The 32 Best Books of 2018

best books 2018
Jason Hoffman/Thrillist
Jason Hoffman/Thrillist

There are so many books being published every month, so how can we boil a year's worth of titles down to a few bests? Taste is arbitrary, but here’s the basic goal: These books are exciting, interesting, and well-written, genre be damned. (Though if you're looking for the best comics or graphic novels, we have another list for that.) Some are conversation-drivers, others are hidden gems. Even if you're the kind of reader who's always a year behind, start adding these books to your must-read pile. You'll get around to them eventually.

a princess in theory
she has her mother's laugh

Written by: Alyssa Cole (An Extraordinary Union, A Hope Divided)
Publish date: February 27
Why it's worth reading: Cole is known for historical romances set at pivotal moments in American history, but here she tries out contemporary rom-com, with winning results.The cultural and political relevance aren’t gone, they’re just tweaked and lightened a bit. Ledi is an epidemiology PhD student who suddenly starts getting a flood of spam emails claiming she’s the long-lost betrothed of Prince Thabiso of Thesolo. But the emails are not spam, and this former foster kid is indeed a long-lost princess. What follows is a fairy-tale romance rooted in the very real world. What’s most fantastical might be the kingdom of Thesolo, a wealthy and technologically advanced state that will leave anyone longing for a thoughtful, benevolent government instead of whatever's going on in Washington now.
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Written by: Carl Zimmer (A Planet of Viruses, Evolution: Making Sense of Life)
Publish date: May 29
Why it's worth reading: Science journalism can often seem impersonal, though the best writers infuse their personality (Mary Roach, Ed Yong) or personal narrative (Alan Burdick, Rebecca Skloot) to great effect. Among their ranks is New York Times columnist Carl Zimmer, whose new book, She Has Her Mother’s Laugh, is part cultural history of the concept of heredity, part state-of-the-science report on the latest research and new horizons, and part personal exploration of the power of the genome, as Zimmer writes about his own experiences as a father -- in genetic screening as well as the moment of insight from which the book draws its title, about Zimmer’s own daughter (and his wife). The result is a rich and wide-ranging exploration of the mysterious science that makes us, somehow, who we are.
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the world only spins forward
Bloomsbury Publishing
beneath the sugar sky

Written by: Isaac Butler and Dan Kois
Publish date: February 13
Why it's worth reading: Angels in America is one of the most important -- and best -- plays of the 20th century, but if you’re not a theatre aficionado, why should you care about this oral history of the play’s birth, life, and legacy? Well, how about an incisive look at reactions to the AIDS crisis and the Reagan era, with chilling parallels to our own time? Or what about a soaring testament to the power of collaborative art and its reach beyond the theater seats? Maybe you’d prefer a dishy, enthusiastic chorus of behind-the-scenes tales and reminiscences from people like Meryl Streep, Nathan Lane, Mary-Louise Parker, and Jeffrey Wright? The point is, this is a book about one play and about so, so much more. It sprang from an article for Slate, and there’s a reason that niche oral history went viral, far beyond the theatre-loving world. The World Only Spins Forward is funny, moving, and utterly fascinating, a portrait of artists coming together to make something radically new and beautiful.
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Written by: Seanan McGuire (October Daye series)
Publish date: January 9
Why it's worth reading: Fantasy books are rife with children who go on magical adventures; Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children takes them in when they return. In Beneath the Sugar Sky, a girl named Rini falls from the sky into a pool on the school's grounds, seeking her mother -- long dead, since before Rini was even conceived. Which makes it even more important that Rini find a way to save her mother before Rini herself ceases to exist. Rini is joined on her quest by several young residents of the Wayward home into a world called Confection, equally dark and whimsical. The adventure that follows carries a sincere belief in the power of friendship.  
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when einsten walked with godel
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Written by: Jim Holt (Why Does The World Exist?)
Publish date: May 15
Why it's worth reading: Jim Holt approaches some of the biggest questions on the blurry boundary between science and philosophy, not as a journalist making a beeline for empirical truth, but as an essayist, circling and spiraling toward understanding. It’s an unusual and invigorating approach -- Holt’s voice is warm and engaging, and his writing is lucid. This book also offers a collection of biographical sketches of some of the greatest thinkers from the last century, including Benoit Mandelbrot, Alan Turing, and the titular pair, specifically the unlikely friendship they developed at Princeton in the '40s. Together these essays create a complex (though unfortunately overwhelmingly male) portrait of the great minds of the twentieth century and an illuminating exploration of their ideas.
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Written by: Ling Ma
Publish date: August 14
Why it’s worth reading: Part zombie story, part dystopian sci-fi quest, part scathing critique of capitalism, part sensitive investigation of what it means to be a person in a modern city, Severance has many reference points, but in practice it’s utterly original. Candace Chen could be any disaffected office worker, spending her days on the production of specialty bibles and her nights watching movies with her boyfriend. But then she turns out to be one of the very few people immune to Shen Fever, an epidemic that turns its victims into zombies, of sorts: they become consumed by habitual actions, setting the table or folding clothing until they waste away. (Yes, it’s a bald metaphor, but Ma handles it deftly. Everything in this book is sharper and funnier and stranger in practice than in summary.) Candace joins a band of survivors heading for a promised refuge, but she knows to be skeptical of that kind of hope.
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if you leave me
William Morrow
spinning silver
Del Rey

Written by: Crystal Hana Kim
Publish date: August 7
Why it's worth reading:If You Leave Me opens in 1951, in a refugee camp in South Korea. Sixteen-year-old Haemi finds respite at night by sneaking out with her childhood friend, Kyunghwan, trying to get into makeshift bars. But of course, escape is the exception, not the rule, and the realities of war -- and life -- are harsh for Haemi. When Kyunghwan’s wealthier cousin, Jisoo, starts courting Haemi, she has to choose not just for herself but for her family. The novel covers the repercussions of Haemi’s decision over the next 16 years, weaving between time and narrators in a way that makes everything feel intensely personal and epic at the same time. This is a beautiful, heartbreaking story, told in equally beautiful prose.
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Written by: Naomi Novik (the Temeraire series)
Publish date: July 10
Why it’s worth reading: Novik takes the story of Rumpelstiltskin and turns that simple inspiration into a sweeping, incisive novel about greed, family, and power. Miryem is the daughter of a Jewish moneylender, and takes charge to save her family from destitution. But when her ability to “spin gold” draws the attention of an otherworldly king, things take a frightening, and magical, turn. But this isn’t just about faeries and fantasy -- even the most familiar fairy-tale tropes feel organic and alive in Novik’s skilled hands, and as the story expands to include more narrators’ voices, it becomes ever more complex, ambitious, and powerfully real.
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the house of impossible beauties
Harper Collins
hurts to love you romance

Written by: Joseph Cassara
Publish date: February 6
Why it's worth reading: In The House of Impossible Beauties, Joseph Cassara brings readers into the Harlem drag ball scene of the 1980s, awash in glitter and beauty and pain. This is a fictional story built on the foundation of the real-life House of Xtravaganza, with the house’s first “mother,” Angie, re-envisioned as Cassara’s Angel, a trans woman who builds a family in order to find her own home. As Angel’s house grows, so does the scope of the novel, with characters that, whether based on real people and invented whole-cloth, are rich and vibrant. Many are runaways, literally or figuratively, searching for a place where they can be known as themselves and loved. And they find it, however fleetingly: a queer, Latinx sanctuary that’s not a subculture but a whole wide world. The story of that world is full of anger and sorrow and joy.
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Written by: Alisha Rai (Forbidden Hearts series, The Karimi Siblings series)
Publish date: March 27
In the third and final installment of her Forbidden Hearts series, Rai brings the whole thing home with satisfying closure. Eva Chandler, who so far has been a meek and polite minor character, comes vibrantly to life as she struggles with oppressive family expectations, her emotionally abusive father -- and a longstanding crush on Gabe, her big brother’s gregarious, and of course gorgeous, best friend. This isn’t love at first sight, but the culmination of years of mutual longing and their history gives this romance more heft and believability than many others. It’s sweep-you-off-your-feet delightful, and the weightier aspects of the story add depth to the romance rather than souring the mood. If you’re new to the series, the whole thing is worth reading -- while Gabe and Eva’s story is self-contained to Hurts to Love You, the conclusion to the epic intergenerational drama that Rai’s been weaving may be disorienting to a new reader.
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the pisces
baby you're gonna be mine

Written by: Melissa Broder (Last Sext, So Sad Today)
Publish date: May 1
Why it's worth reading: The Pisces had its origin in a thought experiment: What if the traditional mermaid-human man love story were flipped? What if a woman fell in love with a merman? It’s a simple flip, but in Melissa Broder’s hands, filtered through her dark, wry worldview, it’s anything but an old story. Lucy leaves behind her languishing dissertation and the ashes of a long-term relationship to spend the summer pulling herself together in her sister’s Venice Beach home. Long story short, she meets Theo, who turns out to be a merman. What follows is sexy, funny, dark, and surprisingly complex. Broder’s willingness to write through taboo is coupled with (or rewarded with) sharp and surprising insights. The result is a book about reality and fantasy, love and obsession, mental health and so much more. But it’s never too heavy, and always a pleasure -- if a twisted one -- to read.
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Written by: Kevin Wilson (Perfect Little World, The Family Fang)
Publish date: August 7
Why it's worth reading: Kevin Wilson is known for his sweet and sharp novels, Perfect Little World and The Family Fang, and his short stories are just as potent. Where Wilson’s novels have one lens through which to explore the questions that drive his work, here he has 10 of them, different approaches and angles to the same essential questions about family and identity. We get stories about a fatherless boy on a road trip with a priest, a woman’s return to her childhood home, caretaking and being taken care of, adolescence and growing up. Wilson writes about family with plenty of love, but his stories are never saccharine, veering instead toward the quirky, strange, sad, and disturbing. But all of that is balanced with humor and compassion, both for Wilson’s characters and the reader. These stories aren’t always fun, but they’re always a joy to read.
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dead girls
William Morrow & Company
the golden state

Written by: Alice Bolin
Publish date: June 26
Why it's worth reading: From its title, you know that Dead Girls carries a heavy premise -- this is an essay collection about our cultural obsession with dead, abused, and objectified women. It’s cultural analysis, but an accusation, too, specifically one leveled at American culture and everyone who partakes in it. Why are we fascinated by watching women die onscreen, and by the stories of men who are obsessed with them? Bolin links Twin Peaks, Serial, Pretty Little Liars, and more to construct a theory of The Dead Girl, where a pristine victim becomes a symbol, a stand-in, and, often enough, a justification for more violence. But Dead Girls isn’t all analysis; it’s introspective narrative, too, as Bolin deftly interweaves her own coming-of-age in LA with her investigations of our cultural compulsions. Because as a girl herself, very much alive, Bolin has to think about her place in all this. She doesn’t wish for her own Dead Girl Story, of course, but she can’t help wondering about it, too.
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Written by: Lydia Kiesling
Publish date: September 4
Why it’s worth reading: This debut novel combines an archetypally male genre -- the road novel -- with an essentially female story -- that of a single mother grappling with caring for her child while figuring out who the hell she is and what she wants. The result, in Kiesling’s deft hands, is an utterly engrossing story that defies any stereotype you try to pin it with. Daphne leaves San Francisco with her 16-month-old daughter after her Turkish husband is denied reentry to the US. She finds her way to the high desert of Eastern California, a strange and isolated area, where she gets tangled up in the lives of her neighbors -- including an anti-government secessionist. Questions of family, freedom, and identity fill the pages of this rich novel, but that never slows down the narrative drive.
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the great believers
heart berries memoir

Written by: Rebecca Makkai (The Hundred-Year House, Music For Wartime)
Publish date: June 19
Why it's worth reading: The Great Believers is built on two intertwining storylines, and in the process creates a stunning portrait of family, love, and grief during the heart of the AIDS crisis and through its ongoing reverberations. The first is set in Chicago in the mid and late 1980s, centering on a circle of friends, mostly young gay men. Also in that circle is Fiona, whose brother, Nico, died of the disease. In the second thread, Fiona, now in her 50s, searches 2015 Paris for her estranged daughter, and has to grapple with the impact those years in Chicago and the AIDS epidemic have had on her life. While this book is full of death and loss, it is also full of light and hope and connection, a powerful and sweeping story.
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Written by: Terese Marie Mailhot
Publish date: February 13
Why it's worth reading: Mailhot started writing her memoir after suffering a breakdown and committing herself to a psychiatric hospital. Soon after, doctors diagnosed her with PTSD, bipolar II, and an eating disorder. Heart Berries chronicles Mailhot's experience, though her memoir writing doesn’t fall into pat cliches about mental illness and suffering. Instead, the work is transcendent in the most literal sense, surpassing every readerly expectation about genre and form to create a truly unique book. Mailhot, who grew up on the Seabird Island Indian Reservation in British Columbia, writes deftly about mental illness and indigenous identity, about failure and yearning and ambition. And all of it is unified and amplified by Mailhot’s singular voice: bold and poetic and elegant. This is a short book that packs a punch.
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circe novel
Little, Brown and Company

Written by: Cat Sebastian
Publish date: April 17
Why it’s worth reading: This is romance at its very best: a swoony love story set within a very real-seeming world, where two people find love and understanding against all odds. Charity Church took her friend Robert’s place at Cambridge six years ago; he died tragically, and she’s been living as Robbie ever since. It’s not just freeing to live as a man in Regency England -- Charity finds she feels much more like herself living as a man, too. But impersonating a deceased gentleman is a crime, and she knows the jig is almost up. Enter Alistair, an incredibly grumpy (and bisexual) marquess who finds himself surprisingly charmed by the young man he meets as Robbie. You can imagine where things go from there -- or at least the general sense; the getting there is surprising and delightful. As in many historical romances, an aristocrat’s bottomless pockets smooth over the tricker plot points, but let that pass and you’re left with a beautiful, sweet, and deeply felt love story.
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15. Circe

Written by: Madeline Miller (The Song of Achilles)
Publish date: April 10
In The Odyssey, Circe is just one of many obstacles Odysseus must overcome, the witch or nymph who turns his men into swine. In Circe, Madeline Miller’s novel, she is sui-generis, as she says in the novel’s first line, “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” What follows is a story of coming of age and coming into power, as Circe grows from the awkward daughter of the sun god, Helios, into a commanding sorceress. Miller is in full command of the Greek tales that she spins into something utterly, brilliantly new. This is a book of magic of mortals, of myths and mysteries, that honors its ancient origins while being powerfully of our time.
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And Now We Have Everything: On Motherhood Before I Was Ready memoir
Little, Brown and Company
friday black
Mariner Books

Written by: Meaghan O’Connell
Published on: April 10
According to one school of thought, a writer must have lived something remarkable to warrant writing a memoir; according to another, great writing elevates the mundane into worthy material. In And Now We Have Everything, Meaghan O’Connell satisfies both camps at once, writing beautifully, thoughtfully, and honestly about the commonest thing in the world -- pregnancy and childbirth -- while clearly showing that the experience, for all its familiarity, is extraordinary, too. And this isn’t "extraordinary" in the miracle-of-birth way -- O’Connell’s experience was, in many ways, harrowing, from her traumatic 40-hour labor to a first year of motherhood wracked with anxiety and emotional pain. So it’s even more remarkable -- and a further testament to O’Connell’s skill -- that in the end this is a kind of a love story, with O’Connell’s son, with her husband, and with the woman and mother O’Connell discovers she can be, or always was.
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Written by: Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
Publish date: October 23
Why it’s worth reading: In this incisive and expansive collection of short stories, Adjei-Brenyah impressively combines satire with a real sense of humanity and heart, taking aim directly at America. The stories range from dystopian near-future to alarmingly real: one is set in a theme park where white patrons get to enact imaginary violence on people of color; another in a department store on Black Friday; a third sees a white man exonerated for the murder of five black children, by chainsaw, after pleading self-defense. But even the far-fetched premises hit disturbingly close to home. This is a sometimes bleak, surprisingly tender, always vicious debut.
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semiosis novel
all you can ever know

Written by: Sue Burke
Publish date: February 6
Why it's worth reading: What if a clutch of human colonists landed on an alien planet and discovered that it was home to sentient plants? In Semiosis, an amazingly assured debut novel, Sue Burke takes this simple concept to soaring heights. Sentient plants seem like both a stretch of imagination and paltry grist for drama, but Burke’s inventiveness and sensitivity make this a not only plausible but utterly gripping book. In scenes spread across a century, Burke writes deeply believable characters -- young and old, men and women, and life beyond that, too -- and paints her human society and alien ecosystem with equally deft brushstrokes. This is up there with Ursula K. Le Guin: science fiction at its most fascinating and most humane.
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Written by: Nicole Chung
Publish date: October 2
Why it's worth reading: Like many adoptees, Nicole Chung grew up with a simple story about her origins: Your birth parents loved you but couldn’t raise you, so they made a great sacrifice so you could have the best life that you could. But when Chung was on the verge of becoming a mother herself, she decided to see what she could learn about her birth family of Korean immigrants. In this compelling memoir, she tracks that journey, as well as her childhood growing up with white parents in an overwhelmingly white small Oregon town. She writes with clarity, insight, and astonishing generosity about race, adoption, and family. 
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tango lessons memoir
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Written by: Danielle Lazarin
Publish date: February 6
Why it's worth reading: There are 16 stories in this book’s 237 pages; together, they leave you with a sense of crystalline fragments, sharp-edged shards of stories and experiences that paint a fractured picture of life as a woman and a girl. There are stories of friendship, loving and barbed, of the tender violence of familial love, and of the freedom and pain of loneliness. There’s a little bit of romance, too, but at the center are always Lazarin’s vibrant, peculiar, brilliant girls and women navigating getting what they want in the world. This is a powerful and tender collection. (Please read it even if you’re not a woman. Come on.)
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Written by: Meghan Flaherty
Publish date: June 19
Why it's worth reading: When Meghan Flaherty was in her mid-20s, she was in a relationship with her best friend -- a man who never touched her. Looking for a hobby, fulfillment, or perhaps something more, she rekindled her interest in tango dancing, which she’d once tried out on a high school trip to Argentina. What follows takes Flaherty from humdrum New York City dance studios to an intoxicating subculture that had been thrumming, unbeknownst to her, under the surface of her city all along. That’s not all she discovers, of course -- while she’s emphatic that tango isn’t the fishnets-and-stilettos dance of cultural stereotype, it is still powerfully intimate, physical, and sensual. Flaherty lyrically captures the essence of the dance, as well as her stumbling journey into self-discovery, with a bit of toe sucking and bad sex along the way.
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the incendiaries
Riverhead Books
captive audience

Written by: R.O. Kwon
Publish date: July 31
Why it's worth reading: The events of The Incendiaries begin with two main characters unmoored: Phoebe Lin, who’s recently lost her mother and her lifelong devotion to playing piano; and Will Kendall, who’s just left his Christian college after losing his faith in God. They meet at Edwards University and fall in love, but this isn’t a simple love story, because soon enough there’s also John Leal, an Edwards drop-out and charismatic cult leader. When Phoebe can’t find what she needs in Will, she turns to Leal’s group and the violence he orchestrates, leaving Will to try to make sense of what’s happened. The resonances between love, faith, obsession, and violence are potent, as is Kwon’s particular style -- her writing may at first stop you in your tracks as you notice an unusual word or parse a strange metaphor. But this unique voice gives a surreal sheen to the novel, which makes its gut punches all the more powerful.
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Written by: Lucas Mann (Lord Fear, Class A)
Publish date: May 1
Why it's worth reading: You don’t need to love, like, or care about reality TV to connect to Captive Audience, a savvy blend of memoir and cultural criticism, but know that author Lucas Mann loves reality TV. He sees it for what it is, with all its flaws and pitfalls, but this brilliant, insightful book is hardly the story of a guilty pleasure. Instead, Mann writes about reality TV with his eyes wide open, about what it is and why he loves it. He also writes about who he loves it with, namely his wife, and the result is a twinned exploration of popular culture and personal experience, rich with resonance and nuance. Mann writes eloquently about powerful moments and characters from reality TV -- his ode to Rob Kardashian is especially intense -- and casts that same searchlight on his most personal experiences, of love, shame, loneliness, and joy.
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heartland sarah smarsh
an american marriage
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill

Written by: Sarah Smarsh
Publish date: September 18
Why it's worth reading: One of the most simplistic narratives of 21st century America is that of binaries: the heartland versus the coast, real Americans versus the out-of-touch elites, red and blue America. Perhaps no one has punctured that mythology with as much insight and illumination as Sarah Smarsh does in this memoir. Smarsh grew up in rural Kansas in the 1980s and '90s, and she interweaves her and her family's story with astute analysis of what it means to be poor in America and why so many hardworking people find themselves there. She confronts classism, racism, and sexism in an astonishing book that is both an indictment of America and a clear-eyed testament to Americans struggling to survive.
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Written by: Tayari Jones (Silver Sparrow, The Untelling, Leaving Atlanta)
Publish date: February 6
Why it's worth reading: Oprah’s Book Club sticker is a powerful imprimatur: it promises both literary excellence and cultural relevance. An American Marriage delivers on both. It’s the story of a young black couple, Roy and Celeste, who feel the lucky promise of their lives stretching ahead of them. But early in their marriage, Roy is falsely convicted of a crime, and his years in prison -- and then sudden release -- bring irrevocable change to their lives and their marriage. Oprah said of the novel, "It's a love story that also has a huge layer of suspense. And it's also so current and so really now that I could not put it down." Coupled with that suspense are heartbreaking empathy and a sharp look at America, on a powerfully intimate scale.
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there there novel

Written by: Tommy Orange
Publish date: June 5
Why it's worth reading: Colm Toibin’s review of There There in The New York Times was titled, "Yes, Tommy Orange’s New Novel Really Is That Good," a testament to the hype surrounding this book and its deservedness. It’s an ambitious and galvanizing novel, the convergence of a dozen lives anchored by the Big Oakland Powwow; a meditation on identity and heritage; a powerful chorus of voices. It’s somehow a page-turner at the same time, propelled by the incandescent energy of Orange’s prose. The title comes from what Gertrude Stein once said about Oakland: "There was no there there," though, in Orange’s deft hands, there is.
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Written by: Kiese Laymon (Long DivisionHow to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America)
Publish date: October 16
Why it's worth reading:Heavy is, in some ways, simply a memoir, the story of a young man growing up in Jackson, Mississippi, a life full of hardships and, eventually, some success. It is about race, family, weight, sex, art -- sweeping themes all inextricably tangled in Laymon's life and, especially, his relationship to his mother. He addresses the book to her, and their fraught relationship, full in equal measures of love and pain. The intensity of Laymon's personal story would be enough to fuel a brilliant book, vividly told as it is, but Laymon has his eye on wider resonances, too, as he grapples with his life as a black man in America, the legacy he carries and the particular way he makes his way through the world. Laymon is an astonishing writer, always striving for honesty even when that means submitting to ambivalence and the impossibility of simple answers.
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you think it i'll say it
Random House
the recovering memoir
Little, Brown and Company

Written by: Curtis Sittenfeld (Eligible, American Wife, Prep)
Publish date: April 24
Why it's worth reading: The title story of this collection -- like every story in its pages -- is very, very good, but the real stand-out (which, granted, would’ve lent the book a less fitting title) is "The Prairie Wife." I first read it online last summer when it was published in The New Yorker -- I read it twice then, actually, starting again as soon as I’d finished, to try to figure out how Sittenfeld pulled off such an extraordinary narrative coup. It’s a marvel of a story, with a gut-punch of an ending that completely recasts everything that’s come before it -- but rather than a gimmick, it’s an added depth to a sensitive and melancholy story about love and growing older. Those themes resonate throughout the collection, culminating in a wash of longing -- for the past, and also for what we might make of the present. Each story is a gem in this extraordinary book.
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Written by: Leslie Jamison (The Empathy Exams, The Gin Closet)
Publish date: April 3
If you loved Leslie Jamison’s break-out hit essay collection, The Empathy Exams, let me say: this is even better. If you didn’t love that first book, or haven’t heard of Jamison before, let me say: this book is fucking amazing. Part memoir of Jamison’s alcoholism and recovery, part critical inquiry into the myth of the addict-genius artist, part cultural history of addiction treatment in America, this is a beautiful behemoth of a book, 544 pages that absolutely fly by. Jamison is a notably lyrical writer, but what really shines is her curious, generous, sensitive mind, as she reframes stories we think we know -- John Cheever, Amy Winehouse, the War on Drugs itself -- and shines a light on new ones. In bringing together the voices of great artists, everyman alcoholics, and Jamison’s own past, she replicates the story-sharing of an AA meeting. It’s a rich and powerful chorus.
Get it now on Amazon

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Jaime Green’s writing has appeared in BuzzFeed, Slate, The Cut, and elsewhere. She is a contributing editor at Catapult and the series editor for The Best American Science and Nature Writing. Follow her on Twitter @jaimealyse.