The year’s best in fiction have surprised, disoriented and dazzled, pinned us to deep memories and spun reality on its face. For me, whole weekends have disappeared in the mad dash to finish a novel in one go—how many weekends, I have no idea. And still, we readers want more. These are the 20 novels to read now.
Reminiscent of Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth in its depiction of the enduring effects of family secrets and betrayals, The Other Americans also addresses a multitude of other issues—immigration, prejudice, post-traumatic stress, love and murder—with what can only be described as magical finesse.
One of this rich, intricate novel’s greatest pleasures is the depth of its understory, such as a thread of upstairs-downstairs intrigue as Yangsze Choo portrays the unbalanced relationships among the British and their local servants.
A slow buildup led to the best ending of the year.
This emotionally sprawling yet psychologically taut legal thriller is a masterful blend of fiction and real life.
Dabbling in the supernatural, Helen Phillips has created a fascinating plot through which she explores the deep, conflicting tensions surrounding modern motherhood, personal identity and the nature of our existence in the universe.
- A dying woman’s recollections give glimpses of life in a country where personal, political and moral values are heavily dictated by religion and men.
Has there ever been a novel, even by Dostoevsky or Tolstoy, set in such a strange, ancient, beautiful place, with its glaciers and volcanoes and endless cold? It’s a place where miracles might happen—where what is lost can once again be found—if you jump over a traditional New Year’s fire in just the right way. Julia Phillips’ stunning novel dares to imagine the possibilities.
The Old Drift, an expansive yet intricate novel that bends, inverts and at times ignores conventions of time and place. Part historical fiction, part futurism, part fantasy, Namwali Serpell’s hundred-year saga of three families and their intertwined fortunes is as unique as it is ambitious. And in just about every way, it succeeds.
The quality of Sally Rooney’s writing, particularly in the psychologically wrought sex scenes, cannot be understated as she brilliantly provides a window into her protagonists’ true selves.
Naamah plucks a female character from myth and imbues her with sexuality, personality and intimacy, making her an altogether more modern hero—the kind of woman capable of giving a stern talking-to to a vengeful god.
- The Dutch House confirms what we’ve always known: Ann Patchett doesn’t write a bad book.
Voices rise from Houston’s neighborhoods in these linked stories.
Disarmingly frank, raw in subject matter but polished in style and language, Ocean Vuong’s debut novel reveals the strengths and limitations of human connection and the importance of speaking your truth.
- Against the odds, Margaret Atwood created a satisfying sequel to her beloved classic.
- Elizabeth Strout possesses an uncanny ability to focus on ordinary moments in her characters’ lives, bringing them to life with compassion and humor.
A math genius finds her family’s roots in this sweeping tale.
- Maaza Mengiste has produced a work of fiction that is epic in reach, with brilliant borrowings from the forms of classic tragedy.
Tangled lives shake loose in the marriage novel to top them all.
This debut is a total riot, scorching Tinder profiles everywhere and eviscerating journalistic bias against women.
Colson Whitehead’s latest novel is like a brutally dark response to Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon, with the events at the horrifying Nickel Academy for Boys mirroring a violent American history too leaden for flight. It’s difficult and disquieting to see a young black boy’s hope and idealism put to the ultimate test.