Like the mail or the accelerating decay of the planet, book publishing never stops. The new novels and poetry anthologies and essay collections just keep coming, month after month, as unrelenting as the tides.
Unlike some other inevitabilities, the steady accumulation of new books is a welcome one. 2019 promises a particularly abundant cargo of literary treats. My HuffPost colleagues and I narrowed it down to 61 that we’re particularly eager to read this year, and we could have kept going.
There will be new work from Han Kang, Colson Whitehead, Valeria Luiselli, Marlon James, Sam Lipsyte and other deservedly beloved authors, as well as buzzy debuts like Bryan Washington’s Lot, Namwali Serpell’s The Old Drift and poet Ocean Vuong’s first novel. We’re anticipating works in translation from mind-bending artists Clarice Lispector and Samanta Schweblin and meaty nonfiction from reporters like Anna Merlan and Sonia Purnell.
The most thrilling part of each new year is looking ahead to all the fresh work it will bring from old favorites and intriguing debuts; the most thrilling part of the year in reading is being surprised by great books we didn’t even see coming. We can’t wait to immerse ourselves in these books and to stumble across notable ones we missed in compiling this preview.
Here are the 61 books we at HuffPost are most looking forward to reading in 2019:
The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh (Random House)
In Mackintosh’s invitingly creepy debut, which was longlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize, a man keeps his wife and three daughters fortressed inside the salt-circled grounds of their home, away from the toxins and threats he warns of in the outside world ― until he disappears and leaves them unguarded.
Mouthful of Birds by Samanta Schweblin (Riverhead)
Thanks to “Bird Box” on Netflix, I’ve been into avian-based horror lately, so Mouthful of Birds sounds very much my genre. Argentinian author Schweblin’s first novel translated into English, Fever Dream, was an eerie read and a critical success, and Mouthful, her upcoming story collection, promises to evoke similarly uneasy, haunting feelings through strange stories about subjects such as family. (Anyone who goes to regular familial gatherings knows sometimes there’s nothing scarier.) Sans Sandra Bullock showing up a la “Bird Box” to protect my blind side, I’ll be checking this out during the day. ― Bill Bradley
Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
For two weeks, Silvie and her family join an anthropology course meant to re-enact life in England’s Iron Age, making stew from rabbit and sleeping on hay-stuffed sacks. As she begins to mix with the students on the trip, Silvie begins to see another life: one with travel, university, the ability to choose her own clothes and speak for herself. As the days go on, Silvie’s situation becomes inexorably darker. This spare, thin novel promises riveting tension throughout. — Jill Capewell
McGlue by Ottessa Moshfegh (Penguin)
Before Eileen made her a breakout star, Moshfegh was writing weird, fascinating stories like McGlue. Originally published in 2014, the novella drops readers into a ship’s hold in 1851 Salem as McGlue, a sailor, wakes from a drunken stupor to find himself accused of killing a man who may have been his best friend.
Late in the Day by Tessa Hadley (Harper)
In Hadley’s latest ― her seventh, after her luminous 2016 book, The Past ― the British novelist does what she does best: excavate the tensions and traumas that linger in the most seemingly normal families and relationships. Late in the Day centers on two couples, close friends since their youth, whose lives are irrevocably altered after one of the four dies suddenly.
The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker (Random House)
From the author of The Age of Miracles, The Dreamers traces the outbreak of a strange sleeping malady in California. In an irresistibly eerie twist, those who fall ill, based on brain scans, appear to be dreaming vividly as they slumber.
Elsey Come Home by Susan Conley (Knopf)
Elsey used to be a recognized painter, but now she’s the wife of expat Danish musician Lukas and the mother of two girls under 10, and she’s tethered to their home in China. As the slim novel opens, she’s depressed and lost and in crisis; at Lukas’ insistence, she leaves the family for a weeklong retreat that will end up transforming her. Even within a few paragraphs of this exploration of motherhood and individuality, Elsey’s voice and emotional turbulence leap off the page.
You Know You Want This by Kristen Roupenian (Gallery/Scout)
Short stories rarely go viral like Roupenian’s “Cat Person” did after it was published in The New Yorker last December. It sparked an extensive conversation on social media over its depiction of an uncomfortable sexual relationship. Doubtless many will be looking to the author’s first story collection — described by its publisher as exploring “the ways in which women are horrifying as much as … the horrors that are done to them” — to see if literary lightning can strike twice. — Jill Capewell
Hark by Sam Lipsyte (Simon & Schuster)
Lipsyte’s abiding subject in his fiction is failure — failures of men who are “always hovering just outside of an inside joke they have played on themselves.” That’s a line from Hark, Lipsyte’s new novel, set in a dystopia of the near future, over which failure of all kinds seems to hang like low weather. There’s some business here with a Chauncey Gardiner–ish messiah, and Lipsyte gets off some good shots at the self-helpification of corporate culture and the corporatization of self-help. But Hark’s real attractions are the sentences, pungent and plangent, almost annoyed with their own irony, great spiky adjectives and phrases piling up like some terrible accident on a dim and blasted stretch of the American experiment. It’s the language of failure. Lipsyte speaks it as well as anyone. ― Tommy Craggs
We Cast a Shadow by Maurice Carlos Ruffin (One World)
We Cast a Shadow is the latest in a stream of daring works that address America’s endemic anti-blackness through dystopian surrealism. In Ruffin’s debut, set in a near-future American city plagued by vicious racism, a couple wrestles with whether to protect their biracial son by subjecting him to a new demelanization procedure.
All the Lives We Ever Lived: Seeking Solace in Virginia Woolf by Katharine Smyth (Crown)
Woolf is one of the great writers on grief. To the Lighthouse, in particular, openly probes at the scars left by maternal death. As a lover of Woolf — and someone eternally fascinated by what is left after the loss of a loved one — I’m bittersweetly eager to read Smyth’s literary memoir of turning to the modernist author while mourning her father.
The Spirit of Science Fiction by Roberto Bolaño (Penguin)
Before his modern classic The Savage Detectives, Bolaño wrote The Spirit of Science Fiction. Like his opus 2666, it was published posthumously, and it will finally be coming out in an English translation by Natasha Wimmer. Much like Savage Detectives, this precursor is immersed in the world of young poets questing for meaning and feeling in Mexico City.
Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken (Ecco)
Beloved author McCracken, whose last work of fiction was the widely acclaimed collection Thunderstruck, here dives into early-20th-century New England and the world of candlepin bowling. Packed with mysterious strangers, hidden pasts and deep secrets, Bowlaway blends the quirky with the murky.
Sea Monsters by Chloe Aridjis (Catapult)
We find narrator Luisa on the Pacific coast of Mexico, meeting strangers at beach bars — a place she landed after boarding a bus from Mexico City with fellow teenager Tomás in search of a troupe of Ukranian dwarves. That’s just the opening premise of this dreamy, fantastical novel packed with lush description as Luisa recounts her first encounters with the darkly enrapturing Tomás, interchanged with scenes of her new life on the beach, where she becomes increasingly intertwined with others’ lives. — Jill Capewell
Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James (Riverhead)
Man Booker Prize–winning author James has been teasing his new book, the first in a trilogy dubbed “Dark Star,” for over two years now. His publishers are billing it as an “African ‘Game of Thrones’” about a mercenary hired to find a missing child — a very enticing description that has been copied and pasted into countless previews before this one. James is a professed fantasy nerd, so Black Leopard, Red Wolf will certainly appeal to fans of all the well-acknowledged authors with at least two initials — George R.R. Martin, J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, etc. But if you’ve read James’ 2014 novel A Brief History of Seven Killings (decidedly not a sci-fi or fantasy book but a 700-page world-building epic about the attempted assassination of Bob Marley), you’ll drag yourself to the midnight queue to buy Black Leopard regardless of the whole “Game of Thrones” selling point. — Katherine Brooks
On the Come Up by Angie Thomas (Balzer + Bray)
Thomas’ blockbuster Y.A. hit The Hate You Give dominated the best-seller lists for months. Her next book, about a teenage aspiring rapper dealing with unwelcome viral fame and financial struggles at home, again delves into the dreams and fears of young black people in an America that’s far less egalitarian and just than it pretends to be.
Notes from a Black Woman’s Diary by Kathleen Collins (Ecco)
A boundary-breaking artist who found little recognition during her life, Collins recently re-emerged with the posthumous publication of a formally playful, psychologically perceptive short fiction collection, Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? This new collection, edited by her daughter, Nina Lorez Collins, compiles more stories, along with screenplays and theatrical works.
Where Reasons End by Yiyun Li (Random House)
In Li’s latest novel, her narrator warps time and space to cope with the loss of her teenage son, who died by suicide. She dreams up a dialogue with him, and she imagines different roles for the two of them ― friends, enemies, peers ― that might have made him more knowable or more content. Li’s creative engagement with words and with their insufficiency and her willingness to confront the most haunting truths equip her to write a book about grief unlike any other.
Collected Schizophrenias by Esmé Weijung Wang (Graywolf)
“Schizophrenia terrifies,” opens Wang’s essay collection. “It is the archetypal disorder of lunacy.” Her essays, informed by her background as a Stanford psychology lab researcher and years of her own confounding health issues, eventually diagnosed as schizoaffective disorder, take readers inside an illness often used as a horror story or a threatening metaphor rather than understood on its own terms.
The Heavens by Sandra Newman (Grove)
The author of The Country of Ice Cream Star returns with another ambitious saga ― this one a love story between two New Yorkers around the dawn of the millennium. As Ben and Kate meet and begin to twine their lives together, Kate is more and more drawn into a dream world in which she’s the lover of an Elizabethan aristocrat, until she begins to lose touch with reality.
The Cassandra by Sharma Shields (Henry Holt)
What if the people working on revolutionary military technologies during World War II knew what havoc their discoveries would wreak? In Shields’ second novel, a reimagining of the myth of Cassandra, a woman born with the ability to see the future finds herself working on the development of the atomic bomb.
Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli (Knopf)
I adored Luiselli’s 2015 novel, The Story of My Teeth, translated from the Spanish by Christina McSweeney, and its off-kilter examination of personal myth and legacy. Her new novel maps a crumbling young family’s journey across the United States in search of the stolen home of the Apaches amid a national backlash against immigrants. Luiselli trains an analytical eye on the tropes she’s dealing with, drawing out threads that we use to define fuzzy ideas like a family and holding them up to the light.
American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson (Random House)
This Cold War spy novel has layers ― not just the standard secret agent intrigue, but ever-relevant questions of race, politics and family. Marie, a black FBI agent, joins a mission to take down an inspirational communist leader in Burkina Faso, Thomas Sankara, despite her personal reservations.
Bangkok Wakes to Rain by Pitchaya Sudbanthad (Riverhead)
One house in Bangkok is the protagonist of this wide-ranging, century-spanning epic, as Sudbanthad drops readers into the lives of residents past, present and future. It’s a challenging conceit but a rewarding one if it pays off ― and the book arrives garlanded with praise from advance reviewers and from notable writers, including Mohsin Hamid and Alexander Chee.
The White Book by Han Kang (Hogarth)
Han’s first two English-language translations (The Vegetarian and Human Acts) were instant sensations, establishing her as a riveting practitioner of the surreal and of historical fiction alike. Her latest to be translated by Deborah Smith is told by a woman haunted by the death of her elder sister just after birth — a contemplation of life, death, resilience and, as the title hints, color.
Trump Sky Alpha by Mark Doten (Graywolf)
Doten’s satire directly tackles the president and the surrounding political madness. The setting: a near future in which the country has been plunged into nuclear war.
Nobody’s Looking At You by Janet Malcolm (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Pretty simple, really: Malcolm is one of the great nonfiction writers (and thinkers) of the past 40 years. If that is not already obvious to you, might I suggest you pick up her latest book of essays, mostly culled from her last decade of work on behalf of The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books. ― Maxwell Strachan
Goulash by Brian Kimberling (Pantheon)
In turbulent 1998 Prague, an expat from Indiana falls in love with a British teacher. Kimberling’s 2013 work, Snapper, has been praised for its comic whimsy, warmth, well-turned prose and observant eye, and Goulash promises more of the same while grappling with the specters of accelerating capitalism and political unrest.
The Body Myth by Rheea Mukherjee (The Unnamed Press)
“When I look back, I see myself as an Indian city on the verge of finding identity,” says Mira, the narrator of The Body Myth. “And then I lost control, expanded without direction, without a plan.” A teacher in Suryam, Mira carries on a typical life until she sees a woman, Sara, at the park having a seizure. Mira strikes up a friendship with Sara and her husband, Rahil, and embarks on intense relationships with the two of them. — Jill Capewell
The New Me by Halle Butler (Penguin)
Few authors capture the acidic angst of downtrodden millennials like Butler, whose heroines, trapped in precarious and soulless work, take comfort in consumption, in cynicism, in ill-fated self-improvement. In The New Me, 30-year-old Millie is a lonely temp who longs for a better life that is somehow never within her grasp ― and that maybe wouldn’t be that much better after all.
Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi (Riverhead)
Oyeyemi’s previous fiction, such as Mr. Fox and Boy, Snow, Bird, blended fable, fantasy and realism to dismantle constructs of race, womanhood and storytelling itself. Gingerbread looks to follow in that tradition, putting the straightforward modern story of a schoolgirl and her mother in conversation with fairy-tale tropes.
Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls by T Kira Madden (Bloomsbury)
“I wanted love the size of a fist. Something I could hold, hot and knuckled and alive.” Madden’s memoir begins in Boca Raton, Florida, where her father has moved her and her mother to start over, away from his wife and other kids. She recounts her childhood and adolescence and makes stops in Hawaii and New York in the course of the book, writing with electricity throughout. — Jill Capewell
Lot by Bryan Washington (Riverhead)
Washington’s debut collection, set in his hometown of Houston, has been preceded by a cacophony of buzz. The stories revolve around a boy coming to grips with his own identity ― and sexuality ― but they depict his whole world, his complicated family, the neighborhoods they live in and what makes these communities hold together or break apart.
The White Card by Claudia Rankine (Graywolf)
Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric made her a household name, or as close to one as any contemporary poet. In The White Card, a one-act play, she continues to dissect American racism with a razor-sharp pen, confronting the damage inflicted by comfortable, un-self-reflective white privilege.
Now, Now, Louison by Jean Frémon, translated by Cole Swenson (New Directions)
A slim novel about the life of bewitching French-American artist Louise Bourgeois, Now, Now, Louison was written by gallerist Frémon, her occasional collaborator.
Sing to It by Amy Hempel (Scribner)
When it comes to short fiction, Hempel is one of the greats — which makes this collection, her first since 2006, much anticipated. Expect bold, unsettling prose from this master of the form. — Jill Capewell
The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell (Hogarth)
This immense debut opens over a century ago, early in the era of British colonial influence over what would become Zambia, and traces the history and future of the country through three inadvertently intertwined families. Serpell’s writing is dense with humor, fantastical twists and historical detail; she has already written about one fascinating episode in the novel, the story of Zambian Afronauts who wanted to win the Cold War space race, for The New Yorker.
The Other Americans by Laila Lalami (Pantheon)
Lalami’s follow-up to the award-winning The Moor’s Account opens with the shocking death of a Moroccan immigrant who is hit by a car ― it seems intentionally ― while crossing an intersection in California. The fallout is narrated by his daughter, his widow, a detective, the dead man and others whose lives are entangled with the man’s fate.
Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do by Jennifer L. Eberhardt (Viking)
There’s a strange sort of binary that exists among self-described good white people. None of them believe they are racist, but all of them agree racism persists in the U.S. Racism, in that way, is something that is ascribed to those people over there, an insidious notion that has allowed many white people to not just ignore their unconscious racial biases but also never have to face them. That’s why I’m hoping Eberhardt’s new book will live up to its promise. She is an expert in the area, and Biased promises to break down “the subtle — and sometimes dramatic — daily repercussions of implicit bias” in classrooms, workplaces, housing, criminal justice and other areas. Maybe the book will even help a few people work up the courage to face their biases that they’ve ignored their entire lives. ― Maxwell Strachan
Stay Up With Hugo Best by Erin Somers (Scribner)
Somers’ debut, a comedy about comedy ― and the comedy world’s treacherous sexual power dynamics ― follows a young woman working as a writer’s assistant on a late-night show who, after the host’s retirement, accepts his invitation to stay at his home for a long weekend.
A Wonderful Stroke of Luck by Ann Beattie (Viking)
Set in a New England boarding school at the turn of the 21st century, Beattie’s latest traces the troubling sway held by a teacher over the few students he selects to groom as intellectual acolytes ― and how, years later, one student struggles to make sense of his onetime mentor’s influence.
Women Talking by Miriam Toews (Bloomsbury)
As a fan of Toews’ All My Puny Sorrows, I would follow the Canadian author anywhere she leads — this time to a remote Mennonite colony in Bolivia where the women have been subjected to brutal attacks in the night first believed to be the work of demons. When they discover the atrocities were committed by men in their community, the women — who cannot read or write and require the group’s schoolteacher to write down their conversations — must decide whether they will leave, exiting the only world they’ve known, or remain. — Jill Capewell
The Affairs of the Falcóns by Melissa Rivero (Ecco)
Inspired by Rivero’s history as an undocumented Peruvian immigrant (she’s now an American citizen), her debut follows Ana Falcón as she struggles to provide for her family ― her husband and two young children ― without documents. The Affairs of the Falcóns shows Ana navigating an obstacle course for survival, facing family pressures, marital strife, sexual harassment, loan sharks and the fear of failure, making vivid the kinds of experiences that are often treated as abstractions in our political discourse.
The Gulf by Belle Boggs (Graywolf)
Writers love to talk about learning to write ― MFAs, writing groups, retreats, workshops ― but they rarely tackle the subject in fiction, at least not with the lacerating comedy of Boggs’ first novel, which also takes on for-profit education and other American ills. A financially flailing writer, despite her atheist views, accepts a position teaching writing at a brand-new Christian school in Florida, only to find that she’s in over her head.
Outside Looking In by T.C. Boyle (Ecco)
One of Boyle’s great gifts is being able to choose the perfect, madcap moments from history to fictionalize ― the invention of breakfast cereal, Biosphere II ― and his latest selection is the early heyday of LSD and the wild experiments conducted with it at Harvard in the 1960s. Readers can expect Boyle to transform this dry historical anecdote into a living, breathing world that feels as present as their own.
Trust Exercise by Susan Choi (Henry Holt)
Set in an elite performing arts high school in the 1980s, Trust Exercise opens with the burgeoning romance of two young teenagers. As the novel winds on, Choi revisits what has been told, revealing and reframing to expose the deceptiveness of storytelling.
A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II by Sonia Purnell (Viking)
Based on the synopsis, I’d say it’s only a matter of when, not if, journalist Purnell’s forthcoming book is adapted into a critically acclaimed show on Netflix or some such. A Woman of No Importance is the true story of a Virginia Hall, a World War II–era American woman who joined Winston Churchill’s spy organization, the so-called ministry of ungentlemanly warfare, after getting rejected from the U.S. foreign service because she was a woman with a prosthetic leg. From there, she went on to become one of the greatest American spies in history — a claim that appears to have been backed up by the Gestapo, which sent out a transmission about her in 1942. “She is the most dangerous of all Allied spies,” it read. “We must find and destroy her.” ― Maxwell Strachan
Normal People by Sally Rooney (Hogarth)
After the splash made by Rooney’s acclaimed debut, Conversations With Friends, one might fear a sophomore slump ― but Normal People, a novel about two students navigating shifting social and class dynamics and their nascent feelings for each other, has already been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize.
Diary of a Murderer by Young-Ha Kim, translated by Krys Lee (Mariner)
In the title novella of the collection, an elderly man considers coming out of retirement for one last job to save his daughter from the fiancé he believes wants to murder her. He’s not a retired detective or a bodyguard, though; he’s a former serial killer. The last story, “The Writer,” opens with an anecdote about a man who is convinced he is a corncob. Needless to say, I’m already beguiled.
Republic of Lies: American Conspiracy Theorists and Their Surprising Rise to Power by Anna Merlan (Metropolitan)
Every day, it seems, there’s a new book hammering away at the question of Donald Trump — why he won, what’s wrong with him, what he’s going to do to America. It’s much rarer for a book to earnestly, thoroughly explore the country’s shifts beyond simply pinning them on the president, and Merlan’s Republic of Lies promises to do just that for the rise of conspiracy theories, examining their history in the country, the conditions that allow them to take hold and how they shape our society.
The Besieged City by Clarice Lispector (New Directions)
Lispector, though celebrated in her Brazil, was little known in the U.S. until recently, when, decades after her death, a series of new translations from New Directions won the hearts of readers and critics. The latest, The Besieged City, is a narrative departure for her ― a happily-ever-after romance ― but the style and philosophical concerns remain.
Walking on the Ceiling by Ayşegül Savaş (Riverhead)
In the tradition of the flâneuse, Savaş’ young heroine, Nunu, roams the streets of Paris, where she’s moved to start over, and Istanbul, her home. She meditates on her relationship with her late mother; she strikes up a friendship with an accomplished British author; she closely observes the changing world around her. It’s the sort of quiet story that can be absolutely mesmerizing in a gifted writer’s hands, and just a few pages of Walking on the Ceiling suggest that Savaş has that gift for the telling detail, the comic jab, the piercing observation.
The Farm by Joanne Ramos (Random House)
The societal surveillance imposed on pregnant women, the poor and immigrants meet in this novel. The chillingly believable premise: A Filipino immigrant hoping to secure her future in America agrees to spend nine months at a luxurious New York resort while she gestates a baby. She can’t leave, and her every move is tracked. Ramos’ novel depicts a world in which the wealthy pay for perfection and convenience while the rest have little choice but to comply with their own exploitation.
Rough Magic: Riding the World’s Loneliest Horse Race by Lara Prior-Palmer (Catapult)
In 2013, Prior-Palmer entered the Mongol Derby ― a 1,000-kilometer horse race based on Genghis Khan–era travel routes ― despite having no experience beyond a deep love of horses. She won, becoming the first female champion in the race’s brief history and, at 19, the youngest person ever to complete it. Rough Magic is her chronicle of the experience, and if her debut as an author is half as strong as her maiden effort in racing, it will be well worth the read. ― Travis Waldron
I Like to Watch: Arguing My Way Through the TV Revolution by Emily Nussbaum (Random House)
I like to read, and I particularly like to read Nussbaum’s TV criticism. So naturally, I’m thrilled that this year we’ll be blessed with a whole book of it.
Lanny by Max Porter (Graywolf)
In Porter’s fiction, the sometimes unpleasantly familiar world collides with the uncanny, the folkloric, the inexplicable. Lanny takes place in a small English village, where a new family with a young boy has just moved ― and where Dead Papa Toothwort, a being who has long lived in the town’s mythology, has just reawoken.
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong (Penguin Press)
“Let me begin again,” starts the acclaimed poet’s debut novel. The book takes the form of a message from a young man to his mother, a woman who grew up in war-torn Vietnam and raised him alone in America. From the start, the narrator reckons with the insufficiency of words to communicate what he needs to say, the constant need for revision. And yet, in the manner of a truly great poet, Vuong can — and frequently does — drop a sentence that strikes you like a beautiful fist to the solar plexus.
Mostly Dead Things by Kristin Arnett (Tin House)
Should more books be written about taxidermy? Most definitely. In Arnett’s debut novel, a patriarch’s suicide leaves his daughter to manage the family taxidermy business, while the rest of the family copes with grief in increasingly bizarre ways.
Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok (William Morrow)
When Sylvie, the golden elder child of the Lees, vanishes during a trip to the Netherlands, her younger sister, Amy, and her parents desperately set out to track her down. As the mystery unfolds, they’re searching not only for Sylvie but also for the truth about who she is.
In West Mills by De’Shawn Charles Winslow (Bloomsbury)
This novel introduces readers to Azalea “Knot” Centre — a woman who loves nothing more than “cheap moonshine, nineteenth-century literature and the company of men” — and the small North Carolina town of West Mills where she lives. When Knot is ostracized by the community, a neighbor steps in to offer a way out of the chaos she has created in her life. — Jill Capewell
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead (Doubleday)
Whitehead won a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award for The Underground Railroad, a book so good that the brilliant Barry Jenkins (of “Moonlight” and “If Beale Street Could Talk” fame) is making a TV series about it for Amazon. In Whitehead’s follow-up novel, he moves forward in time to the Jim Crow era, telling the story of two boys banished to a Florida reform school described as “a grotesque chamber of horrors.” It will undoubtedly be tough to read but more than worthy of your time. — Maxwell Strachan
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly referred to the main character of Washington’s Lot by the name Javi, mistakenly identified the publishing imprint of Sea Monsters as Black Balloon, and miscategorized Where Reasons End as a memoir.