These books are likely to be funny or dark or set in a communist country.
You wouldn’t think Viet Thanh Nguyen could match the brilliance of his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Sympathizer, but his latest book The Committed is a dazzling follow-up and a glorious novel in its own right. Our nameless protagonist is now in Paris, wandering amid its metropolitan delights even as he can’t escape his tortured past. Ngyuen contrasts high-minded interior monologues against gritty immigrant Paris, making The Committed both a virtuosic philosophical novel and a racing story of revenge and betrayal. I can’t think of a novel that has so deftly blended literary style and emotional heft since Midnight’s Children.
Earthlings takes the themes of Murata's first novel and turns them up to eleven. Her new novel is shocking, even gruesome, but also a fuller richer reading experience.
Emma Cline’s excellent first book The Girls took place on the fringes of the Manson cult. For her new short story collection Daddy she’s going somewhere even scarier--relationships. Oh man, Daddy is dark. Cline can sketch out a flawed personality as fully and quickly as anyone writing today, and she’s not wasting her time on likeable characters. Her gaze is unblinking, and her unsparing depictions of dysfunction have all the giddy, sickening thrill of a roller coaster racing ever downward. Buckle in, and enjoy the ride.
Shelter in Place chronicles the upper middle upper upper crust of New York City society. In the months following the election of Donald Trump, they are plunged into uncertainty and doubt. Eva, the group’s north star, copes by buying an apartment in Venice. Her husband embarks on an affair. It’s hard to imagine a softer target for satire, but Leavitt’s verve and wit make this novel a joy to read. Shelter in Place is a classic six of a novel, fully furnished with bon mots and apercus.
After the collapse of her marriage and her whole life, the anonymous author of Becoming Duchess Goldblatt started a Twitter account, speaking in the voice of an imperious, slightly dotty, always caring 81-year-old writer. The Duchess became the focus of intense adoration and eventually helped her creator to reconnect with the ‘real world’ even as she kept her identity a secret. Becoming Duchess Goldblatt is a glorious memoir, a truly 21st-century tale of life both online and off.
Casey lives in Cambridge, MA, waits tables, worries about her debt, falls for the wrong man and the right one. She dreams, and she grieves, and she worries about her health. In spite of it all, she manages to finish her novel. Lily King's assured, closely observed book Writers & Lovers is a loving portrait of Casey and the writing life. I don't think there's a single unnecessary word in the whole thing. Writers & Lovers is a joy to read, a gift from a writer at the top of her game.
Leprosy. Norwegian Scabies. Fatal Familial Insomnia. Those are just a few of the totally real conditions you probably already have. Learn the symptoms. Thrill to the prognosis. And resign yourself to the treatment. This handy little book will provide hours of pathologically good entertainment for worryworts of all ages! Perfect for your cousin the science nerd, the morbid teen in your life, or your smugly healthy yoga teacher.
Perfect for everyone who moved away and misses the Midwest, fans of Kitchens of the Great Midwest and Lager Queens of Minnesota, and anyone looking for a funny, but smart book. Harley Jackson just wants to enjoy his quiet farm life. But when a calf born on Christmas Eve arrives with the face of Jesus staring out from the pattern on its hide, Harley’s life is turned upside down. Soon he’s running a religious theme park in the middle of Wisconsin and wondering if he can ever have a normal Christmas again. Jesus Cow is a warm but clear-eyed ode to smalltown life and a laugh-out-loud funny visit to the loving heart of the Midwest.
Good Citizens Need Not Fear is a fantastic collection of nine interlocking short stories, set in and around one Ukrainian village, before and after the fall of the USSR. With mordant dark humor, Maria Reva deftly guides the reader along the fine line between tragedy and comedy, through transitions political and personal. As satisfying as a novel, but sprightlier, Good Citizens Need Not Fear is gloomy and dark and funny as all hell. I loved it.
Reseng's handsome face masks an assassin's empty heart, and he's not the only one. In the imagined Seoul of Un-Su Kim's dazzling novel "The Plotters," hired killers are as common as taxi drivers. When betrayal and vengeance ignite a battle of all against all, Reseng races to escape the puppet strings that have ensnared him, but there's no one he can trust. Kim deftly weaves together a cast of spectacularly wicked characters, filling the pages of "The Plotters" until they erupt into a ballet of gorgeous prose and bullets. This is operatic tragedy, and I loved my front row seat.
When Barry Cohen’s marriage and his hedge fund company come crashing down, he hops a Grayhound bus to El Paso, hoping to find himself among the “real Americans” of the Trump era. Meanwhile, the wife he left behind struggles to build a solo life among the one percent. Together their stories are a biting portrait of a country unimproved by the best of intentions. Equal parts Sense and Sensibility, Confederacy of Dunces, and Bonfire of the Vanities, Lake Success is a wickedly funny satire and a rollicking good story for tough times.
Keiko Furukura has her life figured out. Sure, she’s in her mid-thirties and works in a convenience store, but she loves her job. One day, however, she decides to give in to convention just a little, and her simple life becomes a lot less fun. Convenience Store Woman is a winning blend of the familiar and the absurd, and readers of this deft little novel will enjoy a trip to a Japan that’s well off the tourist trail.
To read John McGregor's novel Reservoir 13 is to read a thousand tiny poems in quick succession. In fragments and glimpses of a small village in England, McGregor brilliantly contrasts the urgency of life with the banality of living. As the seasons progress and relationships ebb and flow, Reservoir 13's lyrical prose and pulsing rhythms combine to make these ordinary stories extraordinary.
Michael loves Ellis, Ellis loves Annie, and Annie loves them both. Yet Sarah Winman’s blistering novel Tin Man is anything but the usual love triangle. Instead, Winman asks us to consider what remains of love after its object is gone. She crowds this spare little book, set in London, Oxford, and the south of France, with vivid portraits of loss and mourning. At once terse and expansive, Tin Man is a firework flashing in the night--gone too soon but burned forever into the reader’s memory.
It would be criminal to even hint at the plot of Mick Herron's new thriller This Is What Happened. With not an unnecessary word, Herron conjures a trio of deeply flawed Londoners and sets them hurtling down the path from bad to worse. Before you know it the sickening realization of what is actually happening hooks you like an armful of heroin. This Is What Happened is so fiendishly, perversely addictive that you'll stay up late turning the pages and put the book down begging for more. Mute your phone, lock the door, and put yourself in the hands of a master storyteller.
She's little, and she's wearing a red riding hood, but don't think you know what's going to happen to this little girl. In a world full of princesses and other dubious role models for young readers, Bethan Wollvin's heroine is smart and capable. Bold, graphic illustrations and a cracking story combine to make Little Red a book you'll be happy to read again and again, even without a kid on your lap.