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Dr. No

A go-for-broke work of literary comedy that successfully blends rib-tickling eccentricity with affecting and stealthily moving discourse on race, wealth, and the failures of neoliberal institutions; you’re unlikely to read anything funnier this year.

A Line in the World: A Year on the North Sea Coast

Inquisitive and flowing, with plenty of insight into how North Sea cultures adapt and respond to the sea. More than a travelogue, with stories about life, death, and nature as an enduring, immovable, ever-changing force.

The Rupture Tense: Poems

An elegy for Xie’s grandmother points out, “Nowhere goes clean through the static of decades without hitting a nerve,” and Xie hits nerves throughout in stunning and evocative language. Highly recommended.

Turn Up the Ocean: Poems

Hoagland’s poetry earns the oft-misused adjective uncompromising for its directness in the face of reality’s “blithering whirlwind of wonder.” Though one wishes his life had not ended so soon, this collection will stand as a fitting capstone to a stellar poetic career.

Against Heaven: Poems

Alabi’s confident debut recommends them as a name to follow, but this collection is a mixed bag of forceful but too often scattershot and hyperactive poems.

If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English

The short chapters keep the pages turning during the first two sections as the narrative heads toward the inevitable catastrophe, and the meta-fictional third section helps readers process what may have disturbed or offended in the story itself and its depiction of the characters, addressing current conversations about authorial voice, consent, and cultural appropriation. Extraordinary.

Mother Country

Winner of the Janet Heidinger Kafka and James Fenimore Cooper prizes for Saint Monkey, Townsend provides many perspectives on motherhood while addressing potent issues of kidnapping, slavery, rape, abuse, and neglect, and vividly depicting their consequences. Highly recommended.

Customs: Poems

Blistering in its clear-sightedness (“No crueler word than return./ No greater lie”), this collection offers a fierce, beautiful closing that dares to imagine “a beckoning, a way.” A bold and uncompromising book with virtuosic emotional range; highly recommended.


Merging time and memory to reveal the trauma, confusion, and exhilaration of growing up, this coming-of-age novel proves that Petterson’s immense talent was on display from the very first.

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