- The Association of Small Bombs
By Karan Mahajan
A finalist for the National Book Award, Mahajan’s novel — smart, devastating and unpredictable — opens with a Kashmiri terrorist attack in a Delhi market, then follows the lives of those affected. This includes Deepa and Vikas Khurana, whose young sons were killed, and the boys’ injured friend Mansoor, who grows up to flirt with a form of political radicalism himself. As the narrative suggests, nothing recovers from a bomb: not our humanity, not our politics, not even our faith.
Read our review of “The Association of Small Bombs”
- The North Water
By Ian McGuire
Propelled by a vision that is savage, brutal and relentless, McGuire relates the tale of an opium-addicted 19th-century Irish surgeon who encounters a vicious psychopath on board an Arctic-bound whaling ship. With grim, jagged lyricism, McGuire describes violence with unsparing color and even relish while suggesting a path forward for historical fiction. Picture a meeting between Joseph Conrad and Cormac McCarthy in some run-down port as they offer each other a long, sour nod of recognition.
Read Times review of “The North Water”
- The Underground Railroad
By Colson Whitehead
With a conceit as simple as it is bold, Whitehead’s brave, necessary novel imagines a slave fleeing north on a literal underground railroad — complete with locomotives, boxcars and conductors. By small shifts in perspective, the novel (winner of the National Book Award in fiction) ventures to new places in the narrative of slavery, or rather to places where it actually has something new to say: about America’s foundational sins, and the ways black history is too often stolen by white narrators.
Read Times review of “The Underground Railroad”
- The Vegetarian
By Han Kang. Translated by Deborah Smith
In Han’s unsettling novel, a seemingly ordinary housewife — described by her husband as “completely unremarkable in every way” — becomes a vegetarian after a terrifying dream. Han’s treatments of submission and subversion find form in the parable, as the housewife’s self-abnegation turns increasingly severe and surreal. This spare and elegant translation renders the original Korean in pointed and vivid English, preserving Han’s penetrating exploration of whether true innocence is possible in a vicious and bloody world.
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- War and Turpentine
By Stefan Hertmans – Translated by David McKay
Inspired by the notebooks and reminiscences of his grandfather, a painter who served in the Belgian Army in World War I, Hertmans writes with an eloquence reminiscent of W.G. Sebald as he explores the places where narrative authority, invention and speculation flow together. Weaving his grandfather’s stories into accounts of his own visits to sites that shaped the old man’s development as a husband and father as well as an artist, Hertmans has produced a masterly book about memory, art, love and war.
Read our review of “War and Turpentine”