Every month, columnist Julie Hale sorts through new paperback releases to find the titles most likely to result in a stellar, wide-ranging book club conversation. These 10 books are the best of the best.
All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung
In her stirring memoir, Chung hopes to find the Korean birth parents who gave her up for adoption. She was raised by a white family in small-town Oregon, and in this beautifully crafted book she recounts her struggle to fit in as an Asian American.
The Golden State by Lydia Kisling
Daphne, whose Turkish husband has been denied entry into the United States, is raising her infant daughter, Honey, alone in San Francisco. Cracking under the pressure of single parenthood and looking to escape her stress-filled life, she decamps with Honey for the California desert.
The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
This 2019 Pulitzer Prize finalist is a poignant novel of the AIDS epidemic that follows a Chicago-based group of friends who are contending with the rise of the disease in the 1980s. Makkai skillfully connects the plotlines of the past and present, exploring the fears and misconceptions connected to the epidemic and demonstrating their impact on her characters.
The Air You Breathe by Frances de Pontes Peebles
This novel charts the course of the two friends’ lives—years marked by competitiveness and jealousy, romantic affairs and mutual love—as one becomes a famous samba singer and the other works as her songwriter.
Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras
Contreras' impressive first novel takes place in 1990s Bogotá, Colombia, when Pablo Escobar held the country in a grip of terror. The novel is narrated mainly by 7-year-old Chula Santiago, who lives with her family in the comfort of a gated community thanks to the money her father makes as an oil worker.
Motherhood by Sheila Heti
The story of one woman’s indecision about having children, this novel is a rich meditation on society’s expectations, personal agency and the evolving roles of women.
Kudos by Rachel Cusk
During a literary festival and travels in Europe, British writer Faye encounters people in various stages of disillusionment about their lives and domestic affairs. As ever, she proves a willing listener while acquaintances pour out their stories.
The Friend by Sigrid Nunez
Winner of the National Book Award for Fiction, The Friend focuses on the powerful connection between a grieving woman and her dog. The unnamed female narrator inherits Apollo, a 180-pound Great Dane, from a late professor friend who committed suicide.
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Celestial is an up-and-coming artist and Roy is a business executive, but their lives are shattered when the couple travels to Roy’s hometown in Louisiana, where he’s wrongfully accused of a terrible crime and sentenced to 12 years in prison.
The Power by Naomi Alderman
In Alderman’s alternate world, women have recently gained the ability to release waves of electricity through their fingertips—and the jolts can kill. Their lethal facility grants them physical supremacy over men, altering the fabric of society.