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Welcome to Publishers Weekly's Best Books of 2018. Our cover author this year is Gina Apostol, author of the novel Insurrecto. It’s a pyrotechnical marvel with a plot rooted in the Philippine-American War, which spools out over decades and across the globe as the book asks questions about class, conquest, and who gets to tell history. The minute our fiction editor finished reading it, he was convinced it was Best Books material. Turns out he was right, and we think you’ll feel the same way.

Apostol’s novel is joined by a fantastic array of fiction and nonfiction titles. Of the thousands of books we reviewed this year, we’ve picked the 100 best adult titles and 50 for children and teens. You really can’t go wrong with any of them, so let’s get started.

  • Asymmetry

    Lisa Halliday (Simon & Schuster)

    A young book editor named Alice embarks on a relationship with an older, prize-winning novelist in Manhattan; an Iraqi-American economist named Amar is detained at Heathrow on his way to visit family in Iraq. This bold, innovative collision of form, tone, and style ingeniously juxtaposes Alice’s dreamworld alongside Amar’s harsh reality, marking Halliday as a singular talent.

  • Educated: A Memoir

    Tara Westover (Random House)

    In this searing, vividly told memoir, Westover writes of growing up in a survivalist, religious fundamentalist family in the isolated Idaho mountains. Hers is an intense story of how she went from being birthed and schooled at home to earning her PhD from Cambridge University.

  • Heavy: An American Memoir

    Kiese Laymon (Scribner)

    Novelist and English professor Laymon addresses this spellbinding, stylishly written memoir to his mother. Within its pages, he analyzes the experience of being black in America, narrates his lifelong struggles with weight and a gambling addiction, and reflects on his relationships with his mother and grandmother, revealing hard-earned insight.

  • How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays

    Alexander Chee (Mariner)

    This collection could have been titled, simply, How I Became a Writer, but that would have utterly failed to convey Chee’s marvelously oblique style. Over 16 essays, he reflects on varied experiences—working as a Tarot card reader, studying with Annie Dillard, meeting William F. Buckley at a catering job—that together illuminate the development of his craft.

  • Insurrecto

    Gina Apostol (Soho)

    Two women write dueling scripts about the Philippine-American War while on a road trip to the town of Balangiga, the site of a violent conflict between occupying American forces and Filipinos in 1901. Apostol’s novel of staggering imagination deconstructs how humans tell stories and decide which versions of events are remembered, and it fearlessly probes the long shadow of forgotten American imperialism.

  • The Largesse of the Sea Maiden

    Denis Johnson (Random House)

    Johnson’s astonishing stories chronicle the small and ecstatic moments in the life of an ad agent, the letters of an alcoholic to the significant people in his life (including Satan), and a poet who pulls his professor into an Elvis conspiracy. Through his characters’ searches for meaning or their clawing just to hold onto life, Johnson is able to articulate what it means to be alive and to have hope.

  • Melmoth

    Sarah Perry (Custom House)

    In this gothic masterpiece, translator Helen Franklin lives in Prague, attempting to atone for a wrong she committed decades earlier. She discovers a file reporting the appearances throughout history of Melmoth, a specter who denied the sight of the risen Christ and was cursed to wander the Earth, haunting culpable individuals. Soon, Helen finds herself being followed.

  • Reagan: An American Journey

    Bob Spitz (Penguin Press)

    This massive, spectacular biography isn’t just for Republicans or Reagan fans. Its novelistic approach is backed up with deep scholarship and original research, and its prose is by turns colorful and gripping.

  • The Shape of the Ruins

    Juan Gabriel Vásquez, trans. from the Spanish by Anne McLean (Riverhead)

    Vásquez—author, narrator, and protagonist of this ingenious novel—is pulled into a web of potential conspiracy in Colombia by a radio host named Carballo, who claims to have proof of links between the assassinations of Jorge Eliécer Gaitán (1948) and General Rafael Uribe Uribe (1914). Vásquez’s journey through the dark terrain of his country’s past dynamically illustrates how fiction can address truths history omits.

  • Asymmetry

    Lisa Halliday (Simon & Schuster)

    A young book editor named Alice embarks on a relationship with an older, prize-winning novelist in Manhattan; an Iraqi-American economist named Amar is detained at Heathrow on his way to visit family in Iraq. This bold, innovative collision of form, tone, and style ingeniously juxtaposes Alice’s dreamworld alongside Amar’s harsh reality, marking Halliday as a singular talent.

  • Census

    Jesse Ball (Ecco)

    Ball’s devastatingly powerful call for understanding and compassion follows the journey of a dying father and his adult son, who has Down syndrome, across the country, a trip they always wanted to take. Their stops along the way—during which the father counts individuals for the census—reveal the beautiful yet brutal range of human experience.

  • Why Religion?

    Elaine Pagels (Ecco)

    Pagels, professor of religion at Princeton Univ., examines her relationship to spirituality as she comes to terms with the deaths of her son and husband in this moving memoir. Told in spare, affecting prose, Pagel’s beautiful book of ruminations bears as much hope as it does sorrow.

  • A Big Mooncake for Little Star

    Grace Lin (Little, Brown)

    Lin’s lyrical text and nighttime paintings successfully combine three distinctive and memorable elements into this story about why the moon waxes and wanes: an uncontrived fable, a vision of a mother and child living in cozy harmony, and a night kitchen of Sendakian proportions.

  • Carmela Full of Wishes

    Matt de la Peña, illus. by Christian Robinson (Putnam)

    From the award-winning team behind Last Stop on Market Street comes a story about a birthday girl on a walk with her big brother, the puffy dandelion she finds along the way, and the series of wishes she considers, all told against the backdrop of the family's Spanish-speaking community. Sensitively conceived and exuberantly executed.

  • The Crocodile and the Dentist

    Taro Gomi (Chronicle)

    The phrase “two sides of the same coin” aptly describes this amusing story. On the left side of every spread is a crocodile who doesn’t want to see the dentist but knows he has to; on the right is a dentist who doesn’t want to treat the crocodile but knows he must. Larger themes about the importance of empathy add meaningful layers to each playfully juxtaposed scene.

  • The Day You Begin

    Jacqueline Woodson, illus. by Rafael López (Penguin/Paulsen)

    Woodson imagines being “an only” in the classroom—the only one with an accent, the only one who stayed home during summer vacation, the only one whose lunch box is filled with food “too strange or too unfamiliar for others to love as you do.” Her lilting story and López’s artistry create a stirring portrait of the courage it takes to be oneself.

  • Dreamers

    Yuyi Morales (Holiday House/Porter)

    With exquisitely rendered mixed-media collages and timely, heart-pulling text, Caldecott Honor artist Morales traces the journey that she and her young son took when they immigrated from Mexico to the United States, and the succor that books and libraries offered as the two made their way in a new place.

  • The Elephant

    Jenni Desmond (Enchanted Lion)

    Desmond’s third title devoted to endangered animals offers memorable facts about African and Asian elephants amid naturalistic depictions and expressive touches (a mountain of fruits and vegetables represents what an elephant could eat in a day, and a boy sits atop the pile, munching on an apple). An affectionate and informative celebration of two magnificent species.

  • The Eye That Never Sleeps: How Detective Pinkerton Saved President Lincoln

    Marissa Moss, illus. by Jeremy Holmes (Abrams)

    This picture book recounts the Pinkerton National Detective Agency’s famous beginnings alongside the story of a thwarted assassination attempt on then-president-elect Abraham Lincoln en route to his inauguration. Detailed illustrations invite close inspection, and the limited color palette and multipaneled spreads evoke a graphic novel style.

  • Fox & Chick: The Party and Other Stories

    Sergio Ruzzier (Chronicle)

    The first in a comics-style early chapter series stars an animal odd couple in three short stories. Like Frog and Toad (and George and Martha), one is even-tempered, and one is often a pain in the neck. The resulting hilarity will engage nascent readers.

  • Hello Lighthouse

    Sophie Blackall (Little, Brown)

    This graceful account celebrates a lost era and vocation—the sometimes lonely, sometimes dangerous job of keeping a lighthouse. Spreads as delicate as painted porcelain depict the lighthouse and its circular rooms, each moment like the hand on the face of a clock. A jewel of a creation.

  • Julián Is a Mermaid

    Jessica Love (Candlewick)

    After seeing three mermaids on the subway, Julián fashions himself a similar costume while his Abuela is in the bath; when she emerges, Abuela regards his work and leads him to his counterparts at the Coney Island Mermaid Parade. Debut author Love’s deep understanding of her characters and keen-eyed observations of urban life come together in a story of love and identity.

  • Kitten and the Night Watchman

    John Sullivan, illus. by Taeeun Yoo (S&S/Wiseman)

    In this quiet book, a night watchman hugs his family and goes to work, where he methodically makes his rounds through an empty construction site, alert to the night’s beauty and a visiting kitten. Washes of orange, pink, and blue take readers from sunset to dawn and echo the story’s quiet mood of deep appreciation for simple joys.

  • Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein

    Linda Bailey, illus. by Julia Sarda (Tundra)

    Celebrating the 200th anniversary of Frankenstein, this biographical account of young Mary Shelley, illustrated with breathtaking period detail, showcases how the author's life catalyzed her art and creativity—and, perhaps, the birth of science fiction.

  • The Patchwork Bike

    Maxine Beneba Clarke, illus. by Van Thanh Rudd (Candlewick)

    A brown-skinned child gives readers a tour of a desert village, from “our mud-for-walls home” to “the sand hill we built to slide down.” But the best thing? The bike the kids have built from discarded items. Debut author Clarke’s lines sing with sound and rhythm, and street artist Rudd’s textured art creates a strong sense of place in this snapshot story.

  • The Rabbit Listened

    Cori Doerrfeld (Dial)

    What’s the best way to comfort someone? After a child’s tower takes a tumble, animals approach with strategies for feeling better—but none but the rabbit listens, none but the rabbit stays. Each concise vignette in this wise, gentle story brims with emotional honesty.

  • Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year

    Edited by Fiona Waters, illus. by Frann Preston-Gannon (Nosy Crow)

    With a cohesive visual thread and an eye toward interacting regularly with poetry and the outdoors, this hefty offering presents a nature poem for every day of the year, from a wide variety of writers including Christina Rossetti and Margaret Wise Brown.

  • Stumpkin

    Lucy Ruth Cummins (Atheneum)

    Stumpkin is a beautiful pumpkin—all he lacks is a stem. But people want stems on their Halloween jack-o’-lanterns. Amid the subway signs and storefronts of a cozy Brooklyn block, a high-stakes ordeal closes with an inventive visual sequence in this warm, seasonal tale of hope and transformation.

  • Thank You, Omu!

    Oge Mora (Little, Brown)

    After Omu (pronounced AH-moo, Igbo for “queen”) makes “thick red stew in a big fat pot,” the delicious scent wafts through the neighborhood, and hungry passersby stop in one by one until Omu gives all her stew away. But she isn’t left without for long. This story of inclusivity, gratitude, and delicious fellowship also offers a feast for the eyes.

  • Up the Mountain Path

    Marianne Dubuc (Princeton Architectural)

    Mrs. Badger climbs Sugarloaf Peak every Sunday, helping overturned turtles and speaking with acquaintances along the way. Then Lulu the cat joins her, learns the route, and, when Mrs. Badger is too frail to make the trips, takes on her tradition of kindness. A guidebook to amity and exploration.

  • The Wall in the Middle of the Book

    Jon Agee (Dial)

    A tall brick wall runs along the gutter in this delightful story: “The wall protects this side of the book,” a knight explains, “from the other side of the book.” Agee makes clever use of the famous fourth wall as a literary device (and gives the book a new wall altogether) while reminding readers that preconceived notions, over a boundary or otherwise, are often distinctly wrong.

  • Amal Unbound

    Aisha Saeed (Penguin/Paulsen)

    When a Pakistani girl who yearns for an education expresses frustration with the village's cruel overlord, he demands that she work off her family's debt. Saeed's eloquent, suspenseful tale provides a window into contemporary gender inequalities and indentured servitude.

  • The Book of Boy

    Catherine Gilbert Murdock (Greenwillow)

    In a picaresque work set in medieval France, Secundus, a scoundrel posing as a pilgrim, drafts oft-ridiculed "Boy," who can communicate with animals, for a transcontinental quest: stealing seven relics associated with St. Peter. By turns darkly grim and wonderfully funny, this action-packed tale with a luminous central character carries a strong message about how appearances can deceive.

  • Dactyl Hill Squad

    Daniel José Older (Scholastic/Levine)

    In this fast-paced, memorable series opener, Older weaves historical facts with dinosaur-inspired fancy to fashion a Civil War–era New York City, rooted in real events and attitudes, in which dinosaurs still roam and a diverse band of orphans resists corrupt authorities during the Draft Riots of 1863.

  • Front Desk

    Kelly Yang (Scholastic/Levine)

    This lively debut offers a candid portrait of one Chinese-American immigrant’s experience through the eyes of a gutsy 10-year-old. Mia works at the front desk of the California motel her parents manage and writes letters to aid others, including an African-American victimized by racial profiling and a Chinese immigrant abused by his boss. Mia’s story is one of hope, and her voice is genuine and inspiring.

  • Herstory: 50 Women and Girls Who Shook Up the World

    Katherine Halligan, illus. by Sarah Walsh (S&S)

    The inclusive volume's vibrant collage–style spreads recount the stories of 55 notable women over time and across the globe (among them Empress Wu Zetian of China, Indian secret agent Noor Inayat Khan, and Mayan human rights activist Rigoberta Menchú) and emphasize change-makers' common bonds.

  • A History of Pictures for Children: From Cave Paintings to Computer Drawings

    David Hockney and Martin Gayford, illus. by Rose Blake (Abrams)

    Artist Hockney and art critic Gayford take a conceptual approach to art history, moving between topics rather than presenting a linear overview. Illustrations include art reproductions and playful representations of the collaborators and Hockney’s pets.

  • Circe

    Madeline Miller (Little, Brown)

    Weaving together Homer’s Odyssey with other sources, Miller crafts a classic story of female empowerment by following Circe from awkward daughter of Helios to her island exile, where she hones her gift of pharmakeia—the art of using herbs and spells. This is an uncompromising portrait of a superheroine who learns to wield divine power while coming to understand what it means to be mortal.

  • It Wasn’t Me

    Dana Alison Levy (Delacorte)

    After seventh grader Theo's self-portraits are vandalized with homophobic slurs, a teacher calls all of the incident's bystanders to a five-day restorative justice circle. Peppered with laugh-out-loud and somber moments, the novel traces the group's emotional transformation from loneliness, anger, and suspicion to friendship, vulnerability, and trust.

  • Merci Suárez Changes Gears

    Meg Medina (Candlewick)

    Eleven-year-old Merci, a descendent of Cuban immigrants, doesn’t feel much pressure to be anyone but herself—but her self-assuredness makes her a bullying target at school, and her home life is stressful, with her beloved grandfather’s health failing. Medina’s light tone and Merci’s take-charge personality deftly propel this moving multigenerational story of familial love.

  • The Parker Inheritance

    Varian Johnson (Scholastic/Levine)

    After 12-year-old Candice begrudgingly moves to a small Southern town for the summer, she stumbles on a puzzle with links to her family's history. Johnson's gripping mystery, replete with Westing Game references, shifts smoothly between past and present as it explores both the powerful legacy of discrimination and the rewards of friendship.

  • Sanity and Tallulah

    Molly Brooks (Disney-Hyperion)

    Sanity and Tallulah may be the literal ruin of their space station when Sanity uses unstable technology to engineer a three-headed cat and Tallulah abets. Debut author Brooks’s inclusive vision of diverse women engaged in science, variously abled bodies navigating the challenges of space, and positive family relationships is both enjoyable and commendable.

  • Small Spaces

    Katherine Arden (Putnam)

    When 11-year-old Ollie comes into possession of a book of local history, she reads about a family's pact with a demonic figure known as the smiling man. On a class trip to a dairy farm, Ollie and two classmates stumble into an alternate world populated with scarecrow minions, and they learn that the smiling man is very real, indeed. A spooky atmospheric thriller with a strong heart and a stronger heroine.

  • Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster

    Jonathan Auxier (Amulet)

    Following a brutal fire, chimney sweep Nan Sparrow discovers that the bit of charcoal she carries has become a golem—and that he has saved her life. A cast of fully fleshed (and sooted) characters contribute texture and community to Nan’s allusive journey from innocence to experience, and Auxier mixes moments of triumph with dark, Dickensian themes.

  • The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle

    Leslie Connor (HarperCollins/Tegen)

    Mason Buttle may be slow to understand some things, but he knows how to be a good friend. Ever since his best friend Benny died in an accident, Mason has been suspected of having done something to cause his death. Poignant, vivid, and suspenseful, Mason’s story crystallizes an adolescent boy’s joys and fears.

  • We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices: Words and Images of Hope

    Edited by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson (Crown)

    Aiming to calm, sustain, and inspire children, the collaborators offer this empowering anthology for children of varying ethnicities, faiths, identities, and abilities, presenting 30 illustrated pieces from more than 50 diverse children's book creators.

  • The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge

    M.T. Anderson, illus. by Eugene Yelchin (Candlewick)

    Told in narrative and illustrated pages, this witty, offbeat fantasy adventure starring an elfin spy and a goblin historian blends the absurd and the timely to explore questions about commonality, long-standing conflict, and who gets to write a world’s history.

  • The Boneless Mercies

    April Genevieve Tucholke (FSG)

    In this haunting modern-day epic loosely inspired by Beowulf, four resourceful young women who have devoted their lives to ritual mercy killing decide to give it up in favor of more satisfying pursuits, and swear a blood oath to slay the fabled Blue Vee Beast.

  • Boots on the Ground: America’s War in Vietnam

    Elizabeth Partridge (Viking)

    In this well-researched history, Partridge evokes the political controversy and intense emotions triggered by the Vietnam War. She skillfully interweaves original interviews and black-and-white photos with narrative to follow the daily lives of soldiers, a medic, a field nurse, and a Vietnamese refugee, examining their loyalties and moral sensitivity to the unending war.

  • Children of Blood and Bone

    Tomi Adeyemi (Holt)

    Adeyemi’s devastating debut, book one in the Orïsha Legacy trilogy, chronicles 17-year-old Zélie’s battle to restore magic to the realm of the Orïsha and liberate its people from the tyrannical rule of King Saran. It’s a brutal, beautiful tale of revolution, faith, and star-crossed love.

  • Comemadre

    Roque Larraquy, trans. from the Spanish by Heather Cleary (Coffee House)

    In this wickedly entertaining ride, an Argentinian sanitarium conducts a disquieting experiment: decapitating patients without damaging their vocal cords and asking the severed heads what they see in the few seconds before expiration. Occupying the space between B-movie horror and exceedingly dark comedy, Larraquay’s novel is somehow both genuinely scary and genuinely funny, sometimes on the same page.

  • Darius the Great Is Not Okay

    Adib Khorram (Dial)

    Suffering from bullying and depression in the U.S., high school sophomore Darius isn’t sure how he’ll fare visiting family in Iran, but the country and its warmth help Darius to find himself and true friendship. First-time author Khorram’s coming-of-age novel brings to life the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of a culture steeped in tradition.

  • Dry

    Neal and Jarrod Shusterman (S&S)

    Neal Shusterman and son Jarrod create a thrilling climate change dystopia in which California's denizens muddle through life during a drought—until the last of the water runs out. Core character relationships and an escalating, palpable desperation pervade the plot.

  • Hey, Kiddo

    Jarrett J. Krosoczka (Graphix)

    In a graphic memoir that tells a story of finding identity, Krosoczka conveys the joys and complications of his young life in Worcester, Mass., including his relationship with his mother (a heroin addict) and his grandparents, who raised him. A stark, loving portrait of a real family.

  • The Light Between Worlds

    Laura E. Weymouth (HarperTeen)

    In this smart love letter to portal fantasies, two sisters struggle with reacclimating to the modern world after spending years in a magical realm. Then one vanishes. A successful mix of wartime England and Narnia-like worldbuilding.

  • On a Sunbeam

    Tillie Walden (First Second)

    An all-female and gender-nonbinary cast embarks on a dangerous mission in this sprawling space jaunt, a masterful blend of science fiction–inflected school drama, road trip, and adventure. Distinctive layers of flat color create temporal cohesion and emphasize themes of memory and chosen family in this graphic novel.

  • The Poet X

    Elizabeth Acevedo (HarperTeen)

    Harlem sophomore Xiomara isn’t saintly like her virtuous twin brother seems to be—she’s as uncertain about undergoing the Catholic confirmation sacrament as she is certain about writing poetry and dating Aman, two things she’s sure her conservative Dominican parents won’t accept. Debut novelist Acevedo’s free verse offers an emotionally charged bluntness that reflects Xiomara’s determination and growing love of self.

  • Pride

    Ibi Zoboi (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray)

    "It's a truth universally acknowledged that when rich people move into the hood... the first thing they want to do is clean it up," begins this Bushwick-based Pride and Prejudice retelling that stands solidly on its own while cleverly paralleling Austen's classic. A contemporary story about race, gentrification, and young love.

  • The Prince and the Dressmaker

    Jen Wang (First Second)

    After creating a scandalous dress for an attendee of Prince Sebastian’s 16th birthday party, Frances is secretly hired to design dazzling gowns for Lady Crystallia, the Prince’s alter ego. Set in a playfully tweaked 19th-century Paris, Wang’s utterly charming graphic novel highlights identity, acceptance, and fashion.

  • Sadie

    Courtney Summers (Wednesday)

    Despite a stutter that’s gotten her teased and bullied, Sadie is brave unto recklessness, and she won’t rest until she finds the man she thinks killed her sister. Summers alternates Sadie’s unflinching first-person narration from the road with compelling transcripts from a true crime podcast covering the story.

  • A Thousand Beginnings and Endings

    Edited by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman (Greenwillow)

    Fifteen Asian authors share short, genre-spanning retellings of myths and legends traditional to their own cultures in this outstanding anthology edited by Chapman and We Need Diverse Books president Oh. An author's note follows each dazzling tale, offering context on creative choices and changes.

  • Truly Devious

    Maureen Johnson (HarperCollins/Tegen)

    Johnson kicks off a new series with this deliciously atmospheric mystery set at a prestigious Vermont academy. True crime–obsessed Stevie Bell, 16, hopes to solve the 1936 kidnapping and murder case surrounding the school's industrialist founder, and the school's deadly past resurfaces when a student from her dorm is killed.

  • The Day the Sun Died

    Yan Lianke, trans. from the Chinese by Carlos Rojas (Grove)

    In this chilling satirical novel, a town in rural China is seized by a plague of “dreamwalking,” in which residents spend nights pursuing desires that they keep buried during the day. As violence spreads, a funerary shop owner and his 14-year-old son attempt to pull off a near-mythical plan to save the town. This is a riveting, powerful reading experience.

  • The War Outside

    Monica Hesse (Little, Brown)

    In 1944, 17-year-old Japanese-American Haruko and German-American Margot are imprisoned with their families in a Department of Justice–run internment camp for “enemy aliens” who are suspected by the U.S. government of being spies. Although the two groups in the Texas camp rarely mix, the young women, drawn realistically and sympathetically, find their friendship intensifying.

  • A Winter’s Promise: Book One of the Mirror Visitor Quartet

    Christelle Dabos, trans. from the French by Hildegarde Serle (Europa)

    Dabos’s darkly enchanting debut, a French bestseller, introduces a detailed world that has been fragmented into floating islands known as arks. Ophelia, who can travel through mirrors and read objects’ histories through touch, despairs when forced to marry Thorn, the chief treasurer of a distant ark—though the motive for the arrangement remains mysterious.

  • The Extinction of Menai

    Chuma Nwokolo (Ohio Univ.)

    In 1990, a Nigerian tribe called the Menai are subjected to drug tests by a pharmaceutical company, resulting in the deaths of thousands—by 2005, only a few dozen Menai remain. Nwokolo’s novel features a thrilling, madcap story about twins separated at birth discovering their double lives (unbeknownst even to themselves) and conveys the poignant journey of the Menai spiritual leader searching for the tribe’s ancestral Saharan homeland.

  • Flights

    Olga Tokarczuk, trans. from the Polish by Jennifer Croft (Riverhead)

    This masterpiece of “controlled psychosis,” as one character phrases it, is written in a cacophony of voices. A tourist in Croatia waits for his wife and son to return from a walk (they don’t); an anatomist keeps the leg of a Viennese courtier in alcohol on the headboard of his bed; an elderly classics professor dies tragically aboard a Greek cruise. By the end, Tokarczuk has extraordinarily stitched together the novel’s associations.

  • Fox

    Dubravka Ugrešić, trans. from the Croatian by Ellen Elias-Bursać and David Williams (Open Letter)

    An unnamed narrator in exile from the former Yugoslavia struggles with the complications of 21st-century writing in this soaring, wondrous novel. Threads include the narrator’s disappointing visit to a Holden Caulfield–themed MFA program in Italy and the narrator’s minor indignities of life as an “economy-class writer” within Europe’s literary community. Ugrešić’s work is essential reading for writers and lovers of writing alike.

  • Friday Black

    Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah (HMH/Mariner)

    In this momentous, incisive collection, Adjei-Brenyah dissects the dehumanizing effects of capitalism and racism: a school shooting results in both the victim and gunman stuck in a shared purgatory; an amusement park lets participants enter an augmented reality to hunt terrorists or shoot intruders played by minority actors. Adjei-Brenyah’s remarkable range and unflagging voice make this a first-rate collection.

  • The Frolic of the Beasts

    Yukio Mishima, trans. from the Japanese by Andrew Clare (Vintage)

    This luridly propulsive novel centers on a depraved love triangle: a cheating husband, his jilted wife, and a young man who is drawn to the wife. Mishima dials up the claustrophobia en route to a shocking ending, providing a masterful look into the “very instant when the truth of perverse human nature begins to shine.”

  • The Governesses

    Anne Serre, trans. from the French by Mark Hutchinson (New Directions)

    This hypnotic fever dream follows three governesses and the sensuous education they provide while roaming the country estate of a staid married couple. Serre’s enchanting, wistful ode to pleasure boldly follows its own strange, slippery logic.

  • The Great Believers

    Rebecca Makkai (Viking)

    Makkai’s striking, moving novel travels through the 1980s AIDS crisis and tracks its residual effects on the contemporary lives of survivors. In 1985 Chicago, Yale Tishman discovers his longtime partner, Charlie, has tested positive for HIV; in 2015, Fiona Marcus, whose brother was part of Yale’s inner circle in the ’80s, travels to Paris to reconnect with her adult daughter, Claire, who has joined a cult.

  • Insurrecto

    Gina Apostol (Soho)

    Two women write dueling scripts about the Philippine-American War while on a road trip to the town of Balangiga, the site of a violent conflict between occupying American forces and Filipinos in 1901. Apostol’s novel of staggering imagination deconstructs how humans tell stories and decide which versions of events are remembered, and it fearlessly probes the long shadow of forgotten American imperialism.

  • Kudos

    Rachel Cusk (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

    Cusk’s final book in a trilogy (after Outline and Transit) expertly concludes the story of protagonist Faye, a British author, as she travels Europe to speak at writers’ conferences and give interviews, finding herself in conversations about duality in family, art, and more. As always, Cusk’s ear for dialogue and language is stunning. The author ends Faye’s trilogy with yet another gem.

  • The Largesse of the Sea Maiden

    Denis Johnson (Random House)

    Johnson’s astonishing stories chronicle the small and ecstatic moments in the life of an ad agent, the letters of an alcoholic to the significant people in his life (including Satan), and a poet who pulls his professor into an Elvis conspiracy. Through his characters’ searches for meaning or their clawing just to hold onto life, Johnson is able to articulate what it means to be alive and to have hope.

  • The Mars Room

    Rachel Kushner (Scribner)

    Kushner sets her brilliant and bracing latest in a California prison, where single mom Romy is serving a life sentence for murdering her stalker. The trick here is that the story isn’t defined by the confinement of its setting; just the opposite, in fact, as Kushner never fails to find humanity in all its expansive, messy glory in even the darkest corners of death row.

  • Melmoth

    Sarah Perry (Custom House)

    In this gothic masterpiece, translator Helen Franklin lives in Prague, attempting to atone for a wrong she committed decades earlier. She discovers a file reporting the appearances throughout history of Melmoth, a specter who denied the sight of the risen Christ and was cursed to wander the Earth, haunting culpable individuals. Soon, Helen finds herself being followed.

  • OK, Mr. Field

    Katharine Kilalea (Crown/Duggan)

    Mr. Field, a concert pianist whose career was ended by a traumatic injury, retires to a replica of Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye, a modernist masterpiece. But after his wife leaves him, the home—and his mind—begin to change. In her disorienting and enthralling novel, Kilalea creates a unique psychological texture in depicting a solitary mind’s absorption of an empty house.

  • The Shape of the Ruins

    Juan Gabriel Vásquez, trans. from the Spanish by Anne McLean (Riverhead)

    Vásquez—author, narrator, and protagonist of this ingenious novel—is pulled into a web of potential conspiracy in Colombia by a radio host named Carballo, who claims to have proof of links between the assassinations of Jorge Eliécer Gaitán (1948) and General Rafael Uribe Uribe (1914). Vásquez’s journey through the dark terrain of his country’s past dynamically illustrates how fiction can address truths history omits.

  • She Would Be King

    Wayétu Moore (Graywolf)

    Moore explores the contradictions of Liberia’s tenuous 19th-century beginnings in this impressive fantasy-inflected novel that revolves around three characters whose paths converge in Monrovia, where they use their magical powers to fight back against slavers. Moore confronts the tribal misogyny, colonial abuse, and racism of Liberia’s history.

  • Slave Old Man

    Patrick Chamoiseau, trans. from the French and Creole by Linda Coverdale (New Press)

    Chamoiseau’s transfixing novel is about a slave who escapes a plantation in Martinique, pursued by a mythical mastiff. As the old man enters the forest and mystically encounters Martinique’s past, the sensorial prose develops an almost tangible rhythm, making for an astounding reading experience.

  • The Sparsholt Affair

    Alan Hollinghurst (Knopf)

    Man Booker winner Hollinghurst’s majestic sixth novel tracks changes in the British cultural landscape from WWII to the present through the experiences of David Sparsholt, a war hero turned industrialist brought down by a gay sex scandal involving a government figure, and his son Johnny, an openly gay artist. The prose is nothing short of sublime.

  • There There

    Tommy Orange (Knopf)

    Bouncing between voices and points of view, Orange’s commanding debut chronicles contemporary Native Americans in Oakland as their lives collide in the days leading up to the city’s inaugural Big Oakland Powwow. Orange unpacks how decisions of the past mold the present, resulting in a haunting and gripping story.

  • Unsheltered

    Barbara Kingsolver (Harper)

    Kingsolver brilliantly and seamlessly intertwines two narratives in Vineland, N.J., over a century apart. In the present, Willa Knox cares for her single son’s new baby while researching the history of her collapsing house. In the 1870s, science teacher Thatcher Greenwood and naturalist Mary Treat support radical new scientific ideas, drawing the ire of Vineland’s repressive leadership. This is Kingsolver at the top of her game.

  • Warlight

    Michael Ondaatje (Knopf)

    Two siblings whose parents leave them in the care of two dodgy characters under murky circumstances in post-WWII London are at the center of this magnificent novel of secrets, loss, more secrets, and intrigue. Ondaatje is a preternaturally gifted storyteller, and this is a fine showcase of his abilities.

  • Be With

    Forrest Gander (New Directions)

    Gander presses against boundaries both literal and figurative in this work haunted by the unexpected death of his wife, fellow poet C.D. Wright, and the expressive limits of language. While the grief and sorrow contained in this book can be difficult and overwhelming, it’s Gander’s ability to look toward hope, perseverance, and possibility that stands out in the end.

  • The Carrying

    Ada Limón (Milkweed)

    In what’s arguably her most accomplished work to date, Limón demonstrates her aptitude for making readers attend to the world in ways they likely never imagined. This is an emotionally versatile collection in which the struggles and joys of the body, the oddities and wonders of nature, and the pains and pleasures of the social coalesce with verve.

  • Moon: Letters, Maps, Poems

    Jennifer S. Cheng (Tarpaulin Sky)

    Cheng recasts elements of several woman-centered Chinese folk tales in a collection of exquisite imagination and graceful presentation. Readers will come to understand these formally varied pieces not necessarily as small stories—about belonging, displacement, wonder, and more—in themselves, but as questions about how we tell those kinds of stories.

  • Real Life: An Installation

    Julie Carr (Omnidawn)

    A radically open and generous spirit animates Carr’s remarkable opus. Carr gathers the tangled cords of everyday existence and threads them symphonically; as readers wander around, they’ll marvel at how the pieces interact and support each other, rather than stand alone.

  • Lo terciario/The Tertiary

    Raquel Salas Rivera (Timeless, Infinite Light)

    To say the personal meets political here would be an understatement—Rivera strikes a blow “against the piercing tedium/ of colonization” in this pointed response to the systematic exploitation by state and capital of of Puerto Rico and its people. Rarely do investigations into such concepts as commodification and exploitation read so lyrically, nevermind so heart-wrenchingly.

  • American by Day

    Derek B. Miller (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

    Chief Insp. Sigrid Ødegård travels from Oslo to upstate New York to look for her missing brother, Marcus, who’s the prime suspect in the murder of his African-American lover, a Syracuse State University professor. This incandescent exposé of European and American mores provokes disturbing questions about personal and societal values.

  • The 8 Mansion Murders

    Takemaru Abiko, trans. from the Japanese by Ho-Ling Wong (Locked Room International)

    Insp. Kyozo Hayami, of the Tokyo Metropolitan PD, has to figure out how a construction company executive was killed by a crossbow bolt in the unusual figure eight–shaped house that he shared with his parents and two siblings. Abiko combines laugh-out-loud humor with an ingenious murder plot in this extremely clever impossible crime novel.

  • City of Ink

    Elsa Hart (Minotaur)

    Set in 18th-century China, the superb third novel featuring librarian Li Du centers on the double murder of a factory owner and his wife. This entry solidifies Hart’s position as a top-notch historical mystery author.

  • The Fox

    Frederick Forsyth (Putnam)

    MI6 employs an 18-year-old computer genius to deliver online attacks on Britain’s enemies, including the Russians, the Iranians, and the North Koreans. Bestseller Forsyth retires on a high note with this enthralling thriller detailing the nuts and bolts of modern espionage.

  • The Man Who Came Uptown

    George Pelecanos (Mulholland)

    Michael Hudson spends a lot of time reading while awaiting trial for armed robbery in a Washington, D.C., jail. Meanwhile, a crooked PI secures Hudson’s release—and expects the former inmate to help him shake down drug dealers in return. Edgar finalist Pelecanos delivers an unforgettable novel of crime, redemption, and the transformative power of the written word.

  • Nine Perfect Strangers

    Liane Moriarty (Flatiron)

    In bestseller Moriarty’s cannily plotted, continually surprising, and frequently funny psychological thriller, nine hurting but comfortably heeled Aussies go to a secluded resort. The pricey 10-day “Mind and Body Total Transformation Retreat” is nothing like the restorative reset they were anticipating.

  • Our House

    Louise Candlish (Berkley)

    In her U.S. debut, British author Candlish movingly chronicles the decline of a marriage that once looked as solid as the couple’s stately red-brick London residence, which the husband succeeds in selling to another family while the wife is out of town. American fans of domestic suspense will want to see more from this talented author.

  • Red, White, Blue

    Lea Carpenter (Knopf)

    A daughter tries to piece together the life of her late father, a successful banker who spied for the CIA for 30 years, in the face of accusations that he was really a spy for the Chinese. Carpenter skips the easy morality of guns, patriotic loyalty, and heroic action to slowly disclose the complexities of the secret world and how it relates to the human heart.

  • Resurrection Bay

    Emma Viskic (Pushkin Vertigo)

    Australian author Viskic’s terrific debut introduces hearing-impaired PI Caleb Zelic, who must rely on his keen ability to read faces in his quest to solve the murder of a close friend, Senior Constable Gary Marsden. James Ellroy fans will relish this hard-edged crime novel.

  • Savage Liberty: A Mystery of Revolutionary America

    Eliot Pattison (Counterpoint)

    Set in 1768, Edgar winner Pattison’s excellent fifth historical centers on the sabotage of a British ship in Boston Harbor and the related murder of a Native American Christian convert. Pattison has few peers in his ability to integrate actual events into a complex but plausible whodunit plot.

  • The Widows of Malabar Hill

    Sujata Massey (Soho Crime)

    Set in India in 1921, this outstanding series launch introduces Perveen Mistry, Bombay’s first female solicitor, whose efforts to assist three widows in an estate case enmeshes her in a murder investigation. Thoughtful characterizations, especially of the capable, fiercely independent lead, bode well for future installments.

  • The Word Is Murder

    Anthony Horowitz (Harper)

    In bestseller Horowitz’s metafictional crime novel, Horowitz himself joins forces with Daniel Hawthorne, a former detective inspector, in trying to solve the case of a well-to-do woman who scheduled her own funeral just hours before she was murdered in her London home. The author nicely balances deduction and wit in this tour de force.

  • Blackfish City

    Sam J. Miller (Ecco)

    Miller’s ambitious and driven first novel for adults is a smashing story of everyday life on a floating city after a climate apocalypse. While tackling class, technology, politics, and more, Miller never loses sight of the human beings at the heart of his story, producing a deeply empathic and lovely work of science fiction.

  • The Calculating Stars

    Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor)

    This gripping novel and its companion volume, The Fated Sky, depict an alternate 1952 rocked by a meteorite strike that will make Earth uninhabitable. When plans are made to colonize space, a down-to-earth mathematician fights her way to becoming the first “lady astronaut.” Kowal pays generous, sincere homage to the hardworking women of NASA’s early days while telling a deeply moving story of courage in the face of disaster.

  • The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror

    Daniel Mallory Ortberg (Henry Holt)

    With incomparable flair and Frankensteinian glee, Ortberg ruthlessly eviscerates and reanimates fairy tales and children’s literature. The horror here is not gore but creeping unease; the violence is not physically brutal (for the most part) but comes in the form of gaslighting by one’s supposed family and friends. Ortberg brings all his insight as a humorist, advice columnist, and social commentator to this collection of deeply unnerving stories.

  • The Sisters of the Winter Wood

    Rena Rossner (Redhook)

    Rossner’s extremely impressive debut mixes the history of anti-Semitic pogroms in Eastern Europe with mystical folklore. Sisters Liba and Laya were raised Jewish, but their heritage is far stranger: Liba (who narrates in prose) can turn into a bear, and Laya (who thinks in poetry) into a swan. Their gripping journeys of self-discovery are grounded in the ordinary, but Rossner’s polished writing conveys a true sense of the unearthly.

  • Temper

    Nicky Drayden (Harper Voyager)

    Twin brothers possessed by demons must contend with societal constraints and their own tempestuous natures in an alternate South Africa where science battles religion, and virtues and vices become literal. Gritty, witty, and endlessly surprising, Drayden’s tale of magic and mayhem rips apart urban fantasy conventions and reassembles them with panache.

  • Unholy Land

    Lavie Tidhar (Tachyon)

    In this head-spinning tale, a novelist is displaced between parallel universes—one like ours and another where Jews have founded an Israel-like nation on the Ugandan border—and also begins to think he’s a character in one of his detective stories. Tidhar has a gift for the details that make the setting feel entirely real even as reality itself is called into question.

  • Witchmark

    C.L. Polk (Tor.com)

    Polk debuts with a deeply felt story of an England-like nation grappling with the consequences of a WWI-like war. A healer mage on the run falls in love with an angel trying to understand why English souls have stopped arriving in the afterlife, and both are caught in political machinations around the use of magic. The vivid setting and carefully orchestrated plot mark Polk as a writer to watch.

  • Big Bad Cowboy: Once Upon a Time in Texas, Book 1

    Carly Bloom (Forever)

    Debut author Bloom utterly charms with this sexy western contemporary that’s a fairy tale at heart. Two Texas landscapers are competitors by day, but when they meet at a costume party—masked as Little Red Riding Hood and a fearsome wolf—they enjoy a heated, anonymous night. Sweet side characters, dashes of humor, and abundant kindness make this a winner.

  • Desperate Girls

    Laura Griffin (Gallery)

    Romance and sexual chemistry are constant undercurrents in this tense, dramatic romantic thriller, in which an attorney chasing a serial killer loses her heart to the former Secret Service agent she hires as a bodyguard. Griffin knows just how to mix terror and passion to keep pages turning and readers’ hearts pounding.

  • The One You Can’t Forget: The Ones Who Got Away, Book 2

    Roni Loren (Sourcebooks Casablanca)

    With impressive skill and true empathy, Loren explores the lives of a woman who survived a school shooting and a man with every reason to hate her: she’s the attorney who helped his ex-wife fleece him. Both are wrestling with deep sorrows, and then love complicates their lives even as it shows them a possible path to happiness. This bittersweet tearjerker earns every bit of its happy ending.

  • Their Perfect Melody: Matched to Perfection, Book 3

    Priscilla Oliveras (Zebra)

    A police officer (who plays guitar) and a victim’s advocate (who loves to dance and sing) debate the best ways to help Chicago’s Puerto Rican community, and fall in love along the way. Oliveras spins a sparkling tale of opposites-attract romance while getting right to the heart of challenges facing minority neighborhoods, bringing the setting and characters to life with rich details and vivacious dialogue.

  • A Wolf Apart

    Maria Vale (Sourcebooks Casablanca)

    Vale’s outstanding paranormal romance digs deep into the contrasting allures of the wild and the city, wolf life and human life. As a werewolf attorney who longs for pack life falls unexpectedly for a human woman, Vale challenges stereotypes of alphas, wealthy romance heroes, and werewolf culture, bringing real freshness and excitement to the genre.

  • All the Answers: A Graphic Memoir

    Michael Kupperman (Gallery 13)

    Kupperman’s multilayered investigation into the life of his father, Joel Kupperman, a former child radio (and later TV) star on the WWII-era game show Quiz Kids, documents the vagaries of fame. With strong dark line work and seriocomic facial stylings, interspersed with quotes cited from Salinger to period tabloids, Kupperman’s moving family story bares the ramifications of America’s celebrity-obsessed culture.

  • Bad Friends

    Ancco (Drawn & Quarterly)

    Against gorgeous, starkly sketched city scenes of South Korean alleyways and hostess bars, the rebellions and secret longings of ’90s teenager Pearl and her group of “bad friends” play out in this imported debut discovery. The violent abuse Pearl faces at home and school juxtaposes with the devotion (and envy) of her friendships in a revealing look at the underbelly of adolescence.

  • Chlorine Gardens

    Keiler Roberts (Koyama)

    Roberts’s deadpan black-and-white portraits narrow to minute details, hilariously told, of quotidian moments in her life as an artist/wife/mother, then dizzyingly pull back to existential questions. The genius of her staccato narrative style is how aptly she conjures both the weight of a major medical diagnosis and a child’s tantrum; the weirdness of her work manages to be both profoundly earthbound and out of this world.

  • Upgrade Soul

    Ezra Claytan Daniels (Lion Forge)

    Originally serialized on an iPhone app with an original musical score, this innovative and plot-twisting sci-fi love story maintains that experimental spirit on the printed page with stunning color and cunning character design. When Hank and Molly agree to be the first subjects in a youth-regeneration cloning scheme, the disturbing outcome raises big philosophical questions about the meaning of identity.

  • Young Frances

    Hartley Lin (AdHouse)

    From cutthroat law office politics to hipster bars, Lin’s immersive graphic novel depicts young professional city life with clean lines, spot-on wit, and snappy dialogue. Frances, a beleaguered young law clerk (whose boss is drawn like Ayn Rand’s fantasy date), must decide her own path after her best friend absconds for an acting career—and whether she can ever leave the lure of corporate success behind.

  • Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

    John Carreyrou (Knopf)

    Originating in the author’s award-winning Wall Street Journal reportage, this corporate exposé describes how Elizabeth Holmes, a Stanford dropout in her 20s, created a billion-dollar tech firm, Theranos, based on defective technology and empty promises. While delivering a riveting true-life thriller, Carreyrou’s book doubles as a look at the dark side of Silicon Valley’s startup culture.

  • The Big Fella: Babe Ruth and the World He Created

    Jane Leavy (Harper)

    Bestseller Leavy, who has chronicled the lives of baseball legends Sandy Koufax and Mickey Mantle, turns her attention to Yankee legend Babe Ruth in this energetic, colorful biography. She evenhandedly hits the highs of his career as well as the lows of his hard drinking and failed relationships.

  • Bing Crosby: Swinging on a Star—The War Years, 1940–1946

    Gary Giddins (Little, Brown)

    Giddins follows up Bing Crosby: Pocketful of Dreams with this exhaustive second volume chronicling the life of the celebrated crooner. The book packs in the details of six years of the singer’s life, and Giddins keeps the prose as cool and relaxed as his subject.

  • The Dinosaur Artist: Obsession, Betrayal, and the Search for the Earth’s Ultimate Trophy

    Paige Williams (Hachette)

    New Yorker staff writer Williams’s debut is granular in detail and epic in scope, ranging from Mongolia over 65 million years ago, when the mighty Tarbosaurus bataar roamed the Gobi Desert, to the U.S. in 2012, when the federal government arrested a Florida man for smuggling the dinosaur’s bones into the country for auction.

  • Educated: A Memoir

    Tara Westover (Random House)

    In this searing, vividly told memoir, Westover writes of growing up in a survivalist, religious fundamentalist family in the isolated Idaho mountains. Hers is an intense story of how she went from being birthed and schooled at home to earning her PhD from Cambridge University.

  • The Fifth Risk

    Michael Lewis (Norton)

    In the only anti-Trump administration book of 2018 whose relevance will outlast this presidency, journalist Lewis introduces readers to the vital functions performed by the low-profile Departments of Energy, Agriculture, and Commerce and illustrates how their work is threatened by the administration’s ignorance, dismission, and lack of attention to governing.

  • Football for a Buck: The Crazy Rise and Crazier Demise of the USFL

    Jeff Pearlman (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

    With hilarious anecdotes and excellent reporting, sportswriter Pearlman wonderfully revisits the rise of the United States Football League in 1983 and its demise two years later. He fills his book with all the key players, such as Herschel Walker and Steve Young, and the businessmen (notably Donald Trump, owner of the New Jersey Generals) who tried to create a league that could compete with the NFL.

  • Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke In the Richest Country on Earth

    Sarah Smarsh (Scribner)

    Smarsh was raised in a family of working-class farmers in Kansas during the ’80s and ’90s, and here she insightfully explores what it means to grow up poor in America. Smarsh is passionate and unflinching as she exposes the harsh realities of economic inequality.

  • Heavy: An American Memoir

    Kiese Laymon (Scribner)

    Novelist and English professor Laymon addresses this spellbinding, stylishly written memoir to his mother. Within its pages, he analyzes the experience of being black in America, narrates his lifelong struggles with weight and a gambling addiction, and reflects on his relationships with his mother and grandmother, revealing hard-earned insight.

  • How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence

    Michael Pollan (Penguin Press)

    Pollan helped bring psychedelic drugs back into the cultural conversation with this rollickingly entertaining yet informative look at their use throughout history, including his own mind-changing trips. He shows how LSD and similar substances, long associated with 1960s countercultural excess, have recently enjoyed a revival among researchers, as potential treatments for addiction and depression, among other applications.

  • How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays

    Alexander Chee (Mariner)

    This collection could have been titled, simply, How I Became a Writer, but that would have utterly failed to convey Chee’s marvelously oblique style. Over 16 essays, he reflects on varied experiences—working as a Tarot card reader, studying with Annie Dillard, meeting William F. Buckley at a catering job—that together illuminate the development of his craft.

  • I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer

    Michelle McNamara (Harper)

    This posthumous debut received an unexpected addendum when, a month after its publication, a man was arrested and charged with being “The Golden State Killer,” the 1970s and 1980s–era serial murderer and rapist investigated in the book. McNamara, who died in 2016, left behind for her readers a modern true-crime classic imbued with unusual insight and sensitivity.

  • The Last Palace: Europe’s Turbulent Century in Five Lives and One Legendary House

    Norman Eisen (Crown)

    In lyrical, humanistic, and gripping fashion, Eisen looks at 20th-century Europe through the lens of the titular palace, into which he moved upon becoming U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic. Totalitarianism ebbs and flows in the interwoven experiences of his mother, a Czech Holocaust survivor, and the palace’s Jewish, Nazi, and American occupants.

  • The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border

    Francisco Cantú (Riverhead)

    A starkly eloquent memoir of the author’s time in the Border Patrol casts a new light on one of the most divisive issue in the United States today. Cantú, a Spanish speaker of partly Mexican descent, hoped to bring a more empathetic approach to the work of catching undocumented migrants; instead, he both witnessed and experienced a relentlessly dehumanizing process.

  • The Lost Education of Horace Tate: Uncovering the Hidden Heroes Who Fought for Justice in Schools

    Vanessa Siddle Walker (The New Press)

    Walker, professor of African-American studies at Emory University, heralds unsung heroes who advocated for equal education in the pre–Brown v. Board South. She interviewed former school teacher and principal Tate, who worked under the radar to secure educational resources for African-American students, over the course of two years to weave this colorful and engrossing tale.

  • The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke

    Jeffrey C. Stewart (Oxford)

    Comprehensive and sweeping, this biography from Stewart restores a sometimes neglected figure to his status as godfather of the Harlem Renaissance. The first black Rhodes Scholar, Alain Locke is revealed here as a flawed but formidable intellectual figure and a trailblazer in African-American history.

  • Paul Simon: The Life

    Robert Hilburn (Simon & Schuster)

    With grace and compassion, music writer Hilburn captures the life of singer-songwriter Paul Simon, from his discovery by disc jockey Alan Freed in the 1950s through his recent solo works and concert tours. In Hilburn’s skillful hands, Simon emerges as a musician who is controlling in the studio yet generous toward and respectful of artists with whom he works.

  • Punishment Without Crime: How Our Massive Misdemeanor System Traps the Innocent and Makes America More Unequal

    Alexandra Natapoff (Basic)

    Law professor Natapoff argues persuasively that America’s misdemeanor system is plagued by unfair sentencing, unequal arrest rates, criminalization of poverty, and lack of due process. She exposes police and judicial misconduct, recounts the experiences of the system’s victims, and presents data that makes clear how this system disproportionately affects the already marginalized in this groundbreaking work.

  • Reagan: An American Journey

    Bob Spitz (Penguin Press)

    This massive, spectacular biography isn’t just for Republicans or Reagan fans. Its novelistic approach is backed up with deep scholarship and original research, and its prose is by turns colorful and gripping.

  • The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath

    Leslie Jamison (Little, Brown)

    With dark humor and heartfelt insight, essayist Jamison recounts her path to recovery in this rich autobiographical study. Jamison is clear-eyed as she explores the link between drinking and creativity, intertwining her own story with profiles of such alcoholic writers as John Berryman, Raymond Carver, and Jean Rhys.

  • Reporter: A Memoir

    Seymour M. Hersh (Knopf)

    Hersh, legendary investigative journalist for the New York Times and the New Yorker, recounts his struggles uncovering—and getting into print—some of the biggest stories of the late 20th century, including the Watergate scandal and the 1968 My Lai massacre. Hersh is as straightforward and brutally honest here as he is in his reporting.

  • Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore

    Elizabeth Rush (Milkweed)

    As predictions of the outlook for climate change worsen, this look at how American shorelines have been affected by it only grows more urgent. Rush brings a literary sensibility and a depth of compassion to her reporting, sharing stories from coastal dwellers whose lives have already been irretrievably altered.

  • She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity

    Carl Zimmer (Dutton)

    In this magisterial history, popular science writer Zimmer covers virtually all aspects of the study of heredity. As he takes on topics that include the discredited science of eugenics and the emerging science of epigenetics, he shows how far humans have come, while also conveying how far there is to go, in understanding our individual and collective lineage.

  • Small Fry: A Memoir

    Lisa Brennan-Jobs (Grove)

    Brennan-Jobs writes sincerely of her complex relationship with her father, Apple founder Steve Jobs. Brennan-Jobs is candid and direct as she writes of the loneliness and disappointment she experienced growing up with a mercurial, emotionally distant father whose affection she craved.

  • A Song for the River

    Philip Connors (Cinco Punto)

    This moving essay collection, a new classic of the nature writing genre, weaves together wondrous descriptions of the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico, tales of Connors’s comrades in wilderness preservation, and poignant meditations on living, dying, love, and grief.

  • The Souls of Yellow Folk

    Wesley Yang (Norton)

    Journalist Yang turns his critical eye on Asian-American experience and takes surprising stances. He analyzes the motivations and media portrayals of Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho, profiles celebrity chef and memoirist Eddie Huang, and regards with skepticism progressives’ increasingly all-encompassing definitions of racism and sexism.

  • Tailspin: The People and Forces Behind America’s Fifty-Year Fall—And Those Fighting to Reverse It

    Steven Brill (Knopf)

    This uncommonly insightful analysis of U.S. society from journalist Brill makes an unusual argument: that extreme inequality, inadequate health care and schools, and congressional gridlock can actually be traced back to reforms aimed at reducing inequality, which were then transformed into status-safeguarding “moats” by their beneficiaries.

  • The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life

    David Quammen (S&S)

    Science writer Quammen brings to life the seemingly arcane topic of molecular phylogenetics, the process of analyzing the “sequence of constituent units in certain long molecules,” notably DNA and RNA. He profiles the field’s most important players, shares their discoveries—including a whole new category of living creature—and shows how they’ve dramatically shaped the understanding of evolution.

  • What If This Were Enough?: Essays

    Heather Havrilesky (Doubleday)

    New York magazine columnist Havrilesky invites readers into the contradictions of upper-middle-class American life, taking on the foodie movement, the ubiquity of Disney, and technologically enabled distraction, among other subjects. She also urges Americans to “wake up to the unbelievable gift of being alive,” even if it means facing discomfiting emotions, a message she relates with wit, insight, and terrific prose.

  • What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape

    Sohaila Abdulali (The New Press)

    Novelist Abdulali reflects with precision, compassion, and literary style on the discourse surrounding rape in various cultures. She draws on her own experiences being raped and coordinating a rape crisis center, interviews with others, and sociological data to discuss topics like responsibility, survivorship, and prevention, bringing clarity and grace to an often painful topic.

  • Cooking in Iran: Regional Recipes & Cooking Secrets

    Najmieh Batmanglij (Mage)

    In what just might be the definitive book on Persian cooking, Batmanglij has culled more than 250 recipes from her years exploring her native country. Batmanglij is intimate and inviting, filling this massive cookbook with enticing recipes, insightful history, and wonderful stories of her travels.

  • Cræft: An Inquiry into the Origins and True Meaning of Traditional Crafts

    Alexander Langlands (Norton)

    Sustained by a clear, lyrical prose style, this study from archeologist Langlands compels crafters to look more closely at the implications of making as a way of life. Discussing such traditional disciplines as thatching, weaving, and leather making, he posits craft as a model for a resilient and sustainable mode of existing in an uncertain world.

  • Hype: A Doctor’s Guide to Medical Myths, Exaggerated Claims and Bad Advice—How to Tell What’s Real and What’s Not

    Nina Shapiro, with Kristin Loberg (St. Martin’s)

    In an era filled with misinformation, a surgeon sets out to put health care consumers on the right, science-based path. Shapiro’s feisty, no-nonsense tone makes her treatise as entertaining as it is informative about the efficacy of vaccines, vitamins, and juicing, among other things.

  • Israeli Soul: Easy, Essential, Delicious

    Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook (HMH/Rux Martin)

    Following up their 2016 James Beard Award–winning Zahav, Solomonov and Cook dive into the 70-year history of Israel to uncover such culturally diverse dishes as Persian meatballs and sabich—an Iraqi Jewish sandwich of fried eggplant and hard-boiled eggs in pita. The authors are enthusiastic and welcoming in this outstanding paean to Israeli cuisine.

  • The Organized Child: An Effective Program to Maximize Your Kid’s Potential—in School and in Life

    Richard Gallagher, Elana G. Spira, and Jennifer L. Rosenblatt (Guilford)

    The authors of this parenting manual, all of them psychologists, present a program developed at New York University’s Langone Medical Center intended for children with ADHD or other executive dysfunction conditions. This is a readily usable, exceptionally clear, and compassionate guide that will provide hope and motivation for disorganized, seemingly “hopeless” kids and their sometimes harried caregivers.

  • Soul: A Chef’s Culinary Evolution in 150 Recipes

    Todd Richards (Oxmoor House)

    Richards, a James Beard–nominated chef from Atlanta, breathes new life into classic soul food fare—for example, by adding collard greens to ramen noodles, or by incorporating peaches into as many dishes as he can. His recipes are imaginative and inspirational.

  • She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity

    Carl Zimmer (Dutton)

    In this magisterial history, popular science writer Zimmer covers virtually all aspects of the study of heredity. As he takes on topics that include the discredited science of eugenics and the emerging science of epigenetics, he shows how far humans have come, while also conveying how far there is to go, in understanding our individual and collective lineage.

  • Christian: The Politics of a Word in America

    Matthew Bowman (Harvard Univ.)

    Bowman, professor of history at Henderson State University, persuasively demonstrates how Christianity has shaped a collective understanding of American politics. Surveying recent movements, such as the development of the Tea Party, as well as largely forgotten but important figures, the essays pinpoint crucial junctures that have defined America’s relationship between church and state.

  • On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life Through Great Books

    Karen Swallow Prior (Brazos)

    Prior, English professor at Liberty University, mines the wisdom of Jane Austen, Shusaku Endo, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Flannery O’Connor, and others in this treatise on building character through reading great books. Filled with wit and informed by Prior’s deep faith, it is both an approachable reading list and an elegant explanation of how literature can be a source of ethical guidance.

  • Resist and Persist: Faith and the Fight for Equality

    Erin Wathen (Westminster John Knox)

    Wathen, senior pastor at Saint Andrew Christian Church, uses a feminist lens to equip readers with strategies for thinking about changing patriarchal standards from within Christianity. With proactive solutions delivered in vociferous prose, Wathen’s book is a clear, useful call to action.

  • Seven Types of Atheism

    John Gray (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

    Arguing that many new atheists (paradoxically) demonstrate a near-religious attachment to their concepts of progress, Gray succinctly challenges the presuppositions and positions of secular liberals in this persuasive polemic.

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