Black Buck by Mateo AskaripourWhat it is: a debut novel with a biting take on racism in corporate America and the story of a man who may have found success at the expense of his sense of self.
Starring: Darren, a college graduate who takes a job at a cult-like NYC startup. The longer he stays and the greater his success, the more the corporate excesses push him toward helping other young Black people succeed in America's sales force.
Why you might like it: styled like a self-help manual, this provocative satire exposes a lot of hypocrisy and prejudice and speaks to the current moment in American history.
Before the Ruins by Victoria GoslingThe set up: Four best friends become five with the arrival of a mysterious stranger in their tiny English town. But their group fractures and, decades later, one member has disappeared.
What happens: Ringleader Andy sets out to find her oldest pal, with whom things have long been strained. In so doing, she uncovers long-hidden secrets.
For fans of: atmospheric, menacing tales like Donna Tartt's The Secret History or Elisabeth Thomas' Catherine House.
The Center of Everything by Jamie HarrisonStarring: Montana restaurant owner Polly, who is beset by migraines and memory problems (including painful flashbacks from her childhood) after a head injury. The troubling disappearance of her children's babysitter adds an additional stressor.
What it is: Set in the present (the 4th of July weekend in 2002) and the past (a family reunion in 1968), this family drama of mental illness and loss is told by an unwittingly unreliable narrator.
For fans of: slow-burning, character-driven novels.
Detransition, Baby by Torrey PetersWhat happens: Trans woman Reese, her detransitioned ex Ames and his cisgender lover (and boss) Katrina build an unconventional family in response to an unplanned pregnancy.
Read it for: loving, engaging, and relatably complicated characters; abundant wit; and the understanding that there are many ways to build a family.
About the author: Torrey Peters is herself a trans woman; this "smart, funny, and bighearted" novel (Kirkus Reviews) is her full-length debut after three novellas.
The Liar's Dictionary by Eley WilliamsWhat it is: a tale of two parallel stories, both set in the offices of a dictionary publisher. In the 19th century, a lexicographer adds made-up words to the New Encyclopaedic Dictionary; in the modern day, an intern is tasked with finding them.
Why you might like it: Puns and wordplay make this a linguistic delight, while the romantic adventures in both eras humanize it.
Reviewers say: "A sweet and diverting story, witty and sincere" (Kirkus Reviews).
The Awkward Black Man: Stories by Walter MosleyWhat it is: a collection of 17 short stories that portray the wide variety of American life, all starring Black men, many of them over 50, narrating their own stories.
Don't miss: "The Good News Is," in which a man's insecurity about his weight gives way to a serious illness. It's the first in the book and once you've read it, you'll be hooked on award-winning author Walter Mosley's insight and slice-of life perspective.
The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha PhilyawWhat it is: nine stories exploring the secret lives of the Black women and girls who can't get everything they need from attending church.
Don't miss: "Peach Cobbler," in which a daughter comes to terms with her mother's long-ago affair with their pastor.
Reviewers say: "cheeky, insightful, and irresistible" (Ms. Magazine); "full of lived-in humanity, warmth, and compassion" (Pittsburgh Current).
For fans of: Danielle Evans' The Office of Historical Corrections; anything by Toni Morrison.
In the Valley: Stories and a Novella Based on Serena by Ron RashWhat it is: ten tales set in North Carolina's Appalachian Mountains and spanning a century and a half, from the Civil War to the modern era.
Don't miss: "Sad Man in the Sky," in which an ex-con finds a creative way to show his love for the children he helped raise.
Who should you read next? Rick Bragg, Jesmyn Ward, Tom Franklin, and Wiley Cash all write atmospheric stories set in the South.
I Hold a Wolf by the Ears: Stories by Laura Van den BergWhat it is: a collection of stories in which women, often in Florida, often already struggling with grief or anxiety, must cope with loss and strained relationships.
Why you might like it: While some stories have an element of the absurd, others are deeply layered; a sense of menace pervades but does not overwhelm a sense of empathy for these women, especially those who are suffering at the hands of men.
Want a taste? "I want to tell you about the night I got hit by a train and died. The thing is -- it never happened."
Verge: Stories by Lidia YuknavitchWhat it is: 20 short stories which, in their surrealism and darkness, may appeal to horror readers.
Don't miss: "Street Walker," which holds many surprises; the deeply cynical cop in "A Woman Refusing;" and the 160 or so words that make up "Two Girls."
Reviewers say: "Disturbing and delightful all at once" (BookRiot).
Is it for you? The collection's intimate approach to trauma and violence may make for difficult reading for some.
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