow of her diagnosis.
Private Citizens by Tony Tulathimutte
Set in millennial San Francisco, four estranged frieds are torn between fixing the world and cannibalizing it. Idealistic Cory, internet-lurking Will, awkward Henrik, and vicious Linda stagger through the Bay Area’s maze of tech startups, protestors, gentrifiers, karaoke bars, house parties, and cultish self-help seminars, washing up in each other’s lives once again.
Reputations by Juan Gabriel Vásquez
Javier Mallarino is a living legend. He is his country’s most influential political cartoonist, the conscience of a nation. At 65, after four decades of a brilliant career, he’s at the height of his influence. But this all changes when he’s paid an unexpected visit by a young woman who upends his sense of personal history and forces him to re-evaluate his life and work, and to question his position in the world.
Daredevils by Shawn Vestal
It’s the mid-’70s. Loretta, 15, slips out of her bedroom every evening to meet a so-called gentile. Her strict Mormon parents catch her, and marry her off to Dean, a devout fundamentalist who already has a wife and kids. Then Dean’s teenage nephew, Jason, falls for Loretta. Jason longs to leave his close-minded community. He and Loretta drive all night, stay in hotels, and relish their dizzying burst of teenage freedom as they seek to recover Dean’s cache of “Mormon gold.” But someone Loretta left behind is on their trail.
Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman
In the wake of a high school basketball star’s mysterious death on Halloween night, 1991, bright but lonely Hannah is befriended by Lacey, a Cobain-worshiping bad influence. They quickly forge an intimate bond, unleashing a fierce defiance neither expected. But as Lacey gradually lures Hannah away from her safe life, an unwelcome figure appears on the horizon—and Lacey’s secret history collides with Hannah’s worst nightmare.
Loner by Teddy Wayne
Mild-mannered freshman David Federman arrives at Harvard expecting to be embraced by his peers. Initially, however, his social prospects seem unlikely to change. Then he meets Veronica Morgan Wells, and David becomes determined to win her attention and an invite into her glamorous world. He begins compromising his moral standards for this one shot at happiness. But both Veronica and David, it turns out, are not exactly as they seem.
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Cora is a slave in Georgia. When Caesar, a recent arrival, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they take a terrifying risk and escape. Here, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor—engineers and conductors operate tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city whose placid surface masks an insidious scheme. Cora again flees, state by state, seeking true freedom.
Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine by Diane Williams
The very short stories of Diane Williams have been aptly called “folk tales that hammer like a nail gun,” and these 40 new ones are sharper than ever. They are unsettling, yes, frequently revelatory, and more often than not downright funny.
Ninety-Nine Stories of God by Joy Williams
Short vignettes on our day-to-day interactions with the Supreme Being: the moments when anonymous strivers and bumblers brush up against God in the least expected places or go searching for Him when He’s standing right there. The Lord shows up at a hot-dog-eating contest, a demolition derby, a formal gala, and a drugstore, where he’s in line to get a shingles vaccination.
Break in Case of Emergency by Jessica Winter
Jen abandons a once-promising painting career and takes a job at a feminist nonprofit where staffers ruthlessly undermine one another and stroke the ego of their boss. Her complicity in this hellscape only intensifies her feelings of inferiority compared to her two best friends. And when the personal and the professional begin to collide, it leads to a breaking point where Jen must reevaluate what she wants.
Bret Easton Ellis and the Other Dogs by Lina Wolff
At a run-down brothel in Caudal, Spain, the prostitutes are collecting stray dogs. Each is named after a famous male writer: Dante, Chaucer, Bret Easton Ellis. When a john is cruel, the dogs are fed rotten meat. To the east, in Barcelona, an unflappable teenage girl is endeavouring to trace the peculiarities of her life back to one woman: Alba Cambó, writer of violent short stories, who left Caudal as a girl and never went back.
Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
Running into a long-ago friend sets memory in motion for August, a woman who lived in 1970s Brooklyn. For August and her girls, Brooklyn was a place where they believed as they walked the streets that they were part of a future that belonged to them. But beneath the veneer, there was another Brooklyn, a dangerous place where men reached for them in dark hallways, where ghosts haunted their nights and mothers disappeared.
The Lost Time Accidents by John Wray
Haunted by a failed love affair and the darkest of family secrets, Waldy Tolliver wakes one morning to discover that he has been exiled from the flow of time. The world continues to turn, and Waldy is desperate to find his way back—a journey that forces him to reckon not only with the betrayal at the heart of his doomed romance but also the legacy of his great-grandfather’s fatal pursuit of the hidden nature of time itself.
Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa
Grief-stricken after his mother’s death and three years of wandering the world, Victor returns home to Seattle, where he is swept up in the 1999 WTO protests. With young, biracial Victor on one side of the barricades and his estranged father—the white chief of police—on the opposite, the day descends into chaos, capturing in its confusion the activists, police, and citizens from around the world who arrived brimming with hope. By the day’s end, they will all commit acts they never thought possible.
Multiple Choice by Alejandro Zambra
Written in the form of a standardized test, Multiple Choice invites the reader to complete virtuoso exercises in language and analyze poignant narrative passages via multiple-choice questions about love and family; privacy and the limits of closeness; how a society is affected by the legacies of the past; and the conviction that, rather than learning to think, we are trained to obey and repeat.
Nicotine by Nell Zink
Penny Baker has rebelled against her family her whole life—by being the conventional one. All that changes when she inherits her father’s childhood home, where she finds a group of friendly anarchists who possess the passion and fervor Penny feels she’s lacking. She soon moves into a nearby residence, growing more protective of her new community—until a confrontation between her old family and her new one changes everything.