An epic of the American identity as much as the single American family at its center, this debut novel is as ambitious as it is remarkable. Both the book’s titular figure and its centuries-spanning pages impel us to remember: the souls and stories and traumas of black and indigenous folk are those of our country itself.
Instead of focusing on his NBA career, Carmelo tells the tale of everything that would lead him to draft day and the success that followed. It’s a touching story of family and friendship and a young man’s search for meaning—and it made me love Melo even more than I already did. Plus, D. Watkins with the assist doesn't hurt one damn bit.
Maggie Nelson’s writing—from the personal to the political to the poetic—always manages to perform brilliant acts of synthesis. Sometimes an array of emotions come together, at others, rhetorical variations crash into a larger whole. Regardless, the breadth of her knowledge and expert tact help churn together consensus thought and her own intellectual explorations to form something that wasn’t there before. These thoughts on freedom, and how much that word and idea and feeling can move before we ever have a chance to find its true shape, are another example of Nelson’s undeniable prowess and a concentrated description of our most raggedly human aspects.
Herrera’s three short, stunning novels collected and wrapped in one beautiful hardcover volume is the kind of book you just have to have on your shelf. His magisterial writing about Mexico and the American border exhibits a transcendent care for his characters and an undeniable mastery of craft.
Evenson is one of my favorite short fiction writers, and a new collection always guarantees another dozen or two blasts of his harrowing creativity. Picture H.P. Lovecraft with better emotional aim, but the same full quiver of penetrating disquiet.
Taking into account both his own research into social media and similar studies by others, Bail explains how our general perception of the online world doesn't quite fit into how the gears truly turn. He provides no silver bullet for how to fix what ails our discourse, but by examining the full weight of online extremism and outlining how to do some social media self-reflection, he shows how we might wrest back control from those on the right and left that continually muddy the waters.
At this point the big Q is an online version of the big C. Almost everyone knows someone who’s been affected in some way, shape, or form—and this book just so happens to be a superb crash course in Qanon’s ways, shapes, and forms. How did it start? Why does it persist? Where is it headed? Time to do your own research . . .
I'm going to get a little interdisciplinary here and describe this one as a KILL BILL-type story with a DEADWOOD vibe that moves with the momentum of a train Butch and Sundance might have robbed. Throw in a solemn exploration of the souls of both men and nations, and you’ve got yourself a damn fine debut novel.
Using her personal history in Texas alongside her scholarly acumen, Gordon-Reed examines both the state and our nation alike with a practiced and pointed mien. These essays describe what creates our shifting concept of America, but insist we first and foremost remember what that idea means to a people united in their former bondage.
Few authors can make a true tale cook quite like PRK, and with a story like the Sackler Family’s, things are all the more enthralling. Peel back the museum dedications and artistic philanthropy, and you’ll find a family tree rotting from the inside out by dint of a truly American mixture of avarice and cunning.
Anyone who says they don’t like poetry probably hasn’t read Forrest Gander, whose pristine verse always unlocks some old trunk inside me I thought I’d lost the key to. His starting point here is the lichen, which he explains, but what’s impossible to explain is how far and wide he'll move your spirit from that lovely little natural launchpad.
This is probably as close as Ben Winters will ever come to writing a Grisham novel, and it’s a ton of fun to wade through such litigious waters with him. Winters has a gift for crossing up a reader’s expectations while a deeper theme churns in the background, and his latest is another example of why I like his crime fiction so damn much.
What Seth said!
Often, the idea of a posthumous novel by a literary luminary makes me queasy, but just a few pages into this unreleased marvel, my stomach stopped rumbling. Then—of course—Wright turned it into a knot, as only he can. His is an essential American voice, and I am grateful to hear it once again.
Look, if Hanio Yamada is cool with his failed suicide attempt, we should be too right? As funny and slapstick and swinging as it may be, this book's grin flashes to a scowl often enough to make sure you don't miss its deadly serious point.
This right here is the most enjoyable, portable, and fulfilling college course you’re likely to find at its cover price. Saunders' short fiction chops are unassailable, and letting him guide you along the museum of Russian masters of the form provides spectacular insight into life, art, meaning, and above all, how to read well.
THE BRAND IS STRONG. I'll be honest I was a little skeptical that Desus and the Kid could make the transition to the written word, but it turns out that I had nothing at all to worry about. I was laughing out loud from page one, and can't recommend this highly enough for fans of the world's most dangerous podcast and the number one show in late night.
Kahtryn Davis constantly pushes ideas about plot and place outward into a book’s aura, where they float and shift around an eternal humanity at the heart of her fiction. If I could explain exactly why Duplex works so well, it would likely spoil its ineffable magic.
The front cover of THE SILENCE says that it's a novel, but really it's not. It's a short story dressed up like a novel, but who really cares? It's brilliant. And prescient. And of-the-now too. It's a story of connection and disconnection, and how close the two have become. It's another 100 pages or so inside the DeLillo-verse, and we likely don't have many of those left, so please, cherish them like I do.
Can you describe a book set during the Thirty Years' War as a delight? Well hell, I'm gonna, because this book's tone and tenor somehow make enjoyable a series of dark vignettes that twist politics, religion, fear, and epistemology around the origin story of one of the world's legendary tricksters. Bloody fun, this one.
From title to design to subject matter to style, everything about this collection echoes and undulates and folds back in on itself in a spectacular way. For Tolentino, personal insight springs from larger issues just as often as a private matter explodes into a deft deconstruction of the bigger point.
A devastating novel about guys who get beat up in the ring, and how life beats all of us up outside of it. Throw some Steinbeck and The Fight and Jesus' Son in a blender and drink it all down. You might not feel good after, but it'll feed your soul all the same.
The man who is the "Michael' in "Carmichael's" told me this one was good and man is he right! Nothing about this story is easy on the soul, but Keefe's masterful account of "The Troubles" is worth every minute spent between the first and last pages of this essential book, which is the best one I've read so far in 2019.
If you're a Tribe fan this one is easy: stop reading this right now and buy the damn book. For the rest of you, know that Abdurraqib's writing here is personal and poignant, as he weaves a sublime exegesis of one of the most important rap groups of all time.
The supremely creative Mr. Kingsnorth (see: The Wake) offers an ontological exploration of what writing really is, and what it very much isn't. His personal prism helps us ponder both the freedom and stricture that come when we attempt to turn human language into the written word.
Goldsberry is one of the smartest guys talking NBA hoops, and this book ties together all of what makes his writing great: the data, the stats, the trademark graphics—and just the right amount of acid wit. He explains how the NBA arrived at the three-chucking, five-out, wide-open state that it's in right now, and will make you a smarter fan, page after vivid page.
A fantastic collection of short stories written the way they oughta be: brief, powerful, and engaging. That, and what I assume is a very Norwegian sense of humor. Fans of Lydia Davis and Joy Williams, this book is for you!
A loose retelling of the tale of Theseus, OREO is an overlooked classic now back in print after 40 years. It is a wickedly funny look at race, culture, and betweenness—even if it's sometimes hard to tell what truly lay on either side.