Bridging the gap between genre and literary fiction with enormous skill and agility, Mangan has again given us an electrifying yarn full of menace and atmosphere. With a mesmeric sense of place, Palace of the Drowned is a fully transportive experience.
Candid and precise, this is a wildly seductive book analyzing the roles we play for others and the ways in which their perceptions rarely fit snugly inside our subjective sense of self.
Part memoir, part theory, entirely crucial.
No one enchants the reader quite like Joan Silber, the magnitude of her talents dizzying and seductive.
The yearning for acceptance is at the heart of her latest offering: how we see ourselves, the flaws of those we love (and those we don't), the inevitable grief we sometimes experience simply getting out of bed.
The fraught marriage of warm humor and blunt human truths is rendered beautifully here, making Secrets of Happiness absolutely magnetic.
Since her first book in 1982, Susanna Moore has been building an altar to sly elegance built out of black opal. In both fiction and memoir (as well as a spectacular history of Hawaii), sumptuous prose seduces the reader into tales of stark truths.
Miss Aluminum is a book that shimmers, humming with life. Anecdotes of Moore's Hawaiian adolescence and eventual place in the absolute center of Hollywood's intellectual heyday are intoxicating - the classiest account of LA cool one could imagine.
An absolute enchantment brimming with verve and effervescence.
I hope your floor is clean because if you're brave enough for Ordesa, you'll hit the tile with a hard thud more than once.
Grief, memory, family, patriotism. Vilas evaluates every last thing that gives a life weight - or maybe frees a life of its weight - with a melancholy ballasted with a warmth that will recalibrate the reader's very sense of self.
The find of the year.
How easily altruism gives way to solipsism is the main focus of this novel, written in 1985 and the sixteenth published fiction by the machine that is Joyce Carol Oates. That alone sounds exhausting but, say what you will about the wildly polarizing JCO, when she's good, she is heavy metal: cold, brutal, mean as a snake and wildly cathartic.
From Chester Himes to Donald Duck, Didion to Durant, Lunenfeld's survey of modern LA is electric. Anecdotally rich, this is a book for anyone interested in contemporary American history, pop culture, art or architecture.
"Maybe this was the America it had been all along when I wasn't looking."
Sophisticated and sharp, Bette Howland's memoir is a revelation.
Her observations of fellow patients are clever and unflinching but pulse with understanding and compassion. Scores of worthwhile autobiographies chronicling life on a psychiatric ward have been published since this originally appeared in 1974 but few have done so with Howland's magnanimity and intellectual verve.
Box Hill's sleek and measured tone has a confession's magnetic intensity.
A novel full of real, practical widsom around suffering and grief, Life Events transcends notions of literature and is nothing short of catharsis.
"It was strange to watch someone go deep into their memory to try and piece together the story of their lives. Watching them hunt around for some best answer, decide what was too painful to hide, and even more painful to allow to the surface."
A top drawer satire of marriage, race relations and misogyny, Kelley's plainspoken sense of humor is refreshingly candid and exactly what the world needs right now, though it was originally published in 1967. A novel in which high comedy and menace jockey for the limelight, dem is likely to be one of the most original sendups of American life you'll read this year. Or next. Maybe ever.
This impish debut is brief and dizzying, the literary equivalent of a whippit. Modern malaise has never felt so sly and despite the book's lack of physical heft (clocking in at 115 pages), it is heavy on charm.
These tightly-compressed stories feel tied to some even more mysterious, elliptical tale that's been lying dormant in the reader's imagination for eons. Like some kind of ancient truth.
I don't know that a book has ever left me feeling so vulnerable, like it knew me deeply. In my bones or some other new age nonsense.
I'd wager this is what DMT feels like.
A fantastic book about the fantastically contentious creative process that birthed an architectural touchstone. Thankfully Broken Glass, priced at $28, destroyed my desire for a Barcelona chair. That's a savings of upwards of $1672.
Farnsworth for the win.
A meditative and insightful look at one of the most grossly misunderstood creative movements. Chayka's writing is thoughtful and conveys an engaging curiosity about what exactly "less is more" means. For Kondo addicts and John Cage acolytes alike.
A novella packed to the gills with tenderness and cruelty - just like life.
Tuck is a master of minimalist refinement. Her prose is pared down and looks almost skeletal on the page but the mood and keen observations that swims in the blank spaces are shrewd and seductive.
I could barely breathe.
The most fascinating, exciting piece of fiction I've found in years.
This book almost ruined a vacation. I could not, nor did I want to, think about or do anything else until I finished.
Gender politics and the role art plays in our lives are the matters at the heart of the thing and the three singular voices with which the story is told perfectly illuminate the impossibility of absolute definition. Brilliant.
Another Lydia Millet book, another staff rec for a Lydia Millet book. This is going to keep happening until you give in and read a Lydia Millet book. Or, better yet, just accept your fate and read every Lydia Millet book. If I keep saying "Lydia Millet book" maybe the idea will lodge itself in your mind and you'll have no choice but to pick up a Lydia Millet book. Maybe this Lydia Millet book.
Lydia Millet book.
Eileen for gym queens.
Morgan's debut with a major publisher is a bang-on satire of gay culture in the age of Grindr. What could easily be dismissed as a scandalous confection is a complex and unflinching look at modern vanities and loneliness. I wanted to shield the protagonist from himself - the book is not without its sympathies - while also wanting him to go just a little darker, a little deeper into the miasmic debauchery because the insights found therein are so eye-opening.
Musclestentialism is easily my new favorite genre.
I picked this up based solely on an intuitive response to the cover and the publisher’s stellar track record, cracking it without the faintest idea of plot, tone or character. It was a hunch that paid off terrifically – Hollow is engaging from the first page and its sardonic humor and emotional resonance create a vice grip that enthralls to its conclusion.
All you need to know about Egerton’s novel is that it purrs and hums like a kitten and will not disappoint.
Pithy. Prickly. Perfect.
Hands down my favorite book.
Prolific but mostly ignored in the states, Stamm is a master storyteller, translated with a cunning and precision that always leaves me breathless. Of course, that could also be the Mary Gaitskill-like emotional agony and asphyxiating atmospherics. (This is an enormous compliment.)
All Days Are Night is the perfect gateway drug for this Swiss doyen - readable and, whether you like it or not, relatable.
Lindsay Hunter's sophomore novel is a compulsively readable anti-hero's journey, populated with haunted characters who move through the book's landscape with aches and desires I found contagious.
It is a gift to make the reader not only sympathize with an unsavory protagonist but feel as though they have befriended him as well.
While disparate at first glance, American Fire turned out to be the book I wanted Hillbilly Elegy to be. Without sacrificing objectivity or sympathy, Hesse has created a gripping, polished account of working class America's resentments and struggles without flirting with condescension or neglecting its strengths. It is a timely, intriguing and poignant book deserving of a wide audience.
What makes a masterpiece? In a career as prolific, eclectic and adventurous as Percival Everett's, his body of work the very definition of singularity, it may even be foolish to hint one book is superior to another. And while it might be brazen to assert So Much Blue may be that magnum opus, it is an accusation i gleefully declare. A blissfully precise pen firmly draws the reader into the life of Kevin Pace in his quest for absolution and closure and the novel's three timelines kept deftly aloft by Everett's signature humor and nuanced storytelling.
Each story here feels like it is dressed in a color that doesn't exist in nature. They feel familiar, somehow, but with an effect of feeling slightly left of center, rattling your expectations.
As the stories progress, they feel increasingly tighter with a strengthening emotional punch that will leave the reader breathless.
A hypnotic, witchy tale of a woman's desultory search for her estranged husband who has gone missing in Greece, A Separation is an enigmatically seductive narrative whose gauzy embrace draws easy comparisons to DeLillo (or his innumerable acolytes).
It is a powerfully engrossing quagmire and its misty atmosphere of isolation and emotional riddles are truly haunting.
Disillusionment is a risky theme to tackle; a character adrift can easily come across as too thorny or unsympathetic, making even a masterfully written story insufferable. Luckily, we have Marcy Dermansky.
In the sea of earnest, self-conscious, cloyingly "witty" (and ultimately forgettable) modern fiction, she and The Red Car are acerbic salvation.
Director of Iowa Writers Workshop and former student of Marilynne Robinson, Lan Samantha Chang is as incredible and well-groomed a storyteller as that pedigree suggests.
This novel, set largely in a writing program quite similar to Iowa, is intimate territory for Chang and a familiarity that pays off in spades for the reader. The novel's characters inhabit a wonderfully and immediately authentic atmosphere; the story's subtlety making for a pastoral and elegant work of fiction.
Arcade manages to succeed where most contemporary American fiction fails, boldly testing the reader's sympathy and patience without the reader questioning the writer's talent or character's emotional worth.
It had my heart and stomach competing for a place in my throat while my hands struggled to keep both book and moral compass aloft.
Redemption is secondary to an admirably frank confrontation of "right" and "wrong" with a concupiscence that is startlingly edifying.
Solitude and loneliness, two of our greatest social anxieties, are inevitable (and at times barely discernible) states of being – both often carrying a stigma that generates silence rather than celebration. Gornick’s ruminations, however, extol the virtues of these ineluctable conditions with an elegance that ennobles us misfits and autonomy junkies.
Listen. It's flashy. It's a little trashy. It's so gratuitous (and occasionally heartless) you might get a little rashy. As someone who grew up obsessed with the silly lavishness of Dynasty and Lace, though, these are all selling points. It's getting hot outside and a little decadence never killed anyone (summer isn't exactly the right time for The Decalogue, you know?). The character's slow, tawdry, expensive descent into psychopathy had me blushing, balking and laughing out loud. Maybe not Hilton's intention, but the low-throttle maniac she has created here wouldn't hold it against me.
It is all too rare that a book lives up to the promise of its blurbs but Ostlund's novel is a welcome exception, far exceeding the cover's lavish praise. A bravura performance, it is a deeply moving novel full of rich emotion and humanity.
Finding myself inexplicably drawn to an old hardcover edition of this when it crossed the used counter, I have been in its thrall completely, reading as slowly and carefully as possible. Maybe it's nostalgia for my father's 1971 Chevy (which still runs beautifully), maybe it's Jerome's plaintive simplicity. At the end of the day, though, whatever it is I found so beguiling from the outset has paid off richly. An unfussy but ambiguously complex meditation.
Solid, assured prose elevates this novel to a level you don't expect. Quite dark at times, it is not for the faint of heart but the author deftly reveals the interior life of a woman adrift that is surprisingly rewarding.
A former editor for Wired, culture and media critic Mark Dery is a fitting successor to Mailer's throne and worthy of any Didion devotee. It's hard to say if it is his rapid-fire humor or often mind-blowing lyricism and insight that makes this collection so enjoyable.