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On Immunity: An Inoculation

Eula Biss (Graywolf)

Biss, while making an unimpeachable case for childhood vaccination, delves into the metaphors that accompany notions of purity and invasion, and recounts the medical history of vaccine development. It’s a touching personal story that seeks to understand why the antivax crowd exists and why it’s such a well-meaning, if misguided, movement.

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Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin, and Sadat at Camp David

Lawrence Wright (Knopf)

Wright’s meticulous account of the 1978 Camp David Accords weaves a nail-biting chronicle of the accords themselves with the histories of the three leaders and the land that has been an unending center of conflict since biblical times. It’s an unparalleled work and one that deserves to be called objective.

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The Corpse Exhibition

Hassan Blasim, trans. from the Arabic by Jonathan Wright (Penguin)

Powerful and disturbing, these stories of the war in Iraq from an Iraqi perspective combine the grit of reality with the surreal. Wise and terrifying, comic and gripping, Blasim, in exile from his native Iraq, is an original voice whose writing is justifiably compared to Gogol, Bolaño, and Borges.

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Limonov

Emmanuel Carrère, trans. from the French by John Lambert (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

No run-of-the-mill biography, this witty, fascinating portrait of the paradoxical Edward Limonov—a far-right ally of Serbian war criminals and principled opponent of Putin; a butler in New York City; and a literary rock star in Paris—has biographer Carrère giving himself a supporting part in the story as he ponders his own relationship to a confounding man who mirrors Russia’s many transformations.

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Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay

Elena Ferrante, trans. from the Italian by Ann Goldstein (Europa)

Ferrante’s series of Neapolitan novels has cemented its place as one of the greatest in modern fiction. This third installment, which follows the evolving and complicated relationship between girlhood friends Elena and Lila, is the best so far.

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A Brief History of Seven Killings

Marlon James (Riverhead)

A virtuosic performance detailing three turbulent decades in Jamaican history, centering on the attempted assassination of Bob Marley. The voices of government agents, gang members, ex-girlfriends, and ghosts all contribute, and the result is shocking, cerebral, and exhilarating.

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The Empathy Exams: Essays

Leslie Jamison (Graywolf)

Jamison is ever-probing and always sensitive in her first collection of essays, providing a heady and unsparing examination of pain. Her observations of people, reality TV, music, film, and literature serve as starting points for unconventional metaphysical inquiries into poverty tourism, prison time, random acts of violence, abortion, bad romance, and stereotypes of the damaged woman artist.

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Bark

Lorrie Moore (Knopf)

In Moore’s fourth story collection, her characters seem to have caught up to her sly, sharp voice. The young women are gone, replaced by divorcées. The sadness may outweigh the humor, but the balance here may be Moore’s ideal combination, authentic and wise. No one captures what it’s like to live in today’s world quite like Lorrie Moore.

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The Dog

Joseph O’Neill (Pantheon)

The unnamed narrator of O’Neill’s novel is an American adrift in Dubai, where he works as an “officer” for a wealthy Lebanese family, turning a blind eye to ethically questionable activity and knowingly pursuing his own dead end. It’s a devastating story of a man circling the drain, lost in the last society that will have him.

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Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free

Héctor Tobar (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Tobar movingly revisits the story of the 33 miners who spent 69 days in 2010 trapped in Chile’s San José Mine. He captures, with compassion and without sensationalism, the experience of surviving more than 2,000 feet underground, and of emerging above ground into a media frenzy.

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