Between the World and Me
Ta-Nehisi Coates (Random/Spiegel & Grau)
Coates's book, presented as a letter to his teenage son, is brief but immense in its scope, traversing his own youth, recent concerns about police violence against African-Americans, and the legacy of American racism. It will be remembered as a classic.
The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World
Andrea Wulf (Knopf)
Though his name is scattered across the geography of the Americas and his ideas are now commonplace, Prussian-born naturalist, explorer, and writer Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859) is a nearly forgotten figure. Wulf restores the man who first posited the concept of human-induced climate change.
The Princess and the Pony
Kate Beaton (Scholastic/Levine)
Already acclaimed for her online comic, Hark! A Vagrant, Beaton makes an exuberantly funny yet empathic foray into children's books with an underdog (or perhaps underhorse) tale that shows that princesses, warriors, and ponies come in all shapes and sizes.
The Day the Crayons Came Home
Drew Daywalt, illus. by Oliver Jeffers (Philomel)
It's a rare sequel that surpasses its predecessor, but that's what Daywalt and Jeffers have managed with this follow-up to their bestselling The Day the Crayons Quit, full of hilariously clever postcards from crayons that have been left behind on vacation, melted together in the sun, or are fulfilling their thirst for adventure.
Last Stop on Market Street
Matt de la Peña, illus. by Christian Robinson (Putnam)
In this deceptively simple and understated story, a bus ride shared by a boy and his grandmother highlights the power of everyday moments to reveal the world's beauties and inequities, as well as the way small actions can have a significant impact.
This Bridge Will Not Be Gray
Dave Eggers, illus. by Tucker Nichols (McSweeney's)
An iconic bridge in a city known for its eccentricity deserves a biography to match, and the Golden Gate Bridge gets one here. The easygoing cadence and restrained humor of Eggers's storytelling are instantly engrossing, and Nichols's bold paper-cut artwork makes as strong an impact as the bridge's emblematic hue.
Carson Ellis (Candlewick)
Expansive yet intimate, Ellis's study of what makes a home recognizes that there's no one-size-fits-all answer to that question. Ellis whisks readers around the world (and into the realms of the fantastical and strange) as she moves from cozy Russian kitchen to nursery-rhyme shoe and city apartment, inviting children to contemplate what home means to them.
The Night World
Mordicai Gerstein (Little, Brown)
Caldecott Medalist Gerstein celebrates the strangeness that darkness confers on an otherwise familiar landscape, following a boy and his cat through the inky minutes before the arrival of dawn. And when morning does appear, in a glorious explosion of color and light, it's nothing short of a revelation.
The Only Child
Guojing (Random/Schwartz & Wade)
Inspired by Guojing's experience growing up under China's one-child policy, this haunting debut, a wordless graphic journey unfolding in panels drawn in the gentlest pencil, creates a sense of pure magic as a small girl toddles away from home to visit her grandmother and finds protection and joy in unexpected places.
Kevin Henkes (Greenwillow)
Henkes offers a close-up view of the limited but full lives of five toy figurines on a windowsill, leaving readers with much to consider—especially those children who may feel like their own lives are an inscrutable or unpredictable series of arrivals, departures, unexpected events, and waiting for whatever comes next.
The King and the Sea
Heinz Janisch, illus. by Wolf Erlbruch (Gecko Press USA)
Originally published in Germany, this thought-provoking picture book consists of a series of encounters between a king and various people, objects, and intangible forces, which offer profoundly revealing insights on the nature and limitations of power. "I don't believe in ghosts," the king tells a spirit in one scene. "I don't believe in kings" is the pointed response.
Toys Meet Snow
Emily Jenkins, illus. by Paul O. Zelinsky (Random/Schwartz & Wade)
Since Jenkins's subtitle - Being the Wintertime Adventures of a Curious Stuffed Buffalo, a Sensitive Plush Stingray, and a Book-Loving Rubber Ball - provides the gist of the story, let's cut to the chase: the snowy explorations of this trio of toys, captured in expansive detail in Zelinsky's illustrations and Jenkins's wonderfully understated wit, brim with the magic of discovery, the joy of companionship, and the beauty of seeing the world through multiple perspectives (even when one is a rubber ball that, technically, lacks eyes).
The Japanese Lover
Isabel Allende, trans. from the Spanish by Nick Caistor and Amanda Hopkinson (Atria)
Allende's magical and sweeping tale focuses on two survivors of separation and loss: the elderly renowned designer Alma Belasco and her young secretary, the mysterious Irina Bazili. Through flashbacks spanning from the present-day to WWII, Allende expertly reveals their pasts in a moving story of how love endures.
JonArno Lawson, illus. by Sydney Smith (Groundwood)
Small miracles—like weedy flowers that fight for life in an unforgiving urban environment—are everywhere, if you just look. That's just one of many ideas readers can glean from Lawson and Smith's wordless tale, something of a small miracle itself, which traces a father and daughter's travels through gray city streets that gain color through acts of kindness and reverence.
Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear
Lindsay Mattick, illus. by Sophie Blackall (Little, Brown)
Mattick provides a lovely and intimate account of how her great-grandfather Harry Colebourn, a Canadian veterinarian during WWI, acquired and cared for the bear that would inspire Winnie-the-Pooh. Playfulness and tenderness go hand in hand in both text and art, as Mattick and Blackall reveal the real-life backstory behind one of the most beloved characters in children's literature.
Thank You and Good Night
Patrick McDonnell (Little, Brown)
McDonnell pays the sweetest of tributes to cherished children's book creators and their most famous creations, while giving readers the gift of a pitch-perfect bedtime story. Well-read parents and children will smile with recognition as they pick out references to the books of Brown, Hurd, de Brunhoff, and Milne as a girl named Maggie throws a slumber party for a rabbit, elephant, and bear.
Flutter and Hum: Animal Poems/Aleteo y Zumbido: Poemas de Animales
Julie Paschkis (Holt)
A love of language—two languages, actually—and of the natural world is instantly evident in this collection of 12 poems that celebrate whales, crows, deer, and other creatures. Paschkis's poems are delightful reads in both languages (of a moth: "La polilla/ bombarde/ la bomilla,/ buscando la luna"), while the English and Spanish words woven into the artwork invite further study and contemplation.
Lenny & Lucy
Philip C. Stead, illus. by Erin E. Stead (Roaring Brook/Porter)
When life doesn't offer happiness on a platter (say, when one has just moved to a new house in the woods with one's father), the Steads suggest a direct approach: make a few protector-friends for company, and real friends might just follow. Written and illustrated with delicacy and restraint, it's another emotionally incisive offering from this husband-and-wife team.
The Dog That Nino Didn't Have
Edward van de Vendel, illus. by Anton Van Hertbruggen (Eerdmans)
Gorgeous, 1970s-inspired illustrations and playful language counterbalance the loneliness of a boy who misses his father. Nino's vivid imagination and a pristine landscape of pine forests, rocky outcroppings, and lakes offer him solace, while drawing readers into both his melancholy and his appetite for exploration and adventure.
My Diary from the Edge of the World
Jodi Lynn Anderson (S&S/Aladdin)
Anderson delivers a fascinating melding of contemporary life and fairy tale lore in a novel set in a version of our world home to dragons, genies, witches, and dark clouds that portend death. When one such cloud shows up at the Maine home of 12-year-old Gracie, it's the start of a life-changing, cross-country road trip that will keep readers riveted from the first page to the last.
The Thing About Jellyfish
Ali Benjamin (Little, Brown)
Can the scientific method help explain the inexplicable death of a friend? That's the hope of 12-year-old Suzy, who retreats into herself as she attempts to prove that a jellyfish sting was responsible for her best friend drowning. It's a contemplative and deeply affecting novel about grief that speaks volumes through its heroine's silence.
The War That Saved My Life
Kim Brubaker Bradley (Dial)
In a hard-hitting story of prejudice and triumph set in WWII England, Ada Smith and her younger brother flee London (and their cruel mother) as part of the evacuation of children to the British countryside. Ada's self-consciousness about her clubfoot gives way to the discovery of an inner strength in an emotional and rewarding tale that isn't likely to be read through dry eyes.
Alex Gino (Scholastic Press)
Given the deficit of fiction for young readers featuring transgender and gender-nonconforming characters, Gino's debut—about a 10-year-old who knows she's a girl, although the world sees her as a boy—is both necessary and welcome. Thanks to Gino's direct, compassionate writing, this is a story with the potential to open eyes, change hearts, and—given dire statistics about suicide and violence involving transgender youth—potentially save lives.
In the Country
Mia Alvar (Knopf)
In her debut collection, Alvar includes stories set in locales as diverse as Bahrain, Manila, and Tokyo, and in periods ranging from 1971 to the present. Each story is as well crafted as a novel, exploring lines of class, race, gender, and history through elegant, incisive language.
Lost in the Sun
Lisa Graff (Philomel)
Guilt, grief, and rage are never very distant from each other in this acutely insightful novel about a 12-year-old hockey player who blames himself for the death of a friend. Graff is unafraid to face Trent's darkest moods and emotions head-on, and she sensitively charts a course to a place of self-forgiveness, without minimizing the difficulty of that journey.
Victoria Jamieson (Dial)
The thrill of a budding interest in roller derby meshes with the changing friendships and all-around uncertainties of adolescence in Jamieson's rousing graphic novel. It's a story that moves as quickly as the athletes at its center, and Jamieson's clean, bright illustrations are equally successful at capturing roller-derby action and her characters' emotional highs and lows.
Thanhhà Lai (Harper)
Lai's second novel is a striking counterpoint to its National Book Award–winning predecessor: written in prose, in contrast to the free verse of Inside Out and Back Again, and presenting an American girl's trip from California to Vietnam, inverting the immigrant's journey of the previous book. Yet Mai's story stands firmly on its own as she opens herself to a heritage she never saw much reason to trouble herself with.
Friends for Life
Andrew Norriss (Scholastic/Fickling)
The unexpected friendship struck between a boy and the ghost of a girl his age is just the first step in a pay-it-forward chain of connections, actions, and revelations that has a great deal to say about bullying and the tragedies it can cause. Part supernatural mystery, part call-to-arms for empathy and kindness, Norriss's story is valuable on multiple levels.
Kenneth Oppel, illus. by Jon Klassen (Simon & Schuster)
A newborn child, a worried brother, a nest of wasps: Oppel uses these ingredients to construct what is easily one of the most terrifying books of the year, aided in no small way by Klassen's shadowy artwork. Yet, as unsettling a story as this is, it's also supremely rewarding, undergirded by a deep love of family—one that just happens to lead down a dangerous path.
Pam Muñoz Ryan (Scholastic Press)
Music, history, and several expertly intertwined story lines converge in Ryan's sweeping, multifaceted novel, which draws together a harmonica that carries a prophecy, the dangers of WWII Europe, several American children, and a love of music that crosses generations. Ambitiously imagined and superbly executed.
Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War
Steve Sheinkin (Roaring Brook)
In an age of leaked documents and whistle-blowers like Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning, Sheinkin's expertly researched and recounted study of Daniel Ellsberg, the leaker of the Pentagon Papers, and the overall turbulence of the Vietnam War years couldn't be better timed or more relevant for today's young readers.
Gary D. Schmidt (Clarion)
When a troubled boy named Jack becomes the latest foster child to join Joseph Brook's family, it's the start of a gracefully written and deeply painful story about second chances, families old and new, and the tragic inability to outrun one's past. This is Schmidt at his most heartbreaking.
Brian Selznick (Scholastic Press)
Selznick continues to push the boundaries of visual narrative, and his latest—a conclusion to the trilogy of sorts that began with The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck—is perhaps his most inventive and daring to date. The story blends the nautical and the theatrical, spanning generations, as Selznick weaves a powerful story of finding family and creating art.
Rebecca Stead (Random/Lamb)
Stead has a true talent for getting inside the adolescent mind, and here the Newbery Medalist thoughtfully and carefully examines the evolving friendships among a group of Manhattan seventh-graders, while throwing in just enough twists and uncertainties to keep readers on their toes.
The State We're In
Ann Beattie (Scribner)
These 15 stories feature an unlucky tryst at a California hotel, a disastrous wedding, Elvis lamps, a teen forced to write about magical realism in summer school, and an attempt to rescue a wayward bird. Through her drifting adults and their rootless offspring, Beattie demonstrates her impeccable craftsmanship, precise language, and knack for revealing psychological truths.
Harriet the Invincible
Ursula Vernon (Dial)
In what might be Vernon's funniest book yet, she presents a hilarious rodent-themed twist on "Sleeping Beauty." Using the blend of comics and prose that her fans have come to love, Vernon introduces Harriet Hamsterbone, who sees opportunity where others see a curse, taking down sexist fairy tale tropes and damsel-in-distress stereotypes along the way. Utterly wonderful.
Check out our Middle Grade best books next
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
Becky Albertalli (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray)
In a book that's both a timeless look at first love and a timely contemplation of identity, debut novelist Albertalli introduces a boy named Simon who embarks on an online relationship with an classmate—which one, he isn't sure—while working to understand what his attraction to men means for himself, his friends, and his family.
A Song for Ella Grey
David Almond (Delacorte)
Almond's haunting contemporary reworking of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice embraces themes of love, friendship, and loss as he examines the intense relationship between friends Claire and Ella, which is thrown into tumult by the appearance of a strange musician on a beach in Northern England.
Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad
M.T. Anderson (Candlewick)
Continuing to push boundaries and defy expectations with each new book, Anderson forays into nonfiction with an ambitious recounting of the Siege of Leningrad merged with a biography of composer Dmitri Shostakovich. With its portrait of an uncompromising artist, spy-novel levels of intrigue, and thorough examination of WWII atrocities, it's a book to captivate a broad range of readers.
The Game of Love and Death
Martha Brockenbrough (Scholastic/Levine)
Blending Depression Era history, aeronautics, music, and the machinations of the personified forces of Love and Death, Brockenbrough offers a star-crossed, cross-cultural romance between a jazz musician and an aviatrix. The combination of painful real-world struggles and the novel's supernatural overlay is completely immersing.
Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans
Don Brown (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Brown pulls no punches in this visceral work of graphic nonfiction, which openly confronts—in both its text and harrowing artwork—the destruction that Hurricane Katrina inflicted on the city of New Orleans, as well as a governmental response plagued by problems of its own.
Sarah Dessen (Viking)
In a novel that carries all the hallmarks of Dessen's work, particularly her ability to capture the emotions and uncertainties of teenagers trying to understand their place in the world, she delivers an astute and engrossing portrait of a family left in disarray by a drunk-driving accident.
Maria Dahvana Headley (Harper)
Haunting, strange, and threaded with sharp wit, Headley's wild fantasy sweeps readers into a thrilling world of airships, flying whales, and shapeshifting bird creatures, as 16-year-old Aza—terminally ill on Earth, yet peculiarly at home in the skies—tries to uncover who or what she is.
All the Bright Places
Jennifer Niven (Knopf)
In a year that saw several strong portrayals of mental illness among teens, Niven's romance between Finch and Violet, both troubled by thoughts of suicide, is one of the most memorable, in its skillful entwining of heartbreak, tragedy, and the ability to persist.
Daniel José Older (Scholastic/Levine)
Readers crisscross the streets of a deliciously imagined modern-day Brooklyn, one rife with not just gentrifying forces but deadly supernatural ones. Older's fearless heroine, Sierra Santiago, dazzles as she uncovers ancient, ancestral powers, ones she'll need to save the vibrant borough she calls home.
Paul Beatty (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Wildly funny but deadly serious, Beatty's satire looks at racism in modern America. After his Los Angeles neighborhood is erased from the map by gentrification, a black farmer named Me hatches a plan to restore it—one that involves reinstating slavery and segregation. Beatty's caper is populated by outrageous caricatures, and its damning social critique carries the day.
The Shepherd's Crown
Terry Pratchett (Harper)
It's difficult to see this final Tiffany Aching novel as anything less than a gift from the late Pratchett, whose fantasies have enriched and inspired generations of readers. This last trip to Discworld doesn't disappoint, closing some doors while opening others, leaving readers of all ages with questions to ponder and possibilities to imagine.
All American Boys
Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely (S&S/Atheneum/Dlouhy)
Amid ongoing protests and conversations about police brutality and communities of color, Reynolds and Kiely's gripping novel—narrated alternately by a black teen beaten by a police officer and a white teen with connections to the same officer—is as unfortunately timely as it is intensely relevant.
Laura Ruby (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray)
Through the disappearance of a young woman named Roza, Ruby spins an unpredictable, magic-tinged rural mystery, one that is reluctant to give up its secrets. The author explores heady topics—truth, beauty, and power, among them—in this haunting and richly complex story.
The Hired Girl
Laura Amy Schlitz (Candlewick)
Newbery Medalist Schlitz's novel about 14-year-old runaway Joan, who becomes a housekeeper for a Jewish family in 1911 Baltimore, sparkles. Joan's foibles and naiveté allow for growth on multiple fronts, and Schlitz gives her a kindness and guilelessness that make her misadventures and triumphs captivating.
X: A Novel
Ilyasah Shabazz, with Kekla Magoon (Candlewick)
Shabazz, Malcolm X's daughter, and Magoon craft a visceral fictional account of the making of an activist, nailing both Malcolm's hardscrabble coming of age, which informed the man he became, and his engagement with racial topics that reverberate against present-day headlines.
Neal Shusterman (HarperTeen)
In a provocative and personal exploration of mental illness, specifically schizophrenia, Shusterman thrusts readers into the mind of 15-year-old Caden, whose narrative shifts hauntingly between life with his family and his journey aboard a ship venturing toward the deepest part of the Marianas Trench.
Noelle Stevenson (HarperTeen)
Nimona is a character for the ages: a shapeshifting, wisecracking, take-no-prisoners spitfire, who wreaks havoc on the modern-meets-medieval land of Stevenson's graphic novel, while sparring with her sort-of ally, the disgraced Lord Blackheart. It's a colossally entertaining story that offers food for thought on everything from morality and heroism to the nature of good and evil.
Trouble Is a Friend of Mine
Stephanie Tromly (Penguin/Dawson)
Blistering, sharp-edged dialogue helps make Tromly's debut one of the year's funniest YA novels, one that also delivers a cracking mystery. As New York City transplant Zoe and pushy loner Digby investigate a range of puzzles in their upstate New York town, their relationship sings as they lob zingers back and forth. It's just about all one could hope for in a 21st-century teen sleuth story.
Blythe Woolston (Candlewick)
If Amazon and Walmart controlled virtually every aspect of American life, the result might be something like what Woolston imagines in this deeply unsettling and powerful novel. Woolston draws from drones, technology dependence, media saturation, and corporate dominance to create a future America best visited only in the pages of a book.
Check out our YA best books next
A Manual for Cleaning Women
Lucia Berlin (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Berlin is one of the best writers you've never read: her stories are like a mix of Grace Paley, Lorrie Moore, and Denis Johnson, but sport Berlin's own brand of droll, sharp prose. No-nonsense and totally magnetic, the women of this omnibus ensure that Berlin, once discovered, will be remembered.
Simon Critchley (Other Press)
This very short novel can be read in one sitting, but the questions it poses will linger long after. While sifting through his deceased mentor's personal papers, philosopher Critchley, the main character of this not-quite-nonfiction story, finds a chart predicting the deaths of assorted philosophers—among them Critchley himself.
The Meursault Investigation
Kamel Daoud, trans. from the French by John Cullen (Other Press)
Daoud's novel reimagines Camus's The Stranger from the Arab perspective. Told in a meandering bar monologue by Algerian Arab Harun, younger brother of the victim of the Frenchman Merusault, this story includes a failed affair, a ghostlike double, and, above all, beguiling ambiguity.
The Green Road
Anne Enright (Norton)
The four Madigan siblings from Ireland's County Clare left home long ago. Eldest Dan has abandoned the priesthood for New York City's art community and second son Emmet is in Mali doing relief work, but the pull of their volatile mother Rosaleen bridges their past and present. This vibrant family portrait is Enright at the top of her game.
The Turner House
Angela Flournoy (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Flournoy's laudable debut novel begins as Viola Turner is about to lose her house on Detroit's East Side, in which she raised her 13 children. By focusing on three of Viola's children—eldest son Cha-Cha, policeman Troy, and gambling addict Lelah—Flournoy touches on the moral, emotional, marital, and psychological problems affecting the Turners. And there's even a ghost thrown in for good measure.
The Story of the Lost Child
Elena Ferrante, trans. from the Italian by Ann Goldstein (Europa)
For the second straight year, we're including an installment of Ferrante's Neapolitan Novels in our top 10. The series wraps up with The Story of the Lost Child, which finds protagonist Elena using biographical details from her fiery friend Lila's life in her own work. A much-anticipated entry and well worth the wait.
Signs Preceding the End of the World
Yuri Herrera, trans. from the Spanish by Lisa Dillman (And Other Stories)
Herrera's slim novel, about a young woman's border crossing from Mexico into the U.S. in search of her lost brother, is presented as a fable-like quest. Makina contacts elements of the criminal underworld to aid her in her transport, but she is also given a package to deliver along the way. Herrera's nightmarish imagery—the book opens with a sink hole swallowing a man, a car, and a dog—elevates this haunting story.
Barbara the Slut
Lauren Holmes (Riverhead)
Millennials take stock of their surroundings with shrugs and resigned sighs in this debut collection, which is consistently funny, fresh, and lively thanks to Holmes's voice. In these stories, readers will find an underpants scheme, an extreme germophobe, and even a story from the perspective of a dog.
Andrea Kleine (Counterpoint/Soft Skull)
Dread stalks every page in this clever, twisted debut novel, a reimagining of the real-life romance between John Hinckley Jr., the man who shot Ronald Reagan in 1981, and socialite Leslie deVeau, who murdered her young daughter. This is an unshakable plunge into madness.
Norman Lock (Bellevue Literary)
A wonderful old-fashioned yarn, Lock's historical reimagining follows Stephen Moran, an orphan from Brooklyn, to the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876, where he irrevocably alters history. Along the way, our hero loses an eye at the Battle of Five Forks, meets Walt Whitman, and is assigned as bugler for Lincoln's funeral train.
The Story of My Teeth
Valeria Luiselli, trans. from the Spanish by Christina MacSweeney (Coffee House)
Luiselli creates a most unforgettable image—that of Gustavo "Highway" Sánchez Sánchez, the protagonist of her delightfully unclassifiable novel, walking around the streets of Mexico City, smiling at people with the teeth of Marilyn Monroe (which he won at an auction) installed in his mouth. This surprising and charming novel is so perfectly imagined—Luiselli herself even makes an appearance—that it's impossible not to follow wherever it leads.
Tom McCarthy (Knopf)
This mischievously serious novel features a parachuting disaster, a pipe gushing oil into the ocean, and an anthropologist tasked with writing an elusive "Great Report" for his mysterious company. McCarthy continues to probe the limits of storytelling.
Gavin McCrea (Catapult)
McCrea's debut is a historical novel told through the unforgettable voice of Lizzie Burns, the longtime lover of Frederick Engels. Pulled up from her working-class roots after she meets Engels, Lizzie is nonetheless excluded from upper-class society and haunted by her former flame as she struggles to find her purpose. Sparkling with energy, Lizzie is one of the year's best characters.
The Tsar of Love and Techno
Anthony Marra (Random/Hogarth)
Marra's follow-up to A Constellation of Vital Phenomena (named one of PW's 10 best books of 2013) is a collection of nine interconnected stories exploring facets of Russian life, from 1937 to the present—from Chechnya to Siberia and from a labor camp to a hillside meadow. In this fully realized terrain, Marra finds an inspiration for his funny, tragic, bizarre, and memorable fiction.
Viet Thanh Nguyen (Grove)
At the core of this first novel is a lively, wry first-person narrator called the Captain, a half-Vietnamese double agent who barely escapes the fall of Saigon in 1975. Once in America, a country he believes has abandoned his homeland, he establishes a restaurant as a front to raise money for a counter-rebellion. Nguyen's debut has a remarkable narrator and the suspense of a spy novel.
Girl Waits with Gun
Amy Stewart (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Hardened criminals are no match for pistol-packing spinster Constance Kopp and her redoubtable sisters, in Stewart's hilarious and exciting period drama. When the Black Hand gang forces Constance to defend her family and shoot back, this twist-filled crowd-pleaser hits its stride and doesn't let up until the last page.
Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life
William Finnegan (Penguin Press)
In this panoramic and fascinating memoir, longtime New Yorker staff writer Finnegan pays tribute to the ancient art of surfing in a revealing and magisterial account of a beautiful obsession.
A Little Life
Hanya Yanagihara (Doubleday)
This epic American tragedy centers on four college friends who move to New York City: architect Malcolm, artist JB, actor Willem, and lawyer Jude. Yanagihara weaves their life stories together over multiple decades, exploring, in particular, how Jude's past trauma ultimately bring them closer. By the time the characters reach their 50s and the story arrives at its moving conclusion, readers will be attached, stunned, and filled with awe.
From the New World: Poems 1976–2014
Jorie Graham (Ecco)
Legions of poets have been influenced by Pulitzer Prize–winner Graham over the course of her four-decade career. Now they can trace the arc of her work through its shifts in aesthetics and ethics, form and function. Even the new poems display a continued willingness to experiment and push her art in new directions.
How to Be Drawn
Terrance Hayes (Penguin)
Hayes has earned himself a second-consecutive National Book Award finalist nomination with another formally inventive collection that tests his readers' range of emotions. Heavily informed by his visual art background, Hayes makes perception a central motif as he muses on race realities, pop culture, and even Mayakovsky.
Voyage of the Sable Venus and Other Poems
Robin Coste Lewis (Knopf)
This heart-stopping debut collection caused a stir when it earned an NBA nomination. As Lewis engages with depictions of black female bodies in Western art, she wrestles with constructs of blackness and gender, alienation and self-formation. Her ability to vary form and tone in dealing with such serious content marks this as a fantastically well-rounded collection.
I Must Be Living Twice: New and Selected Poems 1975–2014
Eileen Myles (Ecco)
Myles has long been a steady presence on the New York poetry scene, thanks to her involvement with the Poetry Project and her roots in the queer underground. With the publication of this new and selected volume, which covers her 40-year career, she has become the toast of the town and the poetry world at-large.
Lili Anolik (Morrow)
In this suspenseful, sad, and shattering first novel, the shooting death of 16-year-old wild child Nica Baker has a devastating effect on her year-older sister, Grace, who just can't let Nica go. Grace repeatedly sees, hears, and talks with her during the grief-swamped, drug-muddled months that follow.
The Decagon House Murders
Yukito Ayatsuji, trans. from the Japanese by Ho-Ling Wong (Locked Room International)
A tense, sophisticated homage to Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None has seven members of the Kyoto University Mystery Club visit an isolated island, where six months earlier the bodies of architect Nakamura Seiji, his wife, and two servants were found in the burnt remains of a 10-sided house.
House of the Rising Sun
James Lee Burke (Simon & Schuster)
Former Texas Ranger Hackberry Holland sets off to find his estranged son, Ishmael, a U.S. Army captain, in Burke's stunning follow-up to 2014's Wayfaring Stranger. Hackberry also finds himself in possession of an artifact rumored to be the Holy Grail, incurring the wrath of a vicious arms dealer who wants the artifact for himself.
Is Fat Bob Dead Yet?
Stephen Dobyns (Penguin/Blue Rider)
Dobyns displays his genius for dark comedy in this intricate crime novel set in New Haven, Conn. The death of a motorcyclist in a bizarre accident involves a host of eccentric but plausible characters, including a group of con artists who bilk the gullible by soliciting charitable donations for organizations like Free Beagles from Nicotine Addiction.
The Girl on the Train
Paula Hawkins (Riverhead)
Emotionally fragile Rachel Watson, the principal narrator of Hawkins's riveting debut, passes the house where she used to live with her ex-husband on her train commute into London. She also often spies an attractive couple, whom she imagines to be enjoying the happily ever after that eluded her. Then the woman vanishes—only to turn up on the front page of the tabloids as missing.
James Hannaham (Little, Brown)
Hannaham's novel is both inventive (one of the main narrators is Scotty, the literal personification of crack) and terrifying: the mysterious titular farm, located somewhere in the American South, will leave readers shaken. But at its heart, this is the story of a mother and her son, and of overcoming addiction and pain with forgiveness and love.
The Mulberry Bush
Charles McCarry (Grove/Atlantic/Mysterious)
The unnamed narrator of this exceptional spy novel vows to avenge his father, a disgraced secret agent. He engineers his own recruitment into the CIA, where he becomes a covert agent, hunting and killing terrorists in the Middle East. However, he never forgets his chief purpose in life: exacting retribution on those responsible for his father's downfall.
Jax Miller (Crown)
Freedom Oliver, the heroine of Miller's hard-hitting debut, was arrested for killing her husband and for the past 20 years has been in a witness protection program in a small Oregon town. Mayhem ensues when Freedom travels to Kentucky in search of her missing daughter, a possible kidnapping victim, whom she gave up for adoption.
Nick Stone (Pegasus Crime)
Multimillionaire hedge-funder Vernon James goes on trial for murder after the strangled body of a young woman is found in his luxury suite at the London hotel where, only hours earlier, he accepted a major humanitarian award. Lowly legal clerk Terry Flynt, who was once James's best friend, has reason to resent James, but Flynt has a key role to play in his former friend's defense.
Don Winslow (Knopf)
In this sequel to 2005's The Power of the Dog, DEA agent Art Keller goes after his old nemesis, Adán Barrera, the leader of a Sinaloan cartel, who has escaped from prison and is intent on reestablishing control of his empire. This exhaustively researched novel elucidates not just the Mexican drug wars but the consequences of our own disastrous 40-year "war on drugs."
The Gates of Evangeline
Hester Young (Putnam)
Journalist Charlotte "Charlie" Cates—the heroine of Young's haunting, heartbreaking, yet ultimately hopeful debut—has disturbing dreams in which unknown children appeal for help. After being asked to write a true-crime book about the never-solved 1982 disappearance of a two-year-old from his family's Louisiana estate, Evangeline, a tiny, abused boy adrift with her in a boat on a bayou appears to her in a dream.
Ghost Summer: Stories
Tananarive Due (Prime)
Due's thrilling debut collection easily transports readers to the past or the future, delicately weaving in threads of old magic and new technology. An extraordinary array of characters draw on their inner strength and love for one another—especially familial love—to survive achingly real global and personal disasters.
The Fifth Season
N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)
With exquisite technical skill, Jemisin crafts a tale of desperation, love, and loss in a world riven by terrible cataclysms, where the politically powerful inflict horrifying trials on the magically adept in the name of global survival. Grim, unflinching, and moving, this is hard fantasy at its very best.
The Red: First Light
Linda Nagata (S&S/Saga)
A pacifist is pressed into military service and finds he's surprisingly good at it. Via his neural implants, an artificial intelligence called the Red keeps him out of harm's way, perhaps saving him for a greater purpose in which nonstop action, incisive political commentary, and fascinatingly plausible technology combine in a near-future thriller.
Naomi Novik (Del Rey)
Novik's first standalone, a Polish fairy tale that feels both authentically antique and splendidly refreshing, may single-handedly resurrect the pastoral fantasy genre. Dualistic tensions between sprawling woods and bustling towns, nobles and gentry, and the restrictive roles of men and women spiral out into an engrossing tale of a young witch's struggle and triumph.
The Watchmaker of Filigree Street
Natasha Pulley (Bloomsbury)
From the first page of Pulley's immersive debut, readers will be enthralled by her lightly retrofitted Victorian London. Against a backdrop of pea-soup fog and terrorist bombings, a precognitive immigrant clockwork artist, a down-at-the-heels telegraph operator, and a fiercely determined scientist all pursue their own ideas of success, safety, and that most elusive prize: a place to call home.
Christian Kracht, trans. from the German by Daniel Bowles (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
An oddball masterpiece that begins with thumb-sucking nudist August Engelhardt fleeing Germany in 1902 to establish a South Seas utopia—one in which coconuts are the only food. Disaster predictably strikes the idealistic, naïve Engelhardt (a real historical figure) in this strange, engrossing tale, by turns slapstick, philosophical, and suspenseful.
The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps
Kai Ashante Wilson (Tor.com)
In Wilson's excellent debut novella, folklore, technology, ethnic tensions, and a glorious cacophony of languages swirl around a band of men whose rough, jocular camaraderie transcends time and place. This story reads like it was sent back in time from a decades-distant future in which speculative fiction has evolved in unexpected ways.
You're the Earl That I Want
Kelly Bowen (Grand Central/Forever)
Bowen staffs up this enthralling Regency-era romantic thriller with splendidly unconventional protagonists: he'd rather run his business than his earldom, and she speaks more languages than most ladies have gowns. As they solve an exciting mystery involving the Knights Templar and a fortune in gold, sparks fly until the magnificently cinematic climax.
Alexis Hall (Riptide)
Hall puts a delightful twist on this breathtakingly kinky romance between an arrogant surgeon and a brash cook: the younger, poorer man is the one with dominant leanings, and the older, wealthier man longs to surrender. Their super-hot escapades are balanced by the measured development of deeply tender affection between the prickly yet instantly likable protagonists.
A Heart Revealed
Josi S. Kilpack (Shadow Mountain)
In Kilpack's deeply touching and emotionally rich Regency, a spoiled young woman is rejected by society for suffering from a disfiguring ailment. Only one man—an impoverished third son she once snubbed—is willing to treat her as a person as they come together in a slow, graceful dance of humility and forgiveness in a two-hanky read.
Playing with Fire
Kate Meader (S&S/Pocket)
Meader's flawless contemporary is a lust-hate match between a conservative mayor and a female firefighter. She thinks he's antiwoman and anti-union; he thinks she's a dangerous hothead. Deft characterization, high stakes, and unabashed sexual hunger drive the gripping fast-paced story.
Asking for It
Lilah Pace (Berkley)
Pace's charged writing will leave readers breathless as she goes where few other writers would dare, in this scorching erotic romance between two near strangers who decide to satisfy their mutual fantasies of rape. As they build in careful safeguards to protect each other, they have no idea that they're risking their own hearts.
Dictatorship of the Dress
Jessica Topper (Berkley Sensation)
Topper's laugh-out-loud, larger-than-life contemporary pokes fun at the stress around weddings while setting up a software designer and a comics artist for their own happy ending. Unabashed nerdiness, Elvis impersonators, feather allergies, digitized flatulence, and other unlikely ingredients make this comic confection a winner.
Sophie Goldstein (AdHouse)
In an ecologically devastated future when cities are under domes and resources are strictly controlled, a couple escapes to a commune outside the bubble, hoping to have a baby the natural way. But natural isn't necessarily better in this multilayered debut that's as scorching as the acid orange ink its printed in.
March, Book 2
John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell (Top Shelf)
The second installment of this deeply inspirational memoir continues mapping the history of the Civil Rights Movement—lunch counter sit-ins, the Freedom Riders, and the 1963 march on D.C.—and of Georgia congressman Lewis, as the young men and women of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee heroically endure fearfully escalating levels of violence.
The Arab of the Future
Riad Sattouf, trans. from the French by Sam Taylor (Metropolitan)
Dragged from Libya to France to Syria by his perpetually optimistic father, who desperately believes in the promise of a pan-Arabic state, Sattouf recalls a childhood filled with cruelties, absurdities, and unforgettable smells, which he somehow manages to put on the page. This densely detailed memoir has been a controversial best seller in France and remains all too timely.
Beauty Is a Wound
Eka Kurniawan, trans. from the Indonesian by Annie Tucker (New Directions)
An epic of magic and murder, Kurniawan's astounding novel traces the tragic history of his native Indonesia through the fortunes of the fictional coastal town of Halimunda. Kurniawan's momentous, darkly humorous chronicle—moving from the last days of Dutch rule to the mass killings of the 1960s—brilliantly captures Indonesia's spirit.
SuperMutant Magic Academy
Jillian Tamaki (Drawn & Quarterly)
The tropes of superpowered teens in a school setting—which figure into Harry Potter, X-Men, Vampire Academy, and many others—are upended and eventually elevated in this dark comedy. Sketchy art gives way to a fluid, inky wash, as one character laments, "Maybe I was too busy complaining about the food in the caf to realize these were the best years of my life."
Killing and Dying
Adrian Tomine (Drawn & Quarterly)
Cool, elegant art understates the frustration of angry white men and the world they can't understand, in Tomine's devastating short story anthology. Each protagonist is desperate to hold on to some symbol only he or she believes in—whether it's topiary sculpture or an old apartment—with painful results for everyone around them.
The Light of the World: A Memoir
Elizabeth Alexander (Grand Central)
Poet Alexander's memoir is an elegiac narrative of the man she loved, artist and chef Ficre Ghebreyesus, who died in 2012. Fashioning her mellifluous narrative around the beauty she found in him, Alexander is grateful, patient, and willing to pursue a fit of magical thinking that he might just return.
The Man Who Wasn't There: Investigations into the Strange New Science of the Self
Anil Ananthaswamy (Dutton)
The more we learn about neurological ailments, the more we learn about the brain and its inseparability from the rest of the body. Ananthaswamy leads a tour through a range of disorders—both commonplace and bizarre—and those who suffer them, complicating our notions of what a self really is.
Invisible: The Dangerous Allure of the Unseen
Philip Ball (Univ. of Chicago)
Invisibility as a concept has a longer, stranger history than most would imagine, and Ball follows its twists and turns as he grapples with the philosophical and practical notions of the invisible. Myth, magic, and science merge as Ball discusses invisibility's impact on power and culture.
Fracture: Life and Culture in the West, 1918–1938
Philipp Blom (Basic)
The interwar years were not free of conflict; it's just that conflict played out in arenas other than the battlefield. Fashion, fascists, and futurism vie for attention as Blom investigates how individuals and societies in the West dealt with the collapse in values caused by WWI—with warnings for our current era.
How to Bake π: An Edible Exploration of the Mathematics of Mathematics
Eugenia Cheng (Basic)
Cheng takes something universally loved—food—and uses it to explain a similarly vast topic that's not quite as popularly embraced: math. She turn abstract concepts into accessible forms and lays out how mathematicians think, demystifying a field of beauty that is still too often viewed with fear and suspicion.
It Starts with Trouble: William Goyen and the Life of Writing
Clark Davis (Univ. of Texas)
From small-town East Texas and the WWII-era Navy, Goyen emerged to write his masterpiece, The House of Breath, and forge friendships with the likes of Anaïs Nin and Katherine Anne Porter. Davis's lively biography returns a long-overlooked writer to his place in American literature, illuminating Goyen's troubled but brilliant life and career.
Leaving Orbit: Notes from the Last Days of American Space Flight
Margaret Lazarus Dean (Graywolf)
In this mix of memoir and history, Dean seeks to find out why America has ceased funding its spaceflight program after 50 years. She revels in NASA's accomplishments, while bemoaning our collective inability to appreciate them, in a heady mix of wonder and disappointment delivered with aplomb.
City by City: Dispatches from the American Metropolis
Edited by Keith Gessen and Stephen Squibb (Faber and Faber/n+1)
Gessen and Squibb, founders of the magazine n+1, assemble essays about different American cities into a panoramic look at urban America—its colorful past, current stagnation, and potential revival. While the authors typically find political dysfunction and economic polarization, a few of them also find signs of hope for economic and environmental revival.
Thomas McGuane (Knopf)
The best story collection of the year, Crow Fair shows McGuane's total mastery of the English language. Set in his Montana terrain, it's packed with perfect lines, laughs, and unforgettable characters. This, McGuane's 16th book, is arguably his best.
Kissinger's Shadow: The Long Reach of America's Most Controversial Statesman
Greg Grandin (Metropolitan)
Grandin uses Henry Kissinger's graduate thesis as a lens through which to view his subsequent influence over U.S. policy. The book is harsh and unforgiving, but regardless of your views on Kissinger, it's a fascinating work. Grandin goes beyond simple criticism to observe how the powerful statesman's mind worked.
Sinatra: The Chairman
James Kaplan (Doubleday)
In this follow-up to his bestselling Frank: The Voice, Kaplan chronicles the 17-year span beginning with Sinatra's Oscar-winning role in 1954's From Here to Eternity and ending with his (first) retirement in 1971, in this vast, engrossing biography of Sinatra's mature years.
Man in Profile: Joseph Mitchell of the 'New Yorker'
Thomas Kunkel (Random)
As the author of classic New Yorker profiles such as "Joe Gould's Secret," Joseph Mitchell has long deserved his own biography, and Kunkel supplies it with this vivid portrait, which captures Mitchell's love for New York City, his blending of fact and fiction, and a three-decade-long case of writer's block.
H Is for Hawk
Helen Macdonald (Grove)
In this elegant synthesis of memoir and literary sleuthing, an English academic finds that training a young goshawk helps her through her grief over the death of her father.
Strangers Drowning: Grappling with Impossible Idealism, Drastic Choices, and the Overpowering Urge to Help
Larissa MacFarquhar (Penguin Press)
New Yorker staff writer MacFarquhar explores the power—and limitations—of altruism, to intriguing, sometimes heartbreaking effect. She profiles various "do-gooders" with an uncommon dedication to helping others, including the founder of a leper colony in India, an animal-rights activist driven to improve the lot of chickens, and a couple who adopt 20 children.
Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs
Sally Mann (Little, Brown)
Photographer Mann's sensuous and searching book—a Southern Gothic memoir set amid a catalogue of material objects—finds her pulling out family records from the attic, raising questions about the unexamined past and exploring how photographs "rob all of us of our memory," as she calls upon ancestry to explain the mysteries of her own character.
Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen
Mary Norris (Norton)
This witty debut from longtime New Yorker copy editor Norris is part memoir—covering her over-three-decade-long tenure in the magazine's legendary copy department—and part guide to commonly encountered usage, grammar, and punctuation problems. Her copy-editing subjects engage, from the New Yorker's use of diaeresis marks, to profanity on the printed page, to the controversial hyphen in Moby-Dick.
The Rift: A New Africa Breaks Free
Alex Perry (Little, Brown)
In a journey through 15 sub-Saharan African nations, Perry visits the world's newest country, South Sudan; confronts Jacob Zuma; is publicly taunted by Robert Mugabe; and achieves the seemingly impossible: writing about Africa through Western eyes without trying to define the continent. Instead, he invites Africans to speak directly to his readers.
Women Artists: The Linda Nochlin Reader
Edited by Maura Reilly (Thames & Hudson)
Nochlin has been a groundbreaking art critic and curator for decades, but this is the first collection entirely devoted to her writing on the topic with which she is most associated: female artists.
The Givenness of Things: Essays
Marilynne Robinson (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Count on Pulitzer–winner Robinson (Gilead) to diagnose the problems of our historical moment with clarity and grace. Steeped in Calvinist-inflected humanism, her essays look backward (to the Reformation, Shakespeare, and Jonathan Edwards, among other subjects) and forward (to the epidemic of violence in modern American life, and to the implications of neuroscience).
Maggie Nelson (Graywolf)
In a fast-shifting terrain of "homonormativity," Nelson plows ahead with an intelligent and disarmingly candid memoir about trying to simultaneously embrace her identity, her marriage with nomadic transgender filmmaker Harry, and motherhood.
So You've Been Publicly Shamed
Jon Ronson (Riverhead)
Ronson ruminates, amusingly and unsettlingly, on shame in the social-media age, interviewing celebrities who atoned for misdeeds in the public eye, and everyday people whose lives were ruined by ill-considered tweets.
The Prize: Who's in Charge of America's Schools?
Dale Russakoff (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
In one of the finest education surveys in recent memory, Washington Post reporter Russakoff takes an eagle-eyed view of the struggle to reform the Newark school system, revealing the inner workings of a wide range of systemic and grassroots problems (charter schools, testing, accountability, private donors) plaguing education reform today.
On the Move: A Life
Oliver Sacks (Knopf)
The celebrated bard of the brain's quirks (who died last August at 82) reveals a flamboyant secret life and a multitude of intellectual passions in this rangy, introspective autobiography.
What the Eye Hears: A History of Tap Dancing
Brian Seibert (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
New York Times dance critic Seibert offers a fascinating, sharply written cultural analysis of tap, that most American of dances.
One of Us: The Story of Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway
Åsne Seierstad, trans. from the Norwegian by Sarah Death (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Journalist Seierstad delivers a vivid and suspenseful account of the 2011 massacre that killed 77 people in her native Norway. She writes with a reporter's passion for details and a novelist's sense of story. The book is at once an unforgettable account of a national tragedy and a portrait of contemporary Norway.
Mohamedou Ould Slahi, edited by Larry Siems (Little, Brown)
A Guantánamo detainee endures a hellish ordeal in this narrative that exposes the dark side of the "war on terror." This searing account—published with heavy redactions while its author is still detained—is a harrowing artifact.
My Life on the Road
Gloria Steinem (Random)
In this powerfully personal yet universally appealing memoir, Steinem, a staunch advocate for reproductive rights and equal rights for women, writes candidly for the first time about her itinerant childhood spent with her father, who itched to be constantly in motion, and her mother, who gave up her own happiness for that of others.
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
Elizabeth Gilbert (Riverhead)
Gilbert draws an unexpected lesson from the experience of writing Eat Pray Love in this self-help manual: realistic self-expectations are important. Stymied by the prospect of attempting to top her blockbuster success, she eventually learned to reject perfectionism and embrace being good enough (and went on to write another bestseller.)
Vegetarian India: A Journey Through the Best of Indian Home Cooking
Madhur Jaffrey (Knopf)
Jaffrey, a seven-time James Beard Award winner for her stellar cookbooks, explores vegetarian home cooking in this exceptional new collection of traditional dishes.
The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science
J. Kenji López-Alt (Norton)
López-Alt, the managing culinary director of Serious Eats and author of its Food Lab column, embarks on a massive investigation into the best methods for preparing a litany of foods and takes a deep dive into classic recipes and their best preparation methods.
Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning
Timothy Snyder (Crown/Duggan)
Snyder responds to critics of 2010's Bloodlands with a detailed analysis of how the collapse—rather than the excess—of Central and Eastern European nation-state power (instigated by both the Nazis and Soviets) led to the Holocaust. He also offers Hitler's concept of lebensraum as an example of the way ecological crises—imagined or real—are perpetual sources of socio-political conflict.
Hummelo: A Journey Through a Plantsman's Life
Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury (Monacelli)
This beautiful book follows the work of Dutch landscape designer Oudolf, the man behind the plantings at New York City's High Line park, beginning with the creation of Hummelo, the garden he began 30 years ago with his wife, Anja, to supply the plants required for his designs.
My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life
Ruth Reichl (Random)
When the doors closed at Gourmet magazine in 2009, editor-in-chief Reichl came to terms with her professional upheaval by plunging into her greatest pleasure—cooking. Reichl proves that getting lost in a recipe can be excellent therapy.
How to Raise a Wild Child: The Art and Science of Falling in Love with Nature
Scott D. Sampson (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Paleontologist Sampson sounds a resonant, timely call for parents to help their kids connect to nature. Observing that recent generations have undergone a "progressive alienation" from nature, he proposes that his own generation—the boomers—were the last to be raised with a strong connection to the outdoors.
Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking
Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook (HMH/Rux Martin)
When Solomonov developed a passion for Israeli cooking and wanted to show the full breadth of the cuisine, he started his own restaurant, Zahav, in Philadelphia in 2008. He shares his story as well as his wide-ranging approach to Israeli cuisine in this impressive collection of recipes that will challenge any preconceptions.
Sandow Birk (Norton/Liveright)
Illustrator and graphic artist Birk sets the Islamic sacred text in a graffiti-inspired handwritten font against scenes of contemporary American life. Accessible and enjoyable, it is a great introduction to the Qur'an for non-Muslim Americans, but even for others, it invites a reconsideration of sacred tenets in the context of ordinary American lives.
Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving and Finding the Church
Rachel Held Evans (Thomas Nelson)
Christian columnist and blogger Evans considers her own experiences as an evangelical Christian to explore what is happening in church circles today and, more broadly, what it means to be part of a church community. Honest and moving, this memoir is both theologically astute and beautifully written.
Why I Am a Salafi
Michael Muhammad Knight (Counterpoint/Soft Skull)
In 2013, PW called Knight "Islam's gonzo experimentalist." Here, in a more academic bent, he continues with the experimentation. Now Salafism is in his crosshairs in this controversial, ultra-readable, meticulously reasoned, and enlightening study.
One Nation, Under Gods: A New American History
Peter Manseau (Little, Brown)
Journalist Manseau suggests that in the U.S., a "spectrum of beliefs has shaped our common history since well before the first president." Engagingly written, with a historian's eye for detail and a novelist's sense of character and timing, this history from a fresh perspective reexamines familiar tales and introduces fascinating counternarratives.
Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel
Russell Moore (B&H)
Evangelical theologian and preacher Moore delivers a well-argued manifesto for a new kind of Christian cultural activism that he calls "engaged alienation." This stance doesn't buy into secular culture and reimagines core values—human dignity, religious liberty, family stability—in light of recent struggles throughout American Christianity.
Leo: A Ghost Story
Mac Barnett, illus. by Christian Robinson (Chronicle)
One doesn't need a heartbeat to long for companionship, as Barnett and Robinson prove through the story of a dapper ghost named Leo, who is on the hunt for a true friend. Moody, eloquent, and witty, it's a "ghost story" for any time of day, any time of year.