An aspiring writer from an affluent Chicago suburb who never finishes anything he starts, Joshua Levin has never had to suffer much. His life is “a warm blanket,” in contrast to the lives of the immigrants he teaches as an ESL instructor, and his creative endeavors have been as futile and disheartening as the Cubs at nearby Wrigley Field. That is, until Joshua comes up with an idea for a script called Zombie Wars that could be his big break, and the sad but beautiful Bosnian woman in his class, Ana, starts to seduce him.
There is a strong tradition of Irish writers—William Trevor, Edna O’Brien and Colm Tóibín come immediately to mind—who can turn the everyday details of an ordinary life into art. Add to these ranks Mary Costello, whose deceptively slender first novel, Academy Street, takes in the full measure of one woman’s quietly tragic life in fewer than 200 pages.
In this gorgeously eclectic novel, Beatty tells the story of a black man cast out from his hometown of Dickens, California—a man considered to be a sellout for everything from listening to Neil Young and reading Franz Kafka to growing and selling watermelon for a living.
It’s a favorite trick among literary novelists: use a classic work of literature as a launching pad for an investigation into favored themes. Jean Rhys did it with Wide Sargasso Sea, a prequel of sorts to Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. J.M. Coetzee has done it twice, first in Foe, in which he reimagined Robinson Crusoe from the perspective of a woman, and then, more daringly, in The Childhood of Jesus. Now essayist and playwright Caryl Phillips takes the work of a different Brontë—Emily—as the inspiration for his latest novel, The Lost Child.
“We tell ourselves stories in order to live,” Joan Didion famously wrote. In Rachel Cusk’s inventive novel, Outline, a parade of characters tell the sketchily drawn narrator their stories, and as these conversations or episodes unfold they weigh in on all manner of life’s issues, large and small—love and marriage, parenthood, aspirations and failures, even the...
This luminous novel is only Robinson’s fourth in a writing career that has spanned nearly as many decades—which makes each one of her works all the more precious.
After 117 years of operation, the Preston Youth Correctional Facility in Ione, California, shuttered its doors forever. Inspired by lives rebuilt and destroyed by the school, Peyton Marshall’s Goodhouse imagines an alternate future in which the school never closed—and juvenile corrections are based not on past behavior, but genetic makeup.
Who is Sean Phillips? And how did he end up like this? That’s the central conceit of John Darnielle’s Wolf in White Van, a compact but wide-ranging novel that follows -Sean’s development from unpopular teenager to reclusive adult.
Emily Gould has built a career as a blogger for her own Emily Magazine and Gawker, as well as the part owner of Emily Books. She is also author of the memoir, And the Heart Says Whatever. With her first novel, Friendship, Gould turns her eye toward the spectacle of female adulthood friendships.
Edward St. Aubyn’s Lost for Words is a breezy, yet biting satirical novel about the internecine intrigue that unfolds behind the scenes of a major book award that is clearly a thinly disguised version of the Booker Prize. St. Aubyn, whose own novel, Mother’s Milk, was shortlisted for that honor, writes in the great pithy British tradition of David Lodge and Muriel Spark, infusing a deceptively lighthearted surface wit with more trenchant intent.