It’s a big year for personal nonfiction, with essays by Zadie Smith and Marilynne Robinson and memoirs by Leslie Jamison and James Comey. Fiction fans can look forward to novels by Amy Bloom, Michael Ondaatje, Rachel Kushner, and Gary Shteyngart. And that’s just a sampling. Here are two dozen books that we’re especially excited about.
“Feel Free’’ by Zadie Smith
The always fascinating Smith’s latest nonfiction collection contains pieces from The New Yorker and New York Review of Books, as well as previously unpublished works, on topics ranging from Joni Mitchell and rap music to libraries and what Facebook is really all about.
“The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border’’ by Francisco Cantú
Cantú, who spent four years as a Border Patrol agent, discusses the perilous world of illegal immigrants and his own crisis of conscience as the grandson of Mexican immigrants in this important book on a politically explosive issue.
“What Are We Doing Here” by Marilynne Robinson
These essays from one of our most incisive thinkers and elegant writers examine how faith and values shaped the nation, the roots of our deep political divisions, and the American tendency to create troublesome mythologies about ourselves.
“Call Me Zebra’’ by Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi
Twenty-two-year-old Zebra fled Iran for America with her obsessively-bookish family in the ‘90s, and now with both parents gone she decides to retrace her family’s flight path with a trip to Spain and write a major work on the importance of literature.
“White Houses’’ by Amy Bloom
National Book Award finalist Bloom’s engrossing new novel reimagines the intimate, decades-long real-life relationship between journalist Lorena Hickok and Eleanor Roosevelt, told from Hickok’s point of view.
“Census’’ by Jesse Ball
A terminally-ill, widowed father signs up as a census taker and embarks on a final journey with his grown son, who has Down syndrome, in Ball’s moving meditation on parental love and mortality.
“The Sparsholt Affair’’ by Alan Hollinghurst
Booker winner Hollinghurst’s saga of the lives of a war hero brought down in middle age by a homosexual scandal and his uncloseted gay son sprawls across decades of cultural and political change in England.
“The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror’’ by Mallory Ortberg
What else would these stories, based on folk and fairy tales, be but snarky, smart, and unsettling coming as they do from a founder of the dearly-departed feminist humor website, The Toast?
“Speak No Evil’’ by Uzodinma Iweala
The latest by the author of the acclaimed “Beasts of No Nation’’ explores themes of culture, privilege, gender, and violence through the friendship of a closeted gay son of conservative Nigerian parents and the white daughter of Washington insiders.
“The Female Persuasion’’ by Meg Wolitzer
In her first adult outing since 2013’s “The Interestings’’ Wolitzer spins a thoughtful tale of a college freshman who meets a legendary figure from the women’s rights movement and is encouraged to set off on a journey of enlightenment
“The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath’’ by Leslie Jamison
Jamison turned heads with “The Empathy Exams,’’ her 2014 best-selling collection of insightful, Didionesque essays, and this new book, which blends her memoir of recovery with cultural history, can only add to her growing literary reputation.
“Circe’’ by Madeline Miller
In a follow-up to 2012’s “The Song of Achilles,’’ Miller returns to the ancient world, this time reimagining the life of Circe, a sorceress, daughter of the sun god, and a dangerously independent female who finds herself caught between the worlds of the all-powerful gods and that of the mortals who have won her heart.
“And Now We Have Everything: On Motherhood Before I Was Ready” by Meaghan O’Connell
Even though O’Connell’s compelling debut focuses on her accidental pregnancy in her early 20s and the overwhelming challenges and expectations that come with motherhood, much here will be achingly familiar to all parents.
“God Save Texas: A Journey into the Soul of the Lone Star State’’ by Lawrence Wright
The Pulitzer-winning author of “The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11’’ and “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief’’ studies the political and social excesses and paradoxes of his home state, a humorous and incisive portrait that offers insight into what America is today.
“Sharp: The Women Who Made an Art of Having an Opinion’’ by Michelle Dean
Dean offers up a vivid portrait of how the likes of Susan Sontag, Dorothy Parker, Joan Didion, Rebecca West, Hannah Arendt, and others became central figures in the boozy, gossip-filled, and steadfastly sexist world of midcentury, literary New York.
“A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership’’ by James Comey
Given the fevered reception of “Fire and Fury,’’ it seems a safe bet that interest will be high in this memoir by the former FBI chief whose firing lead to the appointment of an independent prosecutor and the stepped-up investigation of the ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
“Not that Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture’’ edited by Roxane Gay
Anthologies often don’t draw much interest, but these personal essays edited by Gay (“Bad Feminist’’ and “Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body’’) and produced by writers, performers, and critics like Ally Sheedy, Gabrielle Union, Amy Jo Burns, and Claire Schwartz will be must-reading in the #MeToo moment.
“Warlight’’ by Michael Ondaatje
Ondaatje, whose “The English Patient’’ won the Booker Prize and became an Oscar-winning movie , returns to the World War II era, this time just after the global conflict when two siblings are left in the care of an odd group of strangers in London while their parents mysteriously move to Singapore.
“The Mars Room’’ by Rachel Kushner
This new novel by the two time National Book Award finalist trails former exotic dancer Romy Hall, the mother of a young son, as she acclimates to the sometimes violent, often absurd ways of life in the California prison where she has just begun serving two consecutive life sentences.
“That Kind of Mother’’ by Rumaan Alam
Alam’s provocative new novel provokes thorny questions about race, privilege, and class in unspooling the tale of a white first-time mother who adopts the baby of her child’s black nanny after her unexpected death in childbirth.
“Kudos’’ by Rachel Cusk
“Florida’’ by Lauren Groff
These stories by the author of “Fates and Furies’’ — judged by no less than President Obama as the best book of 2015 — revolves around a Sunshine State of strangeness, sinkholes, storms, snakes, and characters toeing the edge.
“Sick’’ by Porochista Khakpour
This hotly-awaited memoir takes us along on the novelist’s harrowing chronicle of the pain, drug addiction, debt, and misdiagnosis that marked her struggle with late-stage Lyme disease.
“My Year of Rest and Relaxation’’ by Ottessa Moshfegh
A young, pretty Columbia grad with a rich inheritance, an art gallery job, and a major existential crisis attempts to hibernate for a year with the help of her shrink and a regimen of pharmaceuticals in the latest from the always eye-raising Moshfegh.
“Lake Success’’ by Gary Shteyngart
Overwhelmed by an SEC investigation and his young son’s diagnosis of autism, hedge-fund millionaire Barry Cohen goes in search of his college sweetheart, leaving behind his wife, Seema, a first-generation American who thought she had it all, in Shteyngart’s first novel since 2010’s “Super Sad True Love Story.’’
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