The Pregnant Widow
Martin Amis (Knopf)
Amis propels a very Martin Amis-like Keith Nearing through a summer of poolside torment-sexual, psychological, literary-in 1968 Italy. This dark drawing-room comedy is a showcase of Amis's ability to make the English language bend to his whims.
Parrot & Olivier in America
Peter Carey (Knopf)
Olivier, a fictionalized and absolutely obnoxious riff on Alexis de Tocqueville, contends with Parrot, a cunning servant dispatched to spy on Olivier by Olivier's mother, as the two journey across early 19th-century America. In this vast picaresque, Carey finds, via a snobbish Frenchman and an earthy Brit, a truly American story.
Jonathan Dee (Random)
Dee again turns a gimlet eye on the way we live now, offering a churning story of greed, risk, danger, and financial industry chicanery set amid the foibles of a rabidly ambitious Manhattan family. Think: Bonfire of the Vanities, updated, hipper, and stripped to the bone.
Nick Drake (Harper)
Drake easily injects a serial killer plot into the middle book of his Ancient Egyptian trilogy while vividly evoking the reign of the boy king Tutankhamun.
Andrew Ervin (Coffee House)
Modern Budapest comes to life in three linked novellas with characters that cover the spectrum from a concentration camp survivor who returns for the premiere of his opera to a black American G.I. forced into gun running by his unscrupulous commander.
Tana French (Viking)
Suspense blends with family demons in French's meticulous crime novel about a cop's quest for the truth behind the disappearance of the young Dublin woman he was planning to elope with 22 years earlier.
To the End of the Land
David Grossman, trans. from the Hebrew by Jessica Cohen (Knopf)
Grossman's epic masterwork maps the long, dark shadow war has cast over an Israeli family. From domestic disruption to harrowing violence, this unflinching account is devastating and seductive.
The Four Stages of Cruelty
Keith Hollihan (St. Martin's/Dunne)
Hollihan combines a labyrinthine plot with a nuanced, character-driven narrative that provides insights into prison life in his impressive debut.
Father of the Rain
Lily King (Grove)
King's intense family drama coincides with the demise of Waspdom and exposes the thrill and despair of an alcoholic, charismatic father who is wildly entertaining to a child but difficult to deal with as an adult.
Our Kind of Traitor
John le Carré (Viking)
Those who have found post-cold war le Carré too cerebral will welcome this Russian mafia spy thriller involving an English couple on holiday in the Caribbean.
Beneath the Lion's Gaze
Maaza Mengiste (Norton)
African novelists have been taking center stage, and Mengiste's debut marks her as one to watch. Ethiopia from the fall of Haile Selassie through the dark '70s of Derge rule is her setting as a family struggles to maintain its humanity.
How to Read the Air
Dinaw Mengestu (Riverhead)
Mengestu sticks to familiar territory in his soulful second novel, but here brings an intriguing formal rigor to the tale. Jonas Woldemariam retraces a brief road trip that his parents, both Ethiopian immigrants, took 30 years before, compelling him to distort the truth about not only their lives, but his own, in ever more complicated ways.
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
David Mitchell (Random)
Mitchell goes straightup historical in this majestic account of a young Dutch East Indies clerk's time in the trading port of Dejima, in turn-of-the-19th-century Japan.
Joyce Carol Oates (Ecco)
Yes, we suspect there are really three separate writers producing the endless stream of prose: Joyce, Carol, and Oates. Here, Oates takes it to the edge, bringing her recurring themes of violence and desire to terrifying fruition. Widows figure prominently, as do children, and everyone's in trouble.
Years of Red Dust
Qiu Xiaolong (St. Martin's)
This collection of linked short stories from the author of The Mao Case and five other Inspector Chen novels charts the political changes in China under Communist rule through the eyes of the inhabitants of Shanghai's Red Dust Lane.
Tom Rachmann (Dial)
The ragtag staff of a dying English language daily newspaper in Rome provide a memorable cross-section of experience, failure, expectation, and perilous aspiration. It's also a magnificent paean to that increasingly endangered species: the printed newspaper.
Cornelia Read (Grand Central)
Acid-tongued ex-socialite Madeline Dare uncovers a child's skeleton in Queens' Prospect Cemetery in a crime novel that exposes undertones of racism and classism in New York City's justice system.
John Reimringer (Milkweed)
This sensitive and searching debut confronts the conflicts of a newly ordained young priest from a family whose men "have always loved strong drink and a good fight," torn between his desire for spirituality and the temptations of the flesh.
Scott Turow (Grand Central)
Twenty-two years after the events in Presumed Innocent, former lawyer Rusty Sabich once again faces a murder charge in a novel that rates as a worthy successor to that memorable debut.
Frederic Tuten (Norton)
For 40 years, since his early postmodernist stunner, The Adventures of Mao on the Long March, Tuten has reworked the shape and consistency of the novel. In this one, Tuten, now 74, turns self-ward. The result: magical Calvino-like tales both revealing and uncompromising, as the author's energy for invention trumps nostalgia while ennobling it.
Marlene van Niekerk, trans. from the Afrikaans by Michiel Heyns (Tin House)
South African van Niekerk takes readers into the muck of her homeland's complicated history of race relations via the perspective of a dying woman whose only companion is her black servant.
Anne Carson (New Directions)
This is a fold-out replication, a kind of scroll, of the handmade notebook that Carson made to mourn her brother's death.
The Eternal City
Kathleen Graber (Princeton)
Graber is the kind of poet who thinks out loud. What may at first seem like casual conversation with the self, however, turns out to be deep philosophical thinking.
By the Numbers
James Richardson (Copper Canyon)
Richardson is the best aphorist writing in English, and he's a hell of a poet, too. Both forms are represented in this wonderful book.
C.K. Williams (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Fear of death has sent some lightning through veteran poet Williams's poems. These are urgent remembrances of a life's regrets and what hopes still survive into old age.
Come On All You Ghosts
Matthew Zapruder (Copper Canyon)
Zapruder's third book mixes the kind of hip swagger he's known for with an increasingly earnest engagement with the people and things he loves.
The Man with the Baltic Stare
James Church (Minotaur)
Church audaciously sets his fourth Inspector O novel in 2016, when O must investigate a Macao prostitute's murder linked to the young man being groomed as the future leader of North Korea.
Love Songs from a Shallow Grave
Colin Cotterill (Soho Crime)
The murders of three women, each with a dueling sword, preoccupy 73-year-old Laotian coroner Siri Paiboun in a mystery that has it all-a heroic protagonist, a challenging puzzle, and an exotic setting.
Bleed a River Deep
Brian McGilloway (Minotaur)
Despite being suspended from the Garda for failing to prevent what could have been the fatal shooting of a visiting former U.S. senator, Irish Inspector Devlin persists in looking into a bank heist and other crimes in a mystery that explores the underside of the "Celtic Tiger."
Bury Your Dead
Louise Penny (Minotaur)
Penny's gift for displaying heartbreak and hope in the same scene is just one of the many strengths of her sixth traditional mystery to feature French-Canadian Chief Insp. Armand Gamache.