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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.


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.


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.


The Sellout

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.


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.


Memory Theater

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.


American Meteor

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.


Satin Island

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.


Mrs. Engels

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.


The Sympathizer

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.


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.


Delicious Foods

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.



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.


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.


Crow Fair

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.


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