1. The Girls, Emma Cline
The summer of 1969 comes electrically alive in Cline’s tale of an impressionable California teen drawn into a Manson-like cult—though the setting is ultimately secondary to her story’s searing emotional intelligence.
2. LaRose, Louise Erdrich
A single terrible moment blows two families apart in Erdrich’s latest, a fiercely resonant exploration of love, loss, and the tangled ties that bind.
3. The Vegetarian, Han Kang
Kang’s slender fable, an unexpected but utterly deserving winner of this year’s Man Booker International Prize, traces a young Korean housewife’s descent into something like madness (or is it?) with haunting, almost hallucinatory beauty.
4. Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi
Spanning two continents and three centuries, the Ghana-born, Alabama-raised Gyasi’s sweeping narrative of slavery and the black experience is an epic achievement ingeniously condensed into 300 gripping, gorgeously wrought pages.
5. Mothering Sunday, Graham Swift
The master of a certain kind of very British, very literary fiction fits an astonishing amount of feeling into this slim, sunlit reverie, set on a single spring day in the Berkshire countryside circa 1924 and centered on a clandestine romance.
6. This Too Shall Pass, Milena Busquets
Busquets’ sleek novella, set in her native Spain, feels like the book equivalent of a European art-house film: frankly existential, full of ravishing imagery, and wreathed in a Continental haze of sex and cigarette smoke.
7. Modern Lovers, Emma Straub
The Vacationers author produces yet another breezy gem for the thinking person’s beach tote, this time turning her weapons-grade wit on a contemporary Brooklyn mad for reconditioned brownstones and home-brewed kombucha.
8. Sweetbitter, Stephanie Danler
Anyone who’s ever worked in the service industry—or eaten a meal in a restaurant—will find revelations in Danler’s intoxicating account of high-end waitressing in New York City; her (semi-) fictional debut is both a seductive coming-of-age and a lush feast for the senses.
9. Smoke, Dan Vyleta
What if sin manifested itself as a dense, oily smoke? Vyleta’s Gothic YA fantasy is part Dickens, part dystopia, and totally immersive: a book as eerie and atmospheric as its sooty muse.
10. The Nest, Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
When a long-promised inheritance—the well-feathered Nest of the title—falls away, the Plumb siblings are forced to face various midlife truths and consequences in Sweeney’s wry, irresistible debut.