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

August Blue

Deborah Levy (FSG)

A summer haze permeates this beguiling story of a woman and her double. While visiting Athens, Greece, Elsa sees someone who looks exactly like her, then proceeds to spot her around town and eventually across Europe into France. Along the way, she swims in the Mediterranean, loses herself in crowds, and stumbles into erotic encounters as her sense of self becomes more permeable. In Levy’s hands, this ontological mystery is a sensual delight.


Back to the Dirt

Frank Bill (FSG Originals)

A dispassionate account of combat in the Vietnam War drives the opening pages of this Southern noir, the narrator channeling Martin Sheen’s monologue in Apocalypse Now and instantly reminding readers of the Saigon swelter. Bill then takes readers to turn-of-the-21st-century Appalachia, where his veteran protagonist floats along on booze and steroids. The gripping plot hinges on loyalty and revenge, and comes with a gnarly body count. PW’s review called it “one hell of a ride.”


Blue Skies

T.C. Boyle (Liveright)

Climate fiction is usually pretty sobering, so leave it to Boyle to make it great fun. The irony begins with the title—think Willie Nelson crooning as the world burns. The story involves a bicoastal family making their best effort to reunite after weather and wildfires quash a California wedding. Florida, where devastating floods reduce people to rowing around in boats, is no safer. This one’s best read from the comfort of a sturdy beach chair.


Crook Manifesto

Colson Whitehead (Doubleday)

Literary titan Whitehead’s Harlem Shuffle is one of the best New York novels in recent memory, one of those books one doesn’t want to end, so it’s a real treat to have a sequel. Crook Manifesto picks up with Harlem fence Ray Carney and hard man Pepper as they deal with countercultural upheaval and urban blight in the 1970s, when Art’s resolve to go straight is once again put on hold.


The Devil of the Provinces

Juan Cárdenas, trans. from the Spanish by Lizzie Davis (Coffee House)

There’s a brain-melting surreality to Cárdenas’s slim existential crime novel, set in a stifling and provincial Colombian city. A biologist returns there after 15 years abroad, down on his luck and happy to work for peanuts at a boarding school. But after his students start to go missing and questions persist about his golden boy brother’s long-ago unsolved murder, the protagonist ends up in over his head.


Everything’s Fine

Cecilia Rabess (Simon & Schuster)

Rabess hits the scene with one of those full-throated, fully realized debuts that everyone is sure to be talking about. It’s a mismatched romance involving a progressive Black woman and a contrarian white man who met in college her freshman year, when she was celebrating Obama’s election in 2008 and he wasn’t. They’re reacquainted after graduation, but when Trump begins his presidential run in 2015, a new rift opens between them.


The Guest

Emma Cline (Random House)

A young woman named Alex cons her way through five days on Eastern Long Island in this dreamy and mischievous anti-beach novel. Like the hero of John Cheever’s “The Swimmer,” Alex drifts from one fancy house to the next, drawn to pools and surf and managing to convince strangers that she belongs among them. The farther Alex goes with her lies and self-delusion, the harder it is to look away.


The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store

James McBride (Riverhead)

McBride leaves the Brooklyn of Deacon King Kong for 1970s Pottstown, Pa., delving into a marginalized community of Jewish immigrants and Black people who close ranks after a mysterious skeleton is unearthed by a development project. As with McBride’s previous work, this one’s strength is in the vibrant characters. Here, they form bonds against outsiders who attempt to interfere in their lives.


The Humble Lover

Edmund White (Bloomsbury)

A May-December romance disrupts the life of elderly Aldwych West, leaving him aching with desire for his fickle and promiscuous lover, August Dupond. The sizzling romp revolves around New York City’s ballet world, of which Aldwych is a patron and August is an up-and-coming performer. White confidently invites readers into this rarified world, and into that of BDSM, but the greatest pain is in Aldwych’s heart.


The Late Americans

Brandon Taylor (Riverhead)

Friends and lovers navigate fraught relationships, class differences, and personal frustrations as their grad school programs wind down in Iowa City. Taylor perfectly captures that bittersweet feeling in a student’s life of summer’s approach, when all things must come to an end. Along the way, he writes freely and irresistibly of sex and interpersonal drama.



Tania James (Knopf)

James, who once published a short story in which Indiana Jones defensively fields questions from South Asian people about ancient relics from India, brings a keen sense of adventure and cinematic drive to her writing. This one’s about a 19th-century mechanical tiger and its creator’s determination to reclaim it from a British museum. Not only is the novel terrifically entertaining, it also has a lot to say about the ownership of art.


Las Madres

Esmeralda Santiago (Knopf)

Santiago combines a sweeping look at the Puerto Rican diaspora with an intimate family story, shifting between Luz’s life as a teen in Puerto Rico in the 1970s and the Bronx in 2017, when her daughter longs to learn more about her past. The pair travels with two of Luz’s old friends to San Juan during hurricane season, where, amid Maria’s catastrophic destruction, they learn more about their heritage than they’d bargained for.


© PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.