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Ninety-Nine Stories of God

Joy Williams (Tin House)

The most beguiling book of the summer is this little collection of 99 very short stories about God. The catch is that the brilliantly twisted Joy Williams is behind the stories, which means the Lord finds himself at a hotdog-eating contest or in line for a shingles vaccination. Mayhem, humor, and death mark this transcendent book.



Delia Ephron (Penguin/Blue Rider)

Set on the coast of Sicily, this is a seductive and edgy dissection of two imploding marriages. Former lovers Lizzie and Finn are each unhappily married, and when they travel on a shared vacation with their respective families, the situation reaches a boiling point amid deception, secrets, and betrayal.


The Mirror Thief

Martin Seay (Melville House)

If you like your summer reads epic and spanning multiple continents and centuries in the Cloud Atlas mold, The Mirror Thief is for you. The big historical adventure is set in 16th-century Venice; Venice Beach, Calif., circa 1958; and the modern-day Venice casino in Las Vegas. The result is part supernatural mystery, part ominous modern thriller, and a true delight.



Yaa Gyasi (Knopf)

Gyasi's amazing debut novel offers an unforgettable, page-turning look at the histories of Ghana and America, as the author traces a single bloodline across seven generations, beginning with Ghanaian half-sisters Effia, who is married off to a British colonizer in the 1760s, and Esi, who is captured into the British slave-trading system around the same time.


Sergio Y.

Alexandre Vidal Porto, trans. from the Portuguese by Alex Ladd (Europa)

Porto's captivating, impeccably structured novel is a detective story wrapped around a deeper exploration of identity. São Paulo therapist Armando is haunted by the case of 17-year-old Sergio, due to Armando's failure to diagnose a critical aspect of the unhappiness Sergio sought to eradicate through therapy: namely, Sergio's wish to become a woman. Armando begins a journey following Sergio's footsteps, resulting in a mesmerizing narrative about the sacrifices we make in the search for happiness.


Zero K

Don DeLillo (Scribner)

Jeffrey Lockhart joins his billionaire father, Ross, at a mysterious, remote compound to say good-bye to Ross's second wife (and Jeffrey's stepmother), Artis, who is going to be preserved until there's a cure for her ailing health. DeLillo, our preeminent brain-needler, packs obsessive asides—death, information, mannequins—into his 17th novel, which is one of his finest books.


Another Brooklyn

Jacqueline Woodson (Amistad)

In her first adult novel in 20 years, the acclaimed children's and YA author combines grit and beauty in a series of stunning vignettes. When anthropologist August revisits her old neighborhood after her father's death, it brings back a flood of childhood memories, painting a vivid mural of what it was like to grow up African-American in Brooklyn during the 1970s.


The Lost Civilization of Suolucidir

Susan Daitch (City Lights)

With shades of Umberto Eco and Paul Auster, this brilliant, addictive adventure novel is about the search for a mythical lost city located somewhere in modern-day Iran. As a succession of explorers and shady characters dig deeper into the landscape, the ancient secret of Suolucidir is gradually revealed. This is brainy, escapist fiction at its best.



Louisa Ermelino (Sarabande)

The first collection from Ermelino, PW's reviews director, is composed of 16 sharp, globetrotting stories. With diverse scenarios including a meal of fish heads in Jakarta and a federal raid on an Acapulco beach, these stories use spare realism and humor to capture the feelings of isolation and foreignness in characters all over the world.


I Almost Forgot About You

Terry McMillan (Crown)

Georgia Young, a 54-year-old optometrist bored with her work and romantically adrift after two failed marriages, sets out to reinvent herself by examining the loves she left behind—devising a nifty three-step guide for finding "the Right One," and then moving on when it turns out wrong. There's no better creator than McMillan of female characters who refuse to give up on dreaming, or on looking back to find the way forward in their noisy, messy, joyous lives.


Modern Lovers

Emma Straub (Riverhead)

In the 1980s at Oberlin College, four friends—Elizabeth, Andrew, Zoe, and Lydia—had a band. Two decades later, Elizabeth and Andrew are married and live in the same Brooklyn neighborhood as Zoe, who is also married. Amid career challenges and midlife crises enters a Hollywood producer who's making a movie about Lydia, who died of a heroin overdose at 27, and needs the former band members to sign over their rights to their biggest song, "Mistress of Myself."


Marrow Island

Alexis M. Smith (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Struggling journalist Lucie Bowen returns to her family's cottage on Orwell Island, in Washington States's San Juan archipelago, after a 20-year absence to regroup. On a nearby island, Lucie learns her friend Katie has joined an environmentalist commune that has revitalized the land—but things are not as they seem. Smith suffuses her setting with dread and menace, raising the question: What is really happening on Marrow Island?


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