Best Books: 2023 | 2022 | 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010
Summer Reads: 2024 | 2023 | 2022 | 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012

All the Answers

Michael Kupperman (Gallery 13)

As a fan of his weirdo humor comics, the sober turn of Kupperman’s first full-length graphic memoir took me by surprise and took my breath away. In the tradition of Alison Bechdel, it’s a layered investigation into the life of his once famous, now reclusive father—Joel Kupperman, of the popular WWII radio (later TV) Quiz Kids game show. What’s it like to grow up in the shadow of the “smartest boy in the world”? Lonely, but with a story to tell. —Meg Lemke, reviews editor


Asperger’s Children: The Origins of Autism in Nazi Vienna

Edith Sheffer (Norton)

This insightful and haunting examination of Austrian psychiatrist Hans Asperger persuasively demonstrates that his concept of “autistic psychopathy,” which still forms the basis of today’s autism spectrum disorder diagnosis, was created by drawing enthusiastically on Nazi social principles and painted autistic children as maliciously antisocial and lacking respect for authority. This is a must-read for everyone who has ever been given a seemingly objective diagnostic label, spurring reflection about the social roots of medical ideas. —Hannah Kushnick, nonfiction reviews editor



James A. McLaughlin (Ecco)

What’s more dangerous? Having a Mexican drug cartel after you, or running afoul of a bear poaching ring in deep, dark Appalachia? How about both? That’s the highly uncomfortable spot Rice Moore occupies in this twisty, knuckle-gnawing thriller. And yet, despite the cartel assassin on Rice’s trail and an ever-expanding web of outlaw bikers, crusty locals, and potentially duplicitous law enforcement, Rice never goes full Die Hard. It’s kind of remarkable, and the book’s all the more terrifying for it. —Jonathan Segura, v-p, executive editor


Bruce Lee: A Life

Matthew Polly (Simon & Schuster)

I must have been 12 years old when I first saw Enter the Dragon starring a lightning-quick actor and kung fu master named Bruce Lee, who made me feel that I, too, could be invincible. I watched his five movies and visited his gravesite overlooking Seattle but knew very little about him. Until now, that is, when this thick galley recently appeared on my desk. It’s the first full-length biography of Lee, in which author Polly promises to paint a portrait of Lee in all his complexities from his childhood movie stardom in 1950s Hong Kong to his mysterious death in 1973 at age 32. —Mark Rotella, senior editor


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

Michael Pollan (Penguin Press)

“Maybe there was something missing from my life,” writes Michael Pollan, the James Beard Award–winning author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food, and Cooked. The journalist embarks on a psychedelic pilgrimage in his 50s, visiting a loose coalition of therapists, spiritual leaders, and researchers who risk their reputations by guiding people through psychedelic experiences. The book also chronicles our “psychedelic renaissance” as research restrictions are lifted on some mind-bending substances. —Jason Boog, West Coast correspondent


The Kiss Quotient

Helen Hoang (Berkley)

This is the perfect summer fling, with a sunny Northern California setting and an awkward, tender, and utterly sweet romance between its protagonists. Autistic econometrician Stella and vivacious escort Michael are a very unlikely pair, but when she hires him to teach her how to have sex, they’re both astonished to develop a powerful personal connection. Michael’s gentle kindness with anxious, wary Stella will melt any reader’s heart. —Rose Fox, senior reviews editor


Lost Empress

Sergio de la Pava (Pantheon)

This whopper of a novel is a double helix of a book that weaves together a sports drama and a crime story, starring a manipulative mastermind, all told in a style that might best be described as a series of trick plays, fictional feints, and philosophical asides, each delivered with enough aplomb to wow the reader. —Ed Nawotka, bookselling and international news editor


Maeve in America: Essays by a Girl from Somewhere Else

Maeve Higgins (Penguin Books)

Until recently I had never heard of the comedian Maeve Higgins; now I can’t stop talking about her. Her essay collection is really that good. The book explores her experiences leaving her native Ireland and moving to New York City. She’s got an incredibly fresh sense of humor that’s both self-deprecating and confident, which makes her book a whole lot of fun. —Annie Coreno, reviews editor


My Year of Rest and Relaxation

Ottessa Moshfegh (Penguin Press)

Moshfegh’s last book, Homesick for Another World, was one of my favorites of 2017. Her third novel promises to bring her work’s exploration of indulgence, bad behavior, and complicated friendships to new lows (or highs). When the protagonist comes out of isolation to attend the funeral for an old friend’s mother, the author’s uncompromising wit and acute observations guide the characters as they struggle to hold on to a sense of their true selves. —David Varno, assistant web editor


New Poets of Native Nations

Edited by Heid E. Erdrich (Graywolf)

Rather than anthologize contemporary and emerging authors alongside classic or familiar ones, Erdrich introduces readers to 21 Native poets whose writing was first published after 2000. It’s a simple, powerful framing and all that is needed to introduce readers to a group of writers whose breadth and diversity of styles represent some of the best of contemporary poetry today. —Alex Green, New England correspondent



Kelly Forsythe (Coffee House)

I was a high school senior when the Columbine High School massacre happened. That incident ushered in an era where such events would become frighteningly commonplace. It also forms the backdrop of Forsythe’s debut collection, Perennial. She and I became good friends through discussions about poetry and Columbine, and I’ve been waiting for these poems since she first shared some with me a few years ago. I’m excited for her and for everyone who gets to read this extraordinary work. —Alex Crowley, poetry reviews editor



Carolyn Kepnes (Lenny)

Any book with the title Providence is bound to catch my attention. From a perusal of the galley description, I gleaned that this contemporary thriller is largely set in Rhode Island’s capital, the hometown of my literary idol, horror writer H.P. Lovecraft. The text, I discovered, refers to Lovecraft’s The Dunwich Horror. A story collection or just a single long tale of that name? I’m eager to read the whole novel to find out. —Peter Cannon, senior editor


Room to Dream

David Lynch and Kristine McKenna (Random House)

This summer, I’m most looking forward to tucking in to David Lynch’s new biography-cum-memoir, composed of alternating chapters written by the filmmaker himself and journalist McKenna. This enigmatic yet plainspoken artist has told his story innumerable times, most recently in the documentary David Lynch: The Art Life, but I never tire of hearing of the strange path that took him from an idyllic 1950s Midwestern childhood, to a decaying late ’60s Philadelphia, to the heights of Hollywood. —Everett Jones, reviews editor


Slave Old Man

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

Somewhere between a fever dream and a prose poem, Chamoiseau’s short 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 astounding sensorial prose develops an almost tangible rhythm: “He stocks his soul with scattered, reconstructed, lopsided things, which weave him a shimmering memory. Often, at night, this memory crushes him with insomnia.” This novel is a transfixing, profound experience. —Gabe Habash, deputy reviews editor


Some Trick

Helen DeWitt (New Directions)

Filled with visual artists, writers, and agents, DeWitt’s layered, sneakily funny collection reads like it came together over years of tinkering. The stories precisely capture (and often skewer) a certain type of cultural elite. With references to Borges, Kafka, Adorno, and Benjamin, among others, stories feature artists who must navigate the “go-getters” necessary for promoting their work. Funny and packed with knowledge, DeWitt’s book masterfully juxtaposes lofty ideals with the banality of everyday realities. —Seth Satterlee, reviews editor


A Song for the River

Philip Connors (Cinco Puntos)

To call Connors the heir to Edward Abbey might feel a bit too on the nose, what with his environmental advocacy, criticism of public land policies, and affiliation with the Southwest and Mountain West, and their dual shared vocations: writer and fire lookout. But if it does, may it at least be a relief to know that Connors lives up to the parallel. His upcoming memoir—his third—is as much a focused, elegant chronicle of grief and resilience as it is a meditation on nature and self. —John Maher, digital and associate news editor



Michael Ondaatje (Knopf)

For me, a new Ondaatje novel is cause for excitement in any season. This one begins in 1945 in London as 14-year-old Nathaniel Williams tells readers how his “parents went away and left [him and his sister] in the care of two men who may have been criminals.” From this odd starting point, Ondaatje spins a delicate spider web of interconnected stories—the mystery surrounding Nathaniel’s parents’ whereabouts and the true occupations of their guardians, along with stories of love, coming of age, fractured families, intrigue, espionage, and the messy business of war. Ondaatje’s finely observed characters and style light up the whole web like dew glinting in the sun. —Leigh Anne Williams, reviews editor


The Widower’s Notebook

Jonathan Santlofer (Penguin Books)

I’m not a fan of memoir, but Santlofer has taken the tragedy of his wife’s sudden death after a common medical procedure and, without sacrificing the lightness of being, unraveled the events and feelings from both before and after. A painter and writer, he’s assembled all his talents (the book includes sketches) to put himself and his experience on the page with an honesty that will keep you reading after the lifeguards have gone home. —Louisa Ermelino, director, adult books


The Wrong Heaven

Amy Bonnaffons (Little, Brown)

Swift, unexpected, brimming with possibility, and bittersweet—these stories satisfy in a way not unlike a summer romance. From what I’ve read so far, Bonnaffons poses a series of what-ifs: What if you plugged in your Jesus and Mary lawn ornaments, and they started talking? What if you could be medically induced to turn into a horse? And she offers answers whose deeply human sentiments are more than a match for their bizarre setups. —Carolyn Juris, features editor


Young Frances

Hartley Lin (AdHouse Books)

Set in a high-pressure Toronto law firm, this graphic novel surveys the friendship between Frances, a smart though less-than-ambitious law clerk who negotiates cutthroat office politics, and her best friend, Vickie, a talented and gorgeous actress who lands a role on a TV potboiler. Lin uses great drawing and droll, pitch-perfect dialogue to create an irresistibly entertaining portrait of young professionals. —Calvin Reid, senior news editor


© PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.