1. You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine by Alexandra Kleeman
Alexandra Kleeman’s You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine is an utterly original mystery featuring A, an aimless young woman living with her roommate B, who A fears is trying to subsume her identity. As surreal ads for beauty products and near-inedibly synthetic snack cakes play in the background, A gradually gets sucked into a strange food-obsessed cult. Gorgeous, hilarious, and deadpan, You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine is a brilliant meditation on relationships, body image, and consumption.
2. The Sellout by Paul Beatty
The Sellout is one of the sharpest and most devastating books of the year. When the novel opens, the main character, a black man, has just been brought before the Supreme Court for reinstating slavery and segregating the local high school. Read The Sellout, revel in its brilliant wit, and feel the cutting sting of its sharp satire.
3. Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
Fates and Furies, nominated for the National Book Award, is the saga of a marriage and creative partnership from two sides: Lotto, the husband, and Mathilde, the wife. A gorgeously told story brimming with elements of Greek mythology, Shakespearean theater, fairy tales, and the most psychologically acute of domestic dramas, Fates and Furies will have you turning pages and thinking about what lies behind everyone else’s facades.
4. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
The National Book Award–nominated A Little Life is one of the most talked-about books of the year. It’s about a group of male friends, with Jude — a troubled genius with a mysterious past — at its center. A Little Life is the story of friendship and the ways in which relationships can wax and wane over a lifetime. And even more importantly, it is the story of the immense miracles that love can perform, and about the things that love alone cannot do.
5. Fortune Smiles by Adam Johnson
Winner of the National Book Award, Fortune Smiles is a collection of short stories from master storyteller Adam Johnson. Though possessed of a devastating and often pitch-dark vision of the world, Johnson’s stories are also strangely hilarious, moving, and full of unexpected grace. Each one creates a complete world that you won’t be able to rip yourself away from.
Bonus: Be sure to check out Adam Johnson’s somber holiday reading recommendations here on BuzzFeed Books.
6. The Turner House by Angela Flournoy
The Turner House is the story of the Turners, a family who has lived in their house on Detroit’s East Side for half a century, weathering immense changes along the way. Flournoy’s National Book Award–nominated debut does an incredible job of bringing both a family and a city to vibrant, poignant life.
7. The Book of Aron by Jim Shepard
The Book of Aron is the story of life in a Warsaw ghetto at the beginning of World War II, told from the perspective of a child. As it describes humanity both at its worst and its most heroic, The Book of Aron shatters the reader completely, without a trace of sentimentality or any false notes.
8. Get in Trouble by Kelly Link
Get in Trouble is the latest collection from short fiction master Kelly Link, who has one of the best and most startling imaginations around. With heart, humor, and prose so good it’ll make you believe anything, Link takes us through wild territory populated with astronauts, fairy bosses, movie stars, and much more.
9. Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh
The debut novel from acclaimed short story writer Ottessa Moshfegh, Eileen is about a young woman living in an anonymous ’50s New England town, where she has only her alcoholic father and her indifferent co-workers at the boys’ prison (where she works as a secretary) for company. Read Eileen to get inside the head of an utterly fascinating, twisted, yet totally human and relatable character, and to see what happens when she’s pushed to her limits.
10. Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta
Under the Udala Trees is a gripping story of love, faith, and turmoil in post–civil war Nigeria. When Ijeoma falls in love with another girl, she must come to terms with who she is in a society that refuses to accept her. A heartbreaking and moving account of Ijeoma’s coming-of-age, as well as the story of a country during a time of great disturbance, Under the Udala Trees will affect you deeply.
11. Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick deWitt
In Undermajordomo Minor, a young man named Lucy bids farewell to his mother and goes to work for a strange, decadent baron living in a ruined castle. The story that follows — timeless, deadpan, and disturbing — is like nothing you’ve ever seen. Though you may not know how to react to the slyly twisted fairy tale that is Undermajordomo, one thing’s for sure: You won’t be able to tear your eyes away.
Bonus: Read the BuzzFeed profile of Patrick deWitt.
12. The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli
The playfully brilliant The Story of My Teeth follows an auctioneer as he collects both stories and strange items (including what he claims are the teeth of Virginia Woolf). The story behind the book is also fascinating — Luiselli wrote it in collaboration with workers at the Jumex juice factory in Mexico.
13. Delicious Foods by James Hannaham
Delicious Foods is the story of Darlene, fallen prey to drug addiction after her husband is murdered, Darlene’s son Eddie, and “Scotty,” the drug to which Darlene and untold others are addicted. That’s right — part of Delicious Foods is narrated by a drug. But not only is this novel linguistically innovative, it is utterly riveting. When Darlene disappears, Eddie follows in search of her, only to find her on a plantation-style farm where the workers are held captive and paid in drugs. Gripping and troubling at every turn, Delicious Foods will stun you.
Bonus: Read James Hannaham’s BuzzFeed Books essay, “Why I Became a Southern Writer.”
14. The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante
The capper to Elena Ferrante’s beloved Neopolitan quartet, The Story of the Lost Child brings to a close the story of Lila and Elena, two young women growing up together in 1950s Naples. As they climb the social ladder and cope with changing fortunes, they find both refuge and tumult in their complex friendship. The Story of the Lost Child is a satisfying and devastating culmination to a series that has grabbed readers’ hearts.
15. In the Country by Mia Alvar
The men and women of In the Country live in or have been compelled to leave the Philippines, and accordingly their stories deal powerfully with concepts like place, exile, and home. Keenly perceptive, graceful, and morally complex, each story is a gem. And within these stories, the characters feel so real that you won’t soon forget them.
Bonus: Read the BuzzFeed Books profile of Mia Alvar.
16. Infinite Home by Kathleen Alcott
Infinite Home follows the residents of a Brooklyn brownstone as they come together and fall apart: a depressed comedian, an artist recovering from a stroke, a beautiful young recluse, a man with Williams syndrome cared for by his sister, and the landlady. The home that these tenants create is as fragile as it is beautiful; when the landlady’s encroaching dementia and her shark of a son threaten that community, they must band together to keep what stability they have.
Bonus: Read Kathleen Alcott’s BuzzFeed Books essay, “Who I Met On My Long Way Home.”
17. The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
The Sympathizer is the story of a man divided: a South Vietnamese captain who is secretly a Communist spy. After the Vietnam War, he resettles in Los Angeles with other former soldiers, adjusting to life in America while still reporting on his friends’ activities to the Vietcong. The Sympathizer is a war novel, a spy novel, a satire of academia and Hollywood, but above all, it is the nuanced and fascinating portrait of a man wrestling with competing loyalties.
18. The Complete Stories by Clarice Lispector, translated by Katrina Dodson
In one of 2015’s biggest publishing events, legendary Brazilian author Clarice Lispector’s stories were collected and translated into English. Though Lispector’s stories are anything but straightforward, they get you right in your gut, taking the strangest and most singular moments and transforming them into something sublime and universal.
19. Upright Beasts by Lincoln Michel
Dark, surreal, and imaginative, Lincoln Michel’s short story collection Upright Beasts is full of surprises at every turn. Though the characters may inhabit offbeat worlds and engage in strange behaviors, we feel deeply for them, and even recognize ourselves in them — the beasts that exist within each and every one of us.
Bonus: Read Lincoln Michel’s “The Ultimate Guide to Getting Published in a Literary Magazine.” You can find more of Michel’s writing for BuzzFeed here.
20. Mislaid by Nell Zink
Full of shifting identities and improbable coincidences, Mislaid is a wild trip through the lives of a lesbian college student in 1966 Virginia, the gay college professor she sleeps with, and their children. Zink’s intelligent prose and lively wit live up to the demands of her zany plot and audacious characters, and then some. An off-kilter and irreverent read, Mislaid will keep you guessing.
Bonus: Read Nell Zink’s BuzzFeed Books essay “Why Cultural Significance Is the Best Job I Ever Had.’
21. Binary Star by Sarah Gerard
Binary Star follows a young woman with anorexia and bulimia as she hits the road with her alcoholic boyfriend, traveling aimlessly across the country. It’s an intense, poetic, deeply original look at bodies, consumerism, and the way we strive to connect with one another, even through distance and dysfunction.
22. Welcome to Braggsville by T. Geronimo Johnson
Welcome to Braggsville follows a group of Berkeley students as they take on a town’s yearly Civil War re-enactment, with serious and horrifying results. Full of virtuosic sentences and coruscating satire, Johnson’s debut is a brilliant and necessary read.
23. The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler
As Simon, a lonely research librarian, searches frantically for the key to a curse that might be killing the women in his family, he learns strange and fascinating secrets about their past. A tale full of magic and family mystery, The Book of Speculation will keep you up all night reading.
24. A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin
Though Berlin was somewhat obscure while she was alive, those who were familiar with her stories knew that she was a legend. Years after Berlin’s death in 2004, A Manual for Cleaning Women collects all of her stunning, potent stories for the first time. A must-read.
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