As the year hurdles to an end, the staff book lovers at the Washington Post picked out their favorite reads
“10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World”
By Elif Shafak (Bloomsbury)
In the immediate aftermath of her death, a Turkish prostitute recalls a culture that pretends to protect the honor of women but enthusiastically casts them off.
“The Atlas of Reds and Blues”
By Devi S. Laskar (Counterpoint)
A violent police raid involving the daughter of Indian immigrants anchors a page-turner that’s also an exploration of surviving racism in America.
“Bangkok Wakes to Rain”
By Pitchaya Sudbanthad (Riverhead)
Flowing gracefully from historical fiction to contemporary realism to science fiction, linked stories imagine Thailand’s lush past – and climate-changed future.
By Don Winslow (Morrow)
In the final installment in the Power of the Dog trilogy, about America’s war on drugs, a DEA agent comes out of retirement to wage one final battle in a war he can never win.
By Elizabeth McCracken (Ecco)
Bertha Truitt turns up (alive) in a small-town Massachusetts cemetery and wins local hearts by building a six-lane bowling alley.
“City of Girls”
By Elizabeth Gilbert (Riverhead)
Having failed out of Vassar, Vivian becomes a theater costumer and embraces a bohemian lifestyle involving sex with as many men as possible.
“Daisy Jones & the Six”
By Taylor Jenkins Reid (Ballantine)
In this oral history, musicians and hangers-on reminisce about the sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll of a Fleetwood Mac-inspired band.
By Julia Phillips (Knopf)
Ethnic and cultural tensions pervade the stories of women affected by the abduction of two young girls on Russia’s remote Kamchatka peninsula.
“The Doll Factory”
By Elizabeth Macneal (Atria/Emily Bestler)
A talented young woman encounters radical progressives and paradoxical sexual standards when she becomes an artist’s model and lover in 1850s London.
By Lucy Ellmann (Biblioasis)
A mother of four has a bright, unpretentious, ironic voice that will keep you reading this 1,000-page novel made up mostly of one breathless sentence.
“The Dutch House”
By Ann Patchett (Harper)
Maeve and Danny Conroy, born into a storybook life in a 1922 mansion, lose their mother, father and childhood home.
By Ted Chiang (Knopf)
A collection of nine stories that reflect the ideal of science fiction – metaphysical or scientific speculation united with humanist emotion.
“The Far Field”
By Madhuri Vijay (Grove)
A grieving young woman in Bangalore, India, travels to Kashmir to find the man her dead mother may have loved.
“Fleishman Is in Trouble”
By Taffy Brodesser-Akner (Random House)
Newly separated Toby Fleishman is having a great time with lots of women – until his wife stops answering his calls or picking up their kids.
“Frankissstein: A Love Story”
By Jeanette Winterson (Grove)
This brainy, batty novel moves between the 1816 gathering that produced “Frankenstein” and modern Memphis, where a transgender man attends a convention on artificial intelligence.
“A Girl Returned”
By Donatella Di Pietrantonio, translated by Ann Goldstein (Europa)
A well-off Italian teenager learns the difference between the haves and have-nots when she is dropped at the crowded apartment of the birth family she didn’t know existed.
By Fernando Aramburu, translated by Alfred Macadam (Pantheon)
Two couples with a long kinship are torn apart by the blood-soaked actions of the infamous Basque separatist group ETA.
By Tia Obreht (Random House)
In the 19th century West, the outlaw Lurie rides with the U.S. Army Camel Corps, and a desperate housewife in the Arizona Territory runs out of water.
By Stephen King (Scribner)
Deep in the Maine woods, the Institute enhances and exploits paranormal talents of youthful prisoners. Can the kids turn their abilities against their captors?
“Late in the Day”
By Tessa Hadley (Harper)
Two couples, friends for four decades, face one husband’s death and learn that their intimacy has equipped them to help and devastate one another.
“Lost Children Archive”
By Valeria Luiselli (Knopf)
The collapse of an unhappy marriage is set against the brutal deportation of migrant children at the southern U.S. border.
“The Man Who Saw Everything”
By Deborah Levy (Bloomsbury)
In a jigsaw puzzle of a novel, a man realizes that his version of the past might be based on his own faulty memories and quest for self-preservation.
“The Memory Police”
By Yoko Ogawa, translated by Stephen Snyder (Pantheon)
On an unnamed island, a female novelist resists the mass amnesia that a faceless authoritarian government is inflicting on an unsuspecting citizenry.
By Angie Kim (Sarah Crichton)
The mother of a special-needs child being treated with high-pressure oxygen therapy is suspiciously absent on the day an explosion at the medical center kills her son.
“Mostly Dead Things”
By Kristen Arnett (Tin House)
After her father’s suicide, Jessa-Lynn takes over the family taxidermy business, and her mother makes erotic art from the shop’s inventory of animal parts.
By Jennifer Weiner (Atria)
Sisters Jo and Bethie spend their childhood in 1950s Detroit and the next few decades taking separate paths through American pop culture, politics and sexual mores.
By Helen Phillips (Simon & Schuster)
An overstressed archaeologist and mother of two copes with some strange finds – a toy soldier with a monkey’s tail, a Bible where God is a She and a man wearing a papier-mache deer head.
“The Nickel Boys”
By Colson Whitehead (Doubleday)
The author of “The Underground Railroad” writes a restrained, reality-grounded novel involving abuse and perversion at a 1960s reformatory.
By Sally Rooney (Hogarth)
Marianne and Connell slip in and out of friendship and romance as they move from high school in quaint Carricklea, Ireland, to Dublin’s Trinity College.
“Nothing to See Here”
By Kevin Wilson (Ecco)
In this poignant comic novel, a depressed young woman agrees to take care of 10-year-old twins who burst into flames when they get angry.
By Elizabeth Strout (Random House)
In 13 linked stories, Strout picks up the life of her bossy, sad, brave antiheroine Olive Kitteridge – as well as many of her acquaintances – after her husband’s death.
“On the Come Up”
By Angie Thomas (Balzer + Bray)
Bri Johnson, a spry urban teenager with hip-hop dreams, writes rhymes while side-eying the effects of racial and economic disparities.
“Orange World and Other Stories”
By Karen Russell (Knopf)
A collection of eight short stories includes a pregnant woman making a deal with the devil, a zombie doctor and a boy who falls in love with a body.
“The Other Americans”
By Laila Lalami (Pantheon)
A struggling young composer tries to learn the truth about the death of her father, a Moroccan immigrant, in a hit-and-run.
“Outside Looking In”
By T.C. Boyle (Ecco)
Boyle reimagines the early career of Timothy Leary, the spaced-out guru of LSD, seen through the eyes of a Ph.D candidate under his tutelage.
By Nicole Dennis-Benn (Liveright)
A 28-year-old Jamaican mother leaves her daughter behind to find a new life – and her old flame – in New York.
By Mark Haddon (Doubleday)
A Greek legend is entangled with a modern narrative of sexual abuse, producing a riveting mix of swashbuckling adventure and feminist resistance.
“Red at the Bone”
By Jacqueline Woodson (Riverhead)
Woodson’s second work of adult fiction traces the effects of race, religion, sexuality and class on three generations of a black family in Brooklyn.
“The Secrets We Kept”
By Lara Prescott (Knopf)
Strong, smart women battle tricky cultural and political mores in a series of intertwined stories set on both sides of the Iron Curtain during the Cold War.
By Sadie Jones (Harper)
Creepy disaster unfolds after a young British couple embark on a three-month driving vacation around Europe.
By Ali Smith (Pantheon)
Fey 12-year-old Florence knits together several narratives in a modern world at odds with itself and teeming with displaced and fearful people.
By Margaret Atwood (Nan A. Talese)
Completely different in form and tone from “The Handmaid’s Tale,” this sequel is narrated, in part, by Aunt Lydia, turning the world of Gilead inside out.
“This Is Happiness”
By Niall Williams (Bloomsbury)
A young seminary student who lost his faith retreats to his grandparents’ house in a small Irish village where he learns the true meaning of love.
By Susan Choi (Henry Holt)
In the 2019 National Book Award winner for fiction, a charismatic theater teacher gets wind of a highly charged romance between two sophomores, and the ensuing classroom exercises feel more exploitative than educational.
By Chia-Chia Lin (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
The loss of a child, precarious finances and fear of belittlement from their white neighbors confound an immigrant family from Taiwan.
By Chuck Wendig (Del Rey)
As bewildered scientists try to conquer a brand-new disease – a pandemic of sleepwalking – demagogues exploit people’s fears and prejudices.
“The Water Dancer”
By Ta-Nehisi Coates (One World)
Hiram, a slave in Virginia, has the ability to fold physical space like fabric and thus travel instantly to distant points – a skill of great interest to abolitionists.
By Miriam Toews (Bloomsbury)
The women in a remote Mennonite community, realizing that they have been drugged and raped, must decide to fight, flee or forgive.
“The World Doesn’t Require You”
By Rion Amlicar Scott (Liveright)
A city founded by members of a slave rebellion copes, in the 21st century, with slapboxing, a cult-like megachurch and unruly robots.
“World of Hurt”
By Thomas Tessier (Macabre Ink)
One of the reigning masters of horror fiction assembles a massive retrospective – 28 chilling, unsettling stories and novellas.
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