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2 A.M. in Little America

Ken Kalfus (Milkweed Editions)

Milkweed publisher Daniel Slager recently talked up this novel to me and I was immediately intrigued. Ever since the 2016 election, I’ve wondered what the decline and fall of the American Empire would look like. Kalfus imagines such a dystopian world in this evocative tale: Americans are stripped of our privileged status and must flee the smoldering ruins of our country and settle into immigrant ghettos. Let’s hope this book remains shelved with fiction in bookstores. —Claire Kirch, midwest correspondent

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After the Lights Go Out

John Vercher (Soho)

A desperate 30-something mixed-race MMA fighter risks one last fight despite a brain injury to clear his debts and get out from under his racist white father’s roof in Philadelphia. Chapter titles derived from songs by Bad Brains, Geto Boys, and Operation Ivy have me planning a new workout mix and imagining the soundtrack of what promises to be a propulsive and poignant story. —David Varno, reviews editor

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Avalon

Nell Zink (Knopf)

I’m a huge fan of Zink’s The Wallcreeper and have recently been reading everything else she’s got to offer—Avalon arrives right on time. It features another down-and-out protagonist who’s sharp as a tack: Bran is raised on her common-law stepfather’s semilegal farm, falls in love with a UCLA student who sees the specter of fascism in everything, and finds her purpose writing films for her friends’ assignments. The whole thing is full of Zink’s characteristic wit. —Carliann Rittman, reviews editor

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Beauty and the Besharam

Lillie Vale (Viking Books for Young Readers)

I’m a fan of the enemies-to-lovers trope, but combining that with party princess culture just hits too many of my buttons to ignore. I’m very much looking forward to seeing how it affects Kavya and Ian’s love story as the two are forced to play prince and princess while also competing against each other in a succession of challenges. —Drucilla Shultz, bookroom editor

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Everything I Need I Get from You: How Fangirls Created the Internet as We Know It

Kaitlyn Tiffany (MCD x FSG Originals)

As someone who frequently turns to Harry Styles music videos for sweet relief from the stressors of life, I was ecstatic to see a book coming out about One Direction’s frenzied fans and the power they hold in the digital age. And it couldn’t be written by a better author—Atlantic staffer Tiffany has long been a sage interpreter of internet culture, and her clever insights on fandom are sure to garner her new stans. —Steph Buschardt, nonfiction reviews editor

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Fellowship Point

Alice Elliott Dark (Scribner/Rucci)

Nostalgic for those summer afternoons spent transported by a book? Welcome to Fellowship Point, a modern 19th-century novel centered on the friendship of two octogenarian women friends who took very different life paths. Between them is the fate of a tract of land in Maine: preserve it or pass it on? The twists and turns of long lives well lived will keep you reading until the fireflies appear. —Louisa Ermelino, editor-at-large

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Fire Season

Leyna Krow (Viking)

A hapless banker, a career con man, and a psychically gifted prostitute walk into a bar—or, in Krow’s debut novel, intersect in the Washington Territory, summer 1889, when Spokane Falls is the latest Washington city whose downtown has gone up in flames. In the wreckage, the three cross purposes in their conflicting pursuits of financial gain and freedom. Part revisionist western, part meditation on misogyny and female power, it’s an appealingly strange, idiosyncratic tale. —Carolyn Juris, features editor

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The Island

Adrian McKinty (Little, Brown)

In 2019, I devoured The Chain, McKinty’s breakout thriller about a divorced mother’s desperate efforts to save her 13-year-old daughter from a diabolical scheme that blackmails parents into kidnapping other people’s children to get their own back. Can the author match that book’s nail-biting suspense in this tale of an American family’s misadventures on an Australian island? I’m eager to find out. —Peter Cannon, senior editor

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The Midcoast

Adam White (Hogarth)

This is White’s first novel, but it reads like a fifth or a sixth, so assured it is. Set in that favorite Yankee summer destination of coastal Maine, it’s about the things that go on that tourists don’t see, specifically how a kid from a local lobstering family went from topping up boats with gas on the family dock to being the town’s grand poo-bah. Might it have something to do with a body found in a burned-out car? Don’t rush this one. Savor it. —Jonathan Segura, executive editor

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Saint Sebastian’s Abyss

Mark Haber (Coffee House)

Haber writes in a deliberately hyperbolic literary style that is a lot of fun, provided you’re the type of person who has a sense of humor about your own pretensions. His work reads like it has been translated from a Balkan language by an unfunny academic, which makes it, paradoxically, utterly engaging. This, Haber’s second novel, takes on art, professional rivalry, and male friendship. It is an all-too-brief delight! —Ed Nawotka, international and bookselling editor

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She's Nice Though

Mia Mercado (HarperOne)

This collection of essays allows readers inside Mercado’s life as a Midwestern biracial woman. She uses humor to reveal truths about depression, racism, and societal norms while questioning what it means to be nice (“to shrink or apologize or smile out of obligation”), who benefits from it (“nice girls finish eventually”), and how to “differentiate between the performance of niceness and... true good intentions.” This is for anyone who would rather die than, heaven forbid, be a bother and ask for help. —Emma Wenner, religion editor

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The Third Person

Emma Grove (Drawn & Quarterly)

Grove’s animation background shines in the quick-sketch intuition of her fab comics memoir debut. I found myself racing through almost 900 pages in one sitting. The basics of the script: a trans woman reconstructs intense sessions with a doubting psychologist, who won’t approve her for hormone therapy because he doesn’t quite believe she’s telling him the whole truth—all told in shifting points of view from three distinct personalities within Grove. It’s a sharp and satisfying psychological mystery that unfolds from inside a crowded mind. —Meg Lemke, graphic novel reviews editor

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The Twilight World

Werner Herzog, trans. Michael Hofmann (Penguin Press)

Director Herzog is known for his films about quixotic quests (see Fitzcarraldo), so what better fit for the director’s first novel than a fictionalization of the real-life story of Hiroo Onoda, the WWII Japanese Army lieutenant who in 1944 was told to hold down an island in the Philippines from Allied attack? (He did so until he formally surrendered—in 1974.) Herzog brings an inimitable and surreal touch to his work, and this promises to be no exception. —Marc Greenawalt, associate reviews editor

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Two Wheels Good: The History and Mystery of the Bicycle

Jody Rosen (Crown)

For me, New York is biking. I moved to the city in November 2008, bought a used 10-speed that spring, and have ridden it anywhere and everywhere, in whatever weather won’t kill me, ever since. To work, to the bar, to the beach—there’s no better way to get where you’re going. (Except Times Square. Even a bike can’t help you there.) That’s why I can’t wait to read this cultural history, which got a starred review from PW—it might be the next best thing to going for a ride. —David Adams, reviews editor

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Wrath Goddess Sing

Maya Deane (Morrow)

I love retellings, and Deane’s brilliant, immersive take on The Iliad brings the classic to vibrant new life, with trans woman Achilles front and center and wonderfully otherworldly gods pulling the strings. Both a propulsive tale of battle and a thoughtful meditation on identity and power, this gorgeous debut skillfully transports readers to the ancient Mediterranean—with cameos from some delightfully devilish dolphins. —Phoebe Cramer, reviews editor

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