One of the best parts of working at a magazine? The piles of books that arrive months before the rest of the world gets to see them. But the influx can often be overwhelming, so when something rises to the top, we like to take note. We have been collecting and curating our favorite titles all year; here we present our selection of the best books that have been published in 2022.
The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan (January 4)
The School for Good Mothers
Jessamine Chan’s debut—like all truly terrifying nightmares—starts off in a banal, familiar way: an utterly exhausted mother, in a moment of sleep-deprived despair, does the unthinkable (and yet understandable) and walks out of her apartment, leaving her baby behind. She doesn’t intend to be gone for long, but somehow time slips away, and before she realizes it, she’s been gone for hours. It’s a terrible thing to have done, and she knows it. But no degree of contrition will spare her from the authorities who descend, first removing her child and then transplanting her to an abandoned college campus turned dystopian re-education facility where she will, ostensibly, learn what it truly takes to be a good mother. The tool for her forensically monitored progress is an uncanny robot baby, meant to stimulate her, challenge her, and, crucially, record her every movement, from loving gestures to instants of inattention. The School for Good Mothers (Simon & Schuster) picks up the mantel of writers like Margaret Atwood and Kazuo Ishiguro, with their skin-crawling themes of surveillance, control, and technology; but it also stands on its own as a remarkable, propulsive novel. — Chloe Schama
Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez (January 4)
Xochitl Gonzalez’s debut novel is a vivacious account of Olga Acevedo’s life as a premier party planner to Manhattan’s elite—a demanding job that opens with the ordering of luxurious embroidered linen napkins for an exorbitantly priced wedding, some which Olga will pocket to impress her own family. The contiguity of Olga’s career life and her familial roots in Puerto Rican Brooklyn creates a tension that ultimately underlines the sacrifices each world constantly asks Olga to upkeep. Gonzalez’s story may be that of a woman seeking career success, love, and happiness, but the dynamic story amounts to a slow-burn chronicle of the American Dream, with moments of humor and bare-bones honesty throughout. —Carolina Gonzalez
Lost and Found by Kathryn Schulz (January 11)
The first half of Kathryn Schulz’s new book, Lost and Found (Random House), a sensitive and timely meditation on loss and grief, is balanced by the celebration of love and joy in the second half. But rather than the spoonful-of-sugar structure that this division implies, the book is united—even in its darkest moments—as a lively exploration of some of the strongest emotions we humans have the luck to feel and a wondrous look at how they work in tandem. As Schulz puts it in the book: “What an astonishing thing to find someone. Loss may alter our sense of scale, reminding us that the world is overwhelmingly large while we are incredibly tiny. But finding does the same; the only difference is that it makes us marvel rather than despair.” The book grew out of a New Yorker meditation, “Losing Streak,” which chronicles the experience of misplacing the mundane and suffering the utmost loss, but it moves far beyond it—into the literary, historical, and philosophical roots of both poles of experience. It offers a sure- and light-footed wander through these heavy topics, though, written with grace and comedy as well as rigor. —C.S.
Mouth to Mouth by Antoine Wilson (January 11)
A chance run-in at an airport between our nameless narrator, a down-on-his-luck writer, and an acquaintance from college who has now become an art-world hotshot, Jeff Cook, sets the stage for Antoine Wilson’s taut, compulsive chamber piece of a novel, which you’ll struggle not to rip through in one sitting. (Thankfully it clocks in at a brisk 192 pages, allowing you to do just that.) After settling in an airport lounge, the enigmatic Jeff begins recounting a wild (and allegedly never-before-shared) tale that begins with him resuscitating a drowning man on a beach and discovering after the fact that the man he saved is a major art dealer. When Jeff pays a visit to his gallery and realizes the man doesn’t remember him, he slowly begins ingratiating himself into his life, climbing the ranks of his gallery and eventually even dating his daughter, in a story that carries distinct shades of Patricia Highsmith and Donna Tartt—but to tell any more would spoil the book’s thrilling surprises. It may not come with any sweeping messages or moral takeaways (although that ambivalence is surely the point), but Mouth to Mouth is an elegantly told and supremely gripping tale of serendipity and deception—and delivers a brilliant ending that will leave you guessing about everything that came before. —Liam Hess
I Came All This Way to Meet You by Jami Attenberg (January 11)
I Came All This Way to Meet You
Jami Attenberg’s 2017 novel, All Grown Up, was a bit of a gateway drug. It felt like it was made for me, in that it reminded me of me: a 30-something Jewish woman looking for love in the big city. I assumed, as often is the case for many fine novels, that this was also Attenberg’s story. Her latest book (and first memoir), I Came All This Way to Meet You (Ecco), reveals that the New Orleans–based writer is even more layered and idiosyncratic than her fictional characters. Her newest is an episodic collection of Attenberg’s life—her cross-country travels, debilitating injuries, bad plane rides, bad boyfriends—which are all told through her signature intimate and humorous style. But it’s her writing on her own work I found particularly revealing. “I became a fiction writer in the first place because stories are a beautiful place to hide,” she writes. I Came All This Way details the highs and lows of finding yourself through your work and living a creative life—it’s a thrill for superfans and newcomers alike. —Jessie Heyman
To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara (January 11)
The confounding, brilliant, intricate, beautiful, horrific To Paradise is—if this string of adjectives did not sufficiently convey it—an extraordinary book. Divided into three seemingly distinct sections, positioned 100 years apart, the book is one part historical fiction (set in 1893), part present-ish-day chronicle (1993), and part futuristic sci-fi story (2093). (That last chapter, which must have been informed by, if not fully drafted within, the pandemic, presents a dystopian future filled with “cooling suits” required to venture outside and “decontamination chambers” to ward off the ever-present possibility of infection.) Those who consumed Yanagihara’s most recent work, A Little Life, will not be surprised that this book, like its predecessor, is interested in pain and suffering more than joy and happiness. But it is also a book full of gloriously painted scenes and tantalizing connection—and despite all its gutting turns, one that maintains an abiding hope for the possibility and power of love. (That may just be the only paradise truly on offer.) In and of themselves, some sections feel in some ways quite conventional, but taken together—with all of their extreme cliffhangers and unanswered questions—the stories seem to be asking: What do we want from a novel? Resolution is not available here, but some of the most poignant feelings that literature can elicit certainly are. —C.S.
Admissions: A Memoir of Surviving Boarding School by Kendra James (January 18)
For years, the world of elite prep schools was thought of in only the most romanticized terms; lacrosse games, leaf-festooned campuses, and, of course, educational values that prepared America’s next generation of winners to ascend their thrones. Kendra James’s Admissions (Grand Central) is a thorough, necessary, and overdue repudiation of that trope. In the memoir, James—now an admissions officer specializing in diversity recruitment for independent prep schools—looks back at the three years she spent at Taft, a private boarding school in Connecticut, recalling the insidious yet not particularly subtle racism she faced as the first African-American legacy student at the predominantly white institution. Admissions is a tale in the mold of Curtis Sittenfeld’s Prep, but instead of relegating the racism that is so often found in “well-meaning liberal” space to a parenthetical, the book addresses it head-on, boldly naming the confusion, fear, and trauma that can so often come with being the only person who looks like you in any given room. —Emma Specter
Vladimir by Julia May Jonas (February 1)
The smartest take on campus culture comes by way of Julia May Jonas’s slyly hilarious Vladimir (Simon & Schuster). Don’t be dissuaded (or erroneously excited) by the romance novel aesthetics of the cover. It’s the story of a somewhat lonely and embittered, and yet eminently appealing, English professor, whose husband has been felled by a series of sexual assault allegations. But just how real were those allegations? It’s a question almost impossible to ask in real life, but deliciously explored here through our acerbic narrator, who has a quite pre-MeToo view of power, consent, and sexual politics. The titular Vladimir is a new professor in town and the subject of a crush on the part of the narrator that also veers off into deeply inappropriate territory. The novel works on several different registers at one, deftly layering comedy with subtle commentary in an entirely engrossing read. — C.S.
The Family Chao by Lan Samantha Chang (February 1)
For Asians in America, the perpetual foreigners, it’s the eternal question regardless of birthplace: How exactly does one become American? This interrogation is keenly felt by immigrants and their children in particular, as Lan Samantha Chang, director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, explores in-depth in The Family Chao (Norton), the story of the tyrannical proprietor of a small-town Wisconsin Chinese restaurant (The Fine Chao) and his three unhappy but obedient American-born sons (The brothers Karamahjong). When a scandal engulfs the Chaos, they’re forced to reconsider their place in the society they’ve toiled in and called home for decades, as well as their roles within the family itself. At times scathing and hilarious, the rollicking tale considers the thorny themes of assimilation, identity, pride, filial piety, transracial adoption, and interracial relationships. It’s a fine chaos indeed; you’ll never look at Chinese restaurant families the same. —L.W.M.
The Arc by Tory Henwood Hoen (February 8)
In her debut novel, The Arc (St. Martin’s Press), Tory Henwood Hoen has woven a bracingly entertaining antidote to the hellscape of online dating. Thirty-five-year-old branding wiz Ursula Bryne is in the grip of a third-life crisis, ambivalent about her job and unable to sustain a lasting relationship with anybody other than her cat. That is, until she is tapped to visit the lab of The Arc, a mysterious place that promises lasting love to those lucky enough to spend a week at its unnervingly glossy lab. Ursula is paired with Rafael, an improbably modest and handsome Yale grad blessed with a sense of humor and killer dance moves. The book wears its sci-fi lightly, focusing instead on anatomizing a whirlwind romance that begins to fray around the edges. As the duo’s faith in the arc’s highly proprietary pairing methodologies begins to falter, they are left to determine if they still buy into each other. Set in a privileged slice of pre-pandemic New York, the story has a sunny feel and a rich supply of semi-satirical backdrops, making pit stops at bro-infested tech conferences and members-only temples to fourth-wave feminism. With its intelligent and unfussy bent, the novel is foremost a plucky city romance that recalls the work of Laurie Colwin. Beneath the dystopian veil lies a thoroughly modern love story with old-fashioned heart. —Lauren Mechling
A Very Nice Girl by Imogen Crimp (February 8)
Imogen Crimp’s A Very Nice Girl (Henry Holt) follows Anna, a talented young opera singer who is defying her provincial parents to carve out an artistic life for herself in London. That bohemian existence can prove, at times, a bit trying (she has to share a bed with her roommate and moves into a quasi-feminist commune where tampons are deemed a tool of the patriarchy), and so she takes refuge in the sterile quarters of her finance-professional boyfriend. The book eschews easy “tale of two cities” contrasts, however, and asks some serious if lightly deployed questions about the sacrifices, rewards, and worth of an artistic life (and how you pay for it). With some steamy sex scenes in the mix, Crimp feels like she’s channeling something of the Sally Rooney style: interior and complex, but also unafraid to incorporate corporeal forces among all the others that govern us. This is high-class romance at its best. —C.S.
Loss of Memory Is Only Temporary by Johanna Kaplan (February 15)
Loss of Memory Is Only Temporary
A joy of discovery attends the publication of Johanna Kaplan’s Loss of Memory Is Only Temporary (Ecco)—a volume that gathers her cacophonous, mordantly funny stories from the 1960s and ’70s (and includes the contents of her prized debut, Other People’s Lives). How had I never heard of Kaplan? You’ll wonder the same as you get swept up in the world of her slightly neurotic, status-aware postwar Jewish characters who mine humor from dislocation and anxiety. The bravura novella-length “Other People’s Lives” is the masterpiece here, a rollicking account of several days in the life of Louise Weil, a piercingly observant, mentally fragile young woman marooned in the ramshackle milieu of a Manhattan artistic couple who take a day trip to the country. It fizzes with the urbane energy of J.D. Salinger, Grace Paley, and Deborah Eisenberg—a restless delight. —Taylor Antrim
The Swimmers by Julie Otsuka (February 22)
The Swimmers, by Julie Otsuka, begins at an underground pool in an unnamed city, where regulars find almost-sacred refuge in their favorite lanes and go-to strokes. (Others—like the “binge swimmers” who periodically rush the pool to melt off holiday pounds—are tolerated more than welcomed.) Yet as Otsuka’s elegant third novel wends on, its focus narrows to one swimmer in particular: an older woman for whom the water is a stabilizing, comfortingly familiar force. Even as dementia sets in, Alice knows exactly who she is at the pool—that is, until it closes, and she’s thrust headlong into the swirling memories, strained relationships, and ever-fracturing sense of self that await her on land. —Marley Marius
Checkout 19 by Claire-Louise Bennett (March 1)
The cryptic stream of consciousness that coursed through Claire-Louise Bennett’s 2015 debut short-story collection Pond, all told from the perspective of a single narrator who lives a solitary existence in a cottage on the west coast of Ireland, made her one of that year’s breakout new voices. Seven years later, Bennett returns with Checkout 19, a similarly impressionistic, and perhaps even more challenging, work of autofiction that further showcases her talents for blending the micro with the macro across a melting pot of genres, from seemingly autobiographical minutiae plumbed from her youth in Wiltshire to impressively erudite forays into literary criticism. While ostensibly it tells the story of a writer looking back on her formative years as a young woman, it’s easier to think about the book as a kind of tapestry. Once you allow yourself to get swept along by Bennett’s instinctive, synaptic abilities as a storyteller, the vivid textures of her sentences, and her subversive sense of humor, Checkout 19 is a strange and delicious treat. —L.H.
Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head by Warsan Shire (March 1)
Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice In Her Head
Warsan Shire is perhaps best known for having her work featured in Beyoncé Knowles’s 2016 feature-length film, Lemonade, but the British-Somali poet is charting a new course with her first full-length poetry collection, Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in her Head (Random House), which weaves together the themes of migration, womanhood, Black identity, and intergenerational collection that Shire is so singularly gifted at exploring. Shire frequently draws on her own life to create her art, and the end result is a collection of poems that will shine as a beacon for marginalized communities everywhere (and, perhaps, inspire those who have always taken their own belonging for granted to think beyond the confines of their individual experience). —Emma Spector
The Invisible Kingdom: Reimagining Chronic Illness by Meghan O’Rourke (March 21)
Chronic illness has been relegated to the margins of public consciousness for far too long, a reality that has only become more painfully stark since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic two years ago. Tens of millions of Americans live with chronic, often “invisible” illnesses, and Yale Review editor Meghan O’Rourke’s book is a searing and thoroughly researched exploration of the pain and confusion that many of them go through in their quest to have their health issues taken seriously by the medical establishment—and, often, the world at large. —E.S.
Disorientation by Elaine Hsieh Chou (March 22)
Taiwanese American writer Elaine Hsieh Chou’s debut novel, Disorientation, however, manages to tell a deeply vital and insightful story about Asian experience and identity in post-Trump America while still being absurdist to the point of IRL laughter. In the book, 29-year-old PhD student Ingrid Yang experiences a rupture in her calm, orderly life of writing her dissertation on late canonical poet Xiao-Wen Chou (and coming home to her doting fiance, Stephen, a white literary translator with a penchant for mansplaining and Japanese-schoolgirl costumes) when she discovers that Chou is—wait for it—a total fiction, a character invented and embodied by one white man and propped up by another. Suddenly, Ingrid is thrust into a world of high-stakes espionage, book burnings, and campus protests and is forced to question the things most fundamental to her, including her field of study, her relationship, her friendships, and her identity as the daughter of Taiwanese immigrants living in the U.S. —E.S.
Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart (April 5)
Douglas Stuart’s new book bears a good deal of resemblance to his debut, Shuggie Bain, which was published quietly just before the pandemic to limited fanfare and then slowly became one of the most lauded novels of the year. (It was my personal favorite.) Young Mungo (Grove), like Shuggie, is told from the perspective of a young boy growing up in a Glasgow tenement with an alcoholic mother and little prospect of escape. But while Shuggie took the claustrophobia of that scenario and expanded it into a broad and treacherous emotional landscape, Young Mungo allows its protagonist to roam a bit wider, making it a more open and ambitious book. If Shuggie took after the great, detail-laden social realist novels of the late 19th century, Young Mungo feel more rooted in the 21st, with alternating settings, shifting time frames, and divergent plots that eventually converge to calamitous effect. Some early descriptions of the book, perhaps desiring to tamp down the inevitable bleakness of its premise, have emphasized a love affair that crosses religious and sectarian lines (and sheds new light on the divisions that plagued not just the more prominently troubled Ireland of the late 20th century but Scotland as well). And there is sporadic love (romantic and familial) to offer warmth and light within the novel’s terrifying expanse—but this is a book that sucks you into its darkness and makes you feel its profound, beating heart. —C.S.
Little Foxes Took Up Matches by Katya Kazbek (April 5)
Little Foxes Took Up Matches
In Little Foxes Took Up Matches—a notable debut from the writer, editor, and translator Katya Kazbek—a sense of enchantment animates dreary post-Soviet Moscow, where a beautiful boy named Mitya lives in a crowded apartment on a stately old street. As a baby, Mitya swallowed an embroidery needle—or so he and his family believe—and he’s certain it made him immortal, like the folktale figure Koschei the Deathless; he discovers another kind of deliverance, and no small amount of danger, dressing up in his mother’s clothes, using her makeup, and letting his hair grow long. (He calls this persona Devchonka, or “girl.”) A queer coming-of-age narrative in every sense of the words, Kazbek’s novel is twisty, tragic, and deeply charming—an endearing exploration of the stories we tell and the people we find in order to live. —M.M.
Time Is a Mother by Ocean Vuong (April 5)
In 2019, mere weeks after publishing his celebrated novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous and receiving a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant,” Ocean Vuong’s mother died following a short battle with breast cancer. Yet if the title of Time Is a Mother, Vuong’s second poetry collection, appears to suggest this might be a circumscribed exploration of grief in the aftermath of this event, its approach is unusually wide angle. Stories of personal loss are woven into vignettes and memories that explore the most sweeping of subjects—addiction, racism, war, death, family—through Vuong’s gentle, modest voice and the occasional touch of wry humor. So, too, does he once again prove himself the rare writer in whose hands experiments with form can become a thing of beauty in and of themselves. With On Earth, Vuong used his experience as a poet to reshape the contours of the first-person novel into something more amorphous; here, his experience with prose feeds back into his poetry through cinematic poems like “Künstlerroman” and “Not Even,” where full, novelistic paragraphs are delicately strung together with single-word stanzas, open and closing like concertina windows into the lives of those whose stories they tell. (One of the few more overt tributes to his mother consists simply of an itemized list of her Amazon purchases, before delivering a gut punch in the form of a “warrior mom” breast cancer awareness T-shirt.) After all, despite its technical prowess, the most striking thing about Vuong’s writing will always be its warm, beating heart even in the face of life’s cruelties. The penultimate poem, “Dear Rose,” is written directly to his mother as a kind of sensorial biography of her journey as an immigrant from Vietnam to America—napalm on a schoolhouse, bullets in amber, churning fish sauce, dew-speckled roses—images both dazzling and devastating; in the end she simply leaves “a pink rose blazing in the middle of the hospital.” It’s a body of work as hauntingly beautiful as it is ultimately hopeful, and very possibly Vuong’s best yet. —L.H.
The Candy House by Jennifer Egan (April 5)
Jennifer Egan’s The Candy House is something of a follow-up to her beloved A Visit From the Goon Squad. Composed of interconnected short pieces (featuring a few of the same characters that populated Goon Squad), The Candy House is also united by the omnipresence of a sci-fi technology that doesn’t feel quite so far off from our current reality: a widely available memory download device that allows your consciousness (should you so desire) to live in an openly accessible cloud. The Candy House is a book that goes down deceptively easy. The writing is light and buoyant, the characters quite often a rollicking delight—energized by rock and roll; the countercultures of the ’60s and ’70s; high-wire acts of espionage; and technological subterfuge. But when you slow down and begin to parse the web that connects it all, the novel takes on increasing gravity. It’s a dazzling feat of literary construction that belies the profound questions at its core: Does technology aid our sense of narrative or obscure it? —C.S.
Nobody Gets Out Alive by Leigh Newman (April 12)
The funny, earthy, and compulsively readable stories in Leigh Newman’s debut collection, Nobody Gets Out Alive (Scribner), are about wildness in all its forms. The author’s home state of Alaska is vividly rendered in its untamed, frontier beauty—but so too are its denizens, who are fierce Alaskans with questionable taste in home decor and hilariously unrefined personalities. Newman, the author of a 2013 memoir, Still Points North (excerpted in Vogue), which was also set in Alaska, is especially unsentimental on women—on girls kicking free of their fathers (or not); desperate mothers doing the best they can; and, in the prizewinning lead-off story, “Howl Palace,” a mordant widow who is not going gracefully into the good Alaskan night. Newman’s fiction recalls the flinty humor of Annie Proulx, Ann Patchett, and Antonya Nelson—excellent company to be in. —T.A.
Hello Molly: A Memoir (April 12)
Molly Shannon’s memoir is much more than a celebrity tell all—it would have to be since it starts with unimaginable tragedy. When she was four, her mother and baby sister died in a car accident while her father was driving them home from a party at which he’d been drinking. Hello Molly is a story of resilience and resourcefulness; her father cycled through various degrees of indulgence and sobriety for most of her life. (There are memorable scenes of him cleaning the house on speed.) But it sidesteps the trappings of addiction-adjacent memoirs, avoiding the easy stereotypes of suffering. Hello Molly is about one of the great comic actors of our era finding her footing, but it is also a love portrait to a deeply unconventional parent, who launched his daughter (literally: when she still was just a child, he dared her to sneak onto a plane, and she succeeded) into the world. — C.S.
Left on Tenth: A Second Chance at Life by Delia Ephron (April 12)
Left on Tenth: A Second Chance at Life
After the long illness and death of her older sister, Nora, and the long illness and death of her first husband, Jerry, Delia Ephron was stunned—if not entirely surprised—to learn in 2017 that she’d been diagnosed with leukemia. Her engaging, wise, and funny new memoir, Left on Tenth: A Second Chance at Life, chronicles her fierce reckoning with cancer, with grief (“I took the sun setting personally,” she writes of the loneliness of early widowhood), with the life-affirming power of friendship, and, at age 72, with a new love—Peter, a Jungian psychiatrist who wrote Ephron a friendly email after she published an op-ed in the Times about trying to disconnect Jerry’s landline. (Her record of their courtship, conducted initially over email, is as breathlessly romantic as anything she’s put into a screenplay—and this is a woman who co-wrote You’ve Got Mail.) —M.M.
The Trouble With Happiness by Tove Ditlevsen (April 19)
The Trouble with Happiness: And Other Stories
One of the most (posthumously) lauded novelists of recent years, Tove Ditlevsen is known to most as the author of The Copenhagen Trilogy, a sprawling three-part memoir that chronicles both her interior life and major events of the 20th century. In this collection, the landscape is more compact, but the insight into human nature is no less poignant: A young girl watches her mother put on a costume, a temporary and tenuous escape threatened by the whims of the father; with calm remove, a woman imagines her married lover’s domestic life, a simmering, suppressed anger providing a more forceful undercurrent; a young pregnant couple looking to buy a house confronts the contraction of another family’s life at the moment they’re expanding theirs. These spare and sparkling stories summon deep wells of emotion without the slightest trace of sentimentality. —C.S.
The Palace Papers by Tina Brown (April 26)
Whether or not you will tune in for the much-discussed Season five of The Crown, The Palace Papers deserves a read. Tina Brown does not seem to have researched her subjects so much as lived with them—indeed in her own career as a young journalist and then an editor (of many magazines, including several owned by Conde Nast) circled the royal family, and so she writes with the kind of familiarity earned through years of fine-tuned observation. There is definite bias here, but it is the kind that only sharpens her depictions; she’s not afraid to let you know which occupants of the royal palaces she thinks are up to snuff and which she thinks should fade into oblivion. In this year of royal transition (as well as entertainment), The Palace Papers is a supremely satisfying read. — Chloe Schama
When We Fell Apart by Soon Wiley (April 26)
A young Korean American man reeling from the recent suicide of his girlfriend sets out to learn more about the mysterious circumstances surrounding her death in this powerful novel that delves unflinchingly into the deeply timely question of what it means to belong to more than one culture. Wiley’s protagonist’s experience of trying to find links between his California upbringing and his adult life in Seoul will resonate with anyone who has ever been asked, “Where are you really from?” —E.S.
The Last Days of Roger Federer, and Other Endings by Geoff Dyer (May 3)
The Last Days of Roger Federer: And Other Endings
If you’re coming to this book expecting an extended meditation on the late career of the titular tennis legend, you might be—well, disappointed isn’t the word, really: The book is dotted with such thoughts throughout. It’s true joy, though, is its buck-wild discursiveness. The entire book is a brooding, a searching, and an investigation—in three parts, each composed of exactly 60 more-or-less brief thoughts, about Dylan, Camus, John Berger, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Redford, Gerard Manley Hopkins, D.H. Lawrence, Chuck Yeager, T.C. Boyle, Scorsese, J.M.W. Turner, Michelangelo, Boris Becker, Browning, Ruskin, the Battle of Britain, and yes, Roger Federer (that’s a wildly incomplete list from just the first 40 pages)—of what it means to come to the end of something: painting, writing, striving, playing, living. If you’ve read Dyer before, you know what you’re in for, and it’s in glorious abundance here: humor, memoir, wit, verve, pathos, and an arsenal of erudition. If this is your first immersion, simply be prepared to chase the wind. —Corey Seymour
Trust by Hernan Diaz (May 3)
What begins as a Henry James–esque chronicle of a Wall Street tycoon’s breathtaking ascent to power at the beginning of the 20th century reveals itself to be so much more in Hernan Diaz’s second novel, Trust: a rip-roaring, razor-sharp dissection of capitalism, class, greed, and the meaning of money itself that also manages to be a dazzling feat of storytelling on its own terms. Trust is a matryoshka doll of a novel, in which the layers peel back to reveal four alternative takes on the same narrative of the financial titan Andrew Bevel and, just as importantly, his wife, Mildred, each as riveting and full of surprises as the next. Its central theme of wealth—what it actually means, who it should belong to, how its relationship with some of the central mythologies of American life developed, and its inextricable linkage with the patriarchy—may feel both important and timely. But the uniquely brilliant way in which Diaz tells that story, as meticulously researched as it is narratively exhilarating, makes it a novel not just for the present age but for the ages. —L.H.
Linea Nigra by Jazmina Barrera (May 3)
For those unacquainted with the vocabulary that accompanies the childbearing process, the linea nigra refers to a dark vertical line that can appear to bisect a pregnant person’s abdomen. Essayist Jazmina Barrera takes that physical line and writes about and (metaphorically) beyond it, packing her narrative memoir full of carefully considered and exquisitely worded musings on motherhood. Barrera wrote throughout her first pregnancy and into the beginning of her journey as a mother, and the multilayered, deeply felt work that her life experience and obvious talent have combined to produce is eminently worthy of acclaim. —E.S.
A Hard Place to Leave: Stories From a Restless Life by Marcia DeSanctis (May 3)
Longtime Vogue contributor Marcia DeSanctis recounts a peripatetic life—and the episodes that were less so. DeSanctis had a career as a tour guide, a TV producer (who worked, among other things, on Eastern European stories after the fall of the Berlin Wall), a cosmopolitan writer who marched to “the city’s incessant, invigorating drumbeat.” And then she moved to the quiet countryside, where she had to come to terms with a sense of herself that wasn’t based on constant movement and the frictions of foreign encounters. The essays in this collection (which include a tale of marital infidelity that made a marriage stronger originally published in Vogue) might be framed as travel writing, but they are just as much stories of self-definition that take place here, there, and everywhere. —C.S.
This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub (May 17)
Known for her plucky voice and sweetly amusing ensemble comedies, Emma Straub returns with her most emotionally resonant work yet, This Time Tomorrow. On the night of her 40th birthday, a newly single and slightly intoxicated Alice drops by her father’s home, located on an Upper West Side alley that time and foot traffic forgot. She passes out and wakes up in 1996, transported back to a moment when her father was still her energetic 40-something roommate, not an ailing 73-year-old whom she faithfully visits at the hospital. Shuttling between her teenage and middle-aged lives, Alice attempts to engineer a new destiny for her father and experiments with a panoply of what-ifs, one of which lands her the guy that got away. All the while, she grapples with the headstrong and heartbreaking nature of time. Beneath the layers of ’90s nostalgia and sci-fi portals to the past lies something even more satisfying: a complicated tale that doesn’t feel the slightest bit complicated. —L.M.
The Cherry Robbers by Sarai Walker (May 17)
From the author of 2015 cult hit Dietland comes a more-than-worthy sophomore effort that follows Sylvia Wren—formerly known as Iris Chapel—the second youngest in a family of six heiress sisters, all seemingly cursed to live (and die) tragically. When Iris becomes Sylvia, she thinks she’s escaped her ominous familial fate, but has she? When we meet her in New Mexico in 2017, she’s an internationally famous yet reclusive artist ducking the attention of an overzealous journalist determined to track down the story of how Iris became Sylvia. Compelling, no? (Trust us, it is.) —E.S.
The Red Arrow by William Brewer (May 17)
Something old is new again in William Brewer’s The Red Arrow, a rollicking bildungsroman meets wellness-through-hallucinogenics debut. Our hero has risen from the sticks of West Virginia to become a penniless painter and writer in New York who lucks into a gorgeous tech-employed fiancée and a hefty book contract. Trouble ensues. The advance is spent, the novel is not written (even as we’re given vivid glimpses of what it could be), and a suicidal depression descends. But our protagonist lucks out again—a ghostwriting gig for a star physicist seems to pull him out of his hole—until more trouble strikes. The Red Arrow is about how to survive a creative life in 21st-century America, and its answer will surprise you. Brewer’s earnest description of psilocybin therapy turns a bravura comic novel into something deeper and stranger: an account of unexpected, hard-won joy. —T.A.
Either/Or by Elif Batuman (May 24)
Elif Batuman’s stupendous Either/Or is the hilarious follow-up to the author’s Pulitzer Prize–nominated The Idiot, which introduced wannabe writer Selin during her first year at Harvard. Now a sophomore, Selin joins the literary magazine, attends campus costume parties, and visits a psychiatrist and Pilates classes, set pieces that dazzle with the author’s deadpan prose and superpowers of observation. “I thought humorlessness was the essence of stupidity,” Selin narrates, and by that metric Batuman is a genius, rendering human folly at its most colorful and borderline surreal. Readers of her essay collection, The Possessed, might notice stories that overlap with the author’s own life—and underscore that for lovers of literature, the line between life on and off the page is barely legible. –L.M.
Nevada by Imogen Binnie (June 7)
Originally published by Topside Press in 2013, Binnie’s debut novel—which follows a young, punk-aspiring trans woman who heads west from New York City in her ex-girlfriend’s stolen car, attempting to play the fraught role of role model to a younger, not-yet-out acolyte she meets in Nevada—is a beautiful and occasionally disturbing complication of the oh-so-American trope of the cross-country road trip. Detransition, Baby author Torrey Peters is just one of a long list of trans women writers who name Binnie as an influence, and it’s long past time for the cis reader to form a bond with the brilliance of her work. —E.S.
The Lovers by Paolo Cognetti (June 7)
In The Lovers, the celebrated Italian novelist Paolo Cognetti (author of 2018’s prize-winning debut The Eight Mountains) has crafted a short novel of affecting elegance, set in and around the Italian Alpine town of Fontana Fredda. Our protagonist, Fausto, is a stalled writer who abandons his petit bourgeois life in Milan (and his former fiancée) for a rather more elemental existence in the mountains, where he finds work as a cook and begins an affair with Silvia, an alluring young waitress. There’s also Babette, the restaurant’s owner who “had also come from the city… though who knows when and how she got there,” and a flinty snow-cat driver called Santorso, a man forged—and eventually destroyed—by the wild surrounding landscape. Cognetti’s prose, translated into English by the poet Stash Luczkiw, knowingly calls Hemingway to mind (in one chapter, Fausto remembers teaching “In Another Country”), but the more important influence is Kent Haruf’s Plainsong. Here as there, a small community of simple people seems uncommonly beautiful. —M.M.
Also a Poet: Frank O’Hara, My Father, and Me by Ada Calhoun (June 14)
Also a Poet: Frank O’Hara, My Father, and Me
It’s a complicated thing, the father-daughter relationship, particularly when the two share a profession. So it’s fitting that Ada Calhoun’s Also a Poet is a complicated, difficult-to-encapsulate book: Labeled a memoir, it’s also Calhoun’s attempt to finish a biography of the New York School poet Frank O’Hara abandoned by her father, the longtime New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl. The book is composed of unpublished interview transcripts, domestic scenes from her childhood on the Lower East Side (see Calhoun’s masterly St. Mark’s Is Dead for an expanded disquisition on the site of her youth), and a sweetly personal reckoning with the anxiety of influence. All this sounds like a pretty heady brew, but Calhoun’s voice is clear and cogent, a winning and personable guide. —C.S.
The Last White Man by Mohsin Hamid (August 2)
An unlikely love story is the warming center of Mohsin Hamid’s The Last White Man (Riverhead)—unlikely because the novel presents as the kind of cool, elegant fable Hamid has become known for. (His most recent, 2017’s masterful Exit West, used a magical realist trick to lay bare the exigencies of the refugee crisis.) Here, the characters find themselves subjected to a mysterious force that shifts their skin from white to a deep, undeniable brown. At first the change seems to affect only a few, but as it spreads, so do the attendant disruptions and paranoias. The book is obviously about race—Hamid has said that he has been mulling this work for 20 years, ever since the events of September 11 made him acutely aware of his own skin color—but it is also about the burgeoning love and chemistry between its two unabashedly physical main characters, Anders, a trainer at a gym, and Oona, a yoga instructor. Even when corporeal form seems a mysterious and mutable thing, the bond between the two acts as a bulwark against the unpredictability of the world. —C.S.
All This Could Be Different by Sarah Thankam Mathews (August 2)
All This Could Be Different
Sarah Thankam Mathews wrote All This Could Be Different (Viking) in the first year of the pandemic, when COVID produced a drastic loss of her income. As founder of the mutual-aid organization Bed-Stuy Strong, she was galvanized by witnessing not only the catastrophes and flaws of ordinary humans but also their glorious capacity. Equal parts incandescent love story and frank explorations of everything from sexuality to work to racism, this debut novel—focused on the struggles of a queer young Indian woman in Milwaukee—evokes the precariousness of life for so many in 21st-century America and the necessity of showing up and breaking free if we truly want all this to be different. —L.W.M.
Amy & Lan by Sadie Jones (August 16)
Set deep in the bucolic fields of rural England, Sadie Jones’s new novel, Amy and Lan, charts five years in the lives of the two young children (and best friends) after whom the book is titled. Living in a commune of sorts, the duo are left largely to roam free, aside from the odd bit of fulfilling their duties on the farm, written with a particularly evocative eye for blood and muck. Things go south when entanglements between the adults start to draw their attention, and as Amy and Lan reach their early teenage years, these glimpses of grown-up life become an inescapable reality with devastating consequences. What at first reads as a deeply atmospheric bildungsroman (dung being the operative word here), Amy and Lan quietly builds to a cautionary tale of the good life turned sour. —L.H.
Touch by Olaf Olafsson (August 16)
In the Icelandic author (and erstwhile media executive) Olaf Olafsson’s delicate, absorbing new novel Touch, COVID lockdowns serve as a backdrop to the gentle unfolding of reawakened desire in its lead character, a 75-year-old Icelandic man who sets off on a journey to track down the Japanese woman who was his first great love back in 1960s London. His story begins with an out-of-the-blue Facebook message on the same evening he shutters his restaurant of 20 years, and continues to weave through past and present in an addictive structure of short, unnumbered chapters that also reflect his fraying recollections due to dementia. Really, to call Touch a pandemic novel would be doing it a disservice. With Olafsson’s gorgeous, lyrical writing, it feels weighted with deeper questions about memory, intergenerational trauma, and the enduring forces of love that can bridge decades and cultures—all reaching a denouement as satisfying as it is profoundly moving. —L.H.
The Hundred Waters by Lauren Acampora (August 23)
In The Hundred Waters (Grove), Lauren Acampora’s quietly thrilling latest, a strange drama plays out between one Connecticut family and the 18-year-old son of their new neighbors. While Gabriel Steiger’s righteous anger about the climate crisis rivets 12-year-old Sylvie Rader, who lost a friend to cancer after toxic construction debris were buried in a nearby town, his dark features and compulsive creativity remind Sylvie’s mother, Louisa, of the man she loved before her husband, when she was a young photographer living in New York. The triangle that forms between mother, daughter, and the shifty boy next door is disquieting from the start, but as both relationships tip into disquieting new territory, the Raders’ lush, monied suburb stops feeling quite so staid. —M.M.
A Visible Man: A Memoir by Edward Enninful (September 6)
Charting Enninful’s earliest days in Ghana to his family’s emigration to London (where they settled under the “soggy skies” and repressive policies of Margaret Thatcher’s Britain), to his rise to the EIC seat and his wedding—punctuated by an 11th-hour arrival by Rihanna—A Visible Man (Penguin Press) is both a chronicle of a singular life and a universally inspiring portrait of ambition. As Enninful writes in his introduction of his dubious stance toward memoir: “Why look back when you can look forward?” It’s our good fortune that he does both. —Chloe Schama
Strangers to Ourselves: Unsettled Minds and the Stories that Make Us by Rachel Aviv (September 13)
Strangers to Ourselves: Unsettled Minds and the Stories That Make Us
Combining the cool poise of Janet Malcolm and the confessional bravery of Joan Didion, journalist and New Yorker staff writer Rachel Aviv challenges the way we think about mental illness in her absorbing debut, Strangers to Ourselves: Unsettled Minds and the Stories that Make Us (FSG). Through half a dozen vivid case studies–one being the story of her own hospitalization at age six—she unravels medical diagnoses and demonstrates how societal narratives around illness take hold. The result is a fascinating and empathetic look at the mysterious ways our minds can fail us. —Taylor Antrim
Lessons by Ian McEwan (September 13)
Ian McEwan’s new novel Lessons (Knopf) is rangingly ambitious, teasingly autobiographical, and unsettling in the manner of his best work, a story of monstrous behavior set against major tides of the last 70 years. Roland Baines, a kind of spectator to history, is our hero—the product of a quintessentially English boarding school, a frustrated poet, occasional tennis instructor, and better-than-average piano player. The episode that shapes his life occurs in the opening pages, during a piano lesson with Miriam Cornell, a young instructor at Roland’s school. While teaching him Bach, she pinches his bare leg, an act of sexual sadism that leads, eventually, to the real thing in her bed. Roland never quite recovers from this wildly predatory affair (he 14, she 25). And in adulthood, another villain awaits: his first wife, Alissa Baines, who leaves him and their newborn son so that she can pursue a soaring literary career unencumbered. How can a novel populated by such (notably female) cruelty feel so expansively humanist? Roland is both haunted by trauma and able to push away from it, toward love (a second marriage), parenthood, forgiveness, grace. Lessons is a luminous, beautifully written, and oddly gripping book about lives imperfectly lived. —T.A.
Bliss Montage by Ling Ma (September 13)
We’re in the thick of a dystopian golden age, but the indisputable leader of the pandemic lit pack came out in 2018. Ling Ma’s Severance was half tongue-in-cheek critique of capitalism, half science fiction about a group of New Yorkers fleeing a fatal airborne epidemic believed to have originated in Shenzhen, China. In Bliss Montage (FSG), her panic-slicked and wildly inventive new short story collection, the author continues to mine anxieties particular to our time. The narrator of “Los Angeles” lives with her uncommunicative husband and her 100 ex-boyfriends. “G,” named after the recreational drug that two young women take together in order to become invisible, gives a new spin to the notion of “ghosting.” The awful term “geriatric pregnancy” becomes a literal horror story in “Tomorrow,” whose protagonist must conceal the arm that is developing on the outside of her body—a common aspect of high-risk pregnancies, her doctor crisply informs her. These eight tales don’t build up to traditional climaxes, but the tension between the familiar and the unfathomable pulses on every page. —Lauren Mechling
Lucy by the Sea by Elizabeth Strout (September 20)
Elizabeth Strout has kept her readers well acquainted with the doings of Lucy Barton, a bestselling writer (like Strout herself) from a devastatingly poor background, twice married and now a widow with two adult daughters, who in last year’s diverting novel Oh, William forged a kind of chummy detente with her first husband, William, as he discovered a hidden past. In Strout’s poised and moving Lucy by the Sea (Random House), Lucy and William are fleeing Manhattan in the face of COVID and setting up a lockdown life in Maine. It is only in the steady hands of Strout, whose prose has an uncanny, plainspoken elegance, that you will want to relive those early months of wiping down groceries and social isolation. Here, the Maine landscape is gorgeously rendered in its COVID hush, and Strout balances the tension of viral spread with the complex minuet of Lucy and William coming to terms with their resentments and enduring love. This is a slim, beautifully controlled book that bursts with emotion. —T.A.
Stay True by Hua Hsu (September 27)
Hua Hsu’s steady, searching memoir, Stay True (Doubleday), brings a certain 1990s collegiate persona into clarion focus: the undergraduate who is highly cultivated in his interests (Pavement yes, Pearl Jam no; cigarettes yes, alcohol no; indie films yes, fraternity parties no), a young Gen Xer studiedly indifferent to mainstream culture, and rigorously obsessed with what’s cool. As an undergrad at Berkeley, Hsu was this person to a T and his memoir digs, in a lovely, low-key way beneath the surface of the pose. Hsu’s Taiwanese parents immigrated to the U.S. and harbored a kind of poignant enthusiasm for their new lives–especially his father who was interested in his son’s thoughts about everything and anything. Hsu is an intellectual slacker who studies rhetoric and political science, but is outwardly bored by most everything, a creator of Zines and a cultivator of misfit friends. One friend, named Ken, bucks the trend. Ken is handsome, into Dave Matthews, and likes (the horror!) swing dancing. Hua has a curious bond with him in spite of all that and then when Ken is killed in horrific circumstances, Hsu is unmoored. A moving portrait of a persona undone by tragedy. –T. A.
Foster by Claire Keegan (November 1)
In Claire Keegan’s Foster (Grove), first published by The New Yorker as a short story in 2010 and now expanded to a novella, the Irish writer traces the journey of a nameless girl who is palmed off to distant relatives in a bucolic corner of rural County Wexford for a summer while her poverty-stricken, neglectful parents prepare for the birth of their next child. What unspools from there is a deceptively complex coming-of-age tale, both intimate and richly expansive, as the girl’s foster family provides her with the room and space to blossom, before a heartbreaking secret threatens to shatter her newfound idyll. Balancing Keegan’s delicate, sparing prose and masterful ear for dialogue with a tale that is almost overwhelming in its tenderness, Foster is a heart-wrenching treasure of a book that only serves to confirm Keegan’s place as one of contemporary Irish literature’s leading lights. —Liam Hess
Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story by Bono (November 1)
Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story
Bonos’s deeply personal memoir chronicles his earliest memories, the formation of his band, the meeting of his wife when he was still a teen (he joined the band the same week that he first asked his future wife to go out with him). The book is also about his father, a figure that loomed over him, especially after the early death of his mother, with almost comic nonchalance over his son’s epically blossoming career. (It took a meeting with Princess Di, arranged by his son, to truly ruffle him.) It is about Ireland, the legacy of the violence that raged through much of the 20th century, and Africa and also the promise of America. It is not a short or compact book. But do you want that from the man behind some of the most stirring and soaring ballads of all time? Sink into your plush chair of choice with this one in your lap and the stereo blasting. —C.S.