1.The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Winner of a 2016 National Book Award, The Underground Railroad is the story of Cora, a slave who escapes via the Underground Railroad, which is rendered as an actual railroad system. Through its brilliant visions of a past both ours and not quite ours, The Underground Railroad depicts America’s horrifying history with a devastating clarity.
2.The Vegetarian by Han Kang
In The Vegetarian by South Korean writer Han Kang (translated into English by Deborah Smith), a housewife decides to become a vegetarian. This seemingly harmless decision has terrible, wide-ranging consequences, throwing her entire family into disarray. With its phantasmagorical images and haunting, alienated characters, The Vegetarian is a book that compels even as it dares you to look away.
3. What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi
The stories in What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours are linked thematically by keys of all kinds, but are otherwise only bounded by the limits of Oyeyemi’s playful, searching imagination — which is to say, not at all. Whether you’re reading about puppetry schools or a disillusioned fan seeking an apology from a pop star, these stories have you diving in and surfacing somewhere else — delightfully, unexpectedly — altogether.
4.The Regional Office Is Under Attack! by Manuel Gonzales
The Regional Office Is Under Attack!, the first novel from acclaimed short fiction writer Manuel Gonzales, chronicles the secret history of the Regional Office, an organization composed of super-powered female assassins and the mysterious powers that be who manage them. Combining joyous comic book verve with masterful literary craft and a keen sense of character, The Regional Office Is Under Attack! is a rare and special beast indeed: fun that tastes good and is good for you.
5. The Mothers by Brit Bennett
Bennett’s stellar debut, The Mothers, brings us into the world of a black church community in California, where three teenagers — Nadia, Aubrey, and Luke — navigate love and loss and consequences, all while being observed and commented on by a chorus of church mothers. Graceful, wise, and affecting, The Mothers is a beautiful exploration of community, and how its ties can both constrain and comfort.
6. Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett
Imagine Me Gone is the story of a family and its legacy of mental illness, first in the father, then in the eldest son. While Haslett is unflinching when it comes to the devastating toll that depression and anxiety can take on a person and their family, this coexists — and is inextricable from — his portrait of an unforgettable, frustrating, loving family.
7. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi’s debut novel, opens in18th-century Ghana with two half-sisters set upon different paths. While one of the sisters stays in Africa, the other is sold into slavery in America, and each following chapter delves into the lives of their descendants, showing clearly the effects of racism and slavery on the history of the world through its trauma to individual lives. Homegoing is ambitious, panoramic
, and continually riveting
8. The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan
Three young boys visit a New Delhi marketplace when a bomb goes off, killing two of them and devastating their families and the surviving boy. With great empathy and intelligence, The Association of Small Bombs explores the ramifications of a terrorist attack on both the victims and the terrorists themselves.
9. Version Control by Dexter Palmer
Rebecca, the main character of Version Control, has the funny feeling that something is fundamentally wrong with her world, where self-driving cars fill the roads, her husband is obsessed with building a time machine, and the president just doesn’t seem right. Of course, it’s a world much like ours, which is part of the brilliance of Version Control, a novel that, by holding up a science-fictional mirror to our reality, reflects back something all the more truthful for its bizarreness.
10. What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell
In What Belongs to You, an American teacher in Bulgaria encounters a captivating hustler named Mitko in a public bathroom, setting into motion an ambiguously transactional relationship marked by both tenderness and brutality, connection and isolation. What Belongs to You speaks of desire and the lives of those who desire with exquisite specificity and power, and will haunt you long after you turn the final page.