NOV. 22, 2017, first appearing on NYT > Books
The year’s notable fiction, poetry and nonfiction, selected by the editors of The New York Times Book Review. This list represents books reviewed since Dec. 4, 2016, when we published our previous Notables list.
Fiction & Poetry
AMERICAN WAR by Omar El Akkad
This haunting debut novel imagines the events that lead up to and follow the Second American Civil War at the turn of the 22nd century.
ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE by Elizabeth Strout
This audacious novel is about small-town characters struggling to make sense of past family traumas.
AUTUMN by Ali Smith
Smith’s ingenious novel is about the friendship between a 101-year-old man and a 32-year-old woman in Britain after the Brexit vote.
BAD DREAMS AND OTHER STORIES by Tessa Hadley
Hadley serves up the bitter along with the delicious in these 10 stories.
BEAUTIFUL ANIMALS by Lawrence Osborne
On a Greek island, two wealthy young women encounter a handsome Syrian refugee, whom they endeavor to help, with disastrous results.
THE BOOK OF JOAN by Lidia Yuknavitch
In this brilliant novel, Earth, circa 2049, has been devastated by global warming and war.
A BOY IN WINTER by Rachel Seiffert
Seiffert’s intricate novel probes the bonds and betrayals in a Ukrainian town as it succumbs to Hitler.
THE CHANGELING by Victor LaValle
LaValle’s novel, about Apollo Kagwa, a used-book dealer, blends social criticism with horror, while remaining steadfastly literary.
CHRISTMAS DAYS: 12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days by Jeanette Winterson
A gift book from the British novelist, containing otherworldly and wickedly funny stories.
DANCE OF THE JAKARANDA by Peter Kimani
This funny, perceptive and ambitious work of historical fiction by a Kenyan poet and novelist explores his country’s colonial past.
THE DARK FLOOD RISES by Margaret Drabble
This masterly novel follows its 70-something heroine on a road trip through England.
THE DINNER PARTY: And Other Stories by Joshua Ferris
Anxiety, self-consciousness and humiliation are the default inner states of the characters in these 11 stories.
THE ESSEX SERPENT by Sarah Perry
This novel’s densely woven plot involves an independent-minded widow and the possible haunting presence of a giant serpent.
EXIT WEST by Mohsin Hamid
The new novel by the author of “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” and “How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia” mixes global unrest with a bit of the fantastic.
FAST by Jorie Graham
Graham created these poems against a backdrop of personal and political trauma — her parents are dying, she is undergoing cancer treatment, the nation is mired in war and ecological crisis.
FIVE-CARAT SOUL by James McBride
In his delightful first story collection, the author of the National Book Award-winning novel “The Good Lord Bird” continues to explore race, masculinity, music and history.
FOREST DARK by Nicole Krauss
Tracing the lives of two Americans in Israel, this restless novel explores the mysteries of disconnection and the divided self.
4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster
Auster’s book is an epic bildungsroman that presents the reader with four versions of the formative years of a Jewish boy born in Newark in 1947.
FRESH COMPLAINT: Stories by Jeffrey Eugenides
Eugenides’s expert debut collection of short stories is his first book since “The Marriage Plot” in 2011.
FUTURE HOME OF THE LIVING GOD by Louise Erdrich
What if human beings are neither inevitable nor ultimate? That’s the premise of Erdrich’s fascinating new novel.
GIVING GODHEAD by Dylan Krieger
Seamlessly mixing the religious with the obscene, Krieger’s poetry is inventive and powerful.
HISTORY OF WOLVES by Emily Fridlund
A slow-motion tragedy unfolds in Minnesota’s north woods in Fridlund’s disturbing debut.
HOME FIRE by Kamila Shamsie
A bold retelling of Sophocles’ “Antigone” that follows the lives of three British siblings of Pakistani descent.
HOMESICK FOR ANOTHER WORLD by Ottessa Moshfegh
The insightful stories in this dark debut collection are about “loneliness, desire, hope and self-awareness.”
A HORSE WALKS INTO A BAR by David Grossman, translated by Jessica Cohen
Grossman’s magnificently funny, sucker-punch-tragic novel about a tormented stand-up comedian combines comic dexterity with Portnoyish detail.
THE IDIOT by Elif Batuman
An innocent, language-intoxicated teenager, the daughter of Turkish immigrants, arrives at Harvard in the ’90s to pursue love and (especially) literature in Batuman’s hefty, gorgeous digressive slab of a novel.
ILL WILL by Dan Chaon
Chaon’s dark, disturbing literary thriller encompasses drug addiction, accusations of satanic abuse and a self-deluding Midwestern psychologist.
A KIND OF FREEDOM by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton
This assured first novel shines an unflinching, compassionate light on three generations of a black family in New Orleans.
LESS by Andrew Sean Greer
On the eve of his 50th birthday and a former lover’s wedding, a mediocre novelist takes refuge in literary invitations that enable him to travel around the world.
LINCOLN IN THE BARDO by George Saunders
In this Man Booker Prize-winning first novel by a master of the short story, Abraham Lincoln visits the grave of his son Willie in 1862, and is surrounded by ghosts in purgatory.
MANHATTAN BEACH by Jennifer Egan
Egan’s engaging novel tells overlapping stories, but is most fundamentally about a young woman who works at the Brooklyn Naval Yard during World War II.
MRS. OSMOND by John Banville
Banville’s sequel to Henry James’s “Portrait of a Lady” follows Isabel Archer back to Rome and the possible end of her marriage.
MY ABSOLUTE DARLING by Gabriel Tallent
The heroine of this debut novel is Turtle, a 14-year-old who grows up feral in the forests and hills of Northern California.
NEW PEOPLE by Danzy Senna
Senna’s sinister and charming novel, about a married couple who are both biracial, riffs on themes she’s made her own — about what happens when races and cultures mingle in the home, and under the skin.
THE NINTH HOUR by Alice McDermott
In McDermott’s novel, the cause of a young Irish widow and her daughter is taken up by the nuns of a Brooklyn convent.
PACHINKO by Min Jin Lee
This stunning novel chronicling four generations of an ethnic Korean family in Japan is about outsiders and much more.
THE POWER by Naomi Alderman
In this fierce and unsettling novel, the ability to generate a dangerous electrical force from their bodies lets women take control, resulting in a vast, systemic upheaval of gender dynamics across the globe.
THE REFUGEES by Viet Thanh Nguyen
This superb collection of stories concerns men and women displaced from wartime Saigon and (mostly) settled in California.
SELECTION DAY by Aravind Adiga
Adiga’s third novel (he won the Booker Prize in 2008 for “The White Tiger”) is a sharp look at modern India. It revolves around two teenage brothers groomed by their father to be cricket stars.
A SEPARATION by Katie Kitamura
Deceptions pile on deceptions in this coolly unsettling postmodern mystery, in which a British woman travels to a Greek fishing village to search for her estranged husband, who has disappeared.
SING, UNBURIED, SING by Jesmyn Ward
Ward’s novel, which won the National Book Award, combines aspects of the American road novel and the ghost story with an exploration of the long aftershocks of a hurricane.
SIX FOUR by Hideo Yokoyama, translated by Jonathan Lloyd-Davies
A former criminal investigator, now working in police media relations, faces angry reporters, the nagging 14-year-old case of a kidnapped girl, and his own teenage daughter’s disappearance.
STAY WITH ME by Ayobami Adebayo
This debut novel is a portrait of a marriage in Nigeria beginning in the politically tumultous 1980s.
THE STONE SKY: The Broken Earth: Book Three by N.K. Jemisin
Jemisin won a Hugo Award for each of the first two novels in her Broken Earth trilogy. In the extraordinary conclusion, a mother and daughter do geologic battle for the fate of the earth.
TIES by Domenico Starnone, translated by Jhumpa Lahiri
The husband of the woman who has been identified as Elena Ferrante offers a powerful novel about a fraying marriage.
TRANSIT by Rachel Cusk
In the second novel of a planned trilogy, Cusk continues the story of Faye, a writer and teacher who is recently divorced and semi-broke.
WAKING LIONS by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen, translated by Sondra Silverston
An Israeli doctor in the Negev accidentally hits an Eritrean immigrant, then drives off. The consequences are explored with insight and a thriller’s twists and turns.
WHEREAS by Layli Long Soldier
Long Soldier, a member of the Oglala Sioux tribe, troubles our consideration of the language we use to carry our personal and national narratives in this moving debut poetry collection.
WHITE TEARS by Hari Kunzru
This complex ghost story about racial privilege, cultural appropriation and the blues is written with Kunzru’s customary eloquence and skill.
WHO IS RICH? by Matthew Klam
The protagonist of this novel, a middle-aged illustrator, is a conflicted adulterer. Klam agilely balances an existentially tragic story line with morbid humor and self-assured prose.
AGE OF ANGER: A History of the Present by Pankaj Mishra
Mishra argues that broad swaths of the globe are reliving the traumas and violent dislocations that accompanied Europe’s transition to modernity in the 18th and 19th centuries.
AMERICAN FIRE: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica Hesse
Hesse tells the story of 67 fires set in Virginia during a five-month arson spree, beginning in 2012, and the mystery of why a local auto mechanic was behind them.
ANIMALS STRIKE CURIOUS POSES: Essays by Elena Passarello
Passarello presents biographies of famous animals, from an ancient mummified mammoth to Mr. Ed and Cecil the Lion.
THE BLOOD OF EMMETT TILL by Timothy B. Tyson.
Tyson’s absorbing retelling of the events leading up to the horrific lynching in 1955 includes an admission from Till’s accuser that some of her testimony was false.
BORN A CRIME: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
The host of “The Daily Show” writes about growing up in South Africa under apartheid, and about the country’s rocky transition into the post-apartheid era in the 1990s.
BUNK: The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts, and Fake News by Kevin Young
Young’s enthralling and essential history is both exhaustive and unapologetically subjective — not to mention timely. Again and again, he plumbs the undercurrents of a hoax to discover the fearfulness and racism that often lurk inside.
CHURCHILL AND ORWELL: The Fight for Freedom by Thomas E. Ricks
This enjoyable dual biography draws out the common causes of these 20th-century giants: two independent thinkers and opponents of totalitarianism whose influence remains pervasive today.
THE COLLECTED ESSAYS OF ELIZABETH HARDWICK selected by Darryl Pinckney
The landmark American critic surveys everything from the 1968 Democratic convention to the literature of New York City.
A COLONY IN A NATION by Chris Hayes
Hayes paints a portrait of two “distinct regimes” in America — one for whites, which he calls the Nation; the other for blacks, which he calls the Colony.
THE COLOR OF LAW: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein
Going back to the late 19th century, the author uncovers a policy of de jure segregation in virtually every presidential administration.
THE CRISIS OF THE MIDDLE-CLASS CONSTITUTION: Why Economic Inequality Threatens Our Republic by Ganesh Sitaraman
Sitaraman argues that the Constitution is premised on the existence of a thriving middle class, and that the current explosion of inequality will destroy it.
THE DAWN WATCH: Joseph Conrad in a Global World. by Maya Jasanoff
Conrad explored the frontiers of a globalized world at the turn of the last century. Jasanoff uses Conrad’s novels and his biography to tell the history of that moment, one that mirrors our own.
THE DEATH AND LIFE OF THE GREAT LAKES by Dan Egan
Climate change, population growth and invasive species are destabilizing the Great Lakes’ wobbly ecosystem, but Egan provides a taut and cautiously hopeful narrative.
DESTINED FOR WAR: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap? by Graham Allison
Allison offers erudite historical case studies that illuminate the pressure toward military confrontation when a rising power challenges a dominant one.
DEVIL’S BARGAIN: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency by Joshua Green
Green’s book is a deeply reported and compulsively readable account of this fateful political partnership.
THE EVANGELICALS: The Struggle to Shape America by Frances FitzGerald
FitzGerald’s fair-minded history focuses on the doctrinal and political issues that have concerned white conservative Protestants since they abandoned their traditional separation from the world and merged with the Republican Party.
THE EVOLUTION OF BEAUTY: How Darwin’s Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World — and Us by Richard O. Prum
A mild-mannered ornithologist and expert on the evolution of feathers makes an impassioned case for the importance of Darwin’s second theory as his most radical and feminist.
FASTING AND FEASTING: The Life of Visionary Food Writer Patience Gray by Adam Federman
Federman’s biography is the first of this cult food writer.
FLÂNEUSE: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London by Lauren Elkin
Elkin joins memoir and biographies of walking women like Woolf and Sand.
FRIENDS DIVIDED: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson by Gordon S. Wood
Wood traces the long, fraught ties between the second and third presidents, and sides almost reluctantly with Jefferson in their philosophical smack-down.
THE FUTURE IS HISTORY: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia by Masha Gessen
Gessen, a longtime critic of Vladimir Putin, tells the story of modern Russia through the eyes of seven individuals who found that politics was a force none of them could escape; winner of the National Book Award.
GENERATION REVOLUTION: On the Front Line Between Tradition and Change in the Middle East by Rachel Aspden
What happened to Egypt’s revolution? This excellent social history argues that despite their politics, young Egyptians did not reject the conservative mores of family and religion.
THE GLASS UNIVERSE: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars by Dava Sobel
This book, about the women “computers” whose calculations helped shape observational astronomy, is a highly engaging group portrait.
GRANT by Ron Chernow
Chernow gives us a Grant for our time, recounting not only the victories of the general but also the challenges of a president who fought against the K.K.K.
GREATER GOTHAM: A History of New York City From 1898 to 1919 by Mike Wallace
A vibrant, detailed chronicle of the 20 years that made New York City the place we know today.
THE GULF: The Making of an American Sea by Jack E. Davis
Davis’s sweeping history of the Gulf of Mexico takes into account colorful nature, idiosyncratic human characters and economic development.
HAMLET GLOBE TO GLOBE: Two Years, 190,000 Miles, 197 Countries, One Play by Dominic Dromgoole
To celebrate the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth, London’s Globe Theater performed “Hamlet” all around the world. Dromgoole’s witty account offers insight about the play and its enduring appeal.
HENRY DAVID THOREAU: A Life by Laura Dassow Walls
This new life of Thoreau, in time for his 200th birthday, paints a moving portrait of a brilliant, complex man.
THE HOUSE OF GOVERNMENT: A Saga of the Russian Revolution by Yuri Slezkine
This history describes the lives of Bolsheviks who were swallowed up by their own cause.
THE INVENTION OF ANGELA CARTER: A Biography by Edmund Gordon
This terrific book is the first full-length biography of Carter, whose novels were fantastical, feminist and sexy.
JANESVILLE: An American Story by Amy Goldstein
Goldstein writes about the impact on the small Wisconsin factory city of the title when General Motors closes a plant there.
KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann
In the 1920s, the Osage Indians had been driven onto land in Oklahoma that sat on top of immense oil deposits. The oil made the Osage rich, and then members of the nation started turning up murdered.
KRAZY: George Herriman, a Life in Black and White by Michael Tisserand
Who was the man behind “Krazy Kat”? This fascinating biography and guide to the work of the cartoonist, who passed for white, tells the full story.
LENIN: The Man, the Dictator, and the Master of Terror by Victor Sebestyen
Sebestyen has managed to produce a first-rate thriller by detailing the cynicism and murderous ambition of the founder of the Soviet Union.
LETTERMAN: The Last Giant of Late Night by Jason Zinoman
Zinoman’s lively book does impressive triple duty as an acute portrait of stardom, an insightful chronicle of three rambunctious decades of pop-culture evolution, and a very brainy fan’s notes.
LOCKING UP OUR OWN: Crime and Punishment in Black America by James Forman Jr.
A masterly account of how a generation of black elected officials wrestled with crises of violence and drug use by unleashing the brutal power of the criminal justice system on their constituents.
LOOKING FOR “THE STRANGER”: Albert Camus and the Life of a Literary Classic by Alice Kaplan
Impressive research illuminates the context and history of Camus’s classic novel.
THE LOST CITY OF THE MONKEY GOD: A True Story by Douglas Preston
The novelist joins a rugged expedition in search of pre-Columbian ruins in the Honduran rain forest.
NOMADLAND: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder
For three years, Bruder traveled and worked alongside “workampers,” older people, casualties of the Great Recession, who drive around the United States looking for seasonal work.
NOTES ON A FOREIGN COUNTRY: An American Abroad in a Post-American World by Suzy Hansen
Hansen, who moved to Istanbul after 9/11, grapples with her country’s violent role in the world.
PRAIRIE FIRES: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser
This thoroughly researched biography of the “Little House” author perceptively captures Wilder’s extraordinary life and legacy.
PRIESTDADDY: A Memoir by Patricia Lockwood
The poet’s memoir is fueled by a great character: her father, a rare married Catholic priest, a big bear of a man fond of guns, cream liqueurs and pork rinds.
THE SONGS WE KNOW BEST: John Ashbery’s Early Life by Karin Roffman
This first full-fledged biography of the poet is full of rich and fascinating detail.
TENEMENTS, TOWERS & TRASH: An Unconventional Illustrated History of New York City by Julia Wertz
Wertz has become a cult favorite for her graphic memoirs. Her new book is a departure, focusing on her great love, New York.
TO SIRI WITH LOVE: A Mother, Her Autistic Son, and the Kindness of Machines by Judith Newman
Newman’s tender, boisterous memoir strips the usual zone of privacy to edge into the world her autistic son occupies.
THE UNDOING PROJECT: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds by Michael Lewis
Lewis profiles the enchanted collaboration between Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman, whose groundbreaking work proved just how unreliable our intuition could be.
WE WERE EIGHT YEARS IN POWER: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates
A selection of Coates’s most influential pieces about race in America from The Atlantic, with subjects including Barack and Michelle Obama, Donald J. Trump, reparations and mass incarceration.
WHAT HAPPENED by Hillary Rodham Clinton
Clinton tells the story of what it was like to run for president of the United States as the first female nominee of a major party.
WORLD WITHOUT MIND: The Existential Threat of Big Tech by Franklin Foer
Foer dons the heavy mantle of cyber-skeptic with this persuasive brief against the big four tech giants who he believes pose a threat to the individual and society.
YOU SAY TO BRICK: The Life of Louis Kahn by Wendy Lesser
This biography covers the best-known works of the architect Louis Kahn as well as his complicated personal life.