Beasts of a Little Land. By Juhea Kim.
Covering most of the twentieth century across the Korean peninsula, Kim’s debut novel wondrously reveals broken families and surprising alliances created by uncontrollable circumstances, interweaving the stories of accomplished, independent women and many elements of Korean culture and history.
The Book of Form and Emptiness. By Ruth Ozeki.
“Has it ever occurred to you that books have feelings, too?” As does every object in supersensitive Benny Oh’s world after he loses his father, lands in a psychiatric ward, then finds mentors, sanctuary, and adventure in the public library.
Cloud Cuckoo Land. By Anthony Doerr.
Demonstrating a singular ability for bringing complex characters to empathetic life, Doerr melds the stories of five young people across centuries with the saga of a shepherd on a quest to find a fabled city in the clouds.
The Five Wounds. By Kirstin Valdez Quade.
Amadeo Padilla played the role of Jesus during the re-creation of the Crucifixion as part of Holy Week in his small New Mexico town, and he also has heavy burdens to bear in real life as his teenage daughter, Angel, has a baby.
Girl A. By Abigail Dean.
Fifteen years after the six Gracie children were found in chains, oldest daughter Lex attempts to transform the family home, scene of the horrors, into a community center.
Harlem Shuffle. By Colson Whitehead.
Brushed with lovingly etched detail and featuring a wonderful panoply of characters, Whitehead’s portrait of Harlem in the early ’60s follows a furniture salesman as he attempts to balance the crooked and straight sides of his life.
Legends of the North Cascades. By Jonathan Evison.
Evison conjures the power of the Cascade Mountains over centuries as an Iraq War veteran struggles with PTSD while raising his daughter, who channels the spirit of a young mother who lived in the mountains at the end of the last ice age.
The Love Songs of W. E. B. Du Bois. By Honorée Fanonne Jeffers.
Jeffers traces the coming of age of her contemporary protagonist, Ailey, juxtaposed against the tales of multiracial ancestors whose suffering and blood infuse the rich Georgia soil, resulting in an audacious, mellifluous love song to an African American family.
Martita, I Remember You. By Sandra Cisneros. Tr. by Liliana Valenzuela.
As Mexican American Corina reads through old letters from her long-ago friends, Martita of Buenos Aires and Paola of northern Italy, their intense time together in Paris comes into focus in Cisneros’ bittersweet, haunting, and witty episodic tale presented in English and Spanish.
Matrix. By Lauren Groff.
In the twelfth century, 17-year-old Marie, former child crusader and “bastardess heir to the crown,” arrives at the dismal abbey she will eventually transform as Groff spins a courageous, spine-tingling tale of faith, power, and temptation.
My Monticello. By Jocelyn Nicole Johnson.
Johnson’s brilliant stories include the title novella portraying Charlottesville neighbors forced out of their homes by white supremacists and taken by Da’Naisha, a Black college student, to Thomas Jefferson’s plantation home for safety.
The Night Always Comes. By Willy Vlautin.
Vlautin’s emotionally wrenching novel explores the overlooked underclass in gentrifying, superhip Portland, Oregon, where a 30-year-old waitress’ dream of buying a house seems about to implode.
Radiant Fugitives. By Nawaaz Ahmed.
Pregnant, though she’s mostly involved with women, Seema is visited in San Francisco by members of her Muslim family arriving from India and Texas, her dying mother and estranged sister, who are baffled by Seema’s queer community and political work.
The Sentence. By Louise Erdrich.
Edrich’s funny, painful, and redemptive ghost story is set in her actual Minneapolis bookstore, Birchbark Books, where Tookie, who discovered her love for books in prison, and the other Native American booksellers contend with the unhappy spirit of a former customer while the pandemic rages and protests erupt. (Top of the List Winner—Adult Fiction)
Sisters in Arms. By Kaia Alderson.
Themes of female friendship, bravery, and resilience radiate from Alderson’s emotional historical-fiction debut, about the daring all-female Women’s Auxiliary Corp during WWII, and its all-Black unit, the 6888th Postal Battalion.
That Old Country Music. By Kevin Barry
These 11 lyrical short stories, set mainly in the west of Ireland, are imbued with the melancholy of an Irish folk ballad, but that bone-deep sadness exists alongside pulsing, deeply felt life.
That Summer. By Jennifer Weiner. Atria,
Daisy Shoemaker’s life revolves around her family until she meets Diana Starling, who is hiding a secret past, in a novel that paints an uncompromising portrait of the dangers of the patriarchy and is a lot of fun to read.
When Two Feathers Fell from the Sky. By Margaret Verble.
In a beautifully written historical novel that will resonate with book groups, horse-diver Two Feathers recovers from an accident, watched over by Crawford, a Black horse handler, and Little Elk, a Cherokee spirit from precolonial times.
Vera. By Carol Edgarian. Scribner, $27 (9781501157523).
In the wake of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, 15-year-old Vera struggles to save her mother and find a life with the boy she loves. Richly plotted historical fiction, brilliantly conceived and superbly realized.
Who Is Maud Dixon? By Alexandra Andrews.
Identity theft takes on a new meaning in this arresting novel about a young publishing professional who takes the job as an assistant to the reclusive, pseudonymous Maud Dixon, who disappears on a research trip to Morocco.