Many readers turn to fiction to understand the present moment—the way we live right here, right now. From Ocean Vuong's stirring debut novel of young love and pain, to Susan Choi's National Book Award-winning exploration of how power echoes through relationships, these novels are great gifts for anyone who still believes in fiction's vital power to explain our times.
By Jokha Alharthi
Translated by Marilyn Booth
Winner of the 2019 International Man Booker Prize, this incredible story of three sisters living in the Omani village of al-Awafi illustrates the pressures and constraints of their culture. Each sister chooses a different path in life: one moves to Canada, one marries unhappily, and another waits for love. This book is the first by a female Omani novelist to be translated into English. The story is beautiful, tragic and unnerving. A must read for fans of Ferrante!
By Julia Phillips
Two young sisters go missing on a remote Russian Peninsula in which the volcanoes, tundra, reindeers, and herders come vividly alive. The event has far-reaching effects upon the villagers in this atmospheric fiction that is a page-turning debut. A National Book Award and our own First Novel Award finalist, and one of the New York Times Top Ten Books of the Year.
**FINALIST FOR THE CENTER FOR FICTION’S 2019 FIRST NOVEL PRIZE**2 .
Fleishman Is in Trouble
By Taffy Brodesser-Akner
This laugh-out-loud novel about marriage and divorce, and reinventing a life from before to after, is so good—funny, tender, cringe-worthy, excruciating, and totally authentic. Perfect for Maria Semple and Tom Perrotta readers, and smart, smart, smart.
By Zadie Smith
Crowd favorite Zadie Smith again demonstrates her talent, skill, and versatility in her first collection of short stories. Some new and some previously published, these pieces are a mix of genres, voices, and themes, and are entertaining, funny, and brilliantly intelligent in ways that only Smith can produce. Fans of Nell Zink and David Foster Wallace would be remiss to skip this wonderful collection.4 .
By Bryan Washington
Published back in March, Washington’s debut is worth remembering. Lot‘s interlinking stories chart the path of a young mixed race man in Houston discovering that he likes boys in a landscape of hyper-masculinity. It feels a little like Junot Diaz maybe, or Moonlight, but Washington is a true original. Plus, his evocation of Houston—America’s strangest city—is so tender, so detailed yet impressionistic, that it seems immediately like one of fiction’s vital cities, a place that Washington would have had to invent if it didn’t already exist.
On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous
By Ocean Vuong
“Let no one mistake us for the fruit of violence—but rather, that violence, having passed through the fruit, failed to spoil it.” This debut novel deserves all the hype and Vuong deserves all the awards. Gift this book with a box of tissues.
**FINALIST FOR THE CENTER FOR FICTION’S 2019 FIRST NOVEL PRIZE**6 .
Red at the Bone
By Jacqueline Woodson
The magnificently talented and multifaceted author and National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson’s latest novel, Red at the Bone, follows a teenage pregnancy and the resulting birth that brings two families together. Woodson weaves an intergenerational narrative that ties their stories together like a braid, arriving, finally, at the coming of age of sixteen year old Melody. Fans of Colson Whitehead should go for this one.
By Margaret Wilkerson Sexton
This book investigates the centuries-old issue of American racism in a fascinating way. Told in alternating chapters by two Black protagonists nearly a century apart, we see just in what ways the country’s attitude has changed—and, unfortunately, in what ways racism is a constant, intentional, oppressive force. Fans of Toni Morrison and Elizabeth Stout will agree that Margaret Wilkerson Sexton is one of the most important new literary voices of our time.8 .
This Is Pleasure
By Mary Gaitskill
This book creates space for a conversation in the aftermath of #Metoo. Gaitskill skillfully challenges the reader’s own perceptions of a scandal by allowing both parties to speak, presenting more questions than answers. What is the proper punishment for harassment? Should they not only lose their job, but their social network, also? For fans of provocative fiction.
By Susan Choi
One of the most exciting novels of the year! Two students at an arts high school fall in love. Young love enrobes them until sudden events bring the real world closer than both know what to do with. Choi writes powerfully, her meta-narrative on the knife’s edge of national conversation around power and entitlement and gender, with no easy answers. For anyone who…well, for anyone who wants to read a straight up masterpiece.
**WINNER OF THE 2019 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FOR FICTION**10 .