The Best Books of 2015 (So Far)

2015 hasn’t been a great year for my personal life, but one thing that HAS been stellar is my reading. I’ve had my share of busts and slumps, but for the most part, I’ve read some really wonderful books. Here are my top ten favorites.

Best Books of 2015 (So Far)

1. Hall of Small Mammals by Thomas Pierce. Southern Gothic with a hint of magical realism, this short story collection is delightfully weird and deeply meaningful.

2. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. This novel about abuse and loyalty is the definition of gut-wrenching. Six months after reading Yanagihara’s sophomore novel, I still can’t stop thinking about it.

3. The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac by Sharma Shields. Seeing his mother walk off into the woods with a gigantic, hairy hominid sparks a life-long obsession in a nine-year-old boy. This fun, surreal read explores deep themes of family and the demons we all face.

4. My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh. The assault of a teenage girl rocks her idyllic neighborhood in suburban Baton Rouge. Decades later, her neighbor looks back on that summer, contemplating the mystery of who did it, growing up and the loss of innocence, and the weight of guilt. Stunning and nostalgic.

5. The Unraveling of Mercy Louis by Keija ParssinenA shocking discovery in a Texas oil refinery town shakes up the community and casts suspicion upon the teenage girls. Among them are golden girl Mercy Loius and the lonely wallflower who is fascinated by her. The Unraveling of Mercy Louis is both a wonderful coming-of-age story and a cutting criticism of the patriarchy.

6. Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller. An eight-year-old girl’s survivalist father takes her from her London home to a dilapidated cabin in the woods and tells her the rest of the world is destroyed. For the next nine years, they eke out a living from the land, until she makes a discovery that leads her home. An intricate puzzle, this book pulled me in, refused to let me go, and smashed me on the rocks.

7. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Following two young Nigerian expats who are separated by immigration difficulties, Americanah is at once a tender love story, a glimpse into the immigrant experience, a fascinating tale of two countries, and a thought-provoking contemplation of  race and identity.

8. Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own by Kate Bolick. Part memoir about Bolick’s choice to remain single, part literary biography about the rebellious women who inspired her, and part cultural history of spinsterhood, Spinster is a thought-provoking exploration of marriage and singledom. This book gave me a lot to think about as I consider what shape I want my own life to take.

9. Citizen: American Lyric by Claudia Rankine. This collection of prose and poetry catalogues the microaggressions and blatant racism black Americans face on a daily basis. Books like this are always important, but Citizen feels especially relevant in light of the recent violence in Charleston and Baltimore. I want to force everyone I know to read this book and reflect on their own actions and attitudes.

10. Dietland by Sarai Walker. Although it make look like fluffy commercial fiction on the outside, Dietland subverts the status quo with a feminist guerilla group and a bold, daring take on conventional beauty standards and self-acceptance. Reading like a feminist Fight Club, it is equal parts fun and thought-provoking.

What are your favorite books so far this year?

What I’m Reading Monday, June 29

I feel like for the last few months, my What I’m Reading posts have alternated between “I read ALL the books” and “I spent my week binging on Mad Men/Sex and the City/Gilmore Girls and didn’t do any reading.” It’s been all or nothing around here. The trend continues; since last week’s post, in which I wrote about three read-in-one-sitting books, I have read about 50 pages. Despite good news on a few fronts this week (three cheers for marriage equality!) I have felt distracted and lethargic.

I’ve picked up a few books, read a dozen pages, and set them aside. I haven’t been able to muster the motivation to do any blogging. I’ve been writing in this space for long enough that I no longer feel guilty for taking a short break, but I miss that spark of enthusiasm! I’m sure it will be back soon, but I hate being stuck in the doldrums.

Although I haven’t done much reading in the last week, there are two books that I thoroughly enjoyed: The Artful Mandala Coloring Book by Cher Kauffman and Sweet, Savory & Sometimes Boozy Cupcakes by Alison Riede, both of which were kindly sent to me by Countryman Press. Coloring is so soothing (and it gave me a great excuse to have Gilmore Girls on in the background), and I loved the variety of designs in the coloring book. And the cupcake book is everything I’ve ever wanted. I made jalapeno cornbread cupcakes with honey butter frosting early in the week, and the margarita cupcakes with tequila lime buttercream frosting proved the perfect snack for girls’ night over the weekend.

I’m also re-reading To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee for the first time since ninth grade! I remember feeling pretty ambivalent about the book when I read it at age 14, so I’m excited to read it as an adult with more interest in its significance.

What are you reading this week?

What I’m Reading Monday, June 22

Happy Monday, booklings! This was a week for binge-reading some GOOD books. (I blame the #flashreadathon.) Early in the week, I wrapped up Naked at Lunch: A Reluctant Nudist’s Adventures in the Clothing-Optional World by Mark Haskell Smith, was was a super fun read.

Next up was Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret for the #BlumeAlong, hosted by Kerry of Entomology of a Bookworm. This was my first time reading Judy Blume, and damn is she good at capturing the experience of being a twelve-year-old girl. I’m kicking myself for not having read this book when I was that age!

After tearing through Are You There, God, in one sitting, I moved on to The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Hellen Phillips. It was delightfully unsettling, and I couldn’t resist gulping it down in one afternoon. I’m still mulling over the ending, and I can’t wait to discuss this book with people!

Finally, I devoured Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg on Sunday. My summer review load is pretty light, and I couldn’t resist diving into this September release. With multiple narrators, a small East Coast town, and a web of complicated relationships, it was the kind of novel that I adore.

What are you reading this week?

Naked at Lunch by Mark Haskell Smith: An Immersive Look at Social Nudism

People have enjoyed taking their clothes off and socializing in the buff for centuries — a predilection that is often frowned upon by society at large. In his latest book, Naked at Lunch: A Reluctant Nudist’s Adventures in the Clothing-Optional World, Mark Haskell Smith takes an immersive approach to exploring naturism and “nonsexual social nudism.” Although not a nudist himself, he gamely drops trou and dives into the naturist community, going on a “nakation” aboard a nude cruise, hiking naked through the alps, and lounging by the pool at naturist resorts. Along the way, he discusses the history of nudism, the state of contemporary naturism, common misconceptions, popular nude recreational activities, and just what it is, exactly, that compels people to take their clothes off around other naked people (in nonsexual contexts).

“The nudists and naturists I’ve met are not kinky freaks and weirdos, they’re not exhibitionists or voyeurs or pedophiles; for the most part they are friendly people who just want to enjoy the sensual pleasures that life has to offer, just like foodies and wine snobs, people who go to spas or concerts or sporting events, and people who stop and smell the roses — basically anyone who does something for the pure pleasure of it. Nudists enjoy the sensation of sun and wind and water on their bodies. And I would argue that unless one has some sort of debilitating skin condition, everyone enjoys these sensations. Nudists are just brave enough or honest enough to go all the way.”

At once funny and thought-provoking, Naked at Lunch is a fantastic read for fans of Mary Roach-style participatory journalism. As Smith goes on his personal journey, he forces readers to confront their own attitudes about the human body and its place in public spaces, all while keeping the tone light with jokes-a-plenty. I’m sure we all have preconceived notions about what nudism is or why people do it, and this book does a great job or educating readers about the reality.

A few interesting tidbits:

  1. Many nudists trace their love of hanging out while letting it all hang out back to their first time skinny dipping as teenagers.
  2. Although San Francisco now bans public nudity, New York City allows women to go topless in the name of gender equality.
  3. For those worried about women’s safety: Single men are often barred from entering nudist resorts, and if they are allowed to enter, they are frequently viewed with suspicion.

Naked at Lunch is a fascinating peek into a world we rarely see (and one that is highly, unfairly stigmatized), and I definitely came away from this book much more open-minded (and even curious) than I was before. Highly recommended for readers who enjoy immersive explorations of offbeat topics!

This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.

Take it Off: On Decluttering My Bookshelf

Is there anything worse than coming home from a library sale or used bookstore, going to shelve your beautiful new books, and finding that there isn’t space for them? We’ve all been there, and unless you’re a lucky duck who has room to add another bookshelf (or has no problem stacking your books on the floor, which, I mean, we’ve all been there), you’re going to have to get rid of some of the old books to make room for the new ones. Here’s the question: Do you get rid of books you’ve already read, or books from your TBR shelf?

A few weeks ago, a discussion on the Books on the Nightstand podcast got me thinking about this very topic. I realized that I tend to have a much easier time getting rid of books I have read and didn’t care for than books I haven’t yet read. When it comes to books I have read, I enjoy having a curated shelf; it’s nice to look at my bookshelves and only see books I love (plus a few classics that I feel like I should keep so people will think I’m smart). To me, there’s no reason to hang onto that book I read five years ago and didn’t like. If there’s no chance in hell that I’ll ever re-read a book, I’m pretty okay with letting it go.

Unread books, on the other hand, are filled with so much promise! How can I get rid of a book that could become a favorite?! It doesn’t matter that I bought it for a dollar at a library sale; I was so pleased to find it, and I’m still dying to read it. So what if I’ve had it for three years and I rarely have time to read backlist? This is why more than a quarter of all the books in my apartment haven’t been read yet. They come in faster than I can read them, and they’re so hard to get rid of!

How do you approach culling your bookshelves? Which books are the first to go: Books you’ve read or books you haven’t?

Speaking of Style: Embracing the Capsule Wardrobe

I’m a reader, but like most well rounded people, books aren’t my only interest. “Speaking Of” is a series of posts that allow me to nerd out over the other things that fill my days, from style to DIY to travel.

I have always been interested in style, but I’ve never really felt like I had “a style.” My closet was an odd hodgepodge of badly-fitting t-shirts from Urban Outfitters and faded stretched-out sweaters bought on sale at H&M. But last fall, I started using Pinterest for outfit inspiration, and I came across a blog that changed the way I approach my wardrobe. Un-Fancy is a style blog chronicling Caroline’s experiences living with a capsule wardrobe. (She actually recently went on hiatus, but the blog is still a great resource.)

A capsule wardrobe is a small seasonal wardrobe built from versatile pieces that you love and can mix and match. For Caroline, this means a 37-piece wardrobe including tops, bottoms, dresses, outerwear, and shoes. (Special occasion clothing, activewear, undergarments, and accessories don’t count toward this number.) Each season, she selects the pieces she will wear that she already owns and buys a few more items to round out her wardrobe. The rest of her clothes either go into storage or onto the donation pile.

I find myself drawn to a basic, classic style: a white v-neck under a chambray shirt, a black tank with a long necklace, a black and white striped top with a soft blue scarf. Dark skinny jeans, midi skirts, comfy shift dresses. I’m all about simple, neutral basics with pops of color in my accessories. Of course, I’ve also been led astray by impulse purchases that I wore a few times and then lost interest in. This is where the capsule wardrobe comes in: It forces me to be more intentional about my purchases. I think more carefully about what I want and need, and I do more shopping around to find just the right piece. No more heading to the mall with vague ideas about buying “new clothes for summer” and leaving with a handful of things that won’t wind up working for me in the long run. And by buying fewer things, I can buy higher quality items that fit better and last longer.

Being between jobs means I haven’t been able to buy many of the things on my list, but editing down the things I already own has felt fantastic. I find that the more items I have in my closet, the more often I look into it and feel utterly uninspired. It’s so refreshing to look inside and only see clothes that I love, are seasonally appropriate, and go together well. It’s also exciting to transition between the seasons — to put away my bulky sweaters and rediscover a favorite summer dress.

I’m not following Caroline’s “rules” about picking a number and sticking with it or only buying clothes during the two weeks preceding her wardrobe switch-over. I like the spirit of keeping a minimal wardrobe, but I think rules like these are unnecessarily restrictive. The number seems arbitrary, and the two-week rule seems counter-productive. I would rather make a list of a few pieces I want to buy and shop around, scoping out sales, to find the perfect items at the right price than make a less-than-ideal purchase just because I’m trying to check a box during a certain time frame. If I’m trying to buy higher-quality clothing, I need to work those sales! I also don’t stick to a rigid four-capsule system. Living in western New York means long transitional seasons, so I tend to pull out and put away a few items at a time. (Ex. I’ll get my short-sleeved dresses out a few weeks before my sleeveless dresses.)

Capsule Wardrobe

A few favorites: Neutral tanks with a casual scarf | Dresses in blues and whites | Stripes and a colorful kimono

How to start your capsule wardrobe:

1. Create a Pinterest style inspiration board.

Find a few pinners whose style you like and follow them. Pin outfits you like and note what you like about them.

(This is mine.)

2. Pull everything out of your closet and go through each item.

If it doesn’t fit or doesn’t make you happy, donate it. If it is damaged beyond repair, toss it. If it fits, you wear it regularly, and you love it, keep it! Put any “keep” items that aren’t seasonally appropriate in storage, as well as any pieces that you don’t wear often but aren’t ready to get rid of. (You can revisit them next season. If a year goes by without a piece making it into your capsule, it’s time to say goodbye.) You should be left with just items that you enjoy wearing and will be comfortable in during this season. Be a little brutal here. You can always pull things out later if you find yourself needing them.

(I leave some wiggle room. I may wind up putting a shirt in storage if I find myself not wearing it, and I may also pull a flannel out of storage for a week at the lake.)

3. Take a look at what is now hanging in your closet.

What trends emerge? What colors and patterns do you gravitate to? What categories are lacking?

(My closet has a lot of black, white, grey, blue, and stripes. I have plenty of tees and tanks, but few sweaters and shirts to layer over them.)

4. Make a list of items in your ideal wardrobe for the season.

What do you have, what do you need to replace, and what would you like to add? Ideally, your capsule should be made up of items that can be easily mixed and matched, giving you a large number of different outfits from a small number of individual pieces. Maybe you’ll want to come up with a number, maybe you won’t. If I were to come up with a formula it would probably look something like this:

  • 10 tops (tees, tanks, pullovers, etc.)
  • 5 layering tops (button-downs that can be worn open, cardigans, etc.)
  • 5 bottoms (jeans, leggings, skirts, shorts)
  • 5 dresses
  • 5 pairs of shoes

(This summer, I replaced a pair of cheapo, badly fitting black sandals and bought two pairs of shorts because I only had two pairs. I would like to replace the grey cardigan my cat chewed holes in and add a black midi dress and a striped tank top to my wardrobe.)

5. Shop around to find the perfect pieces to complete your wardrobe.

Make a list of your favorite retailers and browse them for the items you’re looking for — and try to avoid impulse-buying that linen jumpsuit that is super trendy but probably not really your style (unless it IS totally your style and actually on your list).

(I have a few “secret” Pinboards for keeping track of clothes I would like to buy. It’s my version of putting an item in my cart on a retailer’s website and waiting a few weeks before deciding to buy it. This makes it easy to compare pieces and prices; I currently have four or five different breton striped tops waiting for me to choose between them.)

6. You’re done!

Enjoy living with a small number of versatile pieces that you truly enjoy wearing! Somehow, having fewer items in my closet makes getting dressed in the morning much easier; I don’t get bogged down by clothes that I don’t love, and I realize more than ever that I tend to reach for the same few items every day, anyway. Why have a wardrobe stuffed with clothes when I only wear a small percentage of them on a regular basis?

(I also like to keep a diary of what I wear each day, so that at the end of the season I can look back and see which items I wore a lot and which ones languished mostly unworn. This can help you further crystalize your style and inform future capsules and purchases. Because sometimes the looks you love on Pinterest just don’t wind up working with your lifestyle, climate, or body type. Not that only certain body types can wear certain styles, but for example, I just can’t pull off head wraps, so I should probably not buy any more of them.)

How do you manage your wardrobe?

What I’m Reading Monday, June 15

This week, you guys. So busy! I’ve been working hard, and I’m crossing my fingers that it will finally pay off soon. I also spent a lot of time walking around my beautiful neighborhood, had a much-needed girls night with two friends, and got to share a bit more of Buffalo with my parents, who stopped here for a night on their way west for a month-long road trip in their camper van. (They are the coolest, and they have definitely passed on their wanderlust and sense of adventure to me.)

Between all that, I didn’t get much reading done. (I feel like I’ve been saying that every week, but what can you do?) I’m really enjoying Naked at Lunch: A Reluctant Nudist’s Adventures in the Clothing-Optional World by Mark Haskell Smith. It is SO MUCH FUN. The jokes are on point.

Next up is Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume for the #Blumealong, hosted by Kerry at Entomology of a Bookworm. I somehow made it through adolescence without ever reading a Judy Blume book (because even at 12 I was too cool for “girl” books). I’m beyond excited to rectify that!

I’ll probably also start You Don’t Have to Live Like This by Benjamin Markovits, a novel that takes on race and gentrification in post-recession Detroit. It sounds fascinating, and I can’t resist the cover. (Never mind that I wrote about the dangers of judging a book by its cover just last week.)

What are you reading this week?

Disrupting the Status Quo with Dietland by Sarai Walker

Every day, Plum Kettle sits in a Brooklyn caffe, typing out responses to emails young girls have sent to the founder of the teen magazine she works for. But despite sending frequent emails to the tune of “you’re beautiful just the way you are!” she isn’t able to accept her own body; at almost 30 years old, Plum weighs 300 pounds and is saving up for the weight-loss surgery that she believes will allow her life to finally begin.

However, all of Plum’s well-laid plans begin to unravel the day she realizes she’s being followed by a girl wearing brightly colored tights. This discovery sparks a chain of events that will change Plum — and the world around her — in shocking ways. As she becomes involved with an underground feminist collective, she gets to know the paranoid manager of the magazine’s Beauty Closet, the daughter of a weight-loss magnate, and a former beauty icon, among other colorful characters. And at the same time, the news cycle is dominated by numerous assaults on the patriarchy, culminating in the murder of 12 known sexual assailants and rapists by a mysterious killer known only as Jennifer.

“Before, the covers of the men’s and women’s magazines alike had featured women, but now most of them featured men instead. London was being renovated, and the wallpaper covering every surface of the city was no longer decorated with women. The default Londoner, the implied viewer of everything, was no longer male.

Tourism increased, with women from many countries anxious to see what was happening firsthand, but there were also unforeseen consequences. London was scheduled to host the G8 Summit, but world leaders complained. The French president commented on a British television advert that featured a man washing his hair with a new floral-scented shampoo; the man was so excited by the shampooing experience that he made orgasm sounds as he massaged his head. “I cannot be taken seriously in such an environment,” the French president said.”

Based on the cover and title of Dietland, I was expecting something fluffy and shallow. I mean, an overweight woman working for a NYC magazine? How many times has that been done in chick lit? However, once I picked up this book, I couldn’t put it down. What could have been a predictable novel built on tropes turned out to be a bold, daring book about conventional beauty standards and self-acceptance. I loved the nuanced, honest way it portrays the experience of a woman whose main goal every day is to be invisible — to blend in and not receive any hurtful remarks — because of her socially mandated discomfort with her body.

But beyond that, Dietland is a ridiculously fun novel. As unknown “terrorists” turn the patriarchy upside down, the novel feels like a feminist Fight Club, with its disruption of the status quo. Don’t be fooled by Dietland‘s package; like the cupcake on its cover, it may look sweet, but it’s really a grenade that’s about to blow up.

Disclosure: If you make a purchase through the link above, I will make a tiny commission.

Highlighting the Books of BEA 2015

On Sunday, I recapped my experience at Book Expo America (BEA), and today I’m excited to share some of the books I brought home. This year, I brought home 22 books, which is about half of last year’s number. ( I feel very good about this.) Some of them are books I was hoping to pick up, others were pitched to me, and a few simply reeled me in with enticing covers and titles. I’m really looking forward to reading all of them, but in the interest in keeping this post relatively readable, I’d like to feature the ten titles I am most excited about.*

Books of BEA 2015

1. The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips (Henry Holt | Aug. 11). After a long period of joblessness, Josephine lands a job inputting numbers into The Database. But as time passes, Josephine feels increasingly anxious. As strange events build to a crescendo, the haunting truth about Josephine’s work begins to take shape in her mind, even as something powerful is gathering its own form within her.

This sounds delightfully creepy, and it already has Shannon‘s mark of approval!

2. Fortune Smiles by Adam Johnson (Random House | Aug. 18). Adam Johnson follows up The Orphan Master’s Son with a collection of short stories that are comic, tender, absurd, and totally universal. In post-Katrina Louisiana, a young man and his new girlfriend search for the mother of his son. And in the stunning title story, a woman with cancer rages against the idea of her family without her.

I missed Johnson’s last, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, but I’m psyched to catch his next book.

3. The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth (Graywolf Press | Sep. 1). A postapocalyptic novel set a thousand years in the past, The Wake brings to life the Buccmaster, an English landowner seeking revenge in the aftermath of the Norman Invasion of 1066. Written in an updated version of Old English, The Wake renders the inner life of an Anglo-Saxon man with an accuracy and immediacy rare in historical fiction.

I’ve loved everything I have read from Graywolf, and this book sounds irresistibly ambitious.

4. Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt | Sep. 1). After a powerful silk factory owner runs down the buggy of Constance Knopp, a rebellious woman with a family secret, a dispute over damages turns into a war as he unleashes his gang on their family farm. When the sheriff enlists her help in convicting the men, Constance is forced to confront her past and defend her family — and she does it in a way that few women of 1914 would have dared.

This book, written by the author of The Drunken Botonist, just sounds like so much fun. Also, the author was a guest on the Nerdette podcast a few months ago, and she was wonderful.

5. Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg (Gallery/Scout Books | Sep. 8). On the eve of her daughter’s wedding, June Reid’s life is devastated when a disaster takes the lives of her entire family. Alone and directionless, June drives across the country. In her wake, a community emerges, weaving a beautiful and surprising web of connections through shared heartbreak.

I’m not familiar with Bill Clegg, but the signing line for this book was the longest I waited in — and that intrigues me.

6. Black Man in a White Coat: A Doctor’s Reflections on Race and Medicine by Damon Tweedy (Picador | Sep. 8). Doctor Damon Tweedy examines the complex ways in which both black doctors and patients must navigate the difficult and often contradictory terrain of race and medicine, illustrating the complex social, cultural, and economic factors at the root of most health problems in the black community.

We’ve been talking about race a lot lately, but this is one area (of many, I’m sure) I haven’t thought much about. I’m excited to learn more!

7. Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff (Riverhead | Sep. 15). Every story has two sides. Every relationship has two perspectives. And sometimes, it turns out, the key to a great marriage is not its truths but its secrets. At the core of this rich, expansive, layered novel, Lauren Groff presents the story of one such marriage over the course of twenty-four years.

I loved Arcadia, and Groff’s new book sounds like it’s 100% in my wheelhouse.

8. Sweet Caress by William Boyd (Bloomsbury | Sep. 15). In this enthralling story of a life fully lived, illustrated with “found” period photographs, William Boyd has created a sweeping panorama of some of the most defining moments of modern history, from late 1920s Berlin to ’30s New York to the blackshirt riots in London to WWII France, told through the camera lens of one unforgettable woman, Amory Clay.

Found photographs, a trail-blazing female photographer, and a story spanning decades? I’m in.

9. The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra (Hogarth | Oct. 6). From the author A Constellation of Vital Phenomena comes a collection of dazzling, poignant, and lyrical interconnected stories about family, sacrifice, the legacy of war, and the redemptive power of art.

I loved the beautiful writing, fully realized characters, and intricate connections of Marra’s first novel, and I can’t wait to read his new book.

10. City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg (Knopf | Oct. 14). When the infamous blackout of July 13, 1977 plunges New York City into darkness, the entangled lives of nine all-too-human characters will be changed irrevocably.

Weighing in at over 900 pages, this debut novel received a $2 million advance — and that, my friends, is enough to get my attention.

The rest of my BEA book haul:

BEA 2015 Book Haul

Hemingway in Love by A.E. Hotchner — Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert — Black Man in a White Coat by Damon Tweedy — Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg — The Double Life of Liliane by Lily Tuck

Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart — The Blue Between Sky and Water by Susan Abulhawa — The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth — Fortune Smiles by Adam Johnson — Slab by Sala Saterstrom

The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips — Naked at Lunch by Mark Haskell Smith — Dietland by Sarai Walker — The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra — The Expatriates by Janice Y.K. Lee

City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallbarg — Deep South by Paul Theroux — Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins — Fates & Furies by Lauren Groff — Sweet Caress by William Boyde

*All descriptions are borrowed from Goodreads and edited for length.