The Great Believers by Rebecca MakkaiWhat it's about: Set in Chicago during the height of the AIDS crisis as well as in modern-day Paris, this thoughtful novel is a powerful portrayal of loss, life, friendship, and family.
Why you might like it: Empathetic characters; moving details of the AIDS epidemic; an emphasis on the families you choose.
Read it if: you enjoyed the scope and subject matter of A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara but want something a little more uplifting.
Bearskin by James A. McLaughlinWhat it's about: Obsessed with catching the poachers intruding on a private preserve, caretaker Rice Moore runs into trouble with vicious locals, a drug cartel, and U.S. law enforcement.
Why you might like it: With a flawed and damaged hero, bursts of violence, and an atmospheric setting in Virginia's Appalachian forests, this visceral, literary debut shows that it's not just nature that's red in tooth and claw...
There There by Tommy OrangeWhat it is: a debut by a Native American author; vignettes in the lives of 12 different characters as they prepare for the upcoming Big Oakland Powwow in Oakland, California.
Why you might like it: With characters whose motivations run the gamut, this is a wide-ranging, multifaceted portrait of a complex and sometimes only tangentially connected community -- that of urban Native Americans.
Reviewers say: "a new kind of American epic" (The New York Times); "white-hot" (The Washington Post); "kaleidoscopic" (Kirkus Reviews).
The Book of M by Peng ShepherdWhat it's about: Sometime in the near future, people are losing their shadows -- a precursor to losing all of their memories. Chaos ensues, and Ory and his wife Max flee to a mountain cabin to escape the violence -- and then Max loses her shadow and runs away.
Why you might like it: You can't get enough cross-country dystopian fiction, like Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven.
The Shepherd's Hut by Tim WintonWhat it's about: After the sudden death of his violent father, teenager Jaxie Clackton takes off across the rough and dangerous landscape of Western Australia in hopes of reaching the girl he loves.
Read it for: Jaxie's journey across the unforgiving wilderness; the compelling and gritty writing; and Jaxie himself -- as rough as his language, he's not always easy to feel sympathy for, despite his brutal upbringing.
Be aware of: a fair amount of blood and violence, including cruelty to animals.
How to Behave in a Crowd by Camille BordasStarring: 11-year-old Isadore Mazal, the youngest and least obviously talented among six overachieving and gifted siblings.
What it's about: three years in the life of this young misfit, who proves that while he may not have academic gifts nor musical talents, he has his own special way of seeing the world.
For fans of: coming-of-age stories with complex, well-developed child narrators.
How to Talk to Girls at Parties by Neil Gaiman; illustrated by Fábio Moon and Gabriel BáWhat it is: a graphic novel adaptation of a short story by Neil Gaiman, boasting striking illustrations and a plot that gives new meaning to the phrase "women are from Venus."
What happens: 15-year-old Enn and his more socially skilled friend Victor crash a party filled with beautiful women; as the evening progresses they attempt to hit it off -- with less than successful results.
Try it if: you found Scott Pilgrim's tentative romantic overtures too action-packed.
How to Build a Girl by Caitlin MoranStarring: awkward 14-year-old misfit Johanna Morgan, whose family is on the dole and who reinvents herself as Dolly Wilde, a hard-charging partier who makes a name for herself as a hard-to-please rock critic.
Why you might like it: England in the 1990s (and its music scene) is vividly depicted; the writing is clever, observant, and often hilarious; your awkward teen years are comfortably far behind you.
Look for: the sequel, How to Be Famous, publishing this month.
How to Be Both by Ali SmithWhat it is: an inventive, genre-blending combination of historical and contemporary stories, in a highly unusual format -- chapters are arranged in a different order from copy to copy, so readers will experience the book differently depending on what they hold in their hands.
Starring: a Renaissance-era artist and a grieving modern-day teen.
Why you might like it: With thought-provoking explorations of gender and art, plus the creative layout, How to Be Both offers plenty of fodder for discussion.
Contact your librarian for more great books!