56 Books to Read in 2017

We’ve already flashed our stacks and dropped our reading resolutions for 2017, but as all readers know, a great new title (or two or three) can transform us into fickle, flighty lovers. To try to help us from being blindsided (and to aid our enjoyment—studies show that knowing ahead of time about a treat enriches the experience), here are some of the titles due for release in the first seven months of the year (plus one bonus August title from a favorite writer) that we can’t wait to get our hands on. We think you’ll feel the same. We’re already building our list for the tail end of 2017, too. It’s going to be a full, rich year of reading. Join us. 


Falling Ill: Last Poems by C. K. Williams. Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

C. K. Williams, author of twenty-two books and winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the National Books Critics Circle Award and the National Book Award, died in 2015. This is his final collection of poetry, which chronicles “the burden of being alive.”

“Beautifully intricate, contentious, strikingly ardent poems by one of our great contemporary poets.” –Joyce Carol Oates

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4321 by Paul Auster. Faber & Faber.

Paul Auster's first novel in seven years, 4321 begins in 1947 at the Beth Israel Hospital in Newark. The only child of Rose and Stanley Ferguson is born. From there, Archibald Isaac Ferguson's life takes four separate but simultaneous paths. Inventive, tender and fierce, 4321 is being touted as Auster's best novel yet.

"Auster's sense of possibility, his understanding of what all his Fergusons have in common, with us and one another, is a kind of quiet intensity, a striving to discover who they are. ... [He] reminds us that not just life, but also narrative is always conditional, that it only appears inevitable after the fact." Kirkus (Starred review)

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The Case Against Fragrance by Kate Grenville. Text Publishing. 

Author of The Secret River and The Idea of Perfection, Kate Grenville now delivers a surprising look at the risks and dangers inherent in the fragrances many people find elegant and luxurious. During a book tour, Grenville found herself plagued by headaches. Motivated to discover why she reacted the way she did (and so many of us do), she delved into the perfume industry to discover its lack of regulation and the health risks we accept for the sake of scent. 

"One spritz of aftershave or perfume can leave other people retching and clutching their headsyou never see that in the ads." Kaz Cooke

Idaho by Emily Ruskovich. Chatto & Windus/Random House.

One of the most talked-about debut novels of early 2017, Idaho offers questions about memory and the past and how it affects the present. Ann's husband's memory is failing. Before certain truths become out of reach, Ann tries to discover the real story behind Wade's first wife and daughters, one of whom is now in prison. 

"You know you're in masterly hands here. Ruskovich's language is itself a consolation, as she subtly posits the troubling thought that only decency can save us. ... Ruskovich's novel will remind many readers of the great Idaho novel Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping." The New York Times Book Review

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Difficult Women by Roxane Gay. Grove Press/Hachette.

This new collection of stories from the author of Untamed State and Bad Feminist contains a wide range of women: those of privilege and poverty, a stripper and an engineer, those married and single, those coping or trying to cope with trying, desperate situations. 

“A powerful collection of short stories about difficult, troubled, headstrong, and unconventional women ... Whether focusing on assault survivors, single mothers, or women who drown their guilt in wine and bad boyfriends, Gay’s fantastic collection is challenging, quirky, and memorable.” —Publishers Weekly 

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History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund. Atlantic Monthly Press/Hachette. 

In an isolated Minnesota commune, fourteen-year-old Linda remains an outsider, but she's drawn to the new history teacher. After he's charged with child pornography, she questions her own desires and her place. A new family moves in and she forges a connection, but she still struggles against the boundaries of her existence. 

"Electrifying ... History of Wolves isn't a typical thriller any more than it's a typical coming-of-age novel; Fridlund does a remarkable job transcending genres without sacrificing the suspense that builds steadily in the book. ... as beautiful and as icy as the Minnesota woods where it's set, and with her first book, Fridlund has already proven herself to be a singular talent." —NPR

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Huck Out West by Robert Coover. W. W. Norton. 

This is not the first sequel to Twain's iconic Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (remember the riveting Finn, about Pap Finn, by Jon Clinch?), but Coover's take is certainly unique. It moves Huck and Tom Sawyer out west. Tom, though, soon returns east to reunite with his wife, Becky Thatcher, leaving Huck lonely and alone, rushing headlong into pivotal moments of this defining era of American history: the Civil War, contact with Native Americans, the Gold Rush.

"Ask me if I'd like to read a sequel to Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and I'll tell you no, unless, of course, it was written by the puckish myth-puncher Robert Coover. ... Coover's Huck is understatedly wise, hilarious, and loveable." —Jeffrey Gleaves, The Paris Review

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Doctorow: Collected Stories by E. L. Doctorow. Random House.

The fifteen stories in this collection by the author of Ragtime and The Book of Daniel were written over the course of nearly fifty years. Doctorow selected, revised and ordered them before his death in 2015.


Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. Head of Zeus.

According to David Mitchell, this multi-generational tome is a "deep, broad, addictive history of a Korean family in Japan enduring and prospering through the 20th century." Opening in 1911 Korea, a young beauty marries a club-footed man, producing a single child. This daughter grows up to become the mistress of a married yakuza. Then a Christian minister enters with a promise to save the family. 

"Astounding. The sweep of Dickens and Tolstoy applied to a twentieth-century Korean family in Japan." –Gary Shteyngart

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War in Val D'Orcia: An Italian War Diary, 1943-1944 and Images and Shadows: Part of a Life by Iris Origo. Pushkin Press.

British-born Iris Origo (1902-1988) lived in Italy and devoted much of her life to the improvement of the Tuscan estate at La Foce, which she purchased with her husband in the 1920s. During World War II, she sheltered refugee children and assisted many escaped Allied prisoners and Nazi occupation forces.

Pushkin Press reintroduces Iris Origo to readers with the release of two of her autobiographical books in February and two of her biographical works in May: Leopardi: A Study in Solitude and The Last Attachment: The Story of Byron and Teresa Guiccioli.

"A compelling story of heroism and compassion." –Washington Post

"An astute and passionate observer of human behavior." –New York Times

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Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. Bloomsbury/Random House.

The long-awaited first novel from celebrated short story writer George Saunders features Abraham Lincoln and his eleven-year-old son. The Civil War has been raging for less than a year, but Lincoln's attention is divided: the beloved young Willie is dying. 

"No one writes more powerfully than George Saunders about the lost, the unlucky, the disenfranchised." –Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times 


The Restorer by Michael Sala. Text Publishing. 

After a separation, Roy and Maryanne reunite and move with their children from Sydney to Newcastle. Roy renovates the house, and Maryanne tries to believe in their fresh start. But the children aren't as easily convinced. From the author of The Last Thread, winner of the NSW Premier's Award for New Writing and regional winner (Pacific) of the 2013 Commonwealth Book Prize.



Havana: A Subtropical Delirium by Mark Kurlansky. Bloomsbury.

Part cultural history, part travelogue, with recipes, historic engravings, photographs and New York Times bestselling author Mark Kurlansky's own pen-and-ink drawings, Havana displays the city's literature, food, music, architecture and blend of cultures. 




The Hideout by Egon Hostovsky, translated from the Czech by Fern Long. Pushkin Press.

First published in English in 1945, this reissue returns to us an important writer of the interwar years. Egon Hostovsky (1908-1973), reportedly a distant relative of Stefan Zweig, was a writer, editor, public servant, journalist and teacher who lived in Prague, Vienna, Brussels, Paris and New York. The Hideout follows a Czech engineer who flees to Paris when the Nazi government attempts to confiscate his invention. The novel serves as a last love letter to the man’s abandoned wife on the eve of his attempt at resistance.

“A superb writer” —Milan Kundera

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Ties by Domenico Starnone, translated from the Italian by Jhumpa Lahiri. Europa Editions. 

Set in Naples and Rome, this slim novel chronicles the journey of love to having children to separating and reconciling. How does a couple reunite after betrayal? Winner of the Bridge Prize for Best Novel. A translation from Pulitzer Prize winner Jhumpa Lahiri, author of the 2016 book about living inside the Italian language (In Other Words), written in Italian and translated into English by Ann Goldstein.

“[Ties] is as vivid and devastating as anything you will read this year. A slim, stunning meditation on marriage, fidelity, honesty, and truth.” —Kirkus (Starred Review)

The Night Ocean by Paul La Farge. Penguin.

Charlie has become obsessed with H. P. Lovecraft. In 1934, the horror writer lived for a few months with a gay teenage fan. Charlie may have discovered a great secret, but a scandal erupts and he disappears. His wife, a psychiatrist, doesn't believe Charlie could have committed suicide. She must take up his trail to find out what's really going on.

"Magnificent. The Night Ocean is an impossible, irresistible novel, a love letter to the unloveable that speaks the unspeakable." Lev Grossman, author of The Magicians.

Sand by Wolfgang Herrndorf, translated from the German by Tim Mohr. Pushkin Press.

Winner of the 2012 Leipzig Book Fair prize, this is the first English translation of this literary thriller. After the murder of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics and murders in the Sahara desert, a man who’s lost his memory tries to evade pursuers who tie him somehow to these acts.

“Enigmatic and moving” —Die Zelt

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Exit West by Mohsin Hamid. Riverhead/Penguin Random House.

The author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist offers a love story about two young people caught up in civil war. They hear rumors of doors, ones that can whisk people far away, but at a high price and with great risk. They may have no choice. 

"Hamid's timely and spare new novel confronts the inevitability of mass global immigration, the unbroken cycle of violence and the indomitable human will to connect and love." —Huffington Post

South and West: From a Notebook by Joan Didion. Knopf.

In June 1970, Joan Didion (The Year of Magical Thinking, Play It as It Lays) and her husband, John Gregory Dunne, traveled through Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, where she interviewed locals and politicians. They visited motels, diners, a reptile farm. She describes lunches, the heat, race relations and a meeting with novelist Walker Percy. The second part of the book is made up of notes undertaken to write an article on the Patty Hearst trial and musings on California and the West. 

Taken from previously unpublished notebooks, South and West offers a window into a writer's process.

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The World Made Straight by Ron Rash. Text Publishing.

The World Made Straight had its original release in 2006, but is being published for the first time in Australia this year. The author of Serena and One Foot in Eden chronicles a North Carolina town divided by the history of the Civil War and the marijuana trade. Teenager Travis Shelton stumbles onto a marijuana crop, but he doesn't realize his incredible find is actually a trap. 

"An intellectually satisfying work of suspense ... Reminds us of the sort of compelling literature a brave artist can fashion from the shards of such experience." —Los Angeles Times

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Isadora: A Novel by Amelia Gray. Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

In 1913, Isadora Duncan, who would become the mother of modern dance, was a mother grieving her children, killed in freak accident in Paris. 




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A Broken Mirror by Merce Rodoreda, translated from the Catalan by Josep Miquel Sobrer. Daunt Books.

A reissue of a Spanish classic by Rodoreda (1908-1983), author of The Time of the Doves. Broken Mirror follows three generations of an aristocratic family from the prosperous 1870s Barcelona to the Franco dictatorship and Spanish Civil War. 

"Captivating ... Rodoreda reveals the inner life of her characters precisely and unsentimentally, often merely with a well-turned sentence. A beautifully muted and intricate rendering of the aristocracy of Barcelona." —Kirkus (Starred review)

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The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti. The Dial Press/Hachette.

Editor of One Story magazine and author of Animal Crackers and The Good Thief, Hannah Tinti returns with a novel about a man on the run, trying to raise his daughter on the road. Now that she's a teenager, he tries to give her a more stable life by moving back to her late mother's hometown. 

"The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley is one part Quentin Tarantino, one part Scheherazade, and twelve parts wild innovation. Hannah Tinti proves herself to be an old-fashioned storyteller of the highest order." —Ann Patchett

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Literature Class by Julio Cortázar, translated from the Spanish by Katherine Silver. New Directions Press.

The great Argentine writer Julio Cortázar delivered eight lectures at the University of California Berkeley in 1980. He reflects on his own writing career, about history and literature. From the first in the series: “I want you to know that I’m not a critic or theorist, which means that in my work I look for solutions as problems arise.” 


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 The Last Bell by Johannes Urtzidil, translated from the German by David Burnett. Pushkin Press. 

This is the first English translation of these stories crafted by the writer Max Brod called "the last troubadour of Old Prague." Urtzidil (1896-1970), German-Bohemian writer, historian, journalist and poet, fled Germany in 1939 and finally settled in the United States.

These are stories of upheaval: a maid who unexpectedly profits from Nazi occupation, a travel agent who pretends knowledge gleaned from books, a stolen cheesecake that prompts a small town's civil war.  

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All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg. Houghton Mifflin.

When her therapist asks Andrea Bern who she is, she has no trouble answering: a daughter, a friend, a designer, a sister. She does not add: a former artist, a drinker, alone. Captain of the sinking ship that is her flesh. Everyone else seems more in control. Her best friend is getting married. Her brother and sister-in-law are finally having a longed-for baby. But the baby is born with an ailment, which may bring the family together or force them apart. From the author of the wonderful Saint Mazie, which we wrote about here


The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea by Jack E. Davis. W. W. Norton.

This is the first comprehensive history of the Gulf of Mexico, one of the world's most bounteous marine environments. Beyond its bounty and outside its oil spills and hurricanes, it has supported life for millennia. The Gulf suggests how an intense examination of a single region's history can inform the path of an entire country and continent.  


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Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo. Canongate/Knopf.

This Nigerian debut novel is a heart-breaking story of a couple obsessed with having a child. Yeilde has tried everything. Her husband is disappointed, as is her mother-in-law. Yeilde and Akin's marriage is a love match. While he is expected to take multiple wives, they have long agreed to remain monogamous. But now after four years without conceiving, what are they to do?


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The Name on the Door is Not Mine by C. K. Stead. Allen & Unwin.

This new collection of stories from New Zealand Poet Laureate C. K. Stead includes new and selected stories, among them "Last Season's Man," which won the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award. Their settings range from France and Sydney to Zagreb and San Francisco.


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The Mother of All Questions by Rebecca Solnit. Haymarket Books.

Made up of eleven essays, this follow-up to Men Explain Things to Me offers biting commentary about the state of feminism, misogynistic violence, the history of rape jokes and the masculinity of the literary canon.


The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova. Text Publishing/Ballantine.

Alexandra Boyd, grieving for her brother, travels to Bulgaria to try to heal emotional wounds, but she's shocked to discover she is in possession of an urn filled with human remains after a luggage mix-up. New questions and dangers unfold as she attempts to reunite the urn with those who lost it. From the author of The Historian

"The Shadow Land is thrilling, and not just as a gripping tale. It's also thrilling to watch such a talented writer cast her spell. The central character actually begins this deft novel in an urn, only to emerge as one of the most memorable characters I've encountered in a long time." —Richard Russo

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A Land Without Borders: My Journey Around East Jerusalem and the West Bank by Nir Baram, translated from the Hebrew by Jessica Cohen. Text Publishing.

Journalist, editor and novelist Nir Baram noticed the pessimistic resignation among Palestinians and Israelis about a resolution to their disputes. He also realized that this disconnect resolutes from a cognitive barrier: that they know little about each other's places. Many Israelis have never visited the West Bank or its settlements. 

"Baram produced a painful, even shocking travel book. Although I do not share some of his analysis and his ultimate conclusions, I am still impressed by his sharp eye and his fierce sense of the Israeli Palestinian tragedy." —Amos Oz

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Blindness and Rage: A Novel in Thirty-four Cantos by Brian Castro. Giramondo Publishing.

Brian Castro's new novel is a part-serious, part-comic fantasy on the fate of literary authors and their (lack of) recognition. Adelaide resident Lucien Gracq is writing a book-length poem. Worried about how it might be received, he joins a literary club in Paris that guarantees its members anonymity by publishing their works under aliases. It also encourages members not already suffering from terminal illnesses to commit suicide. 


Rubik by Elizabeth Tan. Brio.

In this reflection on the new reality of our digital age, Elena Rubik can't stay dead. She's still a member of fan fiction forums, a newsletter subscriber, a set of corneas.

Her best friend Jules has become tangled in a branding stunt but leaks information about the truth of the viral video. Now a reporter is trailing her around Perth.


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Not One Day by Anna Garréta, translated from the French by Emma Ramadan. Deep Vellum Publishing.

Winner of the Prix Médicis, Not One Day begins with the premise: "Not one day without a woman." Oulipo member Anne Garréta has written an erotic, intimate collection of memories of past lovers, each written under strict structural constraints. 



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I'd Die for You: And Other Lost Stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Scribner.

These are the final uncollected and previously unpublished stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940). Some had been accepted for publication by magazines but never appeared because Fitzgerald wouldn't accept editorial changes, even though he needed the money. The eighteen stories range from his early career to shortly before his death. 


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American War by Omar El Akkad. Knopf.

The year is 2074. The Second American Civil War has begun. Louisianian Sarat Chestnut is only six years old, but even she knows the difficult truths: oil is outlawed, the state is half underwater, drones fill the sky. When her father is killed, she's forced into a camp for the displaced and turned into an instrument of war. 


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Sympathy by Olivia Sudjic. Pushkin Press.

Each season Pushkin Press’s ONE imprint publishes a single work of fiction or nonfiction. This season’s signature release is a debut novel about secrets, lies and the digital age. Alice leaves England to return to New York, where she was born. She obsesses over a Japanese writer living there, a writer whose life seems to parallel her own.

“Olivia Sudjic elegantly explores the warped world of intimacies formed online—and how quickly those intimacies derail. Global in scope, as subtle as it is suspenseful, Sympathy is an extraordinary debut.”—Idra Novey, author of Ways to Disappear

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Broken River by J. Robert Lennon. Graywolf Press.

We've been following J. Robert Lennon's career since his wonderful 1997 debut novel, The Light of Falling Stars. He returns this year with his tenth book. Broken River, thrilling and comically dark, unfolds as a family moves into a home blighted by murder. Artist Karl and novelist Eleanor try to move beyond the infidelity that sparked their resettlement, but their twelve-year-old daughter, Irina, becomes obsessed with the crimes.

"The most inventive and entertaining novel to date from a master of the dark arts." —Kelly Link

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Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout. Random House.
Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout returns to the world of Lucy Barton (of Booker Prize long-listed novel I am Lucy Barton) to explore the stories of the people in Lucy's life, all those anecdotes that Lucy and her mother share in her hospital room.



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Between Them: Remembering My Parents by Richard Ford. Ecco.

Pulitzer Prize- and PEN/Faulkner Award-winning novelist of the Frank Bascombe books (The Sportswriter, Independence Day, Lay of the Land) returns with a memoir about the people closest to him and the most mysterious, Edna Akin and Parker Ford, his parents. She was a convent school beauty; he worked at a grocery store. They married and lived on the road once Parker became a traveling salesman. Their only child, Richard, came late. This is a love letter and a meditation on the meaning of family. 

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The Last Garden by Eva Hornung. Text Publishing.

Prime Minister's Literary Award winner Eva Hornung (Dog Boy) returns with a new novel about a community waiting, and waiting, for the return of the messiah. A murder-suicide in the group sends a child into shock and into a barn to rely on the comfort of animals.



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The 7th Function of Language by Laurent Binet, translated from the French by Sam Taylor. Random House/Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

From the author of Prix Goncourt winner HHhH, this new novel begins with the 1980 accident that took the life of literary critic Roland Barthes. Hit by a laundry van after leaving a meeting with Francois Mitterand, Barthes lingers for a few days, then dies. A terrible, tragic accident. But what if it wasn't an accident but an assassination? 


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The Pleasures of Leisure by Robert Dessaix. Random House.

Everyone seems to be talking about the need for more leisure or play time. Robert Dessaix, with thoughtfulness and wit, explains how reclaiming our leisure will give us back our freedom. He encourages us to rest, read, walk, travel, learn a language, loaf, do nothing. 



Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2002 by David Sedaris. Little, Brown.

Like a modern-day Mark Twain, David Sedaris tours the world entertaining audiences. Some of the favorite moments of these shows come when he reads from his diaries. For the first time, excerpts of his diaries, the raw material for his essays, appear in print. 


Moonbath by Yanick Lahens, translated from the French by Emily Gogolak. Deep Vellum Press.

Winner of a French Voices Award, Moonbath follows four generations of a peasant family living in a Haitian village. The lives of the women struggling to hold the family together recount their stories, traditions, voodoo and gods, as well as their romances and the violence they have seen.


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The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy. Hamish Hamilton.

Arundhati Roy won the Booker Prize for her debut novel, The God of Small Things. While she's published widely since then, it's been twenty years since she's delivered a novel. Her publishers call the new novel "utterly original."


Suburra by Carlo Bonini and Giancarlo de Cataldo, translated from the Italian by Anthony Shugaar. Europa Editions. 

Read the novel before the release of the Netflix series, which is scheduled for some time in 2017. Suburra, set in a coastal town outside Rome, brings together the Mafia, corruption, gambling and the final days of Silvo Berlusconi’s tenure. Pre-publication reviews put it in the same category as the best of Richard Price and George Pelecanos.

Suburra performs an autopsy on Rome, that shrewd and corrupt city. As a novel it is fully equal to the task of capturing its complex subject.” —Le Monde

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So Much Blue by Percival Everett. Graywolf Press.

Ten years ago, painter Kevin Pace had an affair with a watercolorist in Paris. Now, he’s painting a large canvas covered entirely with blue—and he won’t show it to anyone. He doesn’t know if it’s any good, and he doesn’t care.

“A restless polymath with a knack for deconstructing genres, [Everett] has quietly built up one of the most eclectic and original bodies of work in American letters.” —Harper’s

Blind Spot by Teju Cole. Random House.

The new book by novelist and New York Times Magazine photography critic Teju Cole includes one hundred fifty of the author's photos alongside his illuminating prose to create a multimedia diary of travel and ideas.

"Cole the photographer is watchful but he holds back. Even in the act of speaking to us, he is alert to stillness. The images are imbued with their own lasting mystery." —Amitava Kumar


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The Art of Death: Writing the Final Story by Edwidge Danticat. GrayWolf Press.

The latest volume in Graywolf's series of books on the craft of writing, The Art of Death combines the experience of mourning the death of a parent alongside how to write about the ultimate unknowable. Danticat uses the work of C. S. Lewis, Toni Morrison, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and others to understand loss and grief. Danticat won the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize for her memoir, Brother, I'm Dying.

The World Broke in Two: Virginia Woolf, T. S. Eliot, D. H. Lawrence, E. M. Forster and the Year that Changed Literature by Bill Goldstein. Henry Holt. 

Four legendary writers, one pivotal year, 1922, and the invention of modernism. Ulysses is published in February. Virginia Woolf had started Mrs. Dalloway by the end of the year. Forster worked on A Passage to India, Lawrence wrote Kangaroo. Eliot published "The Waste Land." And as Willa Cather put it, “The world broke in two in 1922 or thereabouts.” 

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What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons. Viking.

Thandi is an outsider wherever she goes. Her mother grew up in Johannesburg, but Thandi's growing up in Pennsylvania. Is she black, or is she white? African or American? After she loses her mother to cancer, Thandi tries to reconnect the dislocated pieces of her life.



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The Sagrada Familia: The Astonishing Story of Gaudi's Unfinished Masterpiece by Gijs van Hensbergen. Bloomsbury. 

This history of one of the world's most famous buildings promises to be the definitive biography of the Sagrada Familia of Barcelona. Its first stone was laid in 1882, and it may reach completion in 2026. It has survived wars, Franco's rule, money trouble, controversy and critics. Guidebook and chronological history, it is also a moving story of one man's enduring vision.


Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie. Riverhead Books.

Like all of her wide-ranging, nuanced novels, Shamsie's Home Fire addresses loyalty and love, ideology and identity. Since her mother's death, Isma has cared for her twin brother and sister in North London. But when she's offered an unexpected place at a grad school in America, she seizes her freedom, even if she can't stop worrying about her politically inclined sister and untethered brother. Then he shows up in Raqqa, Syria, to prove himself to the father he's never known.


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