Adult Fiction

Novels of Self-Discovery

Luster: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780374194321
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Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - August 4th, 2020

Luster (Farrar, Straus and Giroux $26), the phenomenal debut novel by Raven Leilani, focuses on Edie, a young Black woman working in New York in a publishing job she’s not sure she likes and that barely covers the rent. As a twentysomething, she’s going on dates and trying to handle life, intimacy, race, identity, and secretly trying to make it as an artist. In short, Edie is a Black woman who’s just trying to figure things out like the rest of us. Then she meets Eric, a digital archivist with a family in New Jersey. Suddenly, she’s navigating the complexities of a relationship not only with Eric, but also with his wife and daughter. Luster is filled with brilliant language and makes unexpected turns at breakneck speeds. From one sentence to the next you go from laughing to catching your breath. This multifaceted novel is so completely and utterly amazing that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. Jessica Sullivan

Memorial: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593087275
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Published: Riverhead Books - October 27th, 2020

Thoughtful, unapologetic, and heartfelt, Bryan Washington measures the toll of trust and honesty between family, friends, and strangers in his debut novel, Memorial (Riverhead, $27). The story is narrated by Ben and Mike, a couple drifting apart in Houston's Third Ward. When Mike discovers his estranged father is terminally ill, he flies to Japan to share what could be his last days. Ben is left at home with Mike’s mother, newly arrived and ignorant of her son’s travel plans. Each living with a stranger, Ben and Mike take stock of what‘s important in their lives, navigating tension and longing. Throughout, Washington conveys his richly layered characters with compassion and narrative skill, making us care about them and empathize with their singular motivations and pain. This story is for any twenty-something who’s had to find intimacy across distance and technology, or any thirty-something who’s been steered into adulthood when no adults were present. Gibs Ramm

The Death of Vivek Oji: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525541608
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Published: Riverhead Books - August 4th, 2020

Akwaeke Emezi sculpts such an elegant story out of heartbreak and wahala—trouble—that you can't help but feel the weight of the pain in the aftermath of the novel’s opening tragedy. The Death of Vivek Oji (Riverhead, $27) begins with death, then draws on the love and life that surrounded Vivek, whose presence continues beyond the grave—as is meet for one born on the day his grandmother died. Steeped in a Nigerian culture riddled with homophobia, the novel slowly peels back the layers of Vivek’s torment as he reveals his true trans self to a small knot of close friends— most of whom are also quietly opening up about their own sexual identities while attending to Vivek after his mental collapse. Emezi writes fantastically of how their protagonist walks the line between an open private life and the fear and shame of hiding his sexuality; the tension rises as Vivek gradually finds solace with his cousin, Osita, and becomes more brazen in his actions, in spite of the danger of repercussions. This book is absolute magic. Allen Watke

Character Studies

Piranesi Cover Image
ISBN: 9781635575637
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Published: Bloomsbury Publishing - September 15th, 2020

Piranesi (Bloomsbury, $27) is the story of a lone wanderer lost within a vast labyrinth of sky, sea, and crumbling reliquary. It’s also the first novel by Susanna Clarke in 16 years, following her fantastical magnum opus, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. Piranesi is short, spare, and obscure, a carefully built puzzle box compared to Jonathan Strange’s overflowing buffet. Yet Clarke’s strengths as a writer—her genuinely alien imagery, her carefully wrought networks of characters and conspiracies, her willingness to keep deeper mysteries secret—are all on display here. Piranesi succeeds as both an authentic portrayal of the brink of human obsession and endurance and as a rigorously constructed thought experiment. But its waters go even deeper: this is a novel about belonging. A novel about the difficulty of forsaking something you know for something you don’t; a novel about how we can adapt to things that others may find repulsive. A novel that concludes with secrets revealed and, finally, an impossible choice. Adam Wescott

Must I Go: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780399589126
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Published: Random House - July 28th, 2020

The author of several collections of short stories and novels, Yiyun Li may be one of the more underrated masters of American fiction—a true “writers’ writer”; her new novel, Must I Go (Random House, $28), further cements her stature as one of contemporary literature’s foremost stylists. Told in a hybrid of firstperson narrative, diary entries, and annotations of the diary entries, Must I Go focuses on Lilia, an octogenarian, thrice-widowed mother of five children, and grandmother of seventeen. Telling her story as she reads the diaries of a former lover—the father of her daughter, Lucy, who died by suicide—Lilia offers her own version of events and reveals secrets long buried as well as hidden aspects of herself. With Li’s skill in creating characters full of depth and in crafting sentences with practiced agility, Must I Go is perfect for readers who want to watch a master at work. Bennard Fajardo

Visions of the Future

Leave the World Behind: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062667632
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Published: Ecco - October 6th, 2020

It’s been a long time since I’ve stayed up late to finish a book, but that’s what I did with Leave the World Behind (Ecco, $27.99). Rumaan Alam’s third novel is the story of a family on vacation, whose bliss is interrupted when another family arrives with news of a blackout that has brought New York City to its knees. As these people remain trapped in an expensive Long Island house, cut off from a world descending into chaos, their own worlds begin to spin faster and faster, exposing fissures in relationships and egos while also demonstrating the centripetal force between people in crisis. The prose is elegant, gripping, and holds our hand through every twist and turn this novel takes, cushioning us as the horror becomes more and more existential while also tantalizingly real. Buy this book for your friend who is maybe a little too plugged into the news cycle, your family member who loves literary horror, or anyone who feels like their summer was robbed from them by a world fleeing from comprehension. Aron Spellane

The Silence: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781982164553
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Published: Scribner - October 20th, 2020

The Silence (Scribner, $22) by Don DeLillo. In this brief tour de force, the author of classics including White Noise and Underworld looks ahead to 2022, where one night, as a group of friends gathers in Manhattan, a freak outage severs all electrical connections and the world as they know it comes to a halt.

Pictures of Contemporary Life

I Hold a Wolf by the Ears: Stories Cover Image
ISBN: 9780374102098
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Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - July 28th, 2020

If Station Eleven predicted the symptoms and realities of a pandemic, I’d argue that Laura van den Berg’s I Hold A Wolf by The Ears (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26) has created the map for our internal lives, offering a prescient play-by-play of our emotions during these months of self-isolation and dread. Van den Berg writes about loneliness and grief better than any writer I know of, and she’s gathered a collection of modern ghost stories with the same level of precision and emotional accuracy that has defined all her work. Grief for the dead—but also for the lost lives of the still-living and their paths that splintered offcourse—burns through these pages, and there is little solace. “I had thought my life was over, but that didn’t turn out to be right at all; rather the life I’d had was consumed by a life I never could have imagined living.” When we are a nation grieving together but alone, what could resonate more? These stories ache on the page, and you will ache with them; the consumed lives here are our own. Liz Hottel

Summer: A Novel (Seasonal Quartet) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781101870792
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Pantheon - August 25th, 2020

Both a stand-alone novel and integral part of a set, Summer (Pantheon $27.95), Ali Smith’s conclusion to her acclaimed seasonal quartet, tackles current events as they are unfolding and draws parallels between present and past, intentionally blurring the lines, for instance, between today’s immigrant crisis and the 1940s detention of “enemy aliens.” This installment begins in February, 2020 in post-Brexit Britain; Sacha, 16, is worried about the state of the world, her 13-year-old-brother Robert is enchanted by Albert Einstein, plays violent video games, and condones far right politics, while their mother, Grace, wonders “whether I shall turn out to be the heroine of my own life.” Smith lets us unravel relationships through the characters’ brilliant, witty banter, and throughout this masterful novel she gives as much attention to showing human complexities as she does to developing storylines. Current events and history, political and ecological climates, the role and power of art, family, and friendships—given such a wealth, you may feel you’ve gone through the rabbit hole, but Smith’s expert crafting keeps you laughing, sighing, and thinking about where we are now—and where we go from here. Marija Dimitrijevski

Homeland Elegies: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316496421
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Published: Little, Brown and Company - September 15th, 2020

Homeland Elegies (Little, Brown, $28) by Ayad Akhtar. In this searing work of auto-fiction, the novelist and Pulitzer-winning playwright blends narrative and essay to consider the troubling drift of the U.S. from 9/11 to Trump; as personal as it is political, the novel explores a range of social and economic issues through the experiences of a family of Pakistani immigrants

What Are You Going Through: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593191415
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Published: Riverhead Books - September 8th, 2020

What Are You Going Through (Riverhead, $26) by Sigrid Nunez. Writing with her signature blend of humor, empathy, and candor, Nunez complements her National Book Award-winning The Friend with an equally compact and affecting look at two women; when one requests help ending her life, the other gives it, prompting Nunez’s virtuoso reflections on aging, connection, loneliness, and the nature of memory

Red Pill: A novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780451493712
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Published: Knopf - September 1st, 2020

Red Pill (Knopf, $27.95) by Hari Kunzru. Set in 2016, Kunzru’s compelling character study/allegory follows a Brooklyn writer to Wannsee— site of the Nazi conference that solidified plans for the Final Solution—where he hopes to overcome a serious block; instead, his problems intensify as he binge watches a cop show, then meets its alt-right producer.

Amnesty: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781982127244
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Scribner - February 18th, 2020

Amnesty (Scribner, $26) by Aravind Adiga. The Booker-Prize winner’s taut and troubling novel centers on Danny, a Sri Lankan student in Australia who secretly stays on after his visa expires. When someone he worked for is murdered, he faces the agonizing decision of whether or not to come forward with crucial evidence.

Historical Fiction

The Pull of the Stars: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316499019
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Published: Little, Brown and Company - July 21st, 2020

For everyone overwhelmed with the current global pandemic, there’s a certain solace to be found in reading about a different pandemic. Emma Donoghue’s latest novel, The Pull of the Stars (Little Brown, $28), follows Julia Power, a nurse in a Dublin maternity ward during the 1918 Great Flu outbreak. Donoghue is a great writer of contained spaces; in the three days we spend with Julia in the small and understaffed ward, the topics of Irish history, misogyny in the medical profession, and class divisions are all covered. It’s no surprise to us now that a pandemic can reveal the greatest cracks in a country’s foundations, but this novel also shows how we can support one another. For times when it seems like there’s no end in sight, Donoghue offers a story of compassion and tenderness. Donoghue’s writing brims with humanity and empathy. Against all odds, this is a novel of hope. Lindsay Lynch

Conjure Women: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525511489
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Published: Random House - April 7th, 2020

Conjure Women (Random House, $27), by debut novelist Afia Atakora (longlisted for the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize), is a heart-wrenching story of love, magic, and survival. Set on a Southern plantation before and after the Civil War, the novel recounts the life of Miss May Belle, a wise healer; of her daughter, Rue; and of their master’s daughter, Varina. As a curse sweeps through the plantation that threatens Rue’s good standing as healer and protector of her community, Rue must defeat the evil, fight her demons, and save Varina. Brilliantly intertwining storylines, Atakora gives us a haunting glimpse into the lives of these women, and shows the lengths they will go to survive. If you’re a fan of historical fiction with a dash of magic and strong female characters, this book is for you. I couldn’t put it down and had dreams about it for weeks after. One of the best debut novels I’ve ever read! Michaela Cohen-Fuentes

Hamnet Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525657606
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Published: Knopf - July 21st, 2020

Winner of the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction, Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet (Knopf, $26.95) tells the story of William Shakespeare’s wife and children, a story from which the Bard—here referred to as “Latin tutor, husband, father, and player, London playwright”—is largely absent. Set in 1596, this vividly imagined and rigorously researched narrative focuses on Agnes—aka Anne Hathaway—a healer with second sight and a streak as wild as the falcon she’s given to carrying on her shoulder. Agnes is more attuned to herbs and animals than to people, with the exception of her elevenyear-old twins, Judith and Hamnet. When both children are stricken by the bubonic plague, she does everything in her power to save them—with heartbreaking, partial success. Her efforts are accompanied by her reflections on her courtship and marriage as well as by O’Farrell’s brilliant evocations of Agnes’s times, from the botany she is so intimately involved with to the glove maker’s trade of her brutal father-in-law to the inexorable path of the plague from Alexandria to Stratford on a monkey’s flea. Bob Attardi

The Mirror & the Light: A Novel (Wolf Hall Trilogy #3) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780805096606
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Published: Henry Holt and Co. - March 10th, 2020

The Mirror and the Light (Holt, $30) by Hilary Mantel. The eagerly awaited conclusion to the Wolf Hall trilogy picks up the saga of Thomas Cromwell after the execution of Anne Boleyn; every sentence shines with Mantel’s intelligence, wit, and skilled wielding of historical facts and unforgettable characters.

The Cold Millions: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062868084
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Published: Harper - October 27th, 2020

The Cold Millions (Harper, $28.99) by Jess Walter. Harking back to the social realism of the 19th century—but with plenty of modern twists—the new novel from the author of Beautiful Ruins follows a pair of orphaned brothers as they struggle to survive in the Pacific Northwest; their adventures include being swept up in labor organizing and the 1909 free speech riots.


All the Devils Are Here: A Novel (Chief Inspector Gamache Novel #16) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250145239
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Published: Minotaur Books - September 1st, 2020

In All the Devils Are Here (Minotaur, $28.99), the latest installment of Louise Penny’s Armand Gamache series, the beloved inspector and his family have left their familiar Three Pines, Québec, to visit their children in the glitzy City of Light. The pleasure becomes business when Gamache’s billionaire friend, Stephen Horowitz, turns up badly beaten not long after the two have enjoyed a Paris dinner together. As she has in her previous books, Penny adds still new layers of complexity to the characters we’ve already grown to know and love. In addition, she’s not only woven a novel of ideas into an intriguing mystery, she’s packed it with even more fast-paced action than usual—along with evocative glimpses of the famous sights of Paris. From the secrets of the wartime Resistance to the secrets and interpretations of his own family, Gamache navigates the fissures that have developed over time, while leaning on the love and trust that are ever-present. Keith Vient

The Searcher: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780735224650
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Published: Viking - October 6th, 2020

Tana French’s latest atmospheric, slow-burning literary mystery, The Searcher (Viking, $27), follows an ex-Chicago cop into retirement in a small Irish country town. Cal is looking for an escape from it all after a bitter divorce and professional burn-out, and he hopes his fixer-upper is far enough away to provide that. But when his neighbor, Trey, launches a search for his missing brother, Cal draws on his well-honed skills to help. And here is where French excels. Rather than giving us the genre’s standard lockeddoor whodunit, parade of suspect interviews, or multiple red herrings, she focuses on developing her characters and their relationships. The family Cal left behind in America takes center stage, for instance, with intriguing parallels to the quiet, sheep-trodden fields and mountains of Cal’s adopted landscape, complete with a quintessential Irish pub, plenty of lagers and chats with the locals—while all the time French has her eye on the seedy underbelly that exists within every small town around the world. Keith Vient

The Guest List: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062868930
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Published: William Morrow - June 2nd, 2020

The Guest List (Morrow, $27.99) by Lucy Foley. The author of The Hunting Party keeps the suspense building and the viewpoints shifting in this whodunit set on an island off the coast of Ireland, where guests have assembled for a dream wedding. Things quickly turn nightmarish as old tensions surface, a drinking game gets out of hand—and someone winds up dead.

His & Hers: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250266071
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Flatiron Books - July 28th, 2020

His and Hers (Flatiron, $27.99) by Alice Feeney. A murder brings Anna back to her hometown to cover the story for the BBC—and it also puts her in unwelcome contact with her ex, the cop in charge of the local investigation. Feeney skillfully ratchets up the tension in this psychological thriller bursting with secrets.