Right about now, the days are long and air conditioners are cranked up high. It’s the middle of the year: the colder months are in sight, and we’re over halfway to whatever surprises 2018 might have in store. It’s also a great time for taking stock of the first six months of 2017 — in our case, that means a look back at some recent books we’ve enjoyed. Thus, here’s a look at ten of the books that most impressed us in the first half of this year. Maybe they’ll catch your eye as well.
Marlena, Julie Buntin
(Henry Holt & Company)
Julie Buntin’s acclaimed debut novel chronicles a teenage friendship that ends badly–and its lasting impact on one of its participants, who struggles with her memories of that point in time.
One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter, Scaachi Koul
Scaachi Koul’s incisive essays delve deeply into questions of family, race, and the ways that online culture can turn toxic. The result is a memorable and personal take on a host of important and relevant questions.
All the Lives I Want: Essays About My Best Friends Who Happen to Be Famous Strangers, Alana Massey
(Grand Central Publishing)
Alana Massey’s essay collection delves into celebrity culture and memorably describes how we perceive (and are shaped by) these lives that we follow at a certain distance.
All Grown Up, Jami Attenberg
Jami Attenberg’s latest novel has a strong narrative voice, a host of resonant themes about family and solitude, and a detailed portrait of life in the city–all the while with some smart structural moves thrown in.
Black Moses, Alain Mabanckou; translated by Helen Stevenson
Alain Mabanckou’s novel takes on a classic setup–the life of an orphan in a bustling city–and blends aspects of the 19th-century serial novel with a tale set over multiple decades in late-20th century Congo-Brazzaville.
Sorry to Disrupt the Peace, Patty Yumi Cottrell
The narrator of Patty Yumi Cottrell’s first novel is determined to use the techniques of a detective novel to uncover the reasons for her brother’s suicide, even as she seems oblivious to the familial tensions around her.
Exit West, Mohsin Hamid
Mohsin Hamid’s novel bridges gritty realism and dreamlike surrealism as it tells the story of a couple who leave a war-torn city for a better life elsewhere through a strange system of doors.
Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions, Valeria Luiselli
(Coffee House Press)
Immigration has become an increasingly heated issue in American politics as of late. In this short, powerful book, Valeria Luiselli explores the lives of several people caught in the middle of American immigration policy.
White Tears, Hari Kunzru
In this unnerving novel, two aficionados of early-20th century music create a song that evokes pre-war blues–and then descend into a horrific world of cultural appropriation and generational crimes.
The Twenty Days of Turin, Giorgio De Maria; translated by Ramon Glazov
Giorgio De Maria’s magnificently terrifying novel includes appropriations menacing a city, fascist conspiracies, and some of the most unsettling imagery we’ve encountered in ages.