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April 17, 2023

The best historical fiction of spring 2023

A new season of historical fiction is in bloom, and these are our favorites. Discover historical novels filled with sumptuous detail, transportive narratives and family secrets that go back generations.

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Acclaimed children’s author Liz Hyder’s first novel for adults has a richness of prose that immediately hooks readers and allows deep immersion within its strange world. Set in England in 1840, The Gifts is a remarkable, unpredictable tale of ambition, faith and survival, a blend of historical fiction and fantasy from a deft storyteller.

Unexpected magical occurrences cause the lives of four women to intertwine: distressed wife and artist Annie, renegade naturalist Etta, drifting seeker Natalya and aspiring writer Mary. As the story opens, a woman’s corpse is pulled from the Thames River, and from its back sprout what appear to be wings. This immediately attracts the eye of Annie’s husband, Edward, an ambitious surgeon frustrated by the brighter spotlight shone on his flashier colleagues. In this “fallen angel,” Edward sees his entire future in the form of a gift from God, and now he wants to get his hands on a living specimen. But at what cost does success come for Edward, and how does his relentless pursuit of notoriety and fortune change the lives of each of the four women?

Hyder’s novel unfolds through a series of short chapters that function like a sequence of character studies, each of which displays such a tight grasp on detail and emotional range that it could function as a short story. We learn so much through a single visit to Annie’s ornate house or Etta’s ramshackle country cabin. We glean tremendous depth from Mary’s sense of duty and how it conflicts with her own ambitions. Each of the women is so finely drawn that we’re immediately invested not just in their lives but also in the ways they see the world, and how their perspectives shift as the events of the novel start to fall into place. Once the magical elements kick in and wings begin to unfurl, Hyder’s gift for narrative propulsion blends with this character depth to create a sumptuous reading experience.

The Gifts is a remarkable, unpredictable tale of ambition, faith and survival, a blend of historical fiction and fantasy from a deft storyteller.
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The Roman Colosseum is full of wonders and history and secrets—and plants. Observing, cataloging and communicating with these plants is the heart of Katy Simpson Smith’s impressive novel, as the narrative connects two women across time who are both performing these archival acts. Set in 1854 and 2018, The Weeds  moves between the voices of these two women, interlocking their lives as they document the presence of (or absence of) plants. 

In 1854, a woman was caught stealing, and her misbehavior has led to her being indentured to English botanist Richard Deakin; he sends her into the Colosseum to catalog the flora and their uses. She also tells her own story and meditates on the ways that society impinges upon her selfhood. She speaks to her missing love, a woman who is off on a boat, now married to a man. In 2018, a woman has run from the entrapment of her life, but she finds herself newly hemmed in as she seeks the plants on Deakin’s list, makes notes, begrudges the presence of tourists and wonders what her next step might be. What will science, and her male adviser, allow? 

The novel moves in quick (and often blurry) shifts between these centuries and women. They mirror parts of each other; they both encounter violence at many turns and scales, and each reacts to the ways their voices and choices are constrained in their societies. The plants around them produce their own forms of tension and elements of violence; they are undoubtedly characters in their own right.

Just as the plants in the Colosseum ask of the women, The Weeds requests the reader to observe and look for connections, to question structures and patterns, and to discover new ways of seeing. Each detail is carefully attuned and revealed, and each seed opens at the moment it needs to bloom and stretch. Patience is necessary, but close attention reveals infinite rewards.

Read Katy Simpson Smith’s Behind the Book feature on The Weeds: “Women and unwanted plants have an uncomfortable amount in common.”

The Weeds requests the reader to observe and look for connections, to question structures and patterns, and to discover new ways of seeing.

Henry Gaunt and Sidney Ellwood are best friends and sixth-formers at the English public school Preshute College, an Eton-like boarding school. It’s 1914, and the Great War has begun killing their schoolmates. The school newspaper, The Preshutian, lists the names of dead and wounded older friends. Meanwhile, outside of school, young women hand white feathers to young men in civilian clothes to shame them into enlisting. 

Gaunt and Ellwood banter, tease, deal with hazing and get drunk with their classmates, but they also harbor secret worries: Gaunt is German and Ellwood is Jewish, marking them as outsiders, more vulnerable in an England at war. What’s more, they can’t admit that their bond is more than friendship— “the love that dare not speak its name.”

Pressured by his mother and sister, Gaunt enlists even though he’s not yet 19, and suddenly he finds himself at the Belgian front, a far-too-young leader thrust into trench warfare. Soon after, Ellwood, starry-eyed with the idea of honor, enlists too, despite Gaunt’s letters urging him against the idea. What follows is an epic war story that depicts the unremitting savagery, trauma and stupidity of World War I. At the same time, In Memoriam tracks an epic love story, as Gaunt and Ellwood sort out their feelings, not knowing if they’ll ever see each other again as their classmates continue to die awful, senseless deaths. 

Author Alice Winn so deeply inhabits her characters, their vanishing prep-school world, the end of empire and the arrival of brutal modern war that it’s hard to believe this is her first novel. In Memoriam feels like an old-fashioned door stopper, with a huge cast of background characters, almost all of them young men (Gaunt’s sister is the only significant female character), and some surprising, even melodramatic plot points as it follows the historical trajectory of the war and its aftermath. The story’s points of view toggle between Gaunt and Ellwood, though the novel’s heart belongs to sardonic, tender Gaunt.

Winn draws on real life not only for war details but also for Ellwood’s character, who seems loosely based on real-life English war poet Siegfried Sassoon. He writes his own poems and quotes Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s “In Memoriam” and Rupert Brooke. These verses—along with fictional letters and newspaper articles, especially The Preshutian’s somber roll call of the dead and wounded—underline the impossibilities of both war and life as a gay man in early 20th-century England. 

In Memoriam is a gorgeous novel, both a meditation on the futility and trauma of a war that sent a generation of young men to their deaths and a gripping love-in-wartime story, with a bittersweet yet hopeful conclusion.

In Memoriam is a gorgeous novel, both a gripping love-in-wartime story and a meditation on the futility and trauma of World War I.
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The action comes fast and furious in Rachel Beanland’s second novel, The House Is on Fire, inspired by the real-life fire that occurred in Richmond, Virginia, on December 26, 1811, and has been described by many historians as the first great disaster of our young nation. The calamity burned down the city’s famous theater during a sold-out performance, killing 72 people and becoming international news.

In Beanland’s retelling, the story unfolds in a quick succession of short chapters told from the perspectives of four real people who experienced the events firsthand. Sally Henry Campbell, daughter of Founding Father Patrick Henry, is in an expensive box seat on the third floor with other high-society folks. Cecily Patterson is in a crowded lobby seat with other enslaved and destitute people relieved to be escaping reality for a few hours. Jack Gibson, an orphan and aspiring actor, is backstage as the stagehand in charge of props, including the chandelier that ultimately causes the house to erupt in flames. Gilbert Hunt, an enslaved blacksmith, runs to the theater, putting himself in danger to save the lives of over a dozen white women and men.

Through the author’s extensive research into letters, census data and newspaper archives, as well as her historically accurate creative liberties—both of which Beanland elaborates upon in her author’s note—The House Is on Fire captures the disastrous night hour by hour, reminiscent of watching a true crime drama on TV. Most importantly, Beanland’s choice to explore the tragedy through four very differently privileged people allows the story to go beyond facts and into the moral fabric and social norms of the time. It is disturbing to be reminded of the vice grip of racism, class and sexism while a deadly fire rages on.

Times sure have changed, but the choices made by Sally, Cecily, Jack and Gilbert resonate deeply. “Would I do the same?” is a question that inevitably pops up often for the reader. And so does the realization that proverbial fires continue to burn around the world as we individuals try to save ourselves and others.

Fast-moving, character-driven and action-packed, The House Is on Fire is simply a thrill to read.

Rachel Beanland’s choice to explore the 1811 Richmond fire from the perspectives of four very different people allows the story to go beyond facts and into the moral fabric of the time.
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It seems that everything in Kate Morton’s captivating novel Homecoming leads us back to a statement made by a character in the 2021 film The Lost Daughter: “Motherhood is a crushing responsibility.” In Morton’s world, even the longing for motherhood can be a crushing responsibility, one that can be passed along to the next generation, and the next.

The secrets around the Turner-Bridges women—Nora; her daughter, Polly; and granddaughter, Jess—are real doozies. Those secrets start to emerge, tendril by tendril, after Nora suffers a fall and Jess flies from her London home to Sydney to be with her. Neither Nora nor Jess is close with Polly, and Nora has named Jess as her next of kin, rather than her daughter. Odd, but not unheard of.

As a child, Jess had free rein of Nora’s large and beautiful home, Darling House, but was forbidden from accessing the attic. She snuck up there anyway and never unearthed anything shocking. But now, as she waits for Nora to recuperate, she discovers something so terrible about their family that it upends everything she believed about herself, her mother, her grandmother and the world in general. The echoes of the event have resounded for six decades and warped the lives of the Turner-Bridges women in ways they don’t even realize. Someone even wrote a book about the calamity, though it wasn’t published in Australia.

One of the delights for readers of a mystery is picking up little crumbs of evidence along the way. As Homecoming gallops toward its close, you may think you know what’s coming, and the foreknowledge is both ghastly and thrilling. In a book like this one, there are a lot of ways the story can take a turn toward the preposterous or at least the improbable. Just one word of advice: Find a map of Australia. It’ll be a big help.

One of the delights for readers of a mystery is picking up little crumbs of evidence along the way. As Homecoming gallops toward its close, you may think you know what’s coming, and the foreknowledge is both ghastly and thrilling.
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Some books make you stop, take notice and question: question the narratives we’ve been told about our history and the narratives we’ve told ourselves about ourselves. Victor LaValle’s latest novel, Lone Women, is one such book.

Lone Women tells the story of Adelaide Henry, who keeps a secret locked in a steamer trunk at the foot of her bed. After the deaths of her parents, she moves from California to Montana to make a life for herself. The deal is simple: If she can farm a plot of land for three years as a homesteader, the land is hers. But Montana isn’t what the pamphlets said it would be. The winters are harder, and the people—though kind—have harsh edges. Still, Adelaide finds friends in the form of Grace, a single mother on the next homestead over, and Bertie, a saloon owner who happens to be the only other Black woman in the area. As Adelaide settles in, she begins to think that she can forget what lies within her trunk. But secrets have a way of getting out, no matter how hard you try to keep them in.

There’s nowhere to hide in Victor LaValle’s vision of the American West.

LaValle combines historical fiction with horror to create a tapestry of desolation, wonder, despair and hope. Lone Women isn’t set in the American West as we know it—or at least not the male-dominated American West that is portrayed in midcentury Westerns. LaValle is determined not to whitewash the past, showing not only the full spectrum of people who settled as homesteaders, including women of color, but also the wreckage of Montana’s boom and bust development. He treats the reader to explorations of ghost towns alongside canny character studies of the types of people who would choose a life as hard as the one of a homesteader.

LaValle’s descriptions of the Montana wilderness are as stark and expansive as the land itself, making it painfully clear how someone could get prairie fever or freeze to death out in Big Sky Country. When it comes to Adelaide’s secret, his prose takes on the feeling of a waking nightmare, full of horrific discovery. LaValle explores the themes of shame and ostracization through not just Adelaide’s secret but also the expertly revealed reasons why many of Adelaide’s new friends aren’t fully accepted in town.

A powerful study in setting and character with a healthy dose of horror, Lone Women will forever change the way you think about the Wild West. 

A powerful study in setting and character with a healthy dose of horror, Lone Women will forever change the way you think about the Wild West.

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Recent Features

A new season of historical fiction is in bloom, and these are our favorites. Discover historical novels filled with sumptuous detail, transportive narratives and family secrets that go back generations.
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June 5, 2023

6 audiobooks for road tripping this summer

If you’re lighting out for the open road, we recommend queuing up one of these audiobooks to help keep your eyes on the road but your brain entertained.

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Margot Douaihy’s heartfelt crime novel, Scorched Grace (10 hours), follows a tattooed queer nun named Sister Holiday after an arson attack on her school in New Orleans. The devastating events at Saint Sebastian’s activate the unconventional nun’s already determined nature, compelling her to uncover the culprit—but in order to do so, she must reckon with the life she left behind. 

Actor Mara Wilson (best known for her roles in Matilda and Mrs. Doubtfire) brings a buoyant spirit to her performance of Sister Holiday, accentuating the nun’s sardonic nature. In a steady, sometimes sensuous tone that shifts seamlessly into a New Orleans accent when needed, Wilson delivers Sister Holiday’s fierce sensibility, leans into the emotional landscape created by Douaihy’s gorgeous, descriptive language and emphasizes the well-paced novel’s intimacies and contradictions. Gripping, subversive and sincere, Scorched Grace is sure to captivate listeners.

Read more: How Margot Douaihy turned to noir’s hard-boiled past—and looked to its future—to create Sister Holiday.

Actor Mara Wilson (best known for her roles in Matilda and Mrs. Doubtfire) brings a buoyant spirit to her performance of Sister Holiday.
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When his beloved older brother was diagnosed with terminal cancer, Patrick Bringley sought a refuge—and found it at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he took a job as a security guard. He worked there for 10 years, watching both people and art, and all the while noticing fine details that others were too busy or preoccupied to see. His memoir of his career at the Met, All the Beauty in the World: The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Me (6 hours), is a moving reflection on not only art but also all the messy, mundane, tragic, glorious and moving aspects of our lives.

Bringley’s reading of his book is sensitive and gentle. His soft-spoken narration reflects the profundity that comes from years of humbly observing and interacting with this magnificent museum, the works it houses, the people who serve it and the visitors who explore it. The accompanying PDF contains lovely sketches of the works Bringley reflects on, adding extra layers of enjoyment to this extraordinary audiobook.

Also in BookPage: Read our review of the print edition.

Patrick Bringley’s soft-spoken narration reflects his years of humbly observing and interacting with the Met, the works it houses, the people who serve it and the visitors who explore it.
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Rose Josten feels like something’s missing from her life, even though she’s got her family, a consultant career on the fast track and a successful ASMR video channel. (ASMR stands for “autonomous sensory meridian response” and refers to a calming, tingly reaction to auditory stimulation.) Ash Stewart is a struggling filmmaker wrestling with heartbreak when she gets the chance to pitch a film concept to a major investor. Brought together by chance, Rose and Ash might be able to make the movie a reality—and find love along the way.

Memories and conversations drive Karelia Stetz-Waters’ romance novel, Behind the Scenes (10 hours), making sound an incredibly important part of the book. Narrator Lori Prince rises to this challenge with creativity and flexibility, giving the large cast of characters distinct voices with unique timbres and tones. She also performs Rose’s ASMR videos, pulling the reader into the story. 

Prince brings this story to life and makes it easy to follow the fun. If you’re looking for an immersive, mature romance, go Behind the Scenes.

Read our starred review of the print edition of Behind the Scenes.

Lori Prince brings Karelia Stetz-Waters’ novel to life and makes it easy to follow the fun. If you’re looking for an immersive, mature romance, go Behind the Scenes.
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Jojo Moyes’ novel Someone Else’s Shoes (12.5 hours) starts with a lighthearted premise—the accidental swap of two nearly identical bags belonging to two very different women, Sam and Nisha—but soon takes on weightier themes. These include explorations of the ebb and flow of both long marriages and female friendships, as well as considerations of mental and physical illness and emotional abuse. 

With excellent pacing and expression, British actor Daisy Ridley (whose deep alto voice will be familiar from her role as Rey in the Star Wars saga) capably narrates both the humor and serious undertones in Moyes’ novel. Ridley pulls off Nisha’s American accent and brings to life a range of voices for a well-rounded cast of secondary characters, including Sam’s longtime best friend and her clinically depressed husband, and both women’s professional colleagues. 

Although the novel is long, the story breezes by, propelled by the plot’s steadily mounting tension that’s relieved by moments of levity and even some slapstick elements. Listeners will relish this uplifting story of transformation and second chances.

British actor Daisy Ridley (whose deep alto voice will be most familiar from her role as Rey in the Star Wars saga) capably narrates both the humor and serious undertones in Jojo Moyes’ novel.
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Jessica George’s debut novel, Maame (10 hours), explores the complexities of immigrant families through the story of Maddie, who lives in London with her Ghanaian family and seeks to balance responsibility and self-discovery. Maddie is her father’s primary caretaker while her mother spends most of the year in Ghana. At work, Maddie deals with an impossible boss and an environment where she is consistently the only Black person in the room. 

Maame grapples with cultural contradictions, familial expectations, xenophobia and racism while exploring the power to be found in kinship and pleasure. In the audiobook, George’s delightfully delicate command of language is enlivened by visual artist and actor Heather Agyepong’s brilliant narration, which brings the characters to life with nuanced voices that reveal not only variations in Ghanaian and British accents but also emotional worlds. Agyepong animates the distance and desire for closeness in these relationships, allowing listeners to feel the full scope of familial bonds in diaspora. 

Together, George’s words and Agyepong’s voice encourage listeners to approach Maame with openness, and as they melt into this complicated world, they will discover a riveting story.

Also in BookPage: Read our review of the print edition of Maame.

Jessica George’s words and Heather Agyepong’s voice encourage listeners to approach Maame with openness, and as they melt into this complicated world, they will discover a riveting story.
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In the midst of a messy divorce and plagued by writer’s block, Emily accepts an invitation from her longtime best friend, Chess (now a lifestyle guru), to spend the summer at a luxurious Italian villa. It turns out, however, that the villa has a sordid history: Nearly 50 years earlier, in the mid-1970s, it was the site of a scandalous celebrity murder that in turn inspired a bestselling feminist horror novel. Emily’s growing obsession with the villa’s history inspires her to write at long last—but investigating that long-ago crime and its aftermath opens up old fissures in her relationship with Chess. Will the villa’s dark history repeat itself? 

Rachel Hawkins’ gothic novel The Villa (8 hours) has a wonderfully complicated narrative: Inspired by everything from Fleetwood Mac and Mary Shelley to the Manson murders, it includes not only two separate narratives with two sets of characters but also a novel-within-a-novel, podcast episodes, blog posts and more. Aided in some moments by music, the talented narrators—Shiromi Arserio, Julia Whelan and Kimberly M. Wetherell—prove more than up to the task of guiding listeners through the emotional atmosphere that Hawkins has so superbly created.

Three talented narrators guide listeners through the complicated emotional atmosphere that Rachel Hawkins has so superbly created in The Villa.

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Recent Features

If you’re lighting out on the open road this summer, we recommend queuing up one of these audiobooks to help keep your eyes on the road but your brain entertained.
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August 22, 2022

The best debuts so far in 2022

As we reach the end of summer, we look back on the first-time novelists and memoirists who have impressed us the most so far this year.

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The Book Eaters, Sunyi Dean’s debut, is a dark, haunting fantasy that follows Devon Fairweather, a Book Eater who subsists on ink and paper and the knowledge it provides her. The Book Eaters, or ‘eaters, live on the fringes of human society, and were it not for the special, fang-like teeth that they unsheathe before a literary meal, they would look like ordinary people. Devon has always detested the staunch traditions of her isolated clan, and The Book Eaters jumps back and forth in time as she tries to forge her own path. 

One of the most memorable and haunting elements of Dean’s world is how Book Eater society is structured around elements of Arthurian legend that are used to justify patriarchal, tyrannical rule. The young Devon lives a sheltered life as a Princess. Female Book Eaters are rare, and she is expected to marry early and promptly give birth to more of their kind. While her brothers eat books about politics, history and academics, she is limited to the same old fairy tales time and time again. Knights maintain order and govern the Dragons, who are born as Mind Eaters, unpredictable individuals who constantly crave human souls. Drugs keep their hunger at bay and force them to submit to their handlers’ orders. 

Devon has always seen through the facade of the happily ever afters she consumes, and when she gives birth to a Mind Eater son, Cai, she realizes she is the only person who can save him from becoming a Dragon. In the present timeline, Devon and the now 5-year-old Cai have escaped the ‘eaters, but Devon is struggling to keep him under control and out of the Knights’ grasp while she searches for a way that they can both be free for good.

Dean fully invests readers in Devon’s struggles, both as a girl attempting to prise tiny snatches of freedom from a patriarchal society and as an adult mother frantic to protect her son. The Book Eaters‘ depiction of the sacrifices and joys of motherhood is particularly nuanced, grounding the fantasy elements of the story in the relationship between Devon and Cai. And Dean expertly expands the scope of the story to explore even more characters’ experiences, such as the other ‘eater women’s oppression and loneliness, Devon’s friend Yarrow’s isolation as an asexual person in the procreation-obsessed ‘eater society and Cai’s pain at being viewed as a monster.

The Book Eaters is a far cry from the fairy tales Devon consumes: It is a winding, harrowing, deliciously nightmarish story of people taking control of their bodies and destinies after generations of repression and abuse.

In Sunyi Dean's debut, beings who consume books to survive hide on the fringes of society. It sounds like a fairy tale, but it's actually a nightmare.
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Christian mystics are a point of obsession for the hero of Tess Gunty’s debut novel. “They were spectacularly unusual,” Blandine gushes early in The Rabbit Hutch. They loved suffering, she says. “Mad for it.”

She’s especially interested in Hildegard of Bingen, an abbess, polymath, composer and doctor who constantly played up her femininity to make herself less of a threat to male members of the clergy. As the novel opens, we learn that Blandine, inspired by her 12th-century hero, will “exit her body.” 

But before readers fall in step with Blandine’s miraculous, possibly ominous ascension, Gunty first draws us into the years leading up to this event, and into the world of the Rabbit Hutch (officially called La Lapinière Affordable Housing Complex), an apartment building in Vacca Vale, Indiana.

A Midwestern crossroads that’s limping along after the collapse of the Zorn Automobiles empire, Vacca Vale is a fictional stand-in for South Bend. In a matter of decades, Midwestern gloom has slipped into doom, and like many small towns, Vacca Vale (which is Latin for “goodbye, cow!”) has been earmarked for a heavily marketed “revitalization plan,” which everyone knows translates to “demolishing your town’s one great thing and replacing it with luxury condos.”

Blandine is our guiding light as we navigate this darkening mood. A former foster kid who’s now living in the Rabbit Hutch with three roommates, Blandine is a daring, defiant young woman who’s searching for divinity with scorching ferocity. Despite her persistence, she has not gone unscathed: She dropped out of high school after a complicated, crushing relationship with her charismatic theater teacher, and Gunty’s navigation of this trauma is one of the novel’s quietest strengths. Blandine’s experience is nothing less than a catastrophe hemmed in on all sides by the forces of normalization. After all, as she points out, a 17-year-old girl is considered to be within the age of consent by the state of Indiana.

Blandine is the core of The Rabbit Hutch, but if she were a cathedral, her two flying buttresses would be Joan and Moses. Joan, a lonely older woman who also lives in the Rabbit Hutch, is employed by an obituary website. Her job is to delete comments that disparage the dead, so she must remove a response from Moses on his mother’s obituary. (“THIS WHOLE #OBITUARY IS A BOLD-FACED LIE,” his comment begins.) To punish Joan for this act of censorship, Moses flies to Vacca Vale to exact his special form of retribution: He will cover himself from head to toe in the goo found in glow sticks, break into Joan’s apartment and dance around in the dark to frighten her. 

Alongside these three characters, we hear from a bunch of additional folks, and as Gunty introduces each new voice, she makes storytelling seem like the most fun a person can have. She draws us along with rapturous glee while layering her symbolism so thick that the story should, by all rights, drown in it. But The Rabbit Hutch never loses focus thanks to Blandine, who has a kind of literary superpower: She’s aware of her place in the story, points out Gunty’s metaphors, arches a brow at the symbols and has something to say about all of it. This isn’t to suggest that the novel’s fourth wall is broken, but it does feel wafer-thin, just as the veil between the divine and the corporeal seem as gauzy as a worn T-shirt.

“We’re all just sleepwalking,” Blandine says to Joan. “I want to wake up. That’s my dream: to wake up.” As she moves toward wakefulness, Blandine becomes no less than a bona fide contemporary mystic, cultivating her own sense of belief and solidifying her existence as vital enough to subsist. Redemption is possible, and Gunty’s novel consecrates this noble search.

Despite its doomed Midwestern setting, Tess Gunty’s debut novel makes storytelling seem like the most fun a person can have.
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Perhaps it’s too soon to say which books we’ll look back on in 50 years as the ones that defined a generation, but Sarah Thankam Mathews’ debut, a close-to-perfect coming-of-age romp, is surely a contender. Bitingly funny and sweetly earnest, it’s one of those rare novels that feels just like life, its characters so specific in their desires and experiences that you’re sure you’ve met them—or maybe you’re about to. Yet Mathews also captures some unnamable, essential thing about being a 20-something struggling through work and love and late-stage capitalism in the United States in the mid-2000s. In the manner of books that stay with you forever, All This Could Be Different is a singular story that extends beyond itself. 

At 22, Sneha graduates from college into a tanked economy. She immigrated to the U.S. as a teenager, but her parents have since returned to India, leaving Sneha alone. She lands an entry-level job at a consulting firm in Milwaukee and starts fresh in a new city, where she encounters financial successes and catastrophes, makes friends and falls into a heady romance. She relates these experiences in an unforgettable narrative voice: dryly funny, self-analytical, a little sarcastic and full of heart.

Though Sneha is preoccupied with her girlfriend for much of the book, this is actually a story about friendship. Sneha’s new friend Tig, a slightly older Black genderfluid lesbian, tells her that friendship takes a lot of work, and over the course of the novel, we get to see Sneha and Tig do that work. It’s breathtaking to witness this slow and painful process. Over dinners and phone calls and meltdowns, long drives and impromptu parties, Sneha, whose past traumas have made her unwilling to trust others, who longs for love even as she shies away from it, learns what true intimacy requires: to see and be seen.

Lives are made up of so many ordinary moments, so many conflicting emotions, so many messes—some world-shattering, some mundane. It’s all here in this funny, vibrant, heartbreaking book: the ache of new love and the pleasures of good food, what it’s like having money and what it’s like losing it, microaggressions and casual racism and radical politics. There are drunken mistakes, childhood wounds, good sex, bad sex, the American dream, queer love, an explotitive economy and the bite of Midwestern winters. And of course, the pressures and expectations of being a first-generation Asian American immigrant. 

Through it all, there’s the steady pulse of friendship and the quiet work of building a family—all the beautiful details that unfold along one woman’s journey to wholeness and home.

Bitingly funny and sweetly earnest, Sarah Thankam Mathews’ debut is one of those rare novels that feels just like life.
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When considering the history of what is now known as Texas, California, Arizona and New Mexico, there is a saying among Mexican Americans: “We didn’t cross the border; the border crossed us.” It’s a reminder that claims to territory and citizenship rights predate the current boundary between Mexico and the U.S. It’s a rallying cry to tell the true history of American lands and the people who originally belonged on them. With the rise of Indigenous voices in the mainstream, that history is finally beginning to be recognized for its complexity and vitality, its literary power and potential. 

Oscar Hokeah’s debut, Calling for a Blanket Dance, tells the story of Ever Geimausaddle through generations of his family. Before the novel even begins, Hokeah provides readers with a family tree, preparing them for the importance of blood ties in the story ahead. Each chapter belongs to a different leaf on the tree, and from these many perspectives, we see Ever grow from an infant into a man, eventually raising his own kids in the strange double bind of Indigeneity. After all, when your heritage and ancestry are the reasons for your oppression, to whom can you turn in order to survive, but to family?

As Ever comes into his full self, we see the impact that his family members have on each other, shaping the ways they live and love. In the opening scene, for example, Ever’s mother, Turtle, takes Ever’s father, Everardo, and their 6-month-old son across Texas and into Mexico in an attempt to rescue her husband from his addiction to alcohol and remind him of his heritage. From the love languages of food and manual labor, to the easy manner in which Everardo tells lies, this scene is the foundation for Ever’s life and his later abilities to parent his own children.

Hokeah’s prose is punchy and descriptive, filled with Native American phrases and words that come naturally to the characters. This blending of languages is still uncommon in contemporary fiction, but the current Indigenous literary and cultural renaissance promises that more and more voices will grow this singularity into a rich multitude. With television shows like “Reservation Dogs” and “Rutherford Falls” attracting critical and popular attention, it seems that this resurgence is only getting started. 

But of course, renaissance and resurgence are the wrong words to use here. Hokeah, who is of Mexican heritage as well as a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma, shows that this tradition has been here the whole time, evolving and surviving. It’s the lines in the sand—what we call borders—that are new. Why should we act like these lines are valid and the people are not? Calling for a Blanket Dance proves that the people are more real than anything.

When your heritage and ancestry are the reasons for your oppression, to whom can you turn in order to survive, but to family? Oscar Hokeah’s exceptional debut novel follows a Native American man’s life through the many leaves of his family tree.
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Isaac Fitzgerald grabs readers’ attention with the title of his memoir—Dirtbag, Massachusetts: A Confessional—and never lets go. He’s a mesmerizing storyteller who deploys unexpected delights from his very first line: “My parents were married when they had me, just to different people.” Not only that, but they “met at divinity school, which is a pretty funny way to start an affair.”

Fitzgerald’s raucous life started in low-income housing in Boston’s South End. In the soup kitchen that he frequented, he was “surrounded by stories of the highest comedy and the deepest tragedy, by the sounds of pealing laughter and suffering silence.” True to that upbringing, he fills the 12 essays in Dirtbag, Massachusetts with heaping helpings of humor, joy, pain, sorrow, grace and insight. Throughout, Fitzgerald writes in carefully chosen prose that reveals “just enough that you know it wasn’t pretty.” The topics range from his upbringing in the Roman Catholic Church to life in an old mill town in central Massachusetts where he endured his father’s violence and his mother’s mania. Despite all of this, his parents instilled him with a deep love of literature, and his education continued when he applied to a nearby boarding school as a means of escaping his home life.

Throughout his gritty life, Fitzgerald has filled an incredible variety of roles: an often drunk, high, shoplifting teenager; a biker who found happiness working in a San Francisco bar; a relief worker in Myanmar; an actor in porn movies. More recently, he has talked books on the “Today” show and written the children’s book How to Be a Pirate. Indeed, this is a man who writes equally well about Sara Crewe, the heroine of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess, and Gavin McInnes, the founder of the neo-fascist group Proud Boys.

With Dirtbag, Massachusetts, Fitzgerald joins the ranks of some of the very best memoirists, including Tobias Wolff, Tara Westover and Dani Shapiro. This entertaining and thoughtful book reveals Fitzgerald’s talents as a master craftsman of unusual insight and will leave readers eager for more.

The 12 essays in Isaac Fitzgerald’s Dirtbag, Massachusetts offer heaping helpings of humor, joy, pain, sorrow, grace and insight.
Review by

A brilliant and wildly creative young woman with sharp corners and a sharper tongue discovers the softer side of life in Bolu Babalola’s dazzling debut romance, Honey and Spice.

Kikiola “Kiki” Banjo is a Nigerian British undergraduate student at Whitewell, a fictional university in England. Among the Black community of Whitewell, known as Blackwell, she looms large. She leads FreakyFridayz, the standing Friday night hangout, and hosts a popular relationship advice radio show, “Brown Sugar.” But few people truly know her. After her mother’s near-fatal illness and a falling-out with her best friend over a manipulative guy, Kiki has withdrawn into herself, only letting her “ride or die” roommate into her private life.

Meanwhile, a new transfer student named Malakai Korede has abandoned his economics degree to study film, his first love. His girlfriend broke up with him over this decision, and he subsequently decided not to get overly involved with the girls he dates at his new university. Kiki calls him out on her radio show for his lack of commitment, warning the Black female students against going out with him. 

Bolu Babalola shares her romantic vision.

But then Kiki and Malakai realize they could both achieve their dreams—hers of winning a prestigious internship, his of winning an esteemed film competition—by working together to create a film and a radio show focusing on relationships. The only problem is that Malakai’s commitment phobia, Kiki’s lack of a dating life and her derision toward Malakai are common knowledge on campus. So they decide to start fake-dating in order to give themselves credibility. True trust is slow to grow between them, but Kiki’s and Malakai’s vulnerabilities and innate integrity, not to mention their sparky chemistry, deftly portrayed in Babalola’s banter-filled prose, draw them closer and closer together.

Sprinkled with Yoruba words and British slang, Honey and Spice hums with Babalola’s unique voice, which is full of energy and sensitive insights, often punctuated with laughter. Kiki and Malakai are multilayered, complex characters who approach life with thoughtfulness, passion, maturity and courage. Readers will especially appreciate how they are not afraid to tackle problems head-on, trusting that their instincts and intellectual abilities will be able to solve any issue. Honey and Spice is a deeply romantic story of two souls who grow closer as they recognize the generosity and humanity in each other. They each have their faults, but their individual imperfections make them perfect together.

Honey and Spice, an enemies-to-lovers romance set on a British university campus, hums with author Bolu Babalola's energetic, intelligent voice.

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Recent Features

As we reach the end of August, we look back on the first-time novelists and memoirists who have most impressed us so far this year.
Interview by

First we met Evelyn Hugo in The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. Then came Daisy Jones of Daisy Jones & The Six, followed by Nina Riva from Malibu Rising. Author Taylor Jenkins Reid brings her quartet of novels about fictional female celebrities to a close with the highly anticipated Carrie Soto Is Back, about a tennis player’s major comeback. In anticipation of its release, we volleyed over a few questions about the author’s favorite bookstores and libraries.

What are your bookstore rituals?
I seem to have a habit of hitting up the front fiction shelves, then making a beeline for the cookbooks and then hitting up fiction again. It’s very hard for me to leave a store without a novel or a cookbook. Not sure it’s ever happened.

What is your ideal bookstore-browsing snack?
A very fancy—perhaps even artisanal and overpriced—flavored black iced tea.

“I love literature but also deeply love architecture. Libraries are such a beautiful way of exploring both.”

What’s the last thing you bought at your local bookstore?
One of the volumes of the Bad Guys series by Aaron Blabey. My daughter absolutely loves that series, and it is such a treat to take her to the store and let her buy a new one. I love watching her come home and go right to her bedroom so she can devour it cover to cover.

Bookstore cats or bookstore dogs?
I love all animals, but my heart belongs to dogs!

How is your own personal library organized?
By color and sections that make sense only in my brain. To me, the organizing principle of a home library is “How will you best remember where the book is?” and so I do that by color of the book and a general “vibe” that defies logic but works every time for me.

While writing your books, has there ever been a librarian or bookseller who was especially helpful?
When I first started writing, I was trying to absorb as many of my contemporaries as I could. I was voracious. At the Beverly Hills Public Library, they had a Friends of the Library store, and that store would have a used book sale two times a year. I used to go in there and ask the volunteer behind the desk what books I should get and come home with a stack of 20. It was such a lovely way to read outside of my own taste, picking those used books up for a dollar or two each.

Tell us about your favorite library from when you were a child.
The library at my elementary school felt like such a special place. We only really went there during specific free periods or during the coolest, most magical time of the year: the Scholastic Book Fair. That sense I still get in a library or bookstore, that there are so many books I want to read and so little time, started right there.

Do you have a favorite library from literature?
I’m forever intrigued by Jay Gatsby’s library—all real books and none ever read. 

Do you have a “bucket list” of bookstores and libraries you’d love to visit but haven’t yet?
Oh, absolutely. I love literature but also deeply love architecture. Libraries are such a beautiful way of exploring both. I was blessed to go to college near the Boston Central Library, which may have formed my taste in libraries. It is such a gorgeous building. 

I hope one day I get to see some of the libraries at Oxford, the Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial in Spain and the George Peabody Library in Baltimore.

Photo of Taylor Jenkins Reid by Michael Buckner.

So many books, so little time! The bestselling author of Carrie Soto Is Back discusses bookstore rituals, her devotion to cookbooks and more.

Fall 2022 is a blockbuster season for fiction, with new releases from such heavy-hitters as Ian McEwan, Barbara Kingsolver and Celeste Ng. Discover the 21 novels we’re most excited to read.

Afterlives book cover

Afterlives by Abdulrazak Gurnah
Riverhead | August 23

Prior to being awarded the 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature, Tanzanian British novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah was little known in the U.S. and his masterpieces nearly impossible to find. For readers who’ve waited ever so patiently, Afterlives will deliver an expert examination of postcolonial survival, a deft decentering of European history and a tender portrayal of the trauma of warfare. Spanning decades over the turn of the 19th century, it’s an epic novel that follows the lives of three young people after Germany’s colonization of east Africa.

Haven by Emma Donoghue
Little, Brown | August 23

Irish Canadian author Emma Donoghue dives into early Christianity for a novel that sounds perfect for readers who loved Lauren Groff’s Matrix. Set in 7th-century Ireland and imbued with descriptions of illuminated manuscripts and ancient parables, it’s the story of a priest and two monks who head out by boat in search of a place to build a monastery, and they end up on the island known today as Skellig Michael.

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The House of Fortune by Jessie Burton
Bloomsbury | August 30

On the (relatively short) list of novels that immediately demand a sequel, Jessie Burton’s 2014 breakout debut, The Miniaturist (which was adapted into a PBS miniseries in 2017, starring Anya Taylor-Joy), ranks high. We have questions that have never been answered, so we’re queued up for The House of Fortune, a standalone companion novel that picks up the story 18 years later. In 1705 Amsterdam, young Thea lives with her patchwork family (all returning characters): her aunt, the widow Nella; Thea’s father, Otto; and the family’s longtime cook and maid, Cordelia. Money is hard to come by, so brokering a marriage for Thea could solve some financial woes—but Thea only has eyes for a handsome set painter at the local theater. And then the miniaturist makes a return.

The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell
Knopf | September 6

Maggie O’Farrell’s brilliant, bestselling novel Hamnet, about the death of William Shakespeare’s son from the bubonic plague, was high on our list of the Best Books of 2020. For some of us sheltering in lockdown during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, her novel hit a little too close to home; for others, it was exactly what we needed. Her next novel, The Marriage Portrait, arrives with a similar sense of doom as Hamnet: It’s set in 16th-century Europe amid the Italian Renaissance, and we know on the outset that young duchess Lucrezia de’Medici will die, likely murdered at the hand of her husband. Give us ducal intrigue and dial it up to 11, please.

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On the Rooftop by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton
Ecco | September 6

The joyful third novel from the award-winning author of A Kind of Freedom and The Revisioners is a historical tale set in 1950s San Francisco, within a Black cultural and musical hub known as the Fillmore District. A novel of resilience and ambition that was loosely inspired by Fiddler on the Roof, it revolves around a mother and her three singing daughters who are on the cusp of stardom. No doubt you’ll fall in love with the neighborhood at the novel’s heart, where jazz clubs line the streets, and where dreamers share the stage with legends.

Bliss Montage by Ling Ma
FSG | September 13

Little did Ling Ma know when she wrote her debut novel, Severance, that it would be so prescient about life in 2020. With this story of a young woman living through an apocalyptic pandemic, Ming put her finger on the very heartbeat of what it’s like to clock in for work amid a global disaster. Severance was one of the first great millennial novels, so Ma’s upcoming story collection (which includes eight tales) is well deserving of your attention. And what a title: “Bliss montage” evokes one of those gauzy series of scenes as a movie’s tragic protagonist remembers a former love. We can already hear the bittersweet Debussy.

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People Person by Candice Carty-Williams
Scout | September 13

The titular lead character of Candice Carty-Williams’ 2019 debut novel, Queenie, was funny, sharp and a total individual as she navigated the ups and downs of life as a single Black woman in London. In Queenie’s story, we witnessed the kind of characterization that makes a hero feel real, and that’s what we’re looking forward to most in Carty-Williams’ second novel. The scope of People Person is broader than Queenie, with five half-siblings who share the same absent father coming together in adulthood after a dramatic event. We’re expecting a family drama with bite.

Lessons by Ian McEwan
Knopf | September 13

Admit it: Fans of Ian McEwan are gluttons for emotional punishment, because no one devastates quite like he does. His next novel is an epic one, spanning the life of Roland Baines across decades. Historical events such as the disaster at Chernobyl and the falling of the Berlin Wall align with moments from Roland’s life, including traumatic early relationships, his wife’s disappearance and more. The publisher has claimed that it’s “inspired” by McEwan’s own life, and while McEwan has made clear it’s not completely autobiographical, he has said that he’s “raided” elements of his own history.

The Book of Goose book cover

The Book of Goose by Yiyun Li
FSG | September 20

We’re treated to the quiet, devastating brilliance of Yiyun Li once more, this time in a new novel that winds from the French countryside to Pennsylvania, where a woman, after the death of her childhood friend, finally feels free to tell her story. Li is the author of six works of fiction and the memoir Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life, and she’s received a whole heap of awards, including a PEN/Hemingway Award and a MacArthur Fellowship.

Less Is Lost by Andrew Sean Greer
Little, Brown | September 20

The ending of Andrew Sean Greer’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Less, did not demand a sequel—it ended so perfectly—but lucky us, we’re getting one anyway. Beloved Arthur Less, once again fleeing his problems, accepts invitations to a bunch of literary events and heads out on the road. This time, he’s traveling throughout the United States. As he proved with Less, Greer excels at pinpointing the funniest parts of the writerly life, and we expect him to return to this winning comic realm.

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Best of Friends by Kamila Shamsie
Riverhead | September 27

At first glance, the premise of Kamila Shamsie’s latest novel isn’t all that fresh: Two girls were friends; now as adults, they’re forced to look back on their friendship and reckon with their differences. That being said, it’s rare to come across positive depictions of great lifelong friendships in fiction, and Shamsie has promised that Best of Friends focuses on what holds us together, not what drives us apart. Plus, her previous novel, Home Fire, won the Women’s Prize for Fiction and was long-listed for the Booker Prize, so we know we’re in good hands.

Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson
Doubleday | September 27

British author Kate Atkinson has written some of our favorite works of historical fiction, deploying her stellar sense of pacing and phenomenal manipulation of plot. Her latest novel takes us to post-World War I London, where the Soho nightlife is hopping. Wherever there’s glam, there’s a dark underbelly, and no one knows this better than Nellie Coker. She’s made a place for herself at the top, and she’ll use her position to help her six kids move up in the world—no matter how many targets are on her back.

The Winners book cover

The Winners by Fredrik Backman
Atria | September 27

The author of A Man Called Ove brings his popular series, set within a small hockey town, to its much-anticipated finale. Beartown has been the backdrop to some of the darkest dramas of the human heart, but there are still more secrets, rivalries and resentments to contend with in this final installment.

Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng
Penguin Press | October 4

With her bestselling 2017 novel, Little Fires Everywhere (which was adapted by Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington for an Emmy-nominated Hulu series), Celeste Ng took a relatively familiar setup (escalating divisions within a privileged suburban bubble) to a whole new level, bringing an incredible depth of understanding to the situation. In Our Missing Hearts, she continues to track the growing divide between Americans through the intimate relationships of well-crafted characters, but as these rifts have escalated to a nationwide horror show of brazen xenophobia, racism and violence, her storytelling style has likewise amplified to contend with these dangers. Her third novel veers into dystopian territory, but as always, Ng brings deep compassion to her characters.

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Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver
Harper | October 18

It’s apparently unnecessary to read Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield to enjoy the latest from bestselling, award-winning author Barbara Kingsolver. Dickens pulled from his own experiences with poverty to write his 1849 novel, which Kingsolver reportedly drew from to create her rural southern Appalachia-set world. In the hill country of southwestern Virginia (where Kingsolver lives), a boy is born to a teenage mother, and together they live in a single-wide trailer. His life will inevitably bring him through some of the greatest failures of the American experiment: foster care, derelict school systems and the feeling of being invisible to the wider world. Folks looking for a book that compassionately, realistically reflects rural Appalachian stories (or to be more honest, anyone who hated Hillbilly Elegy), this is the book to read next.

The Last Chairlift by John Irving
Simon & Schuster | October 18

There are few novels that need to be 900+ pages, but when you’re John Irving (The World According to Garp, The Cider House Rules) and you haven’t written a novel in seven years, you get to have all 912 pages. It’s a story of ghosts and skiing, beginning with a slalom skier who gets pregnant in Aspen, Colorado, in 1941, and then following her son during his own voyage to Aspen, where he seeks to make sense of the story of his conception.

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Liberation Day by George Saunders
Random House | October 18

Whether he’s guiding us through the Russian literary greats (A Swim in a Pond in the Rain), getting spooky with Booker Prize-winning historical fiction (Lincoln in the Bardo) or writing short fiction for Chipotle’s to-go bags, George Saunders does marvelous, utterly original work. We have a special soft spot for his short stories, where his breadth of imagination and balance of ambition and restraint really shine. Liberation Day, his first collection in eight years (after Tenth of December, a finalist for the National Book Award), includes four new stories along with five tales previously published in The New Yorker.

Signal Fires by Dani Shapiro
Knopf | October 18

Dani Shapiro’s powers as a memoirist are well-known due to the power of such books as Inheritance and Devotion. However, you’d be forgiven for being unaware that she’s also a skilled novelist, as it’s been 15 years since her previous work of fiction. After the success of her memoirs, and with help from her podcast “Family Secrets,” Shapiro has become the queen of family secrets—or if not the queen, she’s at least sitting at the royal table. She undoubtedly will bring new insight to a popular setup: A car crash reverberates throughout several families, transforming a community for years to come.

The Passenger book cover

The Passenger and Stella Maris by Cormac McCarthy
Knopf | October 25 and December 6

One of the most talked-about releases of the year is this one-two punch from The Road author Cormac McCarthy. This duology is reportedly the final work for the 87-year-old author, who has won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award and plenty other accolades, and who has seen several of his novels transformed into masterful films (All the Pretty Horses, No Country for Old Men). The premise of the two novels is an intriguing puzzle: The Passenger is a sprawling saga, while Stella Maris unfolds in dialogue, and together they create a story of a grieving brother and sister.

Now Is Not the Time to Panic by Kevin Wilson
Ecco | November 8

As we wait for the film adaptation of Nothing to See Here, we can turn to the next novel from bestselling author Kevin Wilson. Now Is Not the Time to Panic has a setup that just can’t be beat: Two young people find a romantic and creative connection during what was supposed to be a very lonely, miserable summer in Coalfield, Tennessee. Together they design a poster emblazoned with the phrase “The edge is a shantytown filled with gold seekers. We are fugitives, and the law is skinny with hunger for us,” and the posters soon take on a power of their own. In a note included with advanced editions of Now Is Not the Time to Panic, Wilson explains that “I’ve had recurring thoughts since I was a kid, which was diagnosed as Tourette syndrome as an adult,” and the novel’s phrase has been a mantra and source of comfort to the author for 25 years. It’s mentioned in the The Family Fang, but now it has finally found its place at the center of a novel about art, creativity, memory and nostalgia.

Discover all our most anticipated books of fall 2022.

This fall, “I don’t have anything to read” is officially an invalid excuse.

Audiobook listeners never have to live a single moment without the joy of stories. No errand, no chore, no leisurely stroll is complete without a book. These are the 14 audiobooks that we’re most excited to check out this fall.

Starry Messenger cover

Starry Messenger by Neil deGrasse Tyson, read by the author
Macmillan Audio | September 20

Neil deGrasse Tyson, everyone’s favorite astrophysicist, reads his own “Cosmic Perspectives on Civilization.” Imagine star-gazing while listening to this one—yes, please.

The Door of No Return by Kwame Alexander, read by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith
Hachette Audio | September 27

Stories told in verse can be especially powerful as an audiobook, and no one writes verse novels quite like Newbery Medalist Kwame Alexander. Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, who delivered an outstanding performance for the audiobook of Alex Michaelides’ The Maidens, will bring to life this story of a young boy’s epic journey.

The Sporty One by Melanie Chisholm, read by the author
Hachette Audio | September 27

Yooooo I’ll tell you what I want: a memoir by Sporty Spice, read by Sporty Spice. This will be so much fun for fans of the 1990s icon—queen of the high pony and badass in track pants.

Making a Scene cover

Making a Scene by Constance Wu, read by the author
Simon & Schuster Audio | October 4

The Golden Globe-nominated star of Crazy Rich Asians and Hustlers narrates her own collection of essays, about her life both in and out of Hollywood, which she wrote in the aftermath of severe backlash to her tweets about the “Fresh Off the Boat” reboot. “While my book is not always the most flattering portrayal, it’s as honest as I know how to be,” she tweeted in July. We’re looking forward to hearing about the experience in her own words. 

A Rover’s Story by Jasmine Warga, read by Ariana Delawari and Jacob McNatt
HarperAudio | October 4 

The next middle grade novel from Jasmine Warga (The Shape of Thunder) is primarily narrated by a fictional Mars Rover, whose little robot voice will be uniquely fun on audio. The other narrative voice is Sophia, the daughter of the lead engineer on the robot and who writes letters to the determined little rover. For most of the novel, Sophia is a child, but while Rover goes on its mission, Sophia begins to grow up, which will be an interesting narrator challenge.

Dying of Politeness by Geena Davis, read by the author
HarperAudio | October 10

Here’s another big Hollywood memoir, read by the author—this one from two-time Academy Award winner Geena Davis, best known for her iconic roles in Thelma & Louise and A League of Their Own.

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The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan, read by the author
Random House Audio | October 18

One of the best things about the burgeoning audiobook industry is that publishers are going back and rerecording old audiobooks, or even producing audiobooks for the very first time. Michael Pollan does an outstanding job narrating his own books, so this new production of his 2001 book, about the relationship between humans and our domesticated plants, is sure to be a winner.

Greywaren by Maggie Stiefvater, read by Will Patton
Scholastic | October 18

Will Patton is one of the best audiobook narrators out there, so it’s no wonder that he’s the go-to voice for Maggie Stiefvater’s books. (He’s also read a ton of Stephen King and James Lee Burke audiobooks, as well as Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann.) This fall, he brings his talents to the highly anticipated third book in Stiefvater’s Dreamer Trilogy.

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Signal Fires by Dani Shapiro, read by the author
Random House Audio | October 18

Dani Shapiro is best known as a memoirist, and thanks to the success of her book Inheritance and subsequent podcast, “Family Secrets,” she has been universally embraced as something of an expert on the process of discovering and coming to terms with skeletons in the family closet. She brings all that background to the narration of her upcoming novel, about a terrible car crash and its long-term impact on several families.

Inciting Joy by Ross Gay
Hachette Audio | October 25

It hasn’t been announced yet, but what if Ross Gay narrates his upcoming essay collection? He read The Book of Delights, after all. And while we don’t want to make assumptions, our fingers are crossed.

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Surrender by Bono, read by the author
Random House Audio | November 1

Bono, activist and lead singer of the Irish rock band U2, created 40 original drawings for his first memoir, which will make for an appealing package for fans—but we feel like listening to him read his own audiobook will be even better.

Have I Told You This Already? by Lauren Graham, read by the author
Random House Audio | November 15

We’re expecting lots of reasons to laugh when listening to this new essay collection from “Gilmore Girls” actor Lauren Graham, who has proven herself to be a strong writer of both fiction and nonfiction. We especially when she reads her own audiobooks because she’s totally unafraid to be a little silly.

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The Light We Carry by Michelle Obama, read by the author
Random House Audio | November 15

First Lady Michelle Obama’s narration of her previous memoir, the bestselling Becoming, was a real standout, and fans have continued to enjoy her insight and benefit from her expertise by listening to her winning podcast. To our delight, Obama will narrate her next book—a mixture of memoir and self-help—as well.

Butts by Heather Radke, read by the author
Simon & Schuster Audio | November 22

Heather Radke is a contributing editor and reporter at the Peabody Award-winning program “RadioLab,” so her narration of this scientific and cultural history of the female butt should be fascinating and wildly entertaining.

Discover all our most anticipated books of fall 2022.

We’re looking ahead to audiobooks from Michelle Obama, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bono and more.

Most epic:

Properties of Thirst by Marianne Wiggins

Many of us have an aversion to novels that claim to be the next American epic in the tradition of John Steinbeck, particularly when they’re about World War II. These novels, purporting to be the next necessary heart-wrenching tale of wartime heroism, are seemingly everywhere, but rarely do they live up to expectations. Properties of Thirst defies, dispels and demolishes those expectations and biases in the best way. Read our review.

Sister Mother Warrior by Vanessa Riley

The complexity of Sister Mother Warrior suits the complicated, difficult history of the Haitian revolution, which Vanessa Riley brings to life through the stories of a soldier and a future empress. Read our review.

The Many Daughters of Afong Moy by Jamie Ford

Exploring the bonds that transcend physical space, The Many Daughters of Afong Moy is an enthralling, centuries-spanning tale, a masterful saga that’s perfect for fans of The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende and The Last House on the Street by Diane Chamberlain. Read our review.

Wrath Goddess Sing

Best ancient tale for acolytes of Madeline Miller:

Wrath Goddess Sing by Maya Deane

Some prior knowledge of the Iliad will maximize the enjoyment of this novel, if only to provide some context for Maya Deane’s beautifully realized Mediterranean landscape and her depiction of the Greek gods as vivid, often malicious beings. Wrath Goddess Sing is a mythic reinvention for the ages that asks questions about topics such as trans identity, passing and the politics of the body. Read our review.

Best perspectives on the American West:

Fire Season by Leyna Krow

Leyna Krow plays fast and loose with the tropes of the frontier novel, leaning in to the notion of the unsettled West as a place where people could reinvent themselves. Read our review.

Woman of Light by Kali Fajardo-Anstine

Woman of Light retains a mythic quality while following the stories of five generations of an Indigenous North American family, from their origins, border crossings, accomplishments and traumas to their descendants’ confrontation and acceptance of their family history. Read our review.

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Best for book clubs:

Horse by Geraldine Brooks

Geraldine Brooks returns to themes she explored so well in previous works, such as her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, March, which chronicles many of the injustices that occurred during America’s Civil War. Loosely based on a true story, Horse involves a discarded painting and a dusty skeleton, both of which concern a foal widely considered “the greatest racing stallion in American turf history.” Read our review.

Most glamorous subterfuge:

The Lunar Housewife

The Lunar Housewife by Caroline Woods

Caroline Woods’ historical thriller, set in the final days of the Korean War and the onset of the Cold War, spins a tale of big-city intrigue as it follows a promising young waitress-turned-writer and the increasingly disturbing secrets she uncovers. The result is an addictive binge of a read that’s equal parts intelligent introspection and nail-biting suspense. Read our review.

The Librarian Spy by Madeline Martin

Madeline Martin is known for her deeply researched historical fiction and romance novels, and The Librarian Spy is a delight as we follow the World War II adventures of an endearing, quiet bookworm. Read our review.

Last Call at the Nightingale by Katharine Schellman

Vivian Kelly, the protagonist of this Prohibition-era mystery, is a seamstress in what we would now consider a sweatshop, and by night she is a regular at the Nightingale, a Manhattan speakeasy of some note among Jazz Age cognoscenti. When Vivian stumbles upon a dead body in the alley behind the club, the speakeasy’s hitherto bon vivant ambiance begins to melt away, revealing something altogether more sinister. Read our review.

A Lady for a Duke

Best love stories in historical settings:

A Lady for a Duke by Alexis Hall

Alexis Hall takes on the Regency with his angsty new historical romance. Following the Battle of Waterloo, Viola Carroll abandoned her previous identity, as well as her aristocratic title, to finally embrace life as a trans woman. But Viola’s dearest friend, Justin de Vere, the Duke of Gracewood, is not coping so well. He drowns himself in alcohol and opium to cope with his despair over Viola’s death, the lingering pain of a war injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. The term “slow burn” doesn’t begin to capture the agonized pining of this romance, which is absolutely suffused with yearning. Read our review.

The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes by Cat Sebastian

Cat Sebastian returns to the Georgian-era setting of 2021’s The Queer Principles of Kit Webb with The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes, a charming story about two chaotic bisexuals who cross each other’s paths while pursuing their criminal endeavors. Read our review.


Best picks for Hilary Mantel fans:

Joan by Katherine J. Chen

This Joan of Arc is hungry, earthy and scrappy—a natural fighter. For readers who love Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall trilogy or Lauren Groff’s Matrix, Joan offers similar pleasures with its immediacy and somewhat contemporary tone. It’s an immersive evocation of a character whose name everyone knows, all these centuries later, but whom, perhaps, none of us knows at all. Read our review.

Learning to Talk by Hilary Mantel

Sure, it’s a little on the nose, but these seven stories, arranged chronologically, offer an unusual and ultimately fascinating amalgam of fact and fiction as two-time Booker Prize-winning British author Hilary Mantel sorts through the puzzle pieces of her past. As Mantel reflects loosely on her English childhood, she explores, as she writes in the preface, “the swampy territory that lies between history and myth.” Read our review.

Best supernatural or magical touches:

Briefly, a Delicious Life by Nell Stevens

In 1838, the French novelist George Sand (pen name for Aurore Dupin) decided that a winter away from Paris would be good for her, her two children and her ailing lover, Frédéric Chopin, who had tuberculosis. This is where the debut novel from Nell Stevens begins, and she quickly reveals an inventive, imaginative approach to historical fiction, full of comic moments but also sorrow, violence and beauty. Her ghostly narrator is full of life, a wonderful guide to another time and place. Read our review.

Ordinary Monsters by J.M. Miro

The first in a planned trilogy, Ordinary Monsters traverses 19th-century America, England, Scotland and Japan before eventually landing at the Cairndale Institute outside of Edinburgh, where Talents are learning to control and hone their powers. J.M. Miro (the pen name of a literary novelist) plays off the well-loved and well-worn tropes of chosen ones and magical institutions for children, but freshens things up with a large, sweeping scope and a likable, diverse cast of characters. Read our review.

Discover more historical fiction here!

Summer reading allows us to get away from it all—and with transportive historical fiction, we can go really, really far away. Discover the season’s best historical novels!

2022 brings exciting releases from longtime favorites Jennifer Egan, Julie Otsuka, Mohsin Hamid and Kate Quinn, plus follow-ups from Namwali Serpell and Linda Holmes, and a slew of adult novels from stars of young people’s literature: Jason Reynolds, Nina LaCour and Kelly Barnhill.

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Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson
Ballantine | February 1

Did someone say “Oprah”? Debut novelist Charmaine Wilkerson’s decades-spanning family drama will make its way to Hulu as a limited series, to be written and executive produced by Marissa Jo Cerar, creator of “Women of the Movement,” who has teamed up with Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Films and Aaron Kaplan’s Kapital Entertainment. But before we’re completely submerged in media buzz, the novel itself stands out among upcoming family sagas, as it takes two estranged siblings from the Caribbean to London to California as they follow their mother’s final request for them to reconnect, discover their family’s secrets and, after all is said and done, eat their mother’s famous black cake.

What the Fireflies Knew by Kai Harris
Tiny Reparations | February 1

The first fiction title from Phoebe Robinson’s publishing imprint, Tiny Reparations Books, is the debut novel from Kai Harris, which is told from the perspective of an 11-year-old girl over the course of a seminal summer spent with her sister and estranged grandfather. We’re feeling strong uplifting vibes from Harris’ artist statement: “I want my words to be a safe space, a retreat, a giant bowl of comfort food (with ice cream on top). I want my words to be truth and light.” You can read an excerpt from Harris’ novel in Kweli Journal, in a special issue on Black girlhood that was guest edited by Nicole Dennis-Benn.

Nobody’s Magic by Destiny O. Birdsong
Grand Central | February 8

The acclaimed poet (Negotiations) and BookPage contributor (!) turns to fiction with her first novel, a triptych that follows the lives of three Black women with albinism, each navigating romance, autonomy, grief and their own sense of power. We’re feeling the emotional lyricism of Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, set within a Southern milieu.

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The Swimmers by Julie Otsuka
Knopf | February 22

Julie Otsuka writes compact, ferocious little novels that land with a wallop: Her first, When the Emperor Was Divine, won the 2003 Asian American Literary Award and the American Library Association’s Alex Award, and her second, the internationally bestselling The Buddha in the Attic, was a finalist for the 2011 National Book Award and won the 2012 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. Her third novel, which also clocks in at fewer than 200 pages, is her first in over a decade. It follows a passionate group of recreational swimmers after a crack appears at the bottom of their local pool, in particular one woman whose diminishing memory is exacerbated by the loss of her daily laps. By the time her estranged daughter returns home, the woman has been swept away into memories of childhood and days spent in a Japanese American internment camp.

The Unsinkable Greta James by Jennifer E. Smith
Ballantine | March 1

Readers of children’s books and YA know and love bestselling author Jennifer E. Smith (The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight), and now everyone else will know her, too, because she’s making her adult fiction debut in March. The Unsinkable Greta James is about an indie guitarist who, after the death of her mother and an onstage breakdown, joins her father on what was supposed to be his wedding anniversary cruise in Alaska. Goodness knows we love emotional tales set at sea, and it’s also pretty cute that Smith’s novel is being published by Ballantine, where she worked as an editor once upon a time.

Booth by Karen Joy Fowler
Putnam | March 8

There is truly no way to predict what kind of book Karen Joy Fowler will write next. Her previous novel, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (2013), which won the 2014 PEN/Faulkner Award, the 2014 California Book Award for Fiction and was short-listed for the Booker Prize, was about a middle-class family raising a chimp. So naturally her next novel is a historical saga centered on the theatrical Booth family—as in John Wilkes Booth.


Glory by NoViolet Bulawayo 
Viking | March 8

NoViolet Bulawayo made quite a splash as a first-time novelist a decade ago: In 2012, she was one of the National Book Award’s 5 Under 35 honorees, and her 2013 debut novel, We Need New Names, won multiple awards and was a finalist for the Booker Prize. Her long-awaited follow-up is unlike anything else on this list, voiced by a chorus of animals who live in an unnamed African country and who must contend with the unexpected death of their leader, Old Horse. If this sounds Orwellian, it’s because it is: Bulawayo was inspired by the Zimbabwean coup and resultant fall of the nation’s president of nearly four decades in 2017, which led to online discourse and hashtags drawing a connection between the events and George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm

The Great Passion by James Runcie
Bloomsbury | March 15

The TV series “Grantchester,” based on James Runcie’s Sidney Chambers mysteries, is, I think it’s fair to presume, universally beloved. (It’s about a vicar who moonlights as a sleuth in 1950s Cambridge; if you don’t love it, you just haven’t read/watched it yet.) Along with penning his acclaimed, bestselling fiction, Runcie is also a documentary filmmaker, and his film resume includes a 1997 TV documentary about Johann Sebastian Bach, created for the BBC series “Great Composers.” In 2016, Runcie wrote a radio play, The Great Passion, about Bach’s writing of the St. Matthew Passion, and now we’ll get to enjoy Runcie’s creation in novel form, which follows the life of Bach from 1720 on, as well as the story of a 13-year-old boy who becomes a soloist for the great composer.

French Braid by Anne Tyler
Knopf | March 22

More and more writers are setting their novels—or parts of their novels—in the “pandemic present,” and though we’re not surprised, we are pretty wary. So much about living through the COVID-19 pandemic can’t be fully understood yet, but we trust Anne Tyler to join Zadie Smith, Louise Erdrich and a handful of others in their incisive looks at our present challenges. The latest from Tyler, whose novel Breathing Lessons won the Pulitzer Prize in 1989, follows a Baltimore family from the 1950s to the present, returning her many fans to the sweeping style of one of her best loved works, A Spool of Blue Thread.

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The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn
William Morrow | March 29

We’re big fans of Kate Quinn over here, but the synopsis of her latest historical novel is on a whole other level: It’s a World War II novel . . . based on a true story . . . about a Russian librarian . . . who becomes the deadliest female sniper in history. She’s called Lady Death! It’s also worth noting that this is Quinn’s first hardcover release from William Morrow, a clear sign of reaching that special level of publishing gold. Go Kate!

The Candy House by Jennifer Egan
Scribner | April 5

This one’s another jaw-dropper: a “sibling novel” to Jennifer Egan’s Pulitzer Prize-winning A Visit From the Good Squad. Coming to readers more than a decade after Goon Squad, The Candy House is the story of a brilliant man and his unique creation called “Own Your Unconscious,” which is technology that allows you to access all your memories—and share your memories with others. We’re intrigued, especially by the enigmatic (you might even say downright confusing) publishing materials’ explanation for the link between the two books: “If Goon Squad was organized like a concept album, The Candy House incorporates Electronic Dance Music’s more disjunctive approach. . . . With an emphasis on gaming, portals and alternate worlds, its structure also suggests the experience of moving among dimensions in a role-playing game.” Sounds weird! We’re in.

Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel
Knopf | April 5

After the imaginative brilliance of both Station Eleven (recently adapted into a series on HBO) and The Glass Hotel (also in development for TV series), we’re willing to trust Emily St. John Mandel implicitly, which perhaps goes against our code as critics, but oh well. The St.-J-M literary universe, which binds together all of her novels, expands with Sea of Tranquility, an epic tale spanning from 1912 Vancouver Island to a moon colony 200 years in the future. Plus, the version of Sea of Tranquility distributed to independent bookstores will include a special chapter, which is a cool bonus for readers dedicated to patronizing their local bookstores.

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True Biz by Sara Novi​​ć
Random House | April 5

Sara Novi​​ć follows up her award-winning first novel, Girl at War, with a tale set within a residential school for the deaf. Its title is a phrase from American Sign Language that means “really, seriously, real-talk,” and as Novi​​ć is herself a member of the Deaf community and an instructor of Deaf studies at Stockton University in New Jersey, we’re expecting just that: real talk. Plus, there are already plans for True Biz to become a TV adaptation, produced by and starring deaf actor Millicent Simmonds, whom you may know from John Krasinski’s 2018 horror film, A Quiet Place. Nović will also be an executive producer on the show, and the studio has expressed further commitment to hiring Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals to fill many of the creative and leadership roles.

Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart
Grove | April 5

With Shuggie Bain, Scottish American author Douglas Stuart became the sixth first-time novelist and second Scottish writer to win the prize since it was founded 50 years ago. Naturally, we’re bringing some very high hopes to his second novel, Young Mungo. It’s a story of star-crossed lovers: two young working-class men, one Protestant, the other Catholic, living amid the violent gangs on a Glaswegian estate. In a secluded pigeon dovecote, they find a private world to explore their love, but the threat of discovery looms large.

Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
Berkley | April 12

Take My Hand is poised to be a big breakout for Dolen Perkins-Valdez, though her list of achievements is already quite long. She’s the bestselling author of Wench and Balm, a PEN/Faulkner fellow, a finalist for two NAACP Image Awards and the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award for fiction, and winner of the First Novelist Award by the Black Caucus of the ALA. This is her first novel since 2015, and it was inspired by a true event: the 1973 Relf v. Weinberger case, in which three underage Black sisters were sterilized without their consent, and a social worker’s whistleblowing blew the lid off the nationwide scandal. This novel fictionalizes those events through the story of a nurse in Alabama, and for readers of historical fiction, it’s one to watch for sure.

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Liarmouth: A Feel-Bad Romance by John Waters
FSG | May 3

The very first novel from legendary filmmaker John Waters (Mr. Know-It-All) is a “perverted feel-bad romance” starring a clever con woman who steals suitcases at airports. Other important John Waters news (because we don’t have any further information about the book) is that he recently dedicated namesake bathrooms at the Baltimore Museum of Art and appeared on “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” plus there are murmurings about a new film project and an upcoming art exhibit. We love an irreverent, prolific genius!

Trust by Hernan Diaz
Riverhead | May 3

Hernan Diaz’s debut novel, In the Distance, really put him on the map, earning him a finalist spot for both the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction in 2018. Published by Coffee House Press in 2017, it was an exceptional entry in the recent list of great novels reimagining the narrative of the American West, garnering comparisons to Jorge Luis Borges’ work. Diaz’s follow-up, Trust, is an imminently intriguing story-within-a-story centering on a 1938 novel titled Bonds, about the immense fortune cultivated by a Wall Street tycoon and his aristocrat wife. Comparisons to Amor Towles are already swirling, so keep your eyes peeled.

Vigil Harbor by Julia Glass
Pantheon | May 3

In her seventh novel, the 2002 National Book Award-winning author of Three Junes takes us 10 years into the future, where locals in a small coastal town are doing their best amid an increasingly terrifying world of escalating storms and domestic terrorist attacks. Then two outsiders come to Vigil Harbor, one of whom is a woman determined to solve the disappearance of a long-lost lover. Plus, there’s a secret involving a selkie! That’s a lot to unpack, so we’re looking forward to seeing Julia Glass’ navigation of it all. 

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When Women Were Dragons by Kelly Barnhill
Doubleday | May 3

2022 will be a big year for Newbery winner Kelly Barnhill, who in March returns with her first book for young readers since The Girl Who Drank the Moon (read about it in our list of most anticipated children’s books), and then in May delivers her first novel for adult readers, When Women Were Dragons. During the Mass Dragoning of 1955, hundreds of thousands of women, scattered all around the world, spontaneously transformed into dragons. At the story’s center is a girl who wants to understand why.

The Cherry Robbers by Sarai Walker
Mariner | May 17

Sarai Walker’s debut novel, Dietland, was one of our Best Books of 2015, and with her second novel (finally!), she moves into historical fiction with a tale inspired by a tourist attraction near San Francisco: the Winchester Mystery House, a spooky mansion built by a turn-of-the-century American firearms heiress. The Cherry Robbers is a subversive gothic novel that follows the story of Iris Chapel, who attempts to escape her family’s multigenerational curse, in which each daughter is fated to die on her wedding night.

You Have a Friend in 10A by Maggie Shipstead
Knopf | May 17

Hot on the heels of Maggie Shipstead’s finest novel and one of our Best Books of 2021, Great Circle, comes her first book of short stories! If Great Circle displayed her tremendous ability in crafting a tale of immense breadth, a story collection will swing the other way, allowing fans to revel in her talent for brevity.

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Either/Or by Elif Batuman
Penguin Press | May 24

Fans of The Idiot, New Yorker staff writer Elif Batuman’s absurdist take on the campus novel, have waited five years to find out what’s next for her brainy but awkward heroine, Selin. In Either/Or, Selin returns for her sophomore year at Harvard determined to continue her search for self-knowledge (and possibly her pursuit of Ivan, her freshman crush).

The Latecomer by Jean Hanff Korelitz
Celadon | May 31

Is Jean Hanff Korelitz on the cusp of becoming the next Liane Moriarty? It certainly feels like she’s close, consistently proving that she can hook readers with her well-balanced literary thrillers and family dramas. You Should Have Known (2014) was adapted as HBO’s 2020 series  “The Undoing.” And her 2021 novel, The Plot, was one of those books we kept hearing about from other authors; clearly, Korelitz touched on something deeply true about the writing and publishing processes. Her next novel centers on privileged triplets who, on the cusp of leaving for college, discover a shocking family secret: There was a leftover embryo after their parents’ in vitro fertilization, and now they have a fourth sibling, just born.

Yerba Buena by Nina LaCour
Flatiron | May 31

YA fiction superstar Nina LaCour is making her first foray into the realm of adult fiction, and the world has stopped on its axis while we wait for the quiet power of Yerba Buena. It’s the story of two young women, shouldering more than their share of trauma and pain, who find their way to each other, so I suppose we could all just start crying and hugging now.

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Tracy Flick Can’t Win by Tom Perrota
Scribner | June 7

Tom Perrotta (Mrs. Fletcher) is the defining satirist of suburban politics, and if you haven’t read his 1998 novel, Election, you at least are likely familiar with the movie adaptation, starring Reese Witherspoon as the ambitious lead, Tracy Flick. To many, Tracy was a villain; to others, a feminist hero. Well, Tracy Flick is back, and she’s got her sights set on a promotion to high school principal. Perrotta will surely line her path with darkly comic hurdles and razor-sharp critique of the school culture—and larger world—around her.

Flying Solo by Linda Holmes
Ballantine | June 14

“Pop Culture Happy Hour” host Linda Holmes’ feel-good, utterly enjoyable bestselling debut, Evvie Drake Starts Over, earned an easy spot on our list of the Best Romance of 2019. We’re thrilled to learn about the upcoming publication of Holmes’ second novel, Flying Solo, which sounds like pure joy—and pure gold. It’s about a woman named Laurie who has recently canceled her wedding and returned to her Maine hometown. She’s in charge of her adventurous aunt’s estate that has a mysterious wooden duck among its treasures, and then the duck is stolen, so of course Laurie must discover her great-aunt’s secrets. Sure, the premise isn’t breaking any new ground, but that doesn’t matter, because Holmes knows how to deliver exactly what you want in the most satisfying way.

Horse by Geraldine Brooks
Viking | June 14

The acclaimed and beloved author of five previous novels (including the Pulitzer Prize-winning March) returns with a historical novel inspired by the true story of the thoroughbred sire horse named Lexington. Spanning from Civil War-era Kentucky to present-day Washington, D.C., the novel explores hidden legacies, the bonds between human and horse and the secrets held within art, the last of which fans will recall was also an element of Brooks’ novel People of the Book. Plus, we love a title that gets right to the point.

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The Twilight World by Werner Herzog
Penguin Press | June 14

Werner Herzog’s range as a filmmaker is massive, though I’ll always think of him as the documentarian who captured the saddest penguin moment of all time. (View Encounters at the End of the World at your heart’s own peril.) Considering the intensity of his storytelling, Herzog’s first novel inspires both excitement and trepidation. It’s based on the true story of a Japanese soldier named Hiroo Onoda who defended a small island in the Philippines for almost 30 years after the end of World War II, and whom Herzog met in 1997 during a trip to Tokyo. The novel is described as “part documentary, part poem and part dream.”

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
Knopf | July 12

The bestselling author of one of all our all-time favorite books-about-bookstores, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry (whose film adaptation will star Kunal Nayyar, Lucy Hale and Christina Hendricks), returns! Gabrielle Zevin’s latest novel sounds gently provocative and wonderfully redemptive: Spanning 30 years, it follows two childhood friends who reunite in adulthood to create a video game “where players can escape the confines of a body and the betrayals of a heart, and where death means nothing more than a chance to restart and play again.”

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Mercury Pictures Presents by Anthony Marra
Hogarth | July 19

World War II meets Hollywood in the third novel from Anthony Marra, whose first two novels, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena (which won the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Prize and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and was long-listed for the National Book Award) and The Tsar of Love and Techno, earned both critical success and book club popularity. Of course, everyone loves an escapist Hollywood story, but it’s all the better when those bright lights shine on something deep and true, so we’re looking forward to Marra’s epic novel of reinvention, politics and the lengths to which we’ll all go to survive.

Calling for a Blanket Dance by Oscar Hokeah
Algonquin | July 26

Here’s another debut we’re especially excited about: With solid Tommy Orange vibes, the first novel from Oscar Hokeah is a coming-of-age tale told from a chorus of multigenerational voices. Ever Geimausaddle is at the story’s heart, and as his family navigates the ups and (many) downs of life, they also have strong opinions about how young Ever’s future will look. Hokeah is a citizen of Cherokee Nation and the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma from his mother’s side and of Latinx heritage from his father’s, and he works with Indian Child Welfare in his hometown of Tahlequah, OK. Plus, his writing creds are no joke: He has a BFA in Creative Writing from the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA), with a minor in Indigenous Liberal Studies. He’s also a winner of the Taos Summer Writers Conference’s Native Writer Award. One to watch, for sure.

The Many Daughters of Afong Moy by Jamie Ford
Atria | August 2

Throughout Jamie Ford’s previous three novels, including his acclaimed debut, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, readers have been transported to historical Seattle to discover the stories of Japanese and Chinese Americans grappling with buried memories, the fragile bonds within families and found families, and the choices we make to survive. Ford’s fourth novel tangles with many of these same themes through the story of Dorothy Moy, former poet laureate of Washington, who reconnects with her female ancestry as she searches for a way to help her daughter. It’s based on the story of a real person—Afong Moy, the first Chinese woman to set foot in America in 1832—but with a speculative twist.

The Last White Man by Mohsin Hamid
Riverhead | August 2

Booker Prize finalist and bestselling novelist Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West is one of those spectacular novels that we urgently recommend to everyone, so news of his first book since that 2017 novel literally made me gasp so hard that I ran out of air. Like Exit West, The Last White Man has a dollop of the fantastical, as it’s set in a world where white-skinned people wake up with darker skin. Hamid is one of those writers who can package really complicated, difficult issues and make them reach anyone, even someone who maybe isn’t ready to hear about them. Also, it must be said that he has a great reading voice, so we hope that he’ll read this one on audio, as well.

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Afterlives by Abdulrazak Gurnah
Riverhead | August 23

When Tanzanian novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah won the 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature, he became the first Black laureate since Toni Morrison in 1993, and the first Black writer from Africa to receive the award since Wole Soyinka (of Nigeria) in 1986. After Gurnah’s win was announced, it was incredibly hard for readers to acquire copies of his books—partly because of supply chain issues, and partly because his books had never found an audience in the U.S., and so were often out of print or just plain hard to find. Last fall, Riverhead announced plans to publish three titles from Gurnah: the novel he published in the U.K. in 2020, Afterlives, and then two out-of-print novels, By the Sea and Desertion. Coming in August, Afterlives promises to be brutal, sweeping, intimate and necessary, a multigenerational saga unfolding amid the colonization of East Africa.

Haven by Emma Donoghue
Little, Brown | August 23

We’re living for this historical kick from bestselling Irish novelist Emma Donoghue! In her latest novel, she combines the spirituality of The Wonder (currently being developed as a film starring Florence Pugh) with the deep historical research of her timely 2020 novel, The Pull of the Stars (about the 1918 flu pandemic), for a tale about early Christianity. In seventh-century Ireland, a priest and two young monks journey down the river Shannon in search of a place to found a monastery, but they soon drift out to the Atlantic Ocean and arrive at a rugged island inhabited by huge flocks of birds, known today as Skellig Michael.

The Furrows by Namwali Serpell
Hogarth | August 30

Namwali Serpell’s debut novel, the expansive yet intricate genre-bending saga The Old Drift, received piles of love—as it should’ve. Along with being one of our Best Books of 2019, it also earned a number of literary prizes, including an L.A. Times Award. Naturally our expectations are high for The Furrows, which is out to break even more literary rules. It’s set in 1990s Baltimore and will explore “different kinds of Black identity, as well as different modes of Black speech.”

Signal Fires by Dani Shapiro
Knopf | Fall 2022

Dani Shapiro is best known for her memoirs, such as Inheritance and Devotion, but she’s also a fabulous novelist and story writer. Signal Fires, her first work of fiction in more than a decade, is about a catastrophic event that utterly transforms the lives of two families over several generations. The fateful day occurs in 1985, when a car crash results in the death of a young woman. As Shapiro explains in a release from her publisher, the epiphanies within her own family history, as explored in Inheritance, led to the writing of this novel: “There’s a haunting question at the center of the book,” Shapiro says. “Is the past ever really past, and what is the price of denying our own history? In Signal Fires, each character is haunted, their lives shaped by what they can’t allow themselves to know or feel.”

The Mouthless God and Jesus Number Two by Jason Reynolds
Scribner | TBD

NAACP Image Award winner, Newbery Honor recipient and former National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Jason Reynolds (Look Both Ways) is one of the greatest writers of children’s and YA literature, and we’re beyond excited that he’ll bring his gifts to a new readership, hopefully sometime this year. His first novel for adult readers is set within a carnival town that’s home to a boy named Mm who was born without a mouth. Says Reynolds, “I’m honored to tell the story of this boy, Mm, who has lived in my imagination for years, and has also been in the back row of every school auditorium I’ve visited.”

A Spell of Good Things by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀
Knopf | TBD

Nigerian author Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀’s award-winning first novel, Stay With Me, came out in 2017, and people continue to ask us about it nearly five years later. It’s so wonderful when a truly great book has such staying power! Her second novel is rumored to come out this year, and it’s about “two families in Nigeria at opposite ends of the economic spectrum, whose lives collide when political turmoil erupts in their city.” In a statement from the publisher, Adébáyọ̀ said the book was conceived “after a detour compelled me to realize what remained invisible to me in a town that I had long called home. While it has taken a few years to write a novel I hope illuminates the tangled longings of its characters, I’m excited to share it with readers.”

Wandering Stars by Tommy Orange
Knopf | TBD

Tommy Orange’s 2018 debut, There There, was a groundbreaking work of fiction that well deserved all the love it received. Along with being one our Best Books of that year, it won the 2018 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, was long-listed for the National Book Award for fiction 2018 and the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction 2019, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His follow-up to that smash hit is rumored to hit shelves sometime this year.

Check out our most anticipated titles of 2022 in every genre!

There's nothing quite like the optimism of a whole new year of fiction.

No one does an art thriller quite like B.A. Shapiro, and with such as novels The Art Forger and The Muralist, she’s carved out quite the niche by blinding literary thrills with questions of authenticity, value, museum politics and the inner workings of various historical art scenes.

Shapiro’s next novel, Metropolis, arrives this spring from Algonquin Books, and BookPage is delighted to reveal its cover and an exclusive excerpt!

First, read a bit about Metropolis in the official synopsis from Algonquin:

This masterful novel of psychological suspense from the New York Times bestselling author of The Art Forger follows a cast of unforgettable characters whose lives intersect when a harrowing accident occurs at the Metropolis Storage Warehouse in Cambridge, Massachusetts. 

But was it really an accident? Was it suicide? A murder? Six mysterious characters who rent units in, or are connected to, the self-storage facility must now reevaluate their lives. We meet Serge, an unstable but brilliant street photographer who lives in his unit, which overflows with thousands of undeveloped pictures; Zach, the building’s owner, who develops Serge’s photos as he searches for clues to the accident; Marta, an undocumented immigrant who is finishing her dissertation and hiding from ICE; Liddy, an abused wife and mother, who re-creates her children’s bedroom in her unit; Jason, who has left his corporate firm and now practices law from his storage unit; and Rose, the office manager, who takes kickbacks to let renters live in the building and has her own complicated family history. 

The characters have a variety of backgrounds: They are different races; they practice different religions; they’re young and they’re not so young; they are rich, poor, and somewhere in the middle. As they dip in and out of one another’s lives, fight circumstances that are within and also beyond their control, and try to discover the details of the accident, Shapiro both dismantles the myth of the American dream and builds tension to an exciting climax.

Metropolis hits bookstores and libraries on May 17, 2022. While you wait, we’re delighted to reveal the cover from designer Sara Wood and art director Christopher Moisan. Plus, an exclusive excerpt after the jump!

BOSTONGLOBE.COM, JANUARY 7, 2018. Cambridge, MA—Rescue workers were dispatched to the Metropolis Storage Warehouse at Massachusetts Avenue and Vassar Street in response to a 911 call at 11:15 this evening. At least one person was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital with critical injuries after a fall down an elevator shaft. Details are limited, and neither police nor hospital officials identified the victim. Questions were raised about what people were doing at the self-storage facility at that hour, and police are investigating other violations concerning the building. This is a developing story. It will be updated.



May 2018

It’s Rose’s fault. It’s Aetna’s fault. It’s Otis Elevator’s fault. All of the above and none of the above. Zach Davidson hovers at the edge of the crowd, but at six two it’s tough to blend into the background. The auctioneer doesn’t know Zach is the recipient of the money from the forthcoming sales, and he wants to keep it that way, although he doesn’t know why this matters. He isn’t even sure why he’s come, unless as some perverse form of self-flagellation. 

“Most of you know the rules,” the auctioneer begins in her booming voice, “but I’m going to go over them quickly. Due to foreclosure of the building, the contents of twenty-two abandoned storage units are up for sale. The minimum bid is one hundred dollars. Cash only. I’ll open the door to each unit, and you’ll have five minutes to see what’s inside, and then I’ll start the auction. You may not cross the threshold. You may not touch anything. You may not ask me any questions, because I don’t have any answers. You take it all or you leave it all. Then we move on to the next unit. Is this clear?”

There’s a murmur of acceptance, which echoes off the concrete walls and floor, the steel-reinforced ceiling. They’re standing outside Rose’s old office, the woman Zach shouldn’t have relied on. Every direction he looks pisses him off. Rose’s empty desk, the dim bulbs, the peeling paint. He turns his back on the yellow police tape stretched across the elevator.

It’s been almost four months since it happened, and still no one knows for sure if it was an accident, a suicide attempt, or a murder attempt. Could be any of them, but it doesn’t make all that much difference. He’s screwed any which way. Damn elevator. Damn Rose. Damn hard luck. 

He follows the auctioneer as she marches down a corridor lined with heavy metal doors, each imprinted with a round medallion containing a large M intertwined with a smaller S and W. Metropolis Storage Warehouse. One hundred and twenty-three years old. Six stories high. Ninety feet wide. Four hundred and eighty feet long. Almost four hundred storage units of various sizes and shapes; some even have windows. Zach knows it well.

Author B.A. Shapiro

The potential bidders are a mixed bunch. Two men in ratty clothes smell as if they’ve been sleeping on the street, which they probably have. Another three look like lawyers or real estate developers, and there’s a foursome of gray-hairs who appear to have just stepped off the golf course. A gaggle of middle-aged women in running shoes sends stern glances at a girl clutching a pen and a pad of paper, who seems far too young to be the mother of the children she’s yelling at. Male, female, tall, short, fat, slim, white, Black, brown, rich, poor, clever, or not so clever. Like the inner recesses of Metropolis itself, a diverse assemblage that stands in contrast to the archipelago of cultural and economic neighborhoods Boston has become. 

Zach has owned Metropolis for ten years, bought at a ridiculously low price in a quasi-legal deal that looked to be the way out of the consequences of his bad choices. Although it still belongs to him, however temporarily, he has no idea what’s behind any of the doors. The building had a well-deserved shady reputation when he purchased it, and he concluded he was better off not knowing what people were storing in their units. In retrospect, a little prying might have averted this mess.

The auctioneer, a beefy woman with biceps twice the size of Zach’s, takes a key from her backpack and dramatically twists it into the lock. Then she slides the ten-foot-wide fireproof door along its track on the floor to reveal a murky room, lumpy with shadowy objects. She reaches inside and flips on the light. 

“Take it all! Leave it all!” she cries. “Five minutes!”

Revealed by naked light bulbs hanging from the eleven-foot ceiling, #114 is decidedly dull. An old refrigerator, an electric stove, a bunch of mismatched chairs, a couple of mattresses, clothes overflowing from open cartons scattered all over the floor. There are at least two dozen sealed boxes lined up against the far wall and a four-foot pile of empty picture frames ready to topple. Everything is coated with what appears to be decades of dust. Zach groans inwardly. He needs every cent he can squeeze out of this auction, and no one’s going to bid on any of this junk. 

But he’s wrong. After the auctioneer starts rippling her tongue in an impenetrable torrent of words, people start raising their hands. When the contents go for $850, Zach is flabbergasted. The other units surely contain more impressive stuff than this and should generate even higher bids.

Some do, some don’t, and two are completely empty. 

“Take it all! Leave it all! Five minutes!” 

When the auctioneer unlocks the door of #357, there’s a collective gasp. The interior looks like a stage waiting for the evening performance to commence: a complete upscale office suite, including a desk, bookshelves, and a small conference table surrounded by four chairs. Bizarre. It goes for $3,500. 

On the fifth floor is a tiny and perfectly immaculate unit: a neatly made single bed, an intricately carved rolltop desk, a chair, a small bureau. Nothing else. One thousand dollars. In #454, there’s another bizarre tableau. Creepy, actually. It appears to belong to a couple of teenagers. Two desks piled with books and trophies, walls covered with movie posters, and corkboards adorned with invitations and photos and newspaper clippings. Did they come here to study? To hide? Zach stretches his neck in as far as he can without the auctioneer cutting it off. 

She almost does. “Step back, sir!” she yells, her voice stiletto-sharp. “This minute!” Everyone looks at him as if he’s committed a heinous crime. “Take it all! Leave it all! Five minutes!”

Annoyed, he does as she orders, but he wants to see more, surprised to find himself interested in the lives lived here. This is something he’d never considered before, or to be more correct, he had thought about it, but only as a means to get the bad guys out of the building and clean up his own act. Now the questions surge. Who were these people? Why these particular items? And, most intriguing of all, why did they leave so much behind? 

Unit 421 is another stage, but this one is freakish in its attention to detail. It’s a double unit with two round windows, and it looks like an upscale studio apartment, perhaps a pied-à-terre. Against one wall, a queen-size bed is covered by a rumpled silk bedspread and an unreasonable number of pillows. A nightstand holding a lamp and a clock sits to its right side; a large abstract painting is centered over the headboard. At the other end of the unit is an overstuffed reading chair, a writing desk, and a sectional couch, also with too many pillows, facing a large-screen television. In the corner, there’s a small table, two chairs, and a compact kitchen featuring cabinets, a refrigerator, a microwave, and a fancy hot plate. 

“Take it all! Leave it all! Five minutes!”

This time there’s no doubt in Zach’s mind to whom the unit belongs, or rather, to whom it had belonged. Liddy Haines. He closes his eyes and presses his forefinger to the bridge of his nose in an attempt to make the horrific image go away, which it does not. Six thousand dollars. 

Unit 514 was apparently used as a darkroom, and from the looks of it, also as a bedroom. He stares at the sheets pooling at the edge of a cot, at the dirty clothes heaped on the floor. He’s seen three beds in three different units over the last hour, and he clenches his fists to contain his anger. If Rose didn’t know people were living here, she should have. It was a lawsuit waiting to happen—even if it wasn’t the lawsuit now upending his life. An irony he’d appreciate more if he weren’t so damn furious. 

In contrast to Liddy Haines’s unit, there’s no expensive furniture here, but there is a lot of high-quality photographic equipment. A long table edges the south side of the room, overflowing with trays, chemicals, jugs, paper, an enlarger, and an assortment of spools, filters, thermometers, and timers. A clothesline with pins attached stretches over the jumble, and there are at least a dozen five-gallon Poland Spring containers, most of them full, along with another dozen warehouse-size cartons of energy bars. 

A Rolleiflex camera is perched atop a stack of cartons, its well-worn leather strap dangling. Zach recognizes it because of the nature photography he’s been doing lately, his current obsession. Highpointing, climbing the highest peak in every state, was his last one, and that’s what got him into taking landscape pictures in the first place. But his interest in mountaineering has been waning—thirty-two states is more than enough—as his new interest in photography has waxed. He’s usually only good for one obsession at a time, dropping the previous one when another grabs his fancy. He’s an all-in or all-out kind of guy. 

The Rolleiflex is a twin-lens reflex, medium format, which hardly anyone uses anymore. But if you know what you’re doing, it takes remarkable photos. Zach rented one when he was at Bryce last year, and the first time he looked down into the viewfinder—which is at waist, rather than eye, level—he was blown away. 

The vastness of the mountains and the big sky in front of him were perfectly reflected through the lens, without the tunnel vision effect of a standard camera. When he returned to Boston, he kept it a few extra days and experimented with street photography. The cool part is that because you’re looking down rather than directly at your subject, no one is aware they’re being photographed. Vivian Maier, arguably one of the greatest street photographers ever, used a Rolleiflex. 

Zach leans into the unit as far as the Nazi will allow, searching for pictures. There are a few lying about, but it’s difficult to see them from the hallway. The ones he can see are all square rather than rectangular, a feature of the Rolleiflex. He tilts his head and squints at a photo on the end of the table closest to him: a striking black-and-white with afternoon sunlight cutting a diagonal across the image. 

A man is standing in front of an open door with an arched top; the word “Office” can be clearly read behind his head. His shoulder leans against the doorframe, one knee slightly bent. His eyes stare off into the distance. Before Zach understands what he’s seeing, his stomach twists. It’s a photograph of him.

Photo of B.A. Shapiro by Lynn Wayne. Excerpt from Metropolis © 2022 B.A. Shapiro. Reprinted with permission of Algonquin Books.

BookPage reveals the cover and an excerpt of B.A. Shapiro’s novel Metropolis.

There’s really one kind of resolution I want to talk about—book resolutions. Promise me you’ll read as many books as you can this year! To get you started, here are the 30 novels we’re most excited to read in 2019.

The Paragon HotelParagon Hotel by Lyndsay Faye
Putnam | January 8

Jane Steele author Faye writes like she left the stove on—hurry up, because this place is about to burn down. Her new novel is a historical mystery that careens from Prohibition-era New York City to Portland, Oregon, where a young white woman known as “Nobody” finds refuge in the eponymous hotel, a safe space for black Oregonians in a city besieged by the Klu Klux Klan. Read our cover story interview with Faye from the January 2019 issue.

Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
Riverhead | February 5

The first volume in Man Booker Prize winner James’ Dark Star Trilogy is an epic merging of history and fantasy, a fiercely inventive tale that includes a hunter tracking down a mysterious boy, a shape-shifter known as Leopard and strange, profound metaphysical explorations.

The Lost Man by Jane Harper
Flatiron | February 5

Australian author Harper has readers totally hooked with her mystery series centered on Agent Aaron Falk, and she sets an equally enticing trap with her new standalone, which returns to the scorching Outback to find two brothers facing family secrets after the strange death of their third brother.

The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo
Flatiron | February 12

With her debut, The Ghost Bride, Choo dazzled readers with a colonial Malayan tale that explores the Chinese world of the afterlife. With her second novel, she draws us once again into a dark fairy tale, this time with weretigers, dressmakers and a boy who has been tasked with returning a severed finger to a corpse.

The White Book by Han Kang
Hogarth | February 19

The Korean author of the disquieting, daring novels The Vegetarian and Human Acts returns to her poetic roots with an intimate fictional odyssey of love and loss. This lyrical exploration of grief through the color white was short-listed for the 2018 Man Booker International Prize, and it promises to be something entirely of its own.

The Huntress by Kate Quinn
William Morrow | February 26

The Alice Network was one of our most beloved historical fiction works of 2018—and one of Reese Witherspoon’s book club picks—so Quinn’s new novel is one I’m especially excited about. It features all-female bomber regiments, Nazi hunting and (of course!) some deeply buried family secrets.

GingerbreadGingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi
Riverhead | March 5

No one does contemporary folk tales quite like Oyeyemi, award-winning author of six previous books. Her latest should appeal to fans of both literary fairy tales and baking shows, as it explores a family and their strangely bewitching recipe for gingerbread.

Little Faith by Nickolas Butler
Ecco | March 5

As he proved with Shotgun Lovesongs, Butler knows the way to my Midwestern-loving heart. His latest novel, about a rural Wisconsin father facing his grown daughter’s involvement in a radical church, was inspired by the 2008 Kara Neumann case.

The River by Peter Heller
Knopf | March 5

When critically acclaimed nonfiction writer Heller ventured into new territory with his debut novel, The Dog Stars (2012), it heralded an exciting new voice in page-turning literary fiction. In his exhilarating new tale, two college students fight for survival during a canoe trip in the Canadian wilderness.

The ParadeThe Parade by Dave Eggers
Knopf | March 19

Founder of McSweeney’s and award-winning author of many fiction, nonfiction and children’s books, Eggers sets his new novel in an unnamed country that has finally reached a tenuous peace after 10 years of war. The government commissions a road to connect the two halves of the state—and under these strange circumstances, two foreign contractors are brought together.

The Other Americans by Laila Lalami
Pantheon | March 26

Lalami’s Secret Son was on the Orange Prize long list, and her novel The Moor’s Account won multiple awards, including the American Book Award, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer. Her exciting new novel is described as part murder mystery, part love story and part family saga, and it centers on the death of a Moroccan immigrant in California.

Trust Exercise by Susan Choi
Holt | April 9

The new novel from Pulitzer finalist Choi begins by immersing the reader in the world of a competitive performing arts school, complete with obsessive first loves and transformative classes—but this tale is much more, and much darker, than that. Readers looking for transfixing, complex narrative structures and an intricate web of themes will likely consider this one a new classic.

The Department of Sensitive CrimesThe Department of Sensitive Crimes by Alexander McCall Smith
Pantheon | April 16

The beloved author of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency offers a contrast to Scandi-noir with his new Scandinavian mystery series. He calls it scandi-blanc: “These are the crimes and criminals you won’t find in the newspaper or the ten o’clock news . . . unless it’s a particularly slow news day.” Excuse my guffaw, and be sure to check out his Malmo-set mystery, involving a stabbing in the back of the knee, a missing imaginary boyfriend and a potentially haunted local spa.

Normal People by Sally Rooney
Hogarth | April 16

The second novel from Irish author Rooney has already received a lot of attention (long-listed for the 2018 Booker and short-listed for the 2018 Costa Award), and rhapsodic fans of Conversations with Friends know why. In this coming-of-age tale, two young people come together time and again, magnetically drawn together during their years at Trinity College in Dublin.

Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan
Nan A. Talese | April 23

The multiple award-winning author of 14 novels and several story collections, McEwan transports readers to an alternate 1980s, where Britain has lost the Falklands War, Margaret Thatcher takes on British politician Tony Benn, and Alan Turing has made a breakthrough in artificial intelligence. As these events play out on a larger scale, two lovers—or rather, three, including a synthetic human—face unexpected moral questions.

Orange WorldOrange World and Other Stories by Karen Russell
Knopf | May 14 

The new story collection from the Pulitzer finalist and bestselling author (Swamplandia!) includes eight tales guaranteed to suck you in, from a love story between a young man and the 2,000-year-old girl he finds in a Florida peat bog, to a giant tree that infects a young woman in Joshua Tree National Park.

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert
Riverhead | June 4

The bestselling author of Big Magic and Eat, Pray, Love returns with a new novel narrated by 89-year-old Vivian, who recalls her youth spent in the theater world. In 1940s New York City, she lived with her Aunt Peg, owner of a run-down midtown theater called the Lily Playhouse.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
Penguin Press | June 4

Perhaps the year’s buzziest debut, the first novel from poet Vuong (Night Sky with Exit Wounds, winner of the Whiting Award and the T.S. Eliot Prize) is a letter from a son to his mother who can’t read, exploring their family history from Vietnam to the United States.

PatsyPatsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn
Liveright | June 4

Jamaican-born author and Lambda Literary Award winner Dennis-Benn centers her new novel on the story of the eponymous Patsy, who leaves her daughter behind in Jamaica for the chance at a new life in Brooklyn with her oldest friend and secret love.

Big Sky by Kate Atkinson
Little, Brown | June 25

Clear my schedule, it’s a new Atkinson—and more importantly, a new Jackson Brodie. In this new crime novel, our intrepid private investigator has moved to a quiet seaside town, but this bucolic setting belies an unexpected darkness: human trafficking.

Deep River by Karl Marlantes
Atlantic Monthly | July 2

In his first novel since Matterhorn (2010), Marlantes enters the American frontier and explores questions of old-growth forest harvesting and radical labor moments through the story of three siblings who, in the early 1900s, are forced to flee Russia’s imperial rule over Finland and settle in a logging community in southern Washington.

The Nickel BoysThe Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
Doubleday | July 16

On the heels of his Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning The Underground Railroad, Whitehead takes readers to the Jim Crow South of early-1960s segregated Tallahassee, where Elwood Curtis has been sent to an infamous juvenile reformatory, the Nickel Academy, which is based on a real reform school in Florida that operated for 111 years.

Inland by Téa Obreht
Random House | August 13

Finally! Obreht took her sweet time following up The Tiger’s Wife (2011), which was a finalist for the National Book Award, but I forgive her because her new novel sounds so good. In the Arizona Territory in 1893, two stories intertwine: that of a former outlaw who is haunted by ghosts, and that of a frontierswoman waiting for her men to return, whose youngest son is convinced a mysterious beast watches their home.

Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout
Random House | September 3

Strout’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Olive Kitteridge (2008) has delighted millions of readers, and now she returns to the seaside town of Crosby, Maine, for the next decade of Olive’s life—through a second marriage, a fluctuating relationship with her son and encounters with an unforgettable cast of characters.

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
Nan A. Talese | September 10

Did Atwood decide to write a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale because she didn’t like season two of the Hulu adaptation? That’s my theory anyway. With this novel, Offred’s story picks up 15 years later, along with voices from two other female narrators from Gilead.

Agent Running in the Field by John le Carré
Viking | October 22

Prolific spy novelist le Carré will release his 25th novel this year, this one set in 2018 London and starring a 26-year-old in the middle of a political maelstrom.

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson
Ecco | November 5

The Shirley Jackson Award-winning author of The Family Fang and Perfect Little World will publish a new novel about a young woman who moves in with her best friend from high school to help care for her stepchildren—but then the kids display strange and disturbing abilities. Expect spontaneous human combustion.

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
Doubleday | November 5

This is another one that seems to have taken forever to get to excited readers, but our patience is finally being rewarded. The author of The Night Circus will deliver a fantastical new tale, this one about a grad student in Vermont who discovers a strange book in the library stacks.

Dragonfly by Leila Meacham
Grand Central | “Just in time for Christmas”

There’s not a lot to share about the new novel from Meacham, bestselling author of Roses. She promises a fall 2019 release, and it’s apparently about five young Americans who have been selected to infiltrate Nazi-occupied France in 1942.

Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone by Diana Gabaldon
Delacorte | maybe

This is probably too good to be true, but on December 22 via Twitter, Gabaldon said that her ninth book in the Outlander series would indeed “be out in 2019.” I’m including it on this list so as to manifest my dreams.


Editor’s note: An early version of this article incorrectly described the character in Gilbert’s novel as 95 years old, not 89.

There’s really one kind of resolution I want to talk about—book resolutions. Promise me you’ll read as many books as you can this year! To get you started, here are the 30 novels we’re most excited to read in 2019.

It’s possible that sometimes, just sometimes, we may be guilty of putting charming (and charmingly warped) British mysteries on a pedestal. But how can we not, especially after reading a book like bestselling author Lisa Jewell’s latest, Watching You? It’s a wonderfully addictive tale of neighborhood-watch-gone-wrong and well-to-do secrets.

Jewell lives in London with her husband and their two daughters. We asked her to tell us about a few books she’s been reading.

Standard Deviation

Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny

I rarely read funny books, and it’s rare, even when I do, that a funny book manages to make me laugh. I think the last time I laughed out loud while reading a book was Nick Hornby’s About a Boy back in the last millennium. But Heiny’s book made me laugh a lot. Set in Manhattan, it’s a fresh, though curiously old-fashioned (I sometimes got a little shock when a character pulled out a mobile phone) tale of a year in the second marriage of 50-something Graham Cavanaugh to much younger Adria. We only ever see Adria through Graham’s eyes, and Adria is quirky, over-friendly, intense, funny, infuriating, kind, unreliable, unpredictable and adorable. Their 10-year-old son is starting to display some symptoms of being on the ASD spectrum, and while Graham quietly wonders about genetics and what it means to be “normal” or otherwise, Adria is determined to befriend Graham’s ex-wife when she discovers she has a new boyfriend. It’s just a beautiful window into a weird and wonderful marriage, and I could have stayed there with them for longer.

Skin Deep

Skin Deep by Liz Nugent

Liz Nugent’s third novel starts with a bang. Middle-aged Cordelia Russell is fading away on the Cote d’Azur, living on her wits and rapidly diminishing physical charms. After a night at the Hotel Negresco, doing cocaine in the toilets with strangers and dancing so hard her dress splits on the dance floor, she stumbles home in the early hours to find a corpse decomposing in her apartment. The twist being that she already knew it was there. Her story then spools back 40 years to a bleak and traumatic childhood in 1970s Ireland on the godforsaken island of Inishcrann. It’s written in the first person, and although the corpse is always there, loitering in the back of your mind, her life story is so compelling and satisfying that you don’t really mind if you never find out why it was there or who put it there. A thriller that doesn’t completely hinge on its big reveal is a brilliant thing indeed.

Death of Mrs. Westaway

The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

My absolute favourite Ruth Ware novel, this had me completely under its spell from the moment I picked it up. It’s the story of Hal (Harriet) Westaway, a young girl earning a pittance doing tarot card readings on Brighton Pier on England’s south coast. Her mother was killed in a hit-and-run accident two years earlier, and ever since she has been struggling to survive. Then a letter arrives from a firm of solicitors advising her that she is the joint recipient of her grandmother’s inheritance. Which would be great, except for the fact that it’s not her grandmother. She decides that it is a case of mistaken identity and ignores it. But when debt collectors come heavy handed to her apartment, threatening to break her legs, she feels she has run out of options and so takes a train down to Cornwall to play the role of the mysterious granddaughter. The setting is tremendous: a cold, unheated mansion, uncomfortable beds, a sinister old housekeeper, shadows and magpies and creaking floorboards. I read this in two days and put it down completely satisfied.


Author photo by Andrew Whitton

It’s possible that sometimes, just sometimes, we may be guilty of putting charming (and charmingly warped) British mysteries on a pedestal. But how can we not, especially after reading a book like bestselling author Lisa Jewell’s latest, Watching You? It’s a wonderfully addictive tale of neighborhood-watch-gone-wrong and well-to-do secrets.

Jewell lives in London with her husband and their two daughters. We asked her to tell us about a few books she’s been reading.

Spring brings blooms and growth and change—just like the characters in these excellent April novels, each thought-provoking and enthralling in its own way. Whether or not they want to, these young men and women have a lot to learn, and readers will find much to enjoy in their journeys into early adulthood. 

Lights All Night LongLights All Night Long by Lydia Fitzpatrick

Gifted Russian teenager Ilya arrives in the U.S. for an academic exchange year, but like many young people trying to make their own way, he’s distracted by events back home. But Ilya has a good reason: His drug-addicted older brother has been accused of multiple murders. With the help of his host family’s daughter, Ilya tries to prove his brother’s innocence by scouring the internet, and the result is a darkly beautiful, intense tale of guilt, secrets and inescapable truth. It’s worth noting that the author’s writing is breathtaking, which is perfectly suited to the story’s measured pace; all the better to linger, my dear. Read our review.

Magnetic GirlThe Magnetic Girl by Jessica Handler

In the 19th century, a real-life stage magician named Lulu Hurst, known as the “Georgia Wonder,” captivated audiences with her apparent super-strength. Handler’s novel pulls from Lulu’s life to tell a story of growing up and growing away from the person you once were. As a girl, Lulu finds a book in her father’s study and learns her special skills, and she slowly transforms from a gawky, small-town farmer’s daughter to a well-known, alluring performer. When her performance goes on tour, she begins to see her parents and their shortcomings more clearly, and the reader is fully immersed in this introspection and process of self-discovery. Read our review.

Normal PeopleNormal People by Sally Rooney

Rooney became a literary sensation in her native Ireland with the release of her debut novel, Conversations with Friends. Her brilliant, Booker Prize-nominated new novel has only enhanced her reputation. Set in a small Irish town, it stars two 16-year-olds—uncool Marianne and football star Connell—who have different financial backgrounds and an unavoidable connection. It’s a bond that carries through their college years, when they become more like friends than lovers, though something deeper continues to simmer. Read our starred review.

Trust ExerciseTrust Exercise by Susan Choi

Remember first love? Intense, obsessive, probably gross—and everyone at your high school was talking about it. Choi’s latest novel takes that intensity to a place we never would’ve expected. At the risk of spoilers, all we can reveal is that the first part of the book stars two rising sophomores who had a relationship and then broke up, as well as an acting teacher and a classmate named Karen. The rest of the novel challenges the very nature of fiction. Read our review.

A Wonderful Stroke of LuckA Wonderful Stroke of Luck by Ann Beattie

With her latest novel, Beattie serves up an unflinchingly bleak—albeit sometimes laugh-out-loud humorous—serving of millennial malaise. For young Ben and his posse at Bailey Academy, most of the grown-ups in their lives are either dead, dying or dysfunctional. After 9/11, the students draw even closer to their creepy teacher Pierre LaVerdere, and once again, it’s a connection that lasts long into adulthood. Read our review.

Spring brings blooms and growth and change—just like the characters in these excellent April novels, each thought-provoking and enthralling in its own way. Whether or not they want to, these young men and women have a lot to learn, and readers will find much to enjoy in their journeys into early adulthood.

Queenie—a feel-good novel of relationships, race, friendships and the occasional therapy session—is Candice Carty-Williams’ first novel, but she’s no rookie. Starting in publishing at the age of 23, Carty-Williams created and launched in 2016 the Guardian and 4th Estate BAME Short Story Prize, which focuses on and celebrates black, Asian and minority ethnic writers like herself. Here, she shares three books she’s recently enjoyed reading.


Lot by Bryan Washington

When I cracked open these short stories, I didn’t expect to be floored by Bryan Washington’s writing in the way that I was. I knew he’d be good, but I didn’t realize that he’d be this good. Lot is a one of those exceptionally told collections that give you such rich, lyrical snapshots of different parts of a place—in this case, Houston, Texas—that by the end you can see the whole area clearly even if you’ve never been there. And you can see the sharpest details of the lives of those living there. The opening of Lot is so arresting; you hit the ground running with it, and Washington’s prose is so quick that you’ve got no option but to keep moving through Houston the way his stories do. Mine and Bryan’s books came out on the same day in the U.S., so technically I should see him as a rival, but instead I can only admire from across the pond and hope to one day reach his levels.


Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn

One of my favourite novels of 2017 was easily Nicole Dennis-Benn’s first novel, Here Comes the Sun, and when her second, Patsy, was announced, I almost lost my mind. The richness of Dennis-Benn’s writing is taken to another level in Patsy, the story of a Jamaican woman working towards her own version of the American dream. When she secures her long-awaited visa, makes it to the U.S. and is reunited with her secret love Cicely, Dennis-Benn explores in such a textured, taut way what in love is gained, and what, or who, is left behind. One of the characters from Here Comes the Sun makes an appearance in Patsy, too, and if there’s anything that can make me more excited than a sequel, it’s two seemingly separate worlds connecting when you’re not expecting it. Bliss.

Frying Plantain

Frying Plantain by Zalika Reid-Benta

I know very little about Canada, and even less about how Jamaican culture sits within it, so this book is an utter treat for me. I’m really into the characters and people who are straddling two cultures and slotting into neither, given that so many of us second generation immigrants are, daily, and rarely give much time to examining the effects of that. Frying Plantain opens with young Canadian protagonist Kara Davis finding a dead pig’s frozen head in a freezer in Jamaica while looking for Ting and being mildly traumatized, while her Jamaican cousins couldn’t care less. Immediately we understand the world we’re about to enter, and how your identity being between and betwixt is so completely consuming. There are so many cultural touchpoints in this book for me straight from the off, and I, a second-generation Jamaican Brit, cannot get enough of the mentions of Jamaica, and how being there as a visitor can make you feel so at home, but so far from it.


Author photo by Lily Richards

Queenie—a feel-good novel of relationships, race, friendships and the occasional therapy session—is Candice Carty-Williams’ first novel, but she’s no rookie. Starting in publishing at the age of 23, Carty-Williams created and launched in 2016 the Guardian and 4th Estate BAME Short Story Prize, which focuses on and celebrates black, Asian and minority ethnic writers like herself. Here, she shares three books she’s recently enjoyed reading.

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