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All the Lovers in the Night

Mieko Kawakami, trans. from the Japanese by Sam Bett and David Boyd (Europa)

The third and best translation so far of Kawakami makes for a perfect summer gateway drug; it offers a sustained immersion into another perspective and place. Fuyuko Irie, the 30-something protagonist, toils at a Tokyo proofreading job and takes lonely, sake-fueled walks through the city until a new friend helps stimulate her inner world. Our starred review called it an “invigorating and empowering portrait.”

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Big Red: A Novel Starring Rita Hayworth & Orson Welles

Jerome Charyn (Liveright)

Remember special features on DVDs? This engrossing blend of historical narrative and apocrypha feels like a deluxe companion to classic films such as The Lady from Shanghai. Charyn hooks the reader with his signature pulpy, slapstick approach—he clearly had fun dramatizing the interplay between Orson Welles’s vanity and ambition. There are also poignant insights on Rita Hayworth’s private struggles, as seen by a spy sent from Columbia Pictures.

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The Change

Kirsten Miller (Morrow)

Three women harness supernatural powers after they hit menopause—that’s the change referred to in the title—and use them to investigate and avenge a series of unsolved murders of girls on Long Island. Rather than a straight-up revenge scheme, Miller expands and deepens the goings-on with singular characters. Our starred review called it a “tightly plotted page-turner,” as well as a “fierce anthem against misogyny.”

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Cult Classic

Sloane Crosley (MCD)

A cult, a startup, and, worst of all, the ghosts of boyfriends past figure into this funny and fantastical story from Crosley. After protagonist Lola starts running into one ex after another on the streets of New York City, she seeks help from a former magazine editor who is building a business—and a cult—around a set of experimental psychology techniques designed to help clients achieve closure with people from their past.

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Exalted

Anna Dorn (Unnamed Press)

Everyone knows astrology is make-believe, but that doesn’t make it any less appealing. In Dorn’s deliciously comic novel, two young self-aware women named Dawn and Emily are drawn to a man named Beau Rubidoux, and the three are connected via Emily’s popular astrology meme account. Dorn finds hilarity in the characters’ shortcomings and erratic behavior, such as Dawn’s impulsive decision to set an ex’s car on fire and thwarted actor Emily’s obsession with celebrities.

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Lapvona

Ottessa Moshfegh (Penguin Press)

Moshfegh imagines a miserable feudal village somewhere in medieval Europe, ruled by a lord whose idea of an iron fist involves hiring bandits to terrorize the villagers and keeping a stranglehold on the food supply. Despite the horrors—and there are many—it’s full of unusual delights, not least of which being the child protagonist’s waning naivete or his former wet nurse’s magic mushrooms.

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Last Summer on State Street

Toya Wolfe (Morrow)

Wolfe’s debut offers an unflinching look at the violence and racism affecting those who inhabit a Chicago housing project fated for demolition in 1999, but it’s also full of love and life, particularly in the portrayal of three 12-year-old Black girls first seen “snapping through the block in neon colors like a school of tropical fish.” As the characters struggle to envision a life for themselves beyond the project, the explosive story turns wrenching.

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The Men

Sandra Newman (Grove)

A woman takes a camping trip with her husband and young son and imagines a world without them. Then they suddenly disappear, along with all the other people on the planet who were born with a Y chromosome. Newman updates the 1970s-era feminist utopia story with elements of contemporary disaster narratives, making for a crackerjack page-turner that explores the implications of the remaining women’s newfound freedom and abject grief.

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Rainbow Rainbow

Lydia Conklin (Catapult)

This intoxicating set of stories ranges through a varied group of queer characters. All of them ache with a zest for life, which Conklin makes palpable on the page, whether with a nonbinary narrator’s forays into dating during the first months of the Covid-19 pandemic or a woman flirting with temptation while mindful of her sex addiction. In another story, a couple begins planning a queer family. Throughout, Conklin makes their characters’ desires beautifully complicated.

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Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow

Gabrielle Zevin (Knopf)

Zevin chronicles a childhood friendship’s abrupt end and fruitful reunion years later in college when Sadie and Sam develop a hit video game. What makes this moving is that as they experience the pain of abuse and grief, they create better worlds in their visionary games. But what makes it irresistible are Zevin’s ideas for the games themselves, which the reader comes to wish were real.

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Tracy Flick Can't Win

Tom Perrotta (Scribner)

Y’all heard? Tracy Flick is back, baby, and like before, she’s determined to win. This time, the hero of Election (immortalized by Reese Witherspoon in the film adaptation) campaigns for principal at a New Jersey high school. Perrotta updates the story by having Tracy reflect on her affair as a high school student with a teacher through the lens of #MeToo, and he cannily explores other hot-button issues such as racism and gun violence.

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Trust

Hernan Diaz (Riverhead)

Pulitzer finalist Diaz ups his game with this deeply ambitious and satisfying experiment. The novel’s four interrelated texts reverberate and play off one another, all revolving around the story of a financier who survived the stock market crash of 1929 to become one of New York City’s leading investors. For readers with time on their hands to knock this down in one steady gulp—preferably while unplugged on vacation—this offers the greatest of riches.

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