In Ho’s debut book of fiction, two childhood best friends growing up in Los Angeles fall in and out of love, navigate relationships with estranged family members, and deal with casual racism in these linked short stories about friendship over time. —Tomi Obaro
A frazzled single mother leaves her child alone at home for a few hours only to run into trouble with the state, which sends her to an institution to teach her how to sufficiently love her daughter in this buzzy debut novel about the pressures of modern motherhood. —T.O.
The author of A Little Life returns with yet another doorstopper (To Paradise is a whopping 720 pages). Set in three alternative versions of the US, the novel focuses primarily on three characters, two of whom have the same name. The first section is a queer Edith Wharton–esque tale of a young man named David who agrees to an arranged marriage to an older man even though he’s in love with someone else. In the second section, a character also named David lives in 1993 Manhattan during the AIDS epidemic and cares for his ailing older partner while avoiding anything to do with his father and his family back in Hawaii. The third section centers on a woman trapped in a dystopian future, still reeling from the effects of a devastating pandemic. —T.O.
In 2016, Schulz’s father died, mere months after meeting her partner and eventual wife for the first time. In three sections, “Lost,” “Found,” and “And,” Schulz muses about the mundanity of grief, the rapture of true love, and the queasy coexistence of both forces at the same time. I read a galley of this book over the holidays and couldn't stop thinking about its deep insight into the fleeting beauty of existence. —T.O.
Disclosure: Attenberg is an acquaintance of mine who blurbed my own upcoming book, but even if she were a total stranger, I know I would have enjoyed this memoir. Attenberg, the author of the bestseller The Middlesteins and six other works of fiction, turns to nonfiction for the first time with this autobiography about her dogged commitment to writing. From growing up as an awkward adolescent in suburban Chicago to having a traumatizing experience in college to gallivanting from apartment to apartment in Seattle and Williamsburg, she writes about charting her way through adulthood unconventionally, wedded only to her art. —T.O.
The author of 2017’s deadpan debut Chemistry returns to bookshelves with this similarly offbeat story of an ICU doctor dealing with the aftermath of her father’s death. Joan is an extremely competent but somewhat antisocial thirtysomething working at a hospital in New York City. When her father dies of a stroke in China, she takes 48 hours off to attend the funeral and then is back to work. But a mandatory wellness break forces Joan to spend time with her mother and brother. Wang’s sense of humor makes this both a page-turner and a poignant reflection on the familial ruptures caused by immigrating. —T.O.
Morrison’s only published short story is reissued here with an illuminating foreword by Zadie Smith. Recitatif centers on two girls of different races, Roberta and Twyla, who are sent to a state shelter. Crucially, though, we are never told who is Black and who is white. Like much of Morrison’s work, this story is a deceptively simple and intricate indictment of the ludicrousness of racism. —T.O.
The popular pop culture writer tackles a decade that feels like a lifetime ago now, back when the monoculture was alive and well and Seinfeld was the most popular show on television. —T.O.
With a singular sense of wryness and ribaldry, Lavery charts the course of her gender transition. —T.O.
Heti’s breakthrough novel, 2010’s How Should a Person Be?, influenced countless writers and set the stage for our current autofiction boom. Her latest once again breaks the mold of what a novel can be. The plot and setting are abstract; God creates three kinds of people: bird, fish, and bear, the first of which spawns Mira, the protagonist we follow throughout the novel. But questions that have shown up in Heti’s prior work, namely around the problems of living and what it means to be an artist, are still very much at the center. —Karolina Waclawiak
In the second book of James’ trilogy about a mythical African kingdom, Sogolon — the ancient witch who battles the protagonist, Tracker, in the first book, Black Leopard, Red Wolf — takes center stage. —T.O.
Before Beyoncé tapped this Somali British poet to write the poetry for her visual album Lemonade, Shire was already a prolific writer, with two chapbooks, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth and Her Blue Body, under her belt. Now she’s publishing her first full-length poetry collection, which focuses, like much of her work, on the trauma of forced migration, familial violence, and secrets. This is a collection that merits slow and careful reading. —T.O.
Inspired by Robert Mugabe’s fall from power in 2017 and George Orwell’s classic fable Animal Farm, Bulawayo satirizes the dysfunctional politics that curse so many African nations in this long-awaited sophomore effort after her 2013 Booker finalist debut, We Need New Names. —T.O.
In this inventive debut, a disparate group of social outcasts get by in the city of Lagos, even as the criminalization of homosexuality dampens their ability to live freely. Some characters are humans, others are spirits, others seem to shift between the two. Like the work of fellow Nigerian writers Lesley Nneka Arimah and Akwaeke Emezi (who incidentally blurbed this book), these stories eschew strict realism for magical writing in both the literal and figurative sense. —T.O.
Vuong’s second full-length poetry collection grapples with the aftermath of his mother’s death in poems that memorably evoke the stunning immensity of loss. —T.O.
Picking up where her 2010 Pulitzer-winning collection A Visit From the Goon Squad left off, Egan once again hopscotches characters, countries, and years in this book about a technological invention called Own Your Unconscious that allows people to upload their memories to the cloud. The privacy implications of such an idea prompt a swift backlash. Using the inventiveness that made A Visit From the Goon Squad such a delight, Egan delivers another formally creative novel. —T.O.
Mandel has always excelled at drawing connections between disparate characters who seem, at first glance, utterly unrelated to each other. Sea of Tranquility is arguably her most ambitious book yet in that regard. A teenager sets sail for the wilds of Canada, a novelist lives in a moon colony, and a detective investigates a series of crimes in the ominously named Night City. Science fiction lovers will not be disappointed. —T.O.
Painful cramps and mood swings have always been integral components of Caldwell’s periods. But in her 30s, the symptoms appear to worsen. When the mood swings begin to threaten her burgeoning romantic relationship, Caldwell gets a medical diagnosis that confirms she has premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Armed with this information, she talks to different people about their own painful periods while also charting her experiences with love and the pressures on women in their 30s to “settle down.” —T.O.
Though my relationship with Abdelmahmoud, my BuzzFeed News colleague, could perhaps best be described as “gently antagonistic,” I can’t say enough nice things about his debut book. Son of Elsewhere is described as “memoir in pieces,” and indeed it gives gorgeous if sometimes brutal flashes from Abdelmahmoud’s life. Each essay covers a wide range — stories about Blackness, immigration, fatherhood, wrestling fanfiction, war, and the glory of suburban Canadian highways— but his writing always pulls you in and makes you stay, even if it’s painful, even if it hurts. —Scaachi Koul
In the follow-up to Batuman’s 2017 novel The Idiot, a Pulitzer finalist, Selin, a Harvard undergraduate in a confusing situationship with a grad student named Ivan, is entering her sophomore year. She’s still naively confounded by the ways of the adult world and seeks solace in fiction, even as Ivan’s ex and the technological advances of the ’90s bear down. —T.O.
Perrotta brings back his iconic character Tracy Flick for his newest novel. Set in the #MeToo era, the book explores themes of redemption and forgiveness as Flick finds herself back in high school, but this time navigating power dynamics as a single mother and assistant principal vying for the newly vacated top spot. Chock-full of unforgettable characters and Perrotta’s signature wit and pathos, this is a welcome return to a world rife with complex moral dilemmas. —K.W.
The Chos are an upwardly mobile Korean American family faced with sudden humiliation when son Jacob is filmed trying to cross the DMZ to visit family in North Korea. They don’t know that he’s been possessed by the ghost of his late grandfather. As the family grapples with the fallout of his actions, they’re forced to confront their own trauma. —T.O.
Rogues: True Stories of Grifters, Killers, Rebels and Crooks by Patrick Radden Keefe (Doubleday; June 28)
Fresh off the heels of the publication of Empire of Pain, Keefe’s Sackler family exposé, the popular New Yorker staff writer is back with this collection of some of his reporting for the magazine, from his profile of the late Anthony Bourdain to the global hunt for El Chapo. —T.O.
This marvelous debut novel from Obaro, BuzzFeed News’ deputy culture editor, follows the decadeslong friendship of Enitan, Zainab, and Funmi as they prepare for the lavish wedding of Funmi’s daughter, Destiny. Set in Nigeria, the story begins as the friends are reunited in the present day before delving into how they first met. Against the backdrop of student protests in the 1980s, these very different women forge bonds that are tested by love affairs and tragedy. It’s an unforgettable and complex portrait of female friendship. —K.W.
The former BuzzFeed Books founder’s intimate debut essay collection spans Fitzgerald’s childhood in Boston, precarious adolescence in rural Massachusetts, class-defined high school years in a wealthy boarding school, and adulthood in San Francisco while tackling timely topics like masculinity and body image, class, addiction, and what we inherit from our parents. Equal parts illuminating and poignant, Fitzgerald’s essays attempt to untangle what it means to be a man in this world and in his own body. —K.W.
Hamid’s latest novel following the success of 2017’s Exit West is a Kafkaesque mindbender. One day, a man named Anders discovers that his skin has turned dark and he no longer recognizes himself. How he handles the fallout becomes the central concern of this book. —T.O. ●
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