In her first story collection, Jane Campbell's witty, lean prose calls to mind the calculated directness of Ernest Hemingway and the furious expressiveness of Joyce Carol Oates.
In her first story collection, Jane Campbell's witty, lean prose calls to mind the calculated directness of Ernest Hemingway and the furious expressiveness of Joyce Carol Oates.

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Winner of the 2021 National Book Award for fiction, Jason Mott's Hell of a Book is a searing portrayal of the Black authorial experience. At the center of the novel is an unnamed Black author on his first book tour struggling to navigate the publishing industry and make sense of the modern world. His narrative is offset by chapters recounting the story of Soot, a young Black boy in the South. Poignant and often funny, Mott's novel draws readers in as it scrutinizes race in American society and the power of storytelling.

Marlon James' epic fantasy Black Leopard, Red Wolf is narrated by Tracker, a hunter with an acute sense of smell. Accompanied by a shape-shifter named Leopard and a band of misfit mercenaries, Tracker travels through a landscape inspired by African mythology and ancient history on a dangerous quest to find a lost boy. Hallucinatory and violent yet marvelously poetic, this first entry in James' Dark Star trilogy won the 2019 L.A. Times Ray Bradbury Prize for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Speculative Fiction. There are an abundance of potential topics for discussion, such as James' folkloric inspirations and Tracker's unreliable narration.

Following the death of her aunt from an uncommon ailment called Chagas, or the kissing bug disease, Daisy Hernández decided to research the illness. She shares her findings in The Kissing Bug: A True Story of a Family, an Insect, and a Nation's Neglect of a Deadly Disease. Hernández talked to physicians and disease experts throughout the United States, and her interviews with patients reveal the human cost of the American healthcare system's inadequacies. Hernández displays impressive storytelling skills in this masterfully researched volume, which won the 2022 PEN/Jean Stein Book Award.

In the Dream House, Carmen Maria Machado's powerful chronicle of a toxic love affair, won the 2020 Lambda Literary Award for LGBTQ nonfiction. In the book, Machado reveals that she fell hard for a magnetic, emotionally unpredictable woman who became abusive. In structuring her memoir, she draws upon various narrative devices and traditions (coming-of-age, choose your own adventure and more), and the result is a multifaceted, daring and creative portrayal of a deeply dysfunctional relationship.

Pick a guaranteed winner for your reading group.

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.

The House of Fortune book cover

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.

On the Rooftop book cover

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.

People Person book cover

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.

Best of Friends book cover

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.

Demon Copperhead book cover

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.

Liberation Day book cover

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.

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

Forging an entire short fiction collection around a single theme—and delivering one truly original tale after another—is trickier than it sounds. It's too easy to fall into the trap of repetition and rhythm, making each tale read like the last one, just with the serial numbers filed off. Jane Campbell's first book, which she's publishing in her 80th year, maintains a thorough sense of originality while delivering a stunning range of works on the inner lives of older women. The stories in Cat Brushing cross genres and boundaries, daring the reader to meditate on previously unexplored (or at the very least, rarely explored) perspectives on aging, sexuality, violence and beyond.

In “Susan and Miffy,” a woman develops an unlikely sensual connection with her beautiful caregiver, challenging both of their notions about attraction. In “Lockdown Fantasms,” extreme pandemic isolation leads to a new program that sends government-sponsored spirits into the homes of the “over-seventies” to keep them company. In “Lamia,” a woman returns to the site of an old fling in an effort to recapture something in her own dangerous nature. In “Kindness,” a retired woman in a beachside retirement complex makes a choice that will change not one life, but three. And in the title story, a woman living with her son and his new wife explores the anxieties and uncertainties of existence while grooming her beloved pet. 

The baker's dozen of tales that make up Cat Brushing are all delivered through lean, incisive, witty prose that calls to mind the calculated directness of Ernest Hemingway and the furious expressiveness of Joyce Carol Oates. Campbell's sentences are solid, imposing, often free of adornment in terms of punctuation, and each one seems carefully crafted to get to the core of a certain emotional truth. Whether she's writing a first-person or third-person narrative, Campbell's wisdom, passion and honesty come through, imbuing the collection with an elegant, often lyrical power. 

Within these women's stories of loss, desire, pain and memory, we discover the feeling of holding onto something primal even as the world seems determined to forget that side of us. To capture such complexity in one story is powerful, but for Campbell to do so 13 times makes Cat Brushing one of the most compelling fiction collections you'll find this year.

In her first story collection, Jane Campbell's witty, lean prose calls to mind the calculated directness of Ernest Hemingway and the furious expressiveness of Joyce Carol Oates.

The Chinese Cultural Revolution, devised by the appalling Chairman Mao Tse-tung, was catastrophic for most of the people caught up in it. Children were separated from their families and sent to work farms to get a taste of proletarian life. Educators were targeted as agents of capitalism or the bourgeoisie. Dissidents were incarcerated in forced labor camps, and many people were arrested, denounced and disappeared for displaying even a hint of disagreement with government policy. The really bad news, as is seen in Belinda Huijuan Tang's splendid A Map for the Missing, is that for some, the Cultural Revolution never quite ended.

In January 1993, Tang Yitian receives a call from his mother in China, which is startling in itself because she must travel to even find a phone. Yitian's father is missing, she says. No one knows where he is or why he was taken—if indeed he was taken at all. Heeding the call of duty, Yitian, who has lived in the United States for nearly 10 years, flies home to investigate. 

The operative word for Yitian is duty, not so much love. He and his father never got along, and the older man always disparaged Yitian's desire for a better education and an easier life than the hardscrabble one his family endured in their little village. Tang gives a beautiful sense of Yitian's fear, sorrow and unspoken resentment—toward both his father, for his bullying nature and the favoritism he showed toward Yitian's late older brother, and his mother, for her seemingly endless subservience.

At times, A Map for the Missing brings to mind George Orwell's 1984, though unlike that novel's dystopian England (called Airstrip One), the chilling and deeply sad China depicted here is real. Yitian's search for his father makes Winston Smith's life on Airstrip One seem like a holiday in a warm climate. Even Winston's love interest, Julia, has a counterpart in Yitian's story: a woman called Hanwen, whose hunger for education and betterment is as strong as Yitian's. She hails from the big city of Shanghai, but she's been sent to the provinces for her edification, and her desire to help Yitian is prompted as much by the trauma of this forced relocation as it is by her not-so-secret love for him.

Along with Yitian, Hanwen and Yitian's parents, Tang brings additional secondary characters to life, such Yitian's beloved, broken grandfather and the unhappy girls who labor on the farm with Hanwen. The novel's many teachers, police officers, clerks, shopkeepers and other bureaucrats are individuals and never interchangeable.

It's astonishing that A Map for the Missing is Tang's debut novel. This 400-page book, whose protagonist navigates a purgatory of twists and turns, red herrings and dead ends, is gripping from its first page to its last.

Belinda Huijuan Tang’s splendid debut novel follows a Chinese American son through a purgatory of twists and turns, red herrings and dead ends, in the search for his missing father.

“Help me get back to my baby, or I'll make your life a living hell.” That's the voice of Erma Singleton, a dead woman whose body is found on a New Mexico highway. Rita Todacheene, a forensic photographer for the Albuquerque Crime Lab, is frequently haunted by the ghosts of the victims she photographs, but Erma is particularly persistent. Ramona Emerson's intriguing debut thriller, Shutter, follows Rita through a series of crimes that eventually puts her in the crosshairs of a dirty cop who's on the take from a powerful drug cartel. 

In alternating chapters, readers follow both Rita's battle against corruption and her coming-of-age as a photographer and vessel for departed spirits. Rita has been haunted by spirits ever since she was a child growing up on the Diné reservation, and her devoted grandmother and a tribal elder have long tried to protect Rita from these voices. Rita's relationship with her grandmother is particularly well done, as is the novel's portrayal of Indigenous history and discrimination. As the book progresses, the action revs up in both Rita's backstory and her crime-solving saga.

As a Diné writer and filmmaker from New Mexico, Emerson has created an intriguing crime drama in a setting she knows intimately, and her photographic knowledge shines. Each chapter is titled after a different type of camera used by Rita, ranging from a pinhole camera in her youth to her mother's Hasselblad and a digital Nikon. Emerson got her start in forensic videography, so her detailed crime scene descriptions are not for the faint of heart: Erma met a particularly gruesome death, and so do others, including a murdered judge and his family. 

Shutter is a promising debut that satisfyingly explores forensic photography and Diné culture within the New Mexico landscape, surrounded by the voices of some very engaging ghosts.

Shutter is a promising debut that satisfyingly explores forensic photography and Diné culture within the New Mexico landscape, surrounded by the voices of some very engaging ghosts.

Somewhere out in the fictional desert between “Breaking Bad” and No Country for Old Men, death is stalking its next victim in Gabino Iglesias' spellbinding third novel, The Devil Takes You Home. The word spellbinding is used advisedly here, because the novel's interweaving of fantastical elements with sudden and savage violence will leave unwary readers stunned.

It's a story as old as Job: A good guy, beset by horrible circumstances, tries to preserve his faith and sanity in the face of unrelenting misery. In the biblical tale, Job holds fast to his soul; in this one, Mario goes down a darker road. Overwhelmed by medical expenses and offered a chance to make some quick money as a hit man, Mario hesitates only for a moment before packing heat and becoming an avenging angel.

It's not uncommon for those who live in the shadow of criminality to dream of one big score that will put them on easy street, and Mario's friend Brian offers him a piece of this dream: They will claim one cartel's shipment of money for a different cartel and thus receive a handsome chunk of the reward. When Brian and Mario meet Don Vázquez, the baddest of the bad and the head of the Juárez Cartel, they try to exchange pleasantries: “Thank you, Brian,” Don Vázquez replies, “but I was just telling your friend Mario that meeting me is never a pleasure; meeting me is something that happens to people because they have made a bad decision.”

As with most noir narratives, this one is rife with bad decisions, many of them lethal. Iglesias does masterful work with Mario's internal narration as he puzzles over which of his partners poses the greatest potential threat. Much of the novel switches back and forth between Spanish and English, and both languages are integral to the story, making them all the more worthwhile to comprehend.

The world of The Devil Takes You Home is harsh and unforgiving, its desert the most treacherous terrain. Iglesias does such a place justice in his brawny, serpentine and remarkably poignant novel.

The desert can be treacherous terrain, harsh and unforgiving. Gabino Iglesias does it justice in his brawny, serpentine and remarkably poignant crime novel.

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Reminiscent of Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, The Gifted School is a story of trouble in paradise with timely commentary on hyperparenting and the lengths to which parents will go to ensure that their kids remain “exceptional.”

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