25 Books Written By Women Under 25

books by authors under 25

There's a reason books written by underage authors get attention: everyone has a book in them, but that book usually takes a while to come out. The list of authors who began publishing when they were middle aged — or even elderly — is miles long, but trying to find writers who wrote before they turned 25 is a needle-and-haystack kind of job. Narrow the list down further — to only women writers, say — and the task becomes nearly impossible.

Nearly impossible, and yet, the first item on the #BustleReads Challenge for 2016 tasks you with reading a book written by a woman under the age of 25. Before you go off thinking I'm some kind of sadist, hear me out: yes, this task is über-limited, but there are more than a few books for you to choose from. Some writers, such as the fabulous Helen Oyeyemi and Jane Austen, wrote several books before they turned 25. In many cases, including Austen's, those books were not published until many years later. However, because they were written before the author's 25th birthday, they count for the #BustleReads task.

As always, this list is not exhaustive. Please share your recommendations for books written by women under 25 on Twitter using the #BustleReads hashtag . Happy reading!

1. The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi

books by authors under 25

Helen Oyeyemi's debut novel follows Jess, a precocious and imaginative 8-year-old who visits her mother's home country of Nigeria, where she makes her first real friend — a girl named TillyTilly that only she can see. The two become inseparable, but their magical friendship soon takes a dark turn.

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2. Looking Back by Joyce Maynard

books by authors under 25

Joyce Maynard was 19 years old when she wrote Looking Back . If you've ever wondered what it was like to grow up as a Baby Boomer — to experience the Beatles' Ed Sullivan Show debut and practice air-raid drills in your classroom — this is the memoir you want to read.

3. Shug by Jenny Han

books by authors under 25

To All the Boys I've Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You may have pushed Jenny Han into the spotlight, but her career began with this novel, which she wrote in college. Shug follows Annemarie "Shug" Wilcox, an awkward 12-year-old, as she navigates the perils of junior high.

4. White Teeth by Zadie Smith

books by authors under 25

Zadie Smith was 25 years old when White Teeth hit store shelves and launched her to literary stardom in 2000. This novel about an interracial friendship between two London men won several awards and was included in TIME 's 2005 roundup of the 100 best English-language novels .

5. Seventeenth Summer by Maureen Daly

books by authors under 25

Written when the author was just 17 years old, Maureen Daly's 1942 title, Seventeenth Summer , was the first-ever YA novel. It's a classic story about two teens' summer love affair.

6. The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

books by authors under 25

The Bone Season centers on Paige, a clairvoyant, whose powers endanger her life. While working as a criminal mind-reader, Paige is kidnapped and locked in a secret prison-city, where her non-human captors intend to harness her abilities for their own agenda.

7. Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan

books by authors under 25

Cécile feels conflicted about her father's duplicitous relationships with younger women , and she tries to emulate the sophisticates he dates by practicing her budding powers of seduction on older men. But when her father starts to settle down with a woman his own age, Cécile does all she can to stop the wedding.

8. Namedropper by Emma Forrest

books by authors under 25

From then-22-year-old author Emma Forrest comes Namedropper , a book about being young and unsupervised in the world's fastest, most-star-studded cities. If you grew up on a diet of pop culture and underground music, this novel is a must-read.

9. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

books by authors under 25

Jane Austen wrote Northanger Abbey — originally titled Susan — when she was in her early 20s. It was sent off to publishers a few years later, but did not appear in print until after the author's death.

10. The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

books by authors under 25

Carson McCullers published this classic novel about a deaf boarder , a tomboy, and their assorted Georgia friends in 1940, when she was 23 years old.

11. P.S. I Love You by Cecilia Ahern

books by authors under 25

After Gerry dies suddenly, his wife falls into a deep depression . When a package containing letters from her late husband arrives in the mail, Holly begins to pick up the pieces of her life and move on from grief.

12. Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

books by authors under 25

Written as part of a challenge to see who could pen the best horror story, Frankenstein went to print in 1818, when author Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was only 20 years old.

13. St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell

books by authors under 25

St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves contains 10 stories, including "Ava Wrestles the Alligator," which would later become part of Russell's debut novel, Swamplandia! .

14. The Story of My Life by Helen Keller

books by authors under 25

Helen Keller published her classic autobiography, The Story of My Life , in 1903. She was 23 years old at the time, but was already somewhat of a celebrity. When she graduated Radcliffe College the following year, Keller " became the first person with deafblindness to receive a bachelor of arts degree ," according to the Perkins School for the Blind.

15. In the Forests of the Night by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes

books by authors under 25

I remember reading this vampire YA novel when I was a kid, but I didn't know until recently that its author was only 15 years old when Delacorte published it in 1999 .

16. The Opposite House by Helen Oyeyemi

books by authors under 25

Yes, Helen Oyeyemi has two books on this list, and I'm super-jealous. She published her second novel, The Opposite House , when she was 23 years old. This title centers on Maja, a black Cuban immigrant in London, as she unwinds questions about her ethnicity and identity while pregnant with her first child.

17. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

books by authors under 25

In 1967, then-18-year-old S.E. Hinton published The Outsiders : a Bildungsroman about two teens who go on the lam to avoid an unfair murder trial.

18. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

books by authors under 25

Anne Frank will forever be one of literature's greatest losses. A 15-year-old girl's diary rarely proves worthy of study, and, although The Diary of a Young Girl certainly owes much of its success to the time and place in which it was written, it's clear that Frank would have enjoyed a successful writing career, had she survived the war.

19. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

books by authors under 25

Long before she published We Should All Be Feminists , Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote Purple Hibiscus . This novel centers on teen siblings Kambili and Jaja, as their religious zealot father, Eugene, tears apart their family.

20. Property Of by Alice Hoffman

books by authors under 25

Practical Magic author Alice Hoffman was 25 years old when she published her debut novel, Property Of . It's an often-overlooked story about a young girl who falls in love with a cold-hearted gang leader.

21. Origin by Jessica Khoury

books by authors under 25

Pia has lived her entire life in a secret lab. She escapes the night she turns 17, and starts looking for answers to the question of who she really is .

22. The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht

books by authors under 25

Set in the post-war Balkans, Téa Obreht's The Tiger's Wife follows Natalia as she pieces together clues to solve the mystery of her grandfather's death. Along the way, she picks up his personal copy of The Jungle Book , and relives the stories he used to tell her — and the one he didn't.

22. The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton

books by authors under 25

Eleanor Catton rose to prominence with her 2013 Man Booker Prize-winning novel, The Luminaries , but she published her first book, 2008's The Rehearsal , when she was 23-years-old.

24. Swordbird by Nancy Yi Fan

books by authors under 25

Some people might find Swordbird 's premise a little silly. You're either all "Birds with swords?" or you're all "BIRDS WITH SWORDS!" I'm in the latter camp. Then-12-year-old author Nancy Yi Fang has since published two related titles: Sword Quest and Sword Mountain .

25. I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

books by authors under 25

Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai published her memoir, I Am Malala , in 2013. Her writing career stretches back to the late 2000s, when she blogged anonymously for the BBC about life as a schoolgirl in a Taliban-controlled area.

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books by authors under 25

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15 Authors Under 35 To Watch

Here are fifteen writers you need to know. though they may be young, these gifted authors are stars on the rise and are bound to have long careers ahead of them. discover them first, the mothers, by brit bennett.

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25 Authors Published Under 25 Pt. 1 : The Teenaged Dreams

May 1, 2012       5 Comments

books by authors under 25

Welcome to a week long feature on Book and Sensibility where we countdown 25 authors published under age 25. We hope this feature serves as encouragement to young writers and to those who are young at heart !

  • Part 1 : The Teenaged Dream
  • Part 2 : The 2012 Debuts
  • Part 3 : The 2011 Debuts
  • Part 4 : Genre Savvy
  • Part 5 : Serial Offenders

To kick off we are going to start with authors who not only published under 25, but when they were sill teenagers.

1. Alexandra Andornetto, 14

books by authors under 25

This Australian teen is known in the U.S for her angelic Halo  series, but her first novel   The Shadow Thief  was published by HarperCollins Australia in 2007. The next novel in the Halo series,  Heaven,  debuts in 2012.

@missallygrace  |  Facebook

2. Gordon Korman, 15

books by authors under 25

Korman wrote his first novel This Can’t Be Happening at MacDonald Hall as a seventh grade Language Arts assignment.   A few years later   it was published by Scholastic in 1978. Since then he has published over 50 middle grade/YA books.

Author Website

3. Christopher Paolini, 15

books by authors under 25

A type of publishing Cinderella story, Paolini’s novel was first self- published by his parents in 2002. Later the novel was picked up by Knopf and at 19 years old Paolini became a New York Times Bestselling author.

 4 . Kody Keplinger,  17                                                      

books by authors under 25

Since her novel  The Duff   debuted in 2010, Keplinger had been hard at work publishing two more books with the Hachette Book Group imprint, Poppy.She is now balancing her writing career and college. A movie version of The Duff is hitting theaters in 2015.

@ Kody_Keplinger  |  Author Website

5. S.E Hinton, 18                                                 

books by authors under 25

Viking Press published the iconic novel The   Outsiders  by college student S.E Hinton in 1967. The novel is based on  Hinton’s experiences with two cliques in high school. The Outsiders a has gone on to become one of ALA’s most frequently challenged books.

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books by authors under 25

25 Authors Who Wrote Great Books Before They Turned 25

Picture it: teenage Mary Shelley was on a vacation getaway, with her husband Percy and some of his rambunctious poet friends, like that rogue Lord Byron… and out of the group of legends, it’s Shelley herself who arguably published the greatest work of all at the ridiculous age of 20: Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus , a book that has penetrated our human consciousness. In honor of Shelley’s birthday this month, here’s a list of 25 other writers who created heartbreakingly beautiful work before they could get a discount on a rental car or have their publishers demand an active Twitter account. If you’re 26, get on out of here. (However, interestingly enough, 26 seems to be a magic age for a lot of writers, starting with Thomas Pynchon, which is a whole other list.) Enjoy the depressingly youthful visages and luminous skin below.

books by authors under 25

Norman Mailer — The Naked and the Dead

Mailer became a star when this book was published. A fictional account of being a solider during WWII, it immediately established the writer’s themes: manliness, misogyny, and war.

books by authors under 25

Michael Chabon — The Mysteries of Pittsburgh

Obviously Chabon was (is), annoyingly enough, the best in class from your MFA class, the one that gets that book deal soon after for his coming-of-age novel. Worst of all? The Mysteries of Pittsburgh is idiosyncratic, dreamy, and great.

books by authors under 25

Brett Easton Ellis — Less Than Zero

A bright young literary man who was the voice of a nihilistic ’80s generation that just loved drugs, BEE came strong right out of the gate as a 21-year-old college student who knew all about alienation.

books by authors under 25

Truman Capote — Other Voices, Other Rooms

What a beautiful boy! What an angel on a couch! What a psychopath ! But Other Voices, Other Rooms , introduced us to quite the writer, in this story about a young southern boy who is searching, beautifully, for a father.

books by authors under 25

Zadie Smith — White Teeth

Smith feels like a part of the firmament now, but don’t forget that White Teeth was written when she was a senior at Cambridge, and it handles, nimbly, so many different characters, themes, and experiences in this comic story of immigration and assimilation that it’s surprising to realize she’s not a very old man.

books by authors under 25

Carson McCullers — The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter

This stupid genius was 23 years old when The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter was published. A story about a deaf-mute in a small town who serves as the fulcrum for everybody’s secrets, it was a wild bestseller as soon as it was released.

books by authors under 25

Jane Austen — Sense and Sensibility

While Austen’s books were not published until 1811, when she was in her mid-thirties (and, well, blame the era for that one), she wrote the stuff that we’re still reading today and constantly referencing forever, when she was in her early twenties and looked like a dewy young Anne Hathaway. What a jerk! (Sounds like I may have some pride and prejudice, if you know what I mean.)

books by authors under 25

F. Scott Fitzgerald — This Side Of Paradise

Just an early twenties whippersnapper when this roman a clef came out, FSF was writing about familiar experiences (Princeton, drinking, class, ennui… America) with the urge to impress Zelda. The F may stand for Francis but let’s be honest, it’s probably more like Fantastic.

books by authors under 25

Percy Bysshe Shelley — Queen Mab

Shelley only lived thirty years, but he left the world gifts of great poetry. “Queen Mab,” his first substantial work, an epic riff on the Queen, the quality of dreams, and philosophical ideas on death and life. Plus he was played by young, gorgeous Julian Sands in a spooky ’80s film called Gothic . (That’s the late Natasha Richardson as Mary Shelley above, too.)

books by authors under 25

S.E. Hinton — The Outsiders

It takes a teenage girl to write a classic novel about teenage boys, and S.E. Hinton was in high school and just an 18-year-old baby when the book actually came out. Stay gold, ponyboy.

books by authors under 25

Helen Oyeyemi — The Icarus Girl

Oyeyemi wrote The Icarus Girl in high school instead of studying for her A-levels. It’s a story of a child who sees a ghost, based on Nigerian mythology, messing around with doubles and dopplegangers. In the years since, she’s written five amazing books and she’s not yet thirty. The world is hers, full of spirits and wicked fairy tales, true magic, and we are just lucky to read all about it (and we loved this year’s Boy, Snow, Bird ).

books by authors under 25

Jonathan Safran Foer — Everything Is Illuminated

With 2002’s Everything Is Illuminated, Princeton graduate Jonathan Safran Foer came hard out of the gate, mentored by Joyce Carol Oates, and making it look easy with his post-modern exercise starring “Jonathan Safran Foer” as a young Jewish man searching for the truth about his family’s life during WWII. He continues to take on big topics that other writers have barely addressed (September 11th, the meat industry), get haters, and dominates, along with everyone else in his overachieving family.

books by authors under 25

Emma Forrest — Namedropper

You can have your Tavi Gevinsons, your Lena Dunhams: Emma Forrest was my precocious young writer who was deadly accurate about just what it’s like to be a girl in the world, and I can still quote quips and insights from her debut, Namedropper , published when she was just barely beyond being the teenage “voice of her generation” journalist in England. (The one about how movie stars used to be better, they used to have hair that was an actual color and what color is Jennifer Aniston’s hair, really? killed me.) Even though I read her first book at the exact time in my life where I could love it with that inimitable teenage ardor, it was great to see that she got better in the intervening years, as her devastating memoir Your Voice in My Head (2013) — at one point due to be a movie with Emma Watson — proved.

books by authors under 25

Karen Russell — St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves

The average h acky young writer takes their stabs at magical realism, but it’s brilliant lights like Karen Russell who can take rare premises — girls literally raised by wolves, a family that fights alligators in swampy Florida — and makes them sing. Rightfully named a MacArthur genius just last year, she’s very sweet as well and she has great hair. She is the worst .

books by authors under 25

Joyce Maynard — Looking Back

So Joyce Maynard was, I guess, my mom’s Tavi Gevinson/Lena Dunham/voice of a generation? (Well, not my mom, but someone’s mom, for sure.) After her “ An 18-Year-Old Looks Back on Life ,” where she claimed, in 1973, that “mine is the generation of unfulfilled expectations,” she wrote a memoir about her life until then — and let’s be honest, it could probably be a source for wherever Sally Draper’s going in the last season of Mad Men .

books by authors under 25

Franciose Sagan — Bonjour Tristesse

We all need a French teen answer to The Catcher in the Rye , and for some, Bonjour Tristesse was it. Eventually made into a film with Jean Seberg at the height of her powers, it’s a story about a seventeen-year-old girl and one summer with her handsome, ladykiller father. Ennui and sexual jealousy ensue.

books by authors under 25

John Kennedy Toole — The Neon Bible

Sometimes juvenilia comes out into the world. The late John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces was such a Pulitzer Prize-winning hit and instant classic of New Orleans that his first book, The Neon Bible , written when he was 16, got a release, too. It is, of course, about a young man’s coming-of-age in the American south. The Arcade Fire album of the same name is simply coincidental.

books by authors under 25

Arthur Rimbaud — A Season in Hell

Rimbaud was a case of a writer who only flowered in his teens, spending the rest of his short, sharp life afterwards as an adventurer. His relationship with the poet Paul Verlaine was the inspiration for this seminal work, “A Season in Hell,” a prose poem that has inspired legions of artists, including the surrealists.

books by authors under 25

W. Somerset Maugham — Liza of Lambeth

Written when Maugham was working as a doctor in, wait for it, Lambeth, it is a short novel about the short life of a teenage factory worker named Liza. It served as the kickoff to a storied 65-year writing career (and a world with one less doctor in it, as he gave it up) that yielded classics like Of Human Bondage and The Razor’s Edge .

books by authors under 25

Gore Vidal — In a Yellow Wood

In my head Vidal is an old man, but he got his start at 19 with Williwaw , a novel about a murder on a U.S. Army supply ship. However, try In a Yellow Wood , named after the Robert Frost poem and written at the comparatively wiser age of 22, a story of a man freshly home from war and looking to make his way in New York and Times Square.

books by authors under 25

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie — Purple Hibiscus

Before Adichie’s TED talks were getting cited by Beyonce and released as ebook standalones (“ We Should All Be Feminists ,” available now), she was 25 years old and getting nominated for awards with Purple Hibiscus , a book about a fifteen-year-old girl living a difficult and complicated life with a tyrannical father in Nigeria. Adichie’s other books — Half of a Yellow Sun , Americanah , among others — also rule.

books by authors under 25

Graham Greene — The Man Within

Greene may have derided his first novel as “hopelessly romantic,” but you don’t have to agree, despite its silly, Tobias Funke-esque title. A story of a young man, a smuggler, who commits an act of betrayal, it is both luminous and entertaining, a quality that feels particular to Greene’s work.

books by authors under 25

Evelyn Waugh — Decline and Fall

Waugh’s very first satire, Decline and Fall is the story of a dissolute Oxford student sentenced to dealing with the outside world as a teacher. When he finds true love, madcap adventure will ensue. Waugh, one of the best satirists ever, already had a razor eye for the absurdities of life in this debut.

books by authors under 25

Anton Chekhov — The Shooting Party

Based on the picture that we have here, his characters weren’t the only ones scrambling for Chekhov’s gun, and in The Shooting Party , it goes off with the death of a young woman and the mystery around who shot her. It was his first and only novel, written at 24, but then again, Chekhov was busy being hot, a doctor, the modern master of the short story, best dead playwright, probably, if I ever get to see a version of The Seagull live (what a jerk! leave some talent for the rest of the world), and the guy that uttered the most quotable quote about plotting of all time.

books by authors under 25

Ned Vizzini — It’s Kind of a Funny Story

As befitting a few writers on this list, Vizzini got his start as a teenage newspaper columnist ( New York Press in this case), which led to his first book, Teen Angst? Naaah… Vizzini hit his stride with 2006’s It’s Kind of a Funny Story , a young adult novel about an anxiety-ridden teen’s time in a mental hospital which was made into a 2010 movie with Zach Galifianakis. A young up-and-comer in both literature and as a screenwriter, Vizzini, who suffered from depression, died last year at 32 after an apparent suicide.

books by authors under 25

Langston Hughes — The Weary Blues

The Weary Blues, named after the titular poem, was the Harlem Renaissance legend’s first collection, published when he was 24 years old. It features a symphony of voices, united by Hughes’ rhythmic work, the beauty and feeling of each of his lines. Start with this one, and realize that we should always be reading the work of Hughes.

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National Book Foundation > News > The National Book Foundation announces its 2021 5 Under 35 Honorees

The National Book Foundation announces its 2021 5 Under 35 Honorees


September 2021


The National Book Foundation today announced its annual 5 Under 35 honorees, a se­­lection of five fiction writers under the age of 35 whose debut work promises to leave a lasting impression on the literary landscape. Each honoree was selected by a National Book Award Winner, Finalist, or Longlisted author, or by an author previously recognized by the 5 Under 35 program. 5 Under 35 honorees are writers from around the world, under the age of 35, who have published their first book of fiction within the last five years.

“Each year, we take great pleasure in honoring five authors whose debut titles provide a first look at their exceptional talent as fiction writers,” said David Steinberger, Chair of the Board of Directors of the National Book Foundation. “Their remarkable books are an achievement, and it’s a privilege to welcome these authors into the National Book Foundation family and to ensure their work reaches an even wider audience.”

The 2021 honorees’ books include three novels, one collection of short stories, and, for the first time ever, a graphic novel. Within their captivating debuts, the authors reimagine history, and contemplate identity, race, and religion. The cohort has been honored by the Tennessee Williams Fiction Prize, the National Endowment for the Arts, the BBC National Short Story Award, the Pushcart Prize, and the Elizabeth George Foundation. Honorees’ work has been widely published, including by The New Yorker , Kenyon Review , Granta , and Ploughshares.

“We are grateful to our knowledgeable selectors who read broadly with such insight and energy,” said Ruth Dickey, Executive Director of the National Book Foundation. “Our 16th cohort of 5 Under 35 honorees join a tremendous group of writers, and it is a joy to recognize debut work that displays such expert craft and beautiful storytelling. We look forward to sharing these important new voices with readers everywhere.”

This year’s 5 Under 35 selectors are 2020 National Book Award Finalist Rumaan Alam , 2020 National Book Award Longlister and 2016 5 Under 35 honoree Brit Bennett , 2017 National Book Award Longlister Charmaine Craig , 2021 and 2014 National Book Award Longlister and 1996 Finalist Elizabeth McCracken , and 2019 5 Under 35 honoree Bryan Washington . Their decisions are made independently of the National Book Foundation staff and Board of Directors; deliberations are strictly confidential.

Previous Honorees include Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Lesley Nneka Arimah, K-Ming Chang, Anelise Chen, Yaa Gyasi, Danielle Evans, Isabella Hammad, Lydia Kiesling, Raven Leilani, Johannes Lichtman, Valeria Luiselli, Fatima Farheen Mirza, Kirstin Valdez Quade, Karen Russell, Claire Vaye Watkins, Ashley Wurzbacher, Tiphanie Yanique, and C Pam Zhang, as well as National Book Award Finalists Akwaeke Emezi, Angela Flournoy, and Téa Obreht, 2014 National Book Award Winner Phil Klay, and 2020 National Book Award Winner Charles Yu.

The 5 Under 35 Ceremony has been moved permanently to the spring. The 2022 5 Under 35 honorees will be announced in Spring 2022, and both the 2021 and 2022 cohorts will be honored at an invitation-only ceremony in Spring 2022. 5 Under 35 is sponsored by the Amazon Literary Partnership. Each honoree will receive a $1,000 prize.

The 2021 5 Under 35 honorees are:

Caleb Azumah Nelson , Open Water Black Cat / Grove Atlantic Selected by Brit Bennett , 2020 National Book Award Longlist for Fiction, 2016 5 Under 35 honoree

Nathan Harris , The Sweetness of Water Little, Brown and Company / Hachette Book Group Selected by Charmaine Craig , 2017 National Book Award Longlist for Fiction

Lee Lai , Stone Fruit Fantagraphics Selected by Bryan Washington , 2019 5 Under 35 honoree

Claire Luchette , Agatha of Little Neon Farrar, Straus and Giroux / Macmillan Publishers Selected by Elizabeth McCracken , 1996 National Book Award Finalist for Fiction, 2014 National Book Award Longlist for Fiction, 2021 National Book Award Longlist for Fiction

Dantiel W. Moniz , Milk Blood Heat Grove / Grove Atlantic Selected by Rumaan Alam , 2020 National Book Award Finalist for Fiction

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The 25 Best Novels Written By Writers Under 30

Guaranteed to make you feel worthless and unaccomplished!

Image via Complex Original

Not Available Lead

January is already a time to feel terrible about yourself, with everyone around you promising to make themselves better in this or that way over the next year. If you aren't deep enough into self-loathing yet, we've got just the thing for you.

One of the hardest things a person can do is complete a great novel. We feel like it's up there with scaling Everest and sleeping with your friend's hot mom. There are a handful of gifted authors who were able to finish writing one before they were 30 years old. Sure, these authors were generally alcoholics, suicidal, or had terrible personal relationships (and sometimes all three), but they completed a novel before they turned 30, so what do you expect?

Whether it lights a fire under your lazy ass or sends you further into existential despair, we present you The 25 Best Novels Written by Writers Under 30.

RELATED: 50 Books to Read Before You Die RELATED: 50 Movies That are Better Than the Book RELATED:  25 Books That Will Make You a Better Person

Written by Brenden Gallagher ( @ muddycreekU )

25. V. (1963)

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Author : Thomas Pynchon Age : 26

Here's another example of strange inspiration. After graduating from Cornell, Pynchon went to work for Boeing as a technical writer. The corporate structure at Boeing would inspire the "Yoyodyne" corporation that would appear in both V. and The Crying of Lot 49 . The success of V. allowed him to quit working for Boeing and "flirt with the lifestyle and some of the habits of the Beat and hippie countercultures," which sounds to us like living the dream.

Unlike many young writers, Pynchon has gone on to enjoy a prolific career. On January 4th it was announced via Twitter that Pynchon plans on publishing a new novel, entitled The Bleeding Edge .

24. The Call of the Wild (1903)

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Author : Jack London Age : 27

London is not only better than you because he published a novel at a young age, he is also better than you because he actually participated in the Klondike Gold Rush. London paid dearly to find what would be the inspiration for many of his novels, including The Call of the Wild .

While in the Klondike, London suffered from scurvy, lost his four front teeth, and earned permanent marks across his face. After this experience, he resolved to make his living by selling his brains, in order to avoid the "work trap." Judging by what happened the first time he fell into the "work trap," we feel he made a wise decision.

23. The Naked and the Dead (1948)

Author : Norman Mailer Age : 25

If you are lacking for inspiration as an artist, one surefire cure is to go to war. It worked for Norman Mailer. Though Mailer was a cook during World War II and saw little active duty, he was able to draw upon his observations and create a best-selling novel.

The novel is not widely read today, and it certainly has its critics, particularly regarding its prose style. While the responsibility for most of the prose can fall on Mailer, there was one choice that was not his fault. Mailer was asked by his publisher to replace the word "fuck" with "fug." Allegedly, this prompted actress Tellulah Bankhead to grate him by remarking, "Oh, hello, you're Norman Mailer. You're the young man that doesn't know how to spell..."

22. The Mysteries of Pittsburgh (1988)

Author : Michael Chabon Age : 25

Michael Chabon became a literary celebrity while attending graduate school at UC Irvine. A professor submitted The Mysteries of Pittsburg h to a literary agent, and a six-figure advance later, he was a celebrity. He was offered a kind of literary stardom that is quite rare in this day and age; he was approached to star in Gap ads and appear in People 's "50 Most Beautiful People."

His response: "I don't give a shit [about it]... I only take pride in things I've actually done myself." Yup, this guy sounds like he has spent some time in Pittsburgh.

21. Less Than Zero (1985)

Author : Bret Easton Ellis Age : 20

Bret Easton Ellis started Less Than Zero when he was a sophomore in high school. When our staff was prompted to think of projects they started in high school, all that most of us came up with were schemes to see girls naked.

Despite the book's success, Ellis describes the novel in the way anyone would describe a high school journal: "...It read like teen diaries or journal entries—lots of stuff about the bands I liked, the beach, the Galleria, clubs, driving around, doing drugs, partying." It just goes to show you "write what you know." Of course, after this novel and Rules of Attraction , Ellis wrote American Psycho , which we desperately hope was not borne out of the same advice.

20. The Bell Jar (1963)

Author : Sylvia Plath Age : 29

Plath had already been writing for a decade when she enrolled in Smith College. She had been writing poems from the age of 8 and completed dozens of short stories by time she turned 18. Like the protagonist of the novel, Plath suffered from depression. Plath attempted suicide on several occasions before putting her head in an oven while her children were in the next room. The Bell Jar is still widely read today, but her collection of poems, Ariel , has garnered her far more critical praise.

19. Other Voices, Other Rooms (1948)

Author : Truman Capote Age : 24

The photo that Capote used on the dust jacket of Other Voices, Other Rooms had as much to do with Capote's rise to notoriety as the book itself. On the back of the book, which was about a teenager coming to terms with his homosexuality, was a photo of Capote l ounging back, staring at, almost challenging, the camera.

Few reviews mentioned being offended by the contents of the book, but many were put off by the photo. The Los Angeles Times wrote that the photo looked, "as if he were dreamily contemplating some outrage against conventional morality." The book did well, but it was the photo that placed Capote firmly in the national consciousness.

18. Soldier's Pay (1926)

Author : William Faulkner Age : 27

After graduating college and doing a stint in the British Armed Forces (he was barred from U.S. military service due to his height), Faulkner returned to the South and began work on his first novel. The novel is about an aviator returning home from war. Faulkner claimed to be drawing on his experience as an pilot, but his contention that he was part of the British Royal Flying Corp has since been exposed as a likely lie.

Though this was his first novel to reach publication, the work that defined his literary legacy would not begin until several years later when he began The Sound and the Fury at the age of 30.

17. The Broom of the System (1987)

Author : David Foster Wallace Age : 27

Wallace described the inspiration for The Broom of the System as semi-autobiographical. He called the book a "tale of a sensitive young WASP who's just had this midlife crisis that's moved him from coldly cerebral analytic math to a coldly cerebral take on fiction." Wallace's focus was on mathematics and philosophy as an undergraduate, but then he opted to take a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona afterwards.

He would go on to publish a number of works, perhaps most notably Infinite Jest . Wallace's description of Broom as the working out of a "midlife crisis" proved prophetic. He took is own life after succumbing to deep depression at the age of 46.

16. Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953)

Author : James Baldwin Age : 29

Baldwin was a man who knew who he was at a young age, and whose artistic tastes were shaped early on. After befriending Beauford Delaney, an African-American artist who become his mentor, in New York's Greenwich Village during his teenage years, Baldwin quickly began to develop as an artist and thinker.

While the cliché American writer moves to Greenwich Village, Baldwin left Manhattan for Paris, where he could find what he viewed to be a better life both as an African-American and a homosexual. There he would get deeply involved in politics and pen his first novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain , which examined racism in the country he'd left behind.

15. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1962)

Author : Ken Kesey Age : 27

Sometimes we find inspiration in the most unlikely places. Kesey found the spark for his novel while working at a veteran's hospital in San Fransisco. He came to believe that the patients who were treated there for mental illness were really there because they didn't fit society's conventions for behavior.

Kesey's inspiration may or may not have been helped by the hallucinogenic drugs he was voluntarily testing at the time, but the fact remains that he created a must-read novel of stirring, vivid compassion.

14. Wise Blood (1952)

Author : Flannery O'Connor Age : 27

O'Conner used to joke that she had her first brush with fame when a news crew filmed her and one of her chickens that could walk backwards when she was 6 years old. "I was just there to assist the chicken but it was the high point in my life," she said. "Everything since has been anticlimax."

She went on to have an illustrious literary career that began with Wise Blood , the novel concerning a veteran who begins an "anti-religious" ministry after returning from war. O'Conner ultimately ended her life as she began it. She returned to her family farm years later to raise different species of birds during the last decade of her life as she fought lupus and continued to write.

13. White Teeth (2000)

Author : Zadie Smith Age : 25

White Teeth was the subject of a bidding war before it was even finished; the auction for her unfinished novel occurred while Smith was still a student a Cambridge in the late '90s. One would think that a writer who was able to produce such great work so early in her career would have been devoted solely to writing. This was not the case with Zadie.

As a teenager, she split her time between musical theatre, tap dancing, and journalism before settling on writing. Zadie's family, it seems, was bursting with creativity on the level of the Royal Tannenbaums. She has two younger brothers: One is stand-up comedian Doc Brown and the other is rapper Luc Skyz.

12. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1940)

Author : Carson McCullers Age : 23

Carson McCullers is another example of an author whose early literary fame was only equalled by the difficult life she would have to lead afterwards. She published The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter while living with her husband, aspiring writer Reeves McCullers. They soon divorced, only to remarry in 1945. Their marriage ended permanently when Reeves killed himself in what he believed would be a joint suicide by overdosing on pills in a hotel room.

As if her love life weren't hard enough, she suffered from a series of ailments throughout her life, including strokes that left an entire side of her body paralyzed by the time she was 31.

11. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1979)

Author : Douglas Adams Age : 27

The story of Douglas Adams's inspiration for his must-read masterwork is much funnier than most on this list. Adams came up with the idea for The Hitchhiker's Guide while bumming through Europe with a copy of The Hitchhiker's Guide to Europe in tow. One night, Adams found himself drunk in a field in Austria, staring up at the stars, and was struck by inspiration. This inspiration led first to a series of radio plays, then to novels, and ultimately to stage plays, films, and merchandising.

Adams was not without creative frustrations, as he was never able to turn anything in on time. He credits others for forcing him to overcome his trouble with deadlines. On one occasion his editor went as far as to lock him in his hotel room until he finished a manuscript. Of deadlines, he famously said, "I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by."

10. The Pickwick Papers (1836)

Author : Charles Dickens Age : 25

Charles Dickens' strategy in publishing The Pickwick Papers should have gotten him fired. Dickens was initially hired to supply copy to a "picture novel" of gentlemen hunting and fishing. He decided to write whatever he wanted and force the illustrator to adjust his drawings to what he wrote. So, ultimately, rather than a goofy picture book, Dickens was able to craft of novel about contemporary London.

We wouldn't suggest trying anything like this if you are hired for a copywriting job, as some of the Pop Culture staff landed at Complex after attempting similar tricks inspired by Dickens.

9. Buddenbrooks (1901)

Author : Thomas Mann Age : 25

Normally, the Nobel Prize is awarded based on a novelist's entire body of work. In the case of Mann's Buddenbrooks , the Swedish Academy went out of its way to identify the novel as the primary reason for the award. The book is not one that you see on tons of your friends' bookshelves, but the themes are as relevant today as they were then.

Mann's novel follows the Buddenbrook children as they wrestle with their desire to engage their artistic side without abandoning the culture of their family. Almost anyone who has left their hometown, whether in 1901 or 2013, can relate to that.

8. Sons and Lovers (1913)

Author : D.H. Lawrence Age : 27

Sons and Lovers was Lawrence's third novel, in case the other authors weren't making you feel like a slouch. Lawrence's novel of a mother's love for her sons was the most deeply personal of his early work. When his own mother died, several years prior to the novel's ultimate publication, Lawrence went into what he referred to as a "sick year." Not only do we wish that we had the work ethic of Lawrence, but we also wish that we were allowed to take sick years.

7. A Confederacy of Dunces (1980)

Author : John Kennedy Toole Age : 29

It seems that authors who create great work at a young age are often troubled. John Kennedy Toole famously ended his life before Confederacy of Dunces could be published. It is strange to hear this after reading the rollicking, comically absurd novel, but Toole was deeply depressed and self-critical regarding what he perceived to be his failures. Those who knew him were equally surprised; Toole was a favorite professor at the universities where he taught because of his comedic stylings during lectures.

It seems, however, suicide was something that had been on Toole's mind for some time. He had taken an army buddy to the exact spot where he would end his life three years prior to his suicide. Toole's one other surviving novel, Neon Bible , was written when was just 16 years old.

6. Frankenstein (1818)

Author : Mary Shelly Age : 19

The inspiration for Mary Shelly's Frankenstein was quite strange. You know when kids sit around the campfire and try to scare each other with ghost stories? It was kind of like that, except the people doing it were Percy Shelly, Mary Shelly, and Lord Byron, and when they were done Mary went off and wrote a novel. Not just any novel, either, but one you have to read before you die.

It makes you wonder if the idle entertainments of our generation will result in a great novel. Perhaps a group of people will sit around playing "Never Have I Ever" and chugging beers and a great work of art will emerge...or not.

5. Sense and Sensibility (1811)

Author : Jane Austen Age : 19

Maybe we would all be more productive if the romances of our youth were handled the way that Jane Austen's was. While Austen was working on Sense and Sensibility , she was dating Tom Lefroy, and things were getting serious. She wrote this to her sister: "I am almost afraid to tell you how my Irish friend and I behaved. Imagine to yourself everything most profligate and shocking in the way of dancing and sitting down together." Oh word?

Her parents and the community at large weren't having it, as Lefroy had insufficient cheddar to go marrying anybody, which is the only reason you would be "sitting down" with a lady in the first place. Lefroy was sent packing and Austen went back to work on her craft. She never saw Lefroy again. Seeing as she did not publish anything until 15 years later, in 1811, which was also five years before her death, the sacrifice of love probably wasn't worth it.

4. This Side of Paradise (1920)

Author : F. Scott Fitzgerald Age : 23

Fitzgerald, who's best known for the classic The Great Gatsby , wrote This Side of Paradise so he could get his woman back. He had been engaged to Zelda Sayre, but the engagement was broken off due to Zelda's feeling that Scott could not support her. He did what any rational man would do. He drank a ton, went back home to Minnesota, took a job fixing car roofs, and finished the novel.

Most of the time plans like this fail, but somehow he sold the novel, won back his lady, and got married in St. Patrick's Cathedral. Of course, Zelda famously turned out to be bat-shit crazy, but that's another, far sadder, story.

3. Wuthering Heights (1847)

Author : Emily Brontë Age : 29

Emily was one of three  Brontë sisters (along with Charlotte and Anne) to publish masterpieces of the English language. She also, unfortunately, was another young novelist that died before having a chance to reach her prime. One theory behind her early death is that the water in her home was contaminated by a nearby graveyard, which is pretty gross.

Even her sister, Charlotte, who lived far longer than Emily, never lived to see the fruits of their labors, as only on her death bed did she cast off the male pen names she and her sisters used, revealing the true authorship of their astonishing works.

2. The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774)

Author : Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe Age : 25

The Sorrows of Young Werther catapulted Goethe to an insane level of literary celebrity. The story of unrequited love, which the kids today might find "quite emo," didn't sit well with Goethe as he grew older, however. He regretted the sentimentality of the piece and he also regretted revealing his own unrequited love to the world.

Nonetheless, even in his last years, he was best remembered for Werther . The autobiographical novel was so popular when it was released that lovelorn young men dressed like the protagonist and even [SPOILER ALERT] took their lives in the same fashion as desperate young Werther. We're lucky that Goethe isn't writing today, as there would certainly be a good number of young folks running around in "Team Werther" T-shirts.

1. The Sun Also Rises (1926)

Author : Ernest Hemingway Age : 27

Despite Hemingway's numerous later literary achievements, many critics believe The Sun Also Rise s to be his greatest work. Hemingway began work on this novel while an expatriate in Paris, during the time chronicled in his memoir of young adult life, A Moveable Feast .

Many of the concerns Hemingway considered central to the identity of the Lost Generation are explored in this novel of love, loss, and bullfighting. He also wrote this while his marriage was falling apart, which would become kind of his thing for the rest of his life (he married four times).


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Two debut books make the prestigious Booker Prize shortlist

Two debut books make the prestigious Booker Prize shortlist

September 21, 2023 • Jonathan Escoffery's If I Survive You and Chetna Maroo's Western Lane are among the contenders for this year's prize, which honors the best English-language fiction published in the U.K. and Ireland.

How comic Leslie Jones went from funniest person on campus to 'SNL' star

Leslie Jones says she was 19 when Jamie Foxx told her she needed to live life — get hired, get fired, fall in love — in order to be truly funny. Jen Rosenstein/HGBUSA hide caption

How comic Leslie Jones went from funniest person on campus to 'SNL' star

September 21, 2023 • Jones says performing stand-up for the first time as a freshman in college felt like putting on a shirt that fit perfectly: "It was just so natural." Her memoir is Leslie F*cking Jones.

Lauren Groff's survivalist novel 'The Vaster Wilds' will test your endurance, too

Lauren Groff's survivalist novel 'The Vaster Wilds' will test your endurance, too

September 21, 2023 • An impoverished servant girl escapes the fledgling Jamestown colony during the winter of 1609–1610 in a historical saga that takes its inspiration from Robinson Crusoe.

School book bans show no signs of slowing, new PEN America report finds

A PEN America report found that the number of books permanently removed from U.S. school libraries and classrooms has quadrupled — to 1,263 books in the last school year from 333 the year before. Harkim Wright Sr./AP hide caption

School book bans show no signs of slowing, new PEN America report finds

September 21, 2023 • The number of bans and restrictions in the U.S. rose 33% in the last school year, according the the report. Florida had more bans than any other state.

There have been attempts to censor more than 1,900 library book titles so far in 2023

Books sit on shelves in an elementary school library in suburban Atlanta on Aug. 18. Harkim Wright Sr./AP hide caption

There have been attempts to censor more than 1,900 library book titles so far in 2023

September 20, 2023 • Most of the scrutinized books were written by or contained subject matter about people of color or members of the LGBTQ+ community, according to research by the American Library Association.

'Wellness' is a perfect novel for our age, its profound sadness tempered with humor

'Wellness' is a perfect novel for our age, its profound sadness tempered with humor

September 20, 2023 • Nathan Hill's stunning new novel about the stories we tell about our lives and our loves, and how we sustain relationships throughout time, is both funny and heartbreaking, sometimes on the same page.

'North Woods' is the story of a place and its inhabitants over centuries

'North Woods' is the story of a place and its inhabitants over centuries

September 19, 2023 • Daniel Mason's gorgeous fifth novel tells of a yellow house deep in the woods of western Massachusetts — and its motley succession of occupants who leave their mark on the property.

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Five brilliant works written by authors under the age of 30

31-year-old rupert hawksley laments that these works were all written by authors in their 20s.

'The Rape of the Lock' by Alexander Pope. Courtesy of Pelta Books

'The Rape of the Lock' by Alexander Pope. Courtesy of Pelta Books

Rupert Hawksley author image

There are a lot of things I was supposed to do before turning 30: own a share in a race horse, work in New York, complete a marathon, stop smoking. My failure to achieve any of them (the last two may well be linked) is a source of great shame but what really stings is that I didn’t manage to write a book before bidding farewell to my twenties. So just to rub it in, I have chosen four brilliant novels and one poem written when the authors were still under 30.

The Rape of the Lock, Alexander Pope (1717)

This mock-heroic poem is the high-point of 18th century satire and it was written by Pope at the age of 24. Based on an actual event, it describes in 794 faultless lines the furore caused when Lord Petre cut off a lock of Arabella Fermor's hair, causing a feud between the two families. Pope uses the style of classical epics, such as Homer's Iliad , to describe the incident, thereby highlighting its triviality and sending up the aristocracy. Deft and delightfully rude, The Rape of the Lock might just be the most amusing poem ever written.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad is behind this stirring memoir, 'The Last Girl'. Courtesy Virago

The Pickwick Papers, Charles Dickens (1837)

Dickens was 24 and a jobbing journalist when he was asked to write a series of tales for a magazine about the members of a fictional London club, which would accompany illustrations. Each story follows Samuel Pickwick, the founder of the Pickwick Club, as he and his chums head off into the English countryside for misadventure and encounters with all sorts of ripe characters. Funny enough to make you howl, The Pickwick Papers turned Dickens into a literary star.

The Autograph Man, Zadie Smith (2002)

Too often overlooked, this was published two years after White Teeth (when Smith was still only 26) and brims with all the literary dexterity of her debut, but is less self-conscious and possesses a welcome chilliness of observation – here is a writer whose view of the world is hardening. A clear-eyed exploration of Jewishness, as well as our obsession with celebrity, Smith's second novel confirmed her as the most exciting voice of her generation, a point she has since proved again and again.

The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton (2013)

It seems scarcely believable that a writer in their 20s could produce something as intricate and ambitious as The Luminaries , an 832-page tour de force – part thriller; part reflection on the role of fiction – loosely stitched to the 19th century gold-rush in New Zealand. When a man called Walter Moody arrives in the town of Hokitika one stormy night, he stumbles upon 12 men in a cheap hotel and becomes tangled up in a series of unsolved crimes. At 28, Catton became the youngest winner of the Booker Prize, which… certainly makes you think.

Conversations with Friends, Sally Rooney (2017)

Everyone has been getting hot under the collar about Rooney's second novel, Normal People (2018), which is odd because her debut, Conversations with Friends , is so obviously the better book. Set in post-crash Dublin, it follows two self-aware university students, Bobbi and Frances, as they attempt to negotiate the path into adulthood, a path that becomes rockier when they start hanging out with a married couple. Rooney writes with a cool detachment about millennial neuroses, young love and the agony of trying to work out who you are.

Rupert Hawksley is an arts and culture writer at The National

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25 Best Books by Latinx Authors to Read Beyond Hispanic Heritage Month

We've got fiction, romance, YA novels and more.

Headshot of Lizz Schumer

It can be harder to find books with diverse characters written by marginalized authors, and that has a lot to do with the composition of publishing as a whole. According to the latest diversity survey from Lee & Low Books, almost 80% of publishers, agents, marketing representatives and even book reviewers are white. Latinx and Hispanic people are drastically underrepresented, making up just 6% of the industry. And it's important to remember the Latinx and Hispanic community isn't a monolith. The 60 million people in the United States who identify as Latinx or Hispanic (that's 18% of the population) is very diverse, and so is this list of books by authors who proudly claim that identity.

Start by reading these top books from all genres, for a range of ages and interests. And for more inspiration, don't forget to check out our feel-good book club for even more great reads.

Wild Tongues Can't Be Tamed

Wild Tongues Can't Be Tamed

In 15 incisive, original pieces, an array of bestselling, award-winning and up-and-coming Latinx voices interrogate the myths and stereotypes about their communities and cultures. Anthologies are a great way to get to know new-to-you authors and experience a number of exciting voices all in one package, so pick this one up STAT.

What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez by Claire Jiménez

What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez by Claire Jiménez

In this hilarious and heartwarming novel, the Ramirez family is still grieving after 13-year-old Ruthy disappeared 12 years ago. So when her oldest sister Jessica spots a woman on a lowbrow reality TV show that she swears is Ruthy, she just has to track her down. Jessica, her mother Dolores and youngest sister Nina road trip from Staten Island to find the woman they think is Ruthy, and learn a lot about each other and the meaning of family along the way.

Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina García

Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina García

This sumptuous novel follows three generations of Cuban women as they deal with the revolution, in the magical realism style that's so very Cuban in itself. It's bittersweet, beautiful and deeply memorable.

Family Lore by Elizabeth Acevedo

Family Lore by Elizabeth Acevedo

Flor can predict the day someone is going to die, so when she plans a living wake for herself, her sisters are suspicious. She won’t tell them what’s up, but Matilde, Pastora and Camila have their secrets too. This novel takes us through the rich history and frenetic present of the Marte family and between Santo Domingo and New York City, culminating in a celebration of community, sisterhood and love that will have you wiping away happy tears.

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez

Julia isn't the ideal daughter – that's her sister Olga's job. But when Olga dies in a tragic bus accident, Julia has to bear the brunt of her mother's grief. But was Olga really as perfect as her mom always thought? This coming-of-age story delves into what it's like growing up in a Mexican household in a way that will have you both laughing and wiping away tears.

What Would Frida Do? by Arianna Davis

What Would Frida Do? by Arianna Davis

If all you know about Frida Kahlo is her gorgeous and thought-provoking art, add this book to your list. Kahlo's a feminist icon, an unapologetically independent woman and a powerful inspiration for all of us to persevere no matter what. Through intimate stories from Kahlo's extraordinary life, Davis's book will inspire you to live your truth.

Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia

Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia

This sweeping novel follows one mother's struggle to help her daughter who suffers from drug addiction, who in turn is trying to understand their family's history as immigrants from Cuba. It's a story of migration, love across generations and the way we carry our legacies in our bones.

My Broken Language by Quiara Alegria Hudes

My Broken Language by Quiara Alegria Hudes

From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of In the Heights comes a memoir about growing up in a Philadelphia barrio, her Puerto Rican identity and trying to find the language that fits her voice.

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

A glamorous debutante-turned amateur sleuth, a once-grand home in the Mexican countryside, and a terrified letter from a newlywed looking for escape from a mysterious doom: This gorgeous novel has all of the markers of your new favorite tale of suspense. It will haunt your dreams long after the last page.

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

No reading list is complete without this classic coming-of-age story about Esperanza Cordero, a young girl growing up in Chicago. Anyone who's ever been a child, regardless of their background, will recognize some of themself in this beautiful, sometimes heart-wrenching book.

Everyone Knows You Go Home by Natalia Sylvester

Everyone Knows You Go Home by Natalia Sylvester

After Isabel and Martin get married on Dia de los Muertos , the unwelcome spirit of Martin's long-lost father Omar reveals himself to the couple. But he begins to appear only to Isabel, asking her to help him redeem himself, especially to his late wife Elda. This story about grief, forgiveness and love will worm its way into your heart.

Afterlife by Julia Alvarez

Afterlife by Julia Alvarez

Antonia Vega is having a hard time: Just after she retires from her teaching job, her husband dies unexpectedly, her sister mysteriously disappears, and an undocumented, pregnant teen shows up on her doorstep. This is a moving tale of a woman who's always sought solace in stories who has to contend with very real-world problems without any of her usual support.

Woman of Light: A Novel by Kali Fajardo-Anstine

Woman of Light: A Novel by Kali Fajardo-Anstine

After Luz's brother is run out of town by a violent white mob, she's left to navigate 1930s Denver by herself. But soon, she begins to have visions of her ancestors and their lives in the nearby Lost Territory, bearing witness to their struggle, perseverance and how important it is to ensure those stories don't die with her. It's a transporting story of the importance of family history told in a luminescent style.

One of the Good Ones by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite

One of the Good Ones by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite

Two sisters tackle the question of who's deemed "worthy" of being missed in this incisive take on police brutality and how we frame victims in its aftermath. It's not a light read, but a necessary one.

RELATED: 50 Best Books for Teens

Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado

Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado

Charlotte "Charlie" Vega struggles with her weight and body image, not least because of her mom's pressure to lose weight. But in this lovely and empowering young adult novel, she learns to embrace her body and who she is, just the way she is.

...y no se lo trago la tierra by Tomas Rivera

...y no se lo trago la tierra by Tomas Rivera

In a series of short, semi-autobiographical chapters, this bilingual novel tells the story of a young migrant worker in the '40s who never loses his drive, even through many hardships. Despite having come out in 1971, it still resonates deeply today.

Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez

Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez

Olga, a successful wedding planner, and her brother Pietro, a popular Congressman representing their Bronx neighborhood, have it all going on. In public, that is. In private, they're both harboring deep secrets that could unravel their carefully curated lives. Especially once their radical mother blows back into their lives on the winds of a hurricane threatening Puerto Rico. Block out some time: This one's a one-seater.

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

Chronicling a volatile relationship with her violent partner, this innovative memoir examines that time through motifs like a home, Disney villains, Star Trek , the history of abuse in queer relationships and her religious childhood. It makes the reader feel the disorientation that can come with being abused by a loved one, while remaining firmly grounded.

Ordinary Girls by Jaquira Diaz

Ordinary Girls by Jaquira Diaz

Take a painful, illuminating journey through a girlhood marked by sexual violence, substance abuse, and mental illness, to a womanhood that claws its way out of despair and into hope. Diaz's story is raw, honest, and paints a beautiful picture not only of her own life but of Puerto Rico and Miami Beach themselves.

Dominicana by Angie Cruz

Dominicana by Angie Cruz

When Ana Cancion gets a chance to immigrate to New York City as Juan Ruiz's wife, she jumps at the chance, more for her family than herself. But she feels trapped and alone in NYC; that is, until she befriends Juan's younger brother Cesar. When her husband goes back to the Dominican Republic temporarily, she relishes a taste of freedom. But she's got a hard choice to make before he gets back.

Headshot of Lizz Schumer

Lizz (she/her) is a senior editor at Good Housekeeping , where she runs the GH Book Club, edits essays and long-form features and writes about pets, books and lifestyle topics. A journalist for almost two decades, she is the author of Biography of a Body and Buffalo Steel. She also teaches journalism as an adjunct professor at New York University's School of Professional Studies and creative nonfiction at the Muse Writing Center, and coaches with the New York Writing Room. 

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@media(max-width: 64rem){.css-1yxmhzw:before{background-repeat:no-repeat;bottom:-0.2rem;color:#ffffff;content:'_';display:inline-block;height:1.25rem;line-height:1;margin-bottom:0.5rem;margin-right:0.625rem;position:relative;width:1.25rem;}.loaded .css-1yxmhzw:before{background-image:url(/_assets/design-tokens/goodhousekeeping/static/images/Clover.5c7a1a0.svg);}}@media(min-width: 48rem){.loaded .css-1yxmhzw:before{background-image:url(/_assets/design-tokens/goodhousekeeping/static/images/Clover.5c7a1a0.svg);}} All the Best Books to Read Next

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Bonnie Garmus, Rosie Andrews, Ayanna Lloyd Banwo, Daniel Wiles, Emilie Pine, Lauren John Joseph, Louise Kennedy, Jo Browning Wroe, Moses McKenzie, Sheena Patel. Photographs by Antonio Olmos and Patrick Bolger for the Observer.

Introducing our 10 best debut novelists of 2022

We talk to the authors of the most exciting first-time novels of the year, exploring everything from the English civil war to Instagram, TV chefs to knife crime

T his is the ninth year in which the Observer ’s writers and editors spent the busy weeks before Christmas with our heads down in dozens of forthcoming debut novels, written by authors who live in the UK and Ireland, in order to give you a heads-up on 2022’s 10 best. The result, we think, always merits attention. We told you how good Douglas Stuart was, long before he won the Booker for Shuggie Bain ; ditto Caleb Azumah Nelson, winner of this year’s Costa first novel prize. We told you about Gail Honeyman before Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine sold millions of copies around the world; we even told you about Sally Rooney before she became Sally Rooney. We’re as excited as ever about this year’s selection. The class of 2022 reminds us that the novel is a form without limits or rules. From a hard-hitting depiction of the aftermath of knife crime to the comic travails of a reluctant TV chef; from historical novels set during the Industrial Revolution and the English civil war to an Instagram stalker’s splenetic monologue; from stories set over a single day, a year or a century; from works of lapel-grabbing sexual candour to otherworldly tales of a supernatural tint, there’s a novel here to thrill everyone.

Happy reading. Anthony Cummins

Sheena Patel

I’m a Fan (Rough Trade Books, 5 May)

I like novels where attraction isn’t just sex: it can be domination, obliteration

Sheena Patel

“I didn’t want to completely break you. I hope it’s funny as well,” says Sheena Patel, of her first novel, I’m a Fan , a twisted romance blazing with angry verve. Its unnamed narrator, a vengeful young Londoner of Gujarati heritage, is seething about “the man I want to be with” – an older artist stringing her along with multiple other lovers, not least “the woman I’m obsessed with”, a white American whose online presence the narrator avidly hate-scrolls. Luring us into its ugliest depths with killer comic timing, the fractured narrative unfolds as a series of vitriolic salvos on sex, race and the internet. “The only stories we’re allowed to tell are like, oh, this poor bitch, this man is being horrible to her,” Patel explains. “I wanted my narrator to be bad. She became this monster. I couldn’t talk to anyone about it while I was writing because I had to stay in this space of what I’d say if I had no filter. I was like, what would you do if you were completely unbridled and didn’t sign up to the contract of being a good person? And it was such a hungry voice: I want, I want, I want.” Patel, 34, who lives in London, set up the poetry collective 4 Brown Girls Who Write in 2017 after she realised three of her friends were, like her, writing poetry without telling anyone. Nina Hervé, the publisher of Rough Trade Books, put out their pamphlet in 2020 after Patel had contacted her on Instagram asking her to watch them perform. Encouraged by Hervé to write her own book, Patel switched to prose but didn’t want a “novelistic” narrative, borrowing the story’s jump-cut structure from her work as an assistant director in film and television. Another important influence was the book Shame Space , by the American artist Martine Syms. “She says something like: ‘I’m sick of white people.’ I was like, I can’t believe you wrote that down. I wanted my book to pull apart whiteness but not in a way that was, you know, ‘how to be a good ally’. It was more like, I would like to fuck you up actually and not guide you through this.” Is the internet dehumanising us? It’s amazing and terrible. I’m interested in how it changes us. We’re so reptilian. You could just look me up and know everything about me but you’re sitting there pretending that you don’t know anything about me. We all do it, but we don’t talk about it. I’m fascinated by what that distortion does to your brain, when you know too much and have to pretend you don’t. What did you read growing up? My parents were typically Indian in that education was the thing that mattered most, but we never had books in the house. As a teenager I found Jun’ichirō Tanizaki’s novel The Key in a charity shop and I really liked how dark it was. It’s about a couple where the woman’s writing a diary and knows her husband’s reading it. It seems like she’s being vulnerable but she isn’t really. I like novels about the violence between men and women, or between women and women, where attraction isn’t just sex: it can be domination, obliteration. Why is that a theme in fiction now, do you think? We’re in a patriarchy. It’s not a now thing; Jean Rhys was writing all this stuff. The novel mirrors the violence in the world, but I wanted the narrator to be complicit. She thinks she’s of more value because she’s younger and can have children; these systems she’s screaming about have got her own behaviour trapped as well. I decided early on that I wanted absolutely no redemption. AC

Ayanna Lloyd Banwo

When We Were Birds (Hamish Hamilton, 10 February)

I believe in ghosts like some people believe in God

Ayanna Lloyd Banwo

Ayanna Lloyd Banwo, 41, emerged from the University of East Anglia’s MA in creative writing with a manuscript for When We Were Birds , her masterly debut novel. It announces an important new voice in fiction, at once grounded and mythic in its scope and carried by an incantatory prose style that recalls Arundhati Roy’s hugely impactful debut, The God of Small Things (1997), which Lloyd Banwo cites as a major influence. Born and raised in Port of Spain, Trinidad, she also sees her work within a tradition of female Caribbean writers including Olive Senior, Jamaica Kincaid and Lorna Goodison, but says the biggest influence on her writing was the oral storytelling of women in her own household: “My grandmother told stories like it was breath.” Following the deaths of her mother, her father and her grandmother in Trinidad, Lloyd Banwo moved to the UK five years ago and lives in Battersea, south London. Her writing draws on grief, but Lloyd Banwo’s literary gift lies in her capacity to transfigure that emotion – to conjure a cosmic landscape where the living coexist among the dead. When We Were Birds is both a love story and a ghost story – the tale of a down-on-his-luck gravedigger and a woman descended from corbeau, the black birds that fly east at sunset, taking with them the souls of the dead.

How long have you been writing? For a long time. As a child growing up. But it was only around 2013, 2014 that I started to think: is this a thing I could actually do?

What was th e turning point for you? Bocas lit fest, 100%. It’s a literary festival in Trinidad-Tobago that happens every year. It’s run by Nicholas Laughlin and Marina Salandy-Brown and a small but very dedicated team. Just seeing writers up close and hearing them talk about how they wrote and what their process was and how they got published… That was a really big deal.

How was your experience of the MA at UEA? It was the best year I had had in a long time – the first time I was able to just write.

Do you believe in ghosts? Yeah, I do. I think if I actually saw ghosts I’d be very frightened but I believe in ghosts like some people believe in God, purely on faith, not on evidence. We have to go somewhere and it just makes sense to me that some people are ready to leave – they’ve made their peace – but that [other] people don’t know how to.

Are you working on your second novel? Yes. It’s set in the same world as When We Were Birds and I’m delving down more explicitly into the idea of inheritance and houses. Houses as capital, houses as domestic space, memory space, dream space. The novel looks at a house that has been passed down through five generations of women, and the protagonist has returned home to inherit this house. She’s going to sell it off because her life is not in Trinidad any more and then finds that she can’t for various mysterious, supernatural reasons. It tracks a relationship with a house that doesn’t want to be parted from her. Ashish Ghadiali

Emilie Pine

Ruth & Pen (Hamish Hamilton, 5 May)

Fiction is hard… at least with my own life I knew the plot

Emilie Pine

On 7 December 2019, the academic and essayist Emilie Pine stepped out of her workplace and into the streets of Dublin where a climate crisis protest – one of many around the world – was in full swing. “I was on my lunch break, and there were marchers, speeches and so many young people who were really passionate about it all, and I thought: this , this is the day that it needs to be set on.”

“It” is her debut novel, Ruth & Pen , a tale of two women set over the course of a single day. Ruth is a therapist floored by her failure to have a child after IVF. Pen is a neurodivergent 16-year-old, negotiating a first date as well as the protest. Pine is a professor of modern drama at University College Dublin and the author of a celebrated collection of personal essays called Notes to Self . Her novel is urgent and uplifting; these women are unknown to each other but united in an insistence that they will be themselves, in grief and love, whatever the outcome.

How did you arrive at the women? I started with Ruth. I always had her; I’d had her in my mind as a character for years and I had [the book taking place] over a much larger span of time, and then the more I thought about it, the more I thought so many decisions come down to one day and those moments that look like ordinary moments. And then I thought, I need another character and I want a teenager. I wanted that idea of different points in our lives.

Where did Pen come from? I had the first line of Pen, which is two girls kissing on Instagram, in my head, and that was it, she just went from there. I suppose some of Pen’s characteristics are mine, from when I was a very bookish teenager. I wasn’t very good with people, and was very serious and very political. Pen is in many ways a typical 16-year-old. She is really curious and eager to join the world, and yet brings her own insecurities with her. What I think about neurodiversity is that it shines a spotlight on everybody’s neurodiversity, and some people just have some characteristics that put them within the autism bracket. What Pen shows are the problems with adhering to norms. The journey that Pen goes on in the novel feels to me like one where she inhabits the idea that – as her therapist says to her – neurodiversity is a strength.

You wrote about your own experience of infertility in Notes to Self . Did you draw on that for Ruth? I worried a lot about this, and there were points writing Ruth’s story when I thought: I can’t do this, I can’t go back there, I can’t rehearse the emotions all over again, it’s too hard. And then I thought, the reason I chose [what happens to] Ruth was as a way of not writing my story. It may sound contradictory but it was a way for me to imagine a different trajectory through that experience of trying and not being able to have children, and also to kind of come out the other side.

Which did you find easier to do – the novel or your essays? It’s so much harder to write fiction! Because at least with my own life I knew the plot.

You write in longhand. Yes, in exercise books. One of the reasons for that is because the pages are quite small so I feel like I’m making progress. But also, I can’t read back; I don’t read back what I’m writing. If I write on screen I instantly start editing.

What do you do when you’re not working? I go to the theatre all the time. Theatre is the highest art form. Ursula Kenny

Daniel Wiles

Mercia’s Take (Swift Press, 2 February)

Finding the screenplay for Pulp Fiction was huge: I’d no idea you could do that in writing

Daniel Wiles

Hilary Mantel is among the early admirers of Daniel Wiles’s feverishly compulsive first novel, Mercia’s Take , which takes place during the Industrial Revolution and centres on Michael, an exhausted Black Country miner desperate to spare his young son from having to follow him into the pit. Narrated with spectacular economy, in a thudding, rhythmic staccato studded with local vernacular, the book deftly folds themes of pride, masculinity and ecological ruin into its central story: the visceral vengeance quest that ensues after a fellow miner makes off with Michael’s life-changing haul of gold.

Wiles, who lives in his home town of Walsall, wrote it during a master’s degree at the University of East Anglia, funded by a Booker Prize Foundation scholarship, which pays all costs and is awarded to one writing student a year. “I wouldn’t have been able to do the course otherwise, so it was lucky,” he says. He applied after an undergraduate writing course at Wolverhampton, where he tried to write American crime screenplays under the lingering spell of the Quentin Tarantino movies he first watched with his older brothers. “It wasn’t until the last year of that degree that I thought: I’ve got this huge breadth of material right here. I started to become more proud of the area and its history, and the way people talk.” Having dug into the archives of his local library, Wiles honed his manuscript under lockdown while living in Norwich near the UEA campus. But a classmate told him it wasn’t long enough to be a novel, and agents agreed. One night he decided to email the book straight to Mark Richards, the publisher of Swift Press , without a pitch or synopsis; Richards rang the next morning with an offer. Wiles says his family didn’t believe him when he said he was publishing a novel. “They were like: ‘You can’t do that. How much do you have to pay to get the books printed?’ But by the time there was a preorder link, they really got onboard with it.”

What led you to mining as a subject? I was drawn to the idea of the Earth as a living thing that’s being sort of killed. Mining gave so much to the country and the world in that period of time; now we’re seeing the lasting effects. Definitely the main thing that people will take away from this novel is that it’s a revenge story about a father trying to look after his son and make a better future for him. I don’t think many people will pick up on the book as a commentary on global warming but that was strongly in my mind when I was writing. What did you read growing up? I never really grew up interested in books. Finding the screenplay for Pulp Fiction was huge: I’d no idea you could do that in writing. Later I was blown away by The Friends of Eddie Coyle by George V Higgins. The whole novel was in this Boston dialect, moving the narrative in the most economic way; looking back, it definitely had an effect. What are you writing now? I’ve been working on another novel, set just after the Romans left Britain. If somebody said to me, write about anything in the modern day or in your own fantasy world, I’d be like, OK, where are my constraints? Finding out how I can say something about today with this alien past world is just something that attracts me. AC

Bonnie Garmus

Lessons in Chemistry (Doubleday, 5 April)

I can’t be one of those writers who goes to a coffee shop, because I read everything out loud

Bonnie Garmus

An American in London, Bonnie Garmus had an itinerant childhood as the daughter of an entomologist whose work took the family to places including Colombia, the Everglades and, for just one week before war broke out, Pakistan.

Her humorous novel Lessons in Chemistry is set in California in the early 1960s and centres on one-of-a-kind heroine Elizabeth Zott – chemist, single mum, and reluctant star of a TV cooking show called Supper at Six – and her mission to challenge the status quo. An ex-copywriter, Garmus landed herself a top-tier agent even before she’d finished a draft; the book would take six years to complete, and has since been optioned by Apple TV+, with Brie Larson attached to star.

Despite having announced she was going to be a novelist when she was just five, Garmus makes her debut aged 64, and is thrilled to be proof that it’s never too late. To aspiring authors of any age, her advice is simple: “Never, ever, ever give up. You cannot quit – that’s the death of it, right there.”

How did the novel come about? Honestly, the whole book came from a bad mood. I’d been in an all-men meeting and felt a lot of garden-variety dismissiveness. Elizabeth Zott was a minor character in another book I’d shelved years earlier, and as soon as I got home, I heard her. I felt like she was sitting across from me, saying: “Me, I have a story to tell you, and it’s much worse than what you’re experiencing.” I wrote the first chapter instead of doing my work.

How would you sum the book up in a sentence? I would say Elizabeth Zott is a rational person who exists in an irrational society – that’s why she doesn’t fit in, that’s what makes her so interesting, and that’s why we need her more than ever, because our society has become more and more irrational.

What’s the secret to comic writing? It’s really hard but keep slimming it down. It’s all in the timing of the sentence and it has to be brief and quick to work.

When and where do you write? Early in the morning. A lot of the time, I wake up because a character is saying something. We live in a fairly small flat and I usually sit at our dining room table – I can’t be one of those writers who goes to a coffee shop, because I read everything out loud. My husband sits three feet away and has to wear noise-cancelling headphones. I don’t write every day but I work every day, just thinking, thinking, thinking. If I write from an outline it’s like having a to-do list – the creativity goes away, the characters will not talk to me.

What’s the worst thing about being a writer? The worst thing is when nothing comes. It’s so defeating and so discouraging. You just have to allow yourself to hear your characters – don’t decide what they’re going to say beforehand, let them tell you what happened to them.

And the best? I love having my characters teach me things about me that I didn’t even know.

Name a favourite debut novel. I have two: Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh, which I read as a kid, and The Secret History by Donna Tartt, which I still revisit because I love it so much. Hephzibah Anderson

Moses McKenzie

An Olive Grove in Ends (Wildfire, 28 April)

A lot of my bredrin have come up to me and said: ‘Your book will be the first book I ever read’

Moses McKenzie

Moses McKenzie, 23, never thought of writing a novel until he had to read Cormac McCarthy at university. He smiles to recall his “completely misplaced arrogance”. “I’ve generally got a lot of opinions, and if I’m not liking what I’m reading… I wasn’t feeling it. I was just thinking, I’m better than this; if my man can do it, I can do it! So I went home to write a book.” He shakes his head at the memory of the result. “It was horrible, convoluted, all over the place.” But he realised that he had enjoyed the process and soon wrote two further manuscripts before landing an agent and a two-book deal with An Olive Grove in Ends , drafted in three months in 2019, the year he graduated. Set among a richly drawn cast in a Jamaican-Somali community in Bristol, it follows the turbulent, often painful childhood and teens of Sayon, a drug dealer trying to keep his crimes secret from the pastor’s daughter he’s in love with. His engrossing first-person narrative, lyrical and slangy by turns, is the vehicle for a tough yet tender story of faith and friendship, as well as money, knife crime and the failings of the British education system. McKenzie calls it an ode to Easton, the Bristol neighbourhood he grew up in after his father emigrated from Jamaica. Lately the area has witnessed rapid gentrification. “I’ve never seen anything happen so brutally,” he says. “Growing up, it was just a bubble of blackness. This is where I first felt safe, this is where I first felt happy, this is where I made the majority of my connections in my life.”

His second book, which he’s writing now, will also be set in Bristol, this time during the St Pauls riot of 1980. “But after that I won’t write about Bristol in a novel again. I don’t want to be ‘a Bristol writer’. I intend to write until I die.” How did the novel’s voice come about? Very naturally. Everyone’s talking how I talk or how the person next to me talks. If I’m writing for myself, people similar to me will understand. Whoever else can tap into it is an extra blessing. Was it uncomfortable to write about an antihero? Not at all. If someone like Sayon sees violence everywhere he looks, perpetrating it is normal. Rather than punishing someone, it makes more sense to rehabilitate them. For most of the story the police are absent: the book isn’t about the punishment other humans can give, it’s about whether God will punish us. In self-governed places, there are often no consequences. I’ve seen people do crazy things and get away with it. It won’t make the news, it won’t make any noise whatsoever. Did you worry about how to portray your area? Creators have a responsibility to be accurate, especially when you’re black, but you can’t tell every single story in one story. The Somali community is a community I have a lot of friends in and that I’ve grown up around, but I have to be careful writing about it because I’m on the outside. With the Jamaican community I can speak more freely. How have your friends responded to the book? It makes me happy that a lot of my bredrin have come up to me and said: “Your book will be the first book I ever read.” For a lot of them I think it will be. That goes back to the education system teaching black boys differently to how they teach others, not taking an interest, policing us, setting incredibly low expectations. What was the last novel you read? One Hundred Years of Solitude . I’m researching my third novel at the moment. I really like magical realism so I had to go to the source. AC

Jo Browning Wroe

A Terrible Kindness (Faber, 16 January)

With writing, you have to know the smells, the sounds

Jo Browning Wroe

When she was a child, Jo Browning Wroe and her family went to live in a crematorium in Birmingham where her father had got a job as superintendent. Growing up, she was aware that her home was unusual, but there were advantages; the grounds were beautiful, and after 6pm she and her sister had them to themselves. She also developed an early understanding of what happens when someone dies. She knew not to be seen playing when hearses were on the move, to avoid treading on the ashes from the cremators, and she appreciated the seriousness with which the undertakers took their roles, the quiet commitment. It was this dignity of labour that she wanted to honour in her highly accomplished and affecting debut, A Terrible Kindness . The novel is set in the world of embalming, and draws on the experience of embalmers sent to Aberfan in the aftermath of the 1966 landslide, when coal slurry buried a school , claiming 144 victims, most of whom were children.

Wroe lives in Cambridge and worked in publishing before taking an MA in creative writing at UEA in 2000. Since then she has been teaching, editing and “learning my craft… It’s just taken this long, it really has, and I’ve loved the process.”

Did writing about Aberfan feel a somewhat daunting responsibility? I was very aware that it was a responsibility with every sentence I wrote, but the book is about somebody who goes to help there and then leaves, it’s not trying to inhabit the experience of somebody from Aberfan. It all started when I came across an article about the embalmers’ contribution there. I was incredibly moved, and my background just made me absolutely lean into this story and think: Oh my goodness.

Did you learn a lot about embalming? I did. I got to know a local embalmer, a delightful chap who loved talking about it, about all the funny things, the difficult things, and I said to him: “Can I actually come and watch?” I knew I had to because of that thing about writing; you have to know the smells, the sounds. I’m a bit of a fainter so they put a great big leather armchair in the room so that I could just go over and fall into it if needs be. It was fine. I didn’t faint, I found it very moving; the tenderness and kindness.

WG Sebald was your tutor at UEA . What did you learn from him? It was the term that he died , so it was all quite dramatic and sad. He was very dry and droll, very likable but sort of Eeyore-ish, and he said on the very first session – : you should think carefully about doing this writing business because you’re miserable if you’re writing, and you’re even more miserable if you’re not.

You don’t sound very miserable. No, I’m not! I’m definitely a different personality type, but the most helpful thing he taught us was when he asked us all to bring in our favourite passage from literature, so we all brought in what we thought were these gleaming, shining lines, and I brought in Michael Cunningham’s The Hours . And basically he encouraged everyone else to rip into it. And for every piece there was somebody in the room who would say “I can’t stand it, it’s overdone”, it’s too this, it’s too that. And his simple point was that you’re never going to get a piece that everybody likes.

A lot of people seem to like your book… The past few days have been exciting. Simon Mayo said: “I’m going to call this early – book of the year 2022”, which was nice. It’s also going to be adapted for TV but I’m not allowed to talk about that. UK

Louise Kennedy

Trespasses (Bloomsbury, 14 April)

I thought, maybe I don’t have 25 years to arse around and write a novel

Louise Kennedy

Set in Northern Ireland in 1975, Trespasses , by Louise Kennedy, is the story of Cushla, a young Catholic primary school teacher who gets in over her head trying to help Davy, a working-class pupil whose father is a victim of sectarian violence. She’s also caring for her mother, helping run the family pub and, most urgently, falling for a married barrister twice her age.

It’s a layered, involving story, told with artfully quiet symbolism and remarkable narrative control as it stages a creeping clash between Cushla’s roles as a daughter, lover and teacher at a time of political tumult. “I think we all have all sorts of lives that we’re living at the same time,” says Kennedy, 54. She was diagnosed with melanoma shortly after starting the book in March 2019. “I had fairly horrible surgery and was off work for about three months. I thought, maybe I don’t have 25 years to arse around and write a novel.” It took nine drafts. “I had to push myself every single day even though I just wanted to bowk all over the laptop.” Her agent sought Kennedy out in 2018 after reading a story published in a Belfast literary magazine. In Silhouette went on to be shortlisted for the Sunday Times short story award and became part of her 2021 collection, The End of the World Is a Cul de Sac , sold to Bloomsbury together with Trespasses after a nine-way auction. Kennedy lives in Sligo and has two children. Previously she had worked for nearly 30 years as a chef, only starting to write in 2014 after a friend persuaded her to tag along to a workshop. “The first meeting was mortifying,” says Kennedy. “The others had been writing since school. I said: ‘Oh, I’m only here because she made me come.’ I agreed to try and write something. I hadn’t a clue what I was doing, but by the end of the first paragraph I just thought: I don’t want to get out of this seat.” Where did Trespasses come from? My family had a bar in the north in a place similar to the one in the novel. I wasn’t taught by anybody like Cushla but I could’ve been one of Davy’s classmates. The novel maybe isn’t a view of the north people see often. These [Cushla’s family] are middle-class Catholics: they’re not being pulled out of their beds by soldiers every night. They’re trying to find a way to keep their heads down in an area where they’re in the minority, but at the same time they’re aspirational. There absolutely are snobberies within those Catholic communities; it’s not “we’re all downtrodden together”. Had you always wanted to write? No! I was roaring in a kitchen every Saturday night, prodding steaks and this sort of carry-on. Before I had kids I was probably out every night after work. That’s what chefs do. Then I’d get up and lie in bed and read for a few hours. I worked in a big bookshop in Dublin part-time for a couple of years in the early 90s and that was probably good for my reading. I read all of Ellen Gilchrist, I liked her. I liked Isabel Allende’s stories. I read Raymond Carver as well. What was the value of working in a writer s’ group? As the weeks passed, nobody missed a deadline, nobody added in anything that was shit; you didn’t want to be the one to do it. That said, pretty quickly all of us were writing about the same things and nobody realised. There were several stories about drowning, and we were thinking, OK… There was this weird stuff going on around trees as well, so that had to stop. You need to pull back and work on your own, but for the first while it was amazing. AC

Lauren John Joseph

At Certain Points We Touch (Bloomsbury, 3 March)

It was like being possessed and it was incredibly cathartic. I cried the entire time

Lauren John Joseph

Ahead of the publication of At Certain Points We Touch , Lauren John Joseph, 39, has been hailed by one critic as “a shocking new talent” and their book as “a stone-cold masterpiece”. A lot to live up to, but Joseph seems ready to take it in their stride having had two years to anticipate this moment since the manuscript was picked up by Bloomsbury. Born in Liverpool and hailing from “a background of striking dock workers and long-term unemployed”, Joseph was the eldest of eight children and became the first in their family to go to university (reading American Studies at King’s College London and Berkeley). At Certain Points We Touch moves between backdrops of contemporary queer London, San Francisco and New York and draws on the tragic autobiographical material of a friend and lover’s premature death to deliver a moving portrait of youth, friendship and first love.

Who are your literary influences? One of the big influences on this book is Edmund White’s Nocturnes for the King of Naples , which is written with the same narrative framing. Also, Olivia Laing’s Crudo , which was liberating, and Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon . I love how that book moves between violence and tenderness and how she modulates between a real world and a magical world so effortlessly.

Your novel comes out of incredibly personal material . Was that hard? I felt compelled to write it. I didn’t want to write it. I thought: leave this in the past, this is too dark, too heavy. It will destroy you. [But] I couldn’t not. It was like being possessed and it was incredibly cathartic. I cried the entire time. I was crying as I wrote it, as I edited it, but I’ve come out the other side now with a better understanding and it’s been a healing process.

What have you learn ed about healing? That you have to circulate your feelings.

How did you first get into writing? I remember being on the estate when I was maybe six, seven, eight and I had a neighbour called Winnie, who would buy me exercise books to write stories in. Also, my mother just read all the time – she never watched television [and so] I didn’t watch television myself until I went to college. I read whatever she was reading. Shakespeare and Tolkien and Terry Pratchett.

Tell me more about your process. Are you disciplined or haphazard? Very disciplined. I have to be completely isolated to write. For At Certain Points We Touch , I went away to any place that would have me. I spent time in Norway, Costa Rica, Mexico. I would go for a month at a time, write and do nothing else – just leave the house once a day to find something to eat, find a Coke and then get back to it. Three months of travelling and solitude.

So novel-writing for you is not part of everyday life? I’m constantly writing, but the actual construction of the sentences, I’m not doing that every day. I’m kind of fascinated by someone like Donna Tartt, who says she can just do it on the bus. I can’t do that. With the actual construction of the sentences, I almost don’t feel like I’m writing at all – I feel like I’m a body and my hands are moving over the keyboard. It’s really a trip. AG

Rosie Andrews

The Leviathan (Bloomsbury, 17 February)

Political sovereignty was a question in the 17th century… and it still hasn’t been resolved

Rosie Andrews

Rosie Andrews, 38, is a secondary school English teacher, based in Hertfordshire, who started writing in earnest in 2018 and was immediately shortlisted in the HG Wells short story competition. She then signed up to a 12-month fiction writing course with Cambridge Writers, out of which came the idea for The Leviathan , written over nine or 10 months and then picked up by Bloomsbury’s Raven Books, which will publish the novel next month. “I don’t mean to make it sound easy,” Andrews says, describing a process that has been as methodical and attentive to historical detail as it has been carried on favourable winds. The end result is a supernatural mystery spanning the age of enlightenment and combining big ideas with an insistent narrative drive.

You’ve split the story between 1643, the year of a significant turning point in the English civil war, and 1703. Why? I find the civil war interesting in terms of the landscape of belief that started to transform [society], particularly in Britain. People fundamentally believing in religious principles and believing in the idea of the supernatural started to think in a more rational way. But that transition was so chaotic and so turbulent. One of the events that happens in the 1703 narrative is a great storm, which was a real event that people thought happened as a punishment – to punish them for moving away from God. I thought that was interesting and that it framed the story quite nicely.

Is there a contemporary resonance for you , or do we just immerse ourselves in the past ? I love the past for its own sake, but we’re also living through some of the most chaotic political and social times we might remember, and you can’t help but think about those resonances. One of the things they were thinking about in the 17th century was this question of political sovereignty – who gets to rule whom, and on what basis, and how far do people get to decide their own destiny versus putting it into the hands of a monarchical or democratic structure. If you look at events like Brexit, the coming to power of Trump, the pandemic and the question of individual rights versus our responsibilities to wider society, it’s clear that these questions from the 17th century haven’t been resolved.

Where did the impulse to start writing come from? I was a full-time teacher for a while. Then I had my daughter and when I went back to work I went back full-time. Having my daughter led me to question what I really enjoyed, where I really wanted to spend the limited amount of free time that you have when you have a child, and I’d started to get more interested, because I was teaching it, in how a story works, what makes it work, and I started to think, well could I try that… That’s where that came from. An idea of limited time.

Which writers have most influenced you? My absolute favourite​s​ are Tolkien and Orwell. Tolkien was an early love. It’s the escapism that really attracted me [as a teenager]. With Orwell, on the other hand, it’s his lucidity. What he wanted to convey is exactly what comes across in his writing – there’s no ambiguity. Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre was an important book for me​ as well​. That was my first experience in fiction of what I’d call psychological realism – the feeling of being inside the character’s head. Not all writers can do it. And I love CS Lewis. I love the magic. AG

  • The Observer

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50 Must-Read Short Books Under 250 Pages

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Sarah S. Davis

Sarah S. Davis holds a BA in English from the University of Pennsylvania, a Master's of Library Science from Clarion University, and an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Sarah has also written for Electric Literature, Kirkus Reviews, Audible, Psych Central, and more. Sarah is the founder of Broke By Books blog and runs a tarot reading business, Divination Vibration . Twitter: @missbookgoddess Instagram: @Sarahbookgoddess

View All posts by Sarah S. Davis

In a previous mega list here on Book Riot, I highlighted 50 must-read books over 500 pages . It only seems right to follow that up with this list of 50 must-read short books. A mix of narrative styles and genres, the 50 books in this essential list of the best short books are all under 250 pages. If you’re planning what to read for your next readathon, hoping to break through a reading slump or book hangover with a quick read, or need to meet your reading challenge goal with a few books you can read in one sitting, this list has you covered.

Descriptions graciously supplied from publisher descriptions and condensed when necessary.

Dig into these excellent short books, all under 250 pages. These short books cover ever genre, style, and format, as well as offer up a variety of easy reads and challenging picks. book lists | short books | must-read short books | short books to read | best short books

Best Short Books

All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg

All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg (Fiction)

“Who is Andrea Bern? When her dippy therapist asks the question, Andrea knows the right things to say: she’s a designer, a friend, a daughter, a sister. But it’s what she leaves unsaid—she’s alone, a drinker, a former artist, a shrieker in bed, captain of the sinking ship that is her flesh—that feels the most true. Everyone around her seems to have a different idea of what it means to be an adult, though. But when Andrea’s niece finally arrives, born with a heartbreaking ailment, the Bern family is forced to reexamine what really matters. Will this drive them together or tear them apart? Told in gut-wrenchingly honest, mordantly comic vignettes,  All Grown Up  is a breathtaking display of Jami Attenberg’s powers as a storyteller and a whip-smart examination of one woman’s life, lived entirely on her own terms.” (Amazon)

American Housewife by Helen Ellis (Fiction)

“Meet the women of  American Housewife . They wear lipstick, pearls, and sunscreen, even when it’s cloudy. They casserole. They pinwheel. And then they kill a party crasher, carefully stepping around the body to pull cookies from the oven. Taking us from a haunted pre-war Manhattan apartment building to the unique initiation ritual of a book club, these twelve delightfully demented stories are a refreshing and wicked answer to the question: ‘What do housewives do all day?'” (Amazon)

American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin by Terrance Hayes (Poetry)

“A powerful, timely, dazzling collection of sonnets from one of America’s most acclaimed poets, Terrance Hayes, the National Book Award-winning author of  Lighthead.  In seventy poems bearing the same title, Terrance Hayes explores the meanings of American, of assassin, and of love in the sonnet form. Written during the first two hundred days of the Trump presidency, these poems are haunted by the country’s past and future eras and errors, its dreams and nightmares. Inventive, compassionate, hilarious, melancholy, and bewildered–the wonders of this new collection are irreducible and stunning.” Amazon

An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good  by Helene Tursten, translated by Marlane Delargy (Mystery)

“Maud is an irascible 88-year-old Swedish woman with no family, no friends, and… no qualms about a little murder. This funny, irreverent story collection by Helene Tursten, author of the Irene Huss investigations, features two-never-before translated stories that will keep you laughing all the way to the retirement home.” (Amazon)

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (Mystery)

“‘Ten . . .’ Ten strangers are lured to an isolated island mansion off the Devon coast by a mysterious “U. N. Owen.”

‘Nine . . .’ At dinner a recorded message accuses each of them in turn of having a guilty secret, and by the end of the night one of the guests is dead.

‘Eight . . .’ Stranded by a violent storm, and haunted by a nursery rhyme counting down one by one . . . as one by one . . . they begin to die.

‘Seven . . .’ Which among them is the killer and will any of them survive?” (Amazon)

the cover of Art Matters

Art Matters by Neil Gaiman (Nonfiction)

“Drawn from Gaiman’s trove of published speeches, poems, and creative manifestos,  Art Matters  is an embodiment of this remarkable multi-media artist’s vision—an exploration of how reading, imagining, and creating can transform the world and our lives.  Drawn together from speeches, poems and creative manifestos,  Art Matters  will explore how reading, imagining and creating can change the world. A creative call to arms, the book will champion freedom of ideas, making art in the face of adversity and choosing to be bold. It will be inspirational to young and old, and will encourage glorious, creative rebellion.  ” (Amazon)

Beast in View by Margaret Millar (Mystery)

“Thirty-year-old Helen Clarvoe is scared and all alone. The heiress of a small fortune, she is resented by her mother and, to a lesser degree, her brother. The only person who seemingly cares for her is the family’s attorney, Paul Blackshear. A shut-in, Helen maintains her residence in an upscale hotel downtown.

But passive-aggressive resentment isn’t the only thing hounding Helen Clarvoe. A string of bizarre and sometimes threatening prank phone calls has upended her spinster’s routine. Increasingly threatened, she turns to a reluctant Mr. Blackshear to get to the bottom of these strange calls. Blackshear is doubtful of their seriousness but he quickly realizes that he is in the midst of something far more sinister than he thought possible. As he unravels the mystery of the calls the identity behind them slowly emerges, predatory and treacherous.” (Amazon)

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (Fiction)

“ The Bell Jar  chronicles the crack-up of Esther Greenwood: brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under — maybe for the last time. Sylvia Plath masterfully draws the reader into Esther’s breakdown with such intensity that Esther’s insanity becomes completely real and even rational, as probable and accessible an experience as going to the movies. Such deep penetration into the dark and harrowing corners of the psyche is an extraordinary accomplishment and has made  The Bell Jar  a haunting American classic.” (Amazon)

Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx (Fiction)

“Annie Proulx has written some of the most original and brilliant short stories in contemporary literature, and for many readers and reviewers, “Brokeback Mountain” is her masterpiece.

Ennis del Mar and Jack Twist, two ranch hands, come together when they’re working as sheepherder and camp tender one summer on a range above the tree line. At first, sharing an isolated tent, the attraction is casual, inevitable, but something deeper catches them that summer.

Both men work hard, marry, and have kids because that’s what cowboys do. But over the course of many years and frequent separations this relationship becomes the most important thing in their lives, and they do anything they can to preserve it.” (Amazon)

Calvin by Martine Leavitt (YA Fiction)

“Seventeen-year-old Calvin has always known his fate is linked to the comic book character from Calvin & Hobbes. He was born on the day the last strip was published. His grandpa put a stuffed tiger named Hobbes in his crib. And he even had a best friend named Susie.

Then Calvin’s mom washed Hobbes to death. Susie grew up beautiful and stopped talking to him. And Calvin pretty much forgot about the strip―until now.

Now he is seventeen years old and has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Hobbes is back, as a delusion, and Calvin can’t control him. Calvin decides that cartoonist Bill Watterson is the key to everything―if he would just make one more comic strip, but without Hobbes, Calvin would be cured.

Calvin and Susie (is she real?) and Hobbes (he can’t be real, can he?) set out on a dangerous trek across frozen Lake Erie to track down Watterson.” (Amazon)

the cover of Chemistry

Chemistry by Weike Wang (Romance)

“At first glance, the quirky, overworked narrator of Weike Wang’s debut novel seems to be on the cusp of a perfect life: she is studying for a prestigious PhD in chemistry that will make her Chinese parents proud (or at least satisfied), and her successful, supportive boyfriend has just proposed to her. But instead of feeling hopeful, she is wracked with ambivalence: the long, demanding hours at the lab have created an exquisite pressure cooker, and she doesn’t know how to answer the marriage question. When it all becomes too much and her life plan veers off course, she finds herself on a new path of discoveries about everything she thought she knew. Smart, moving, and always funny, this unique coming-of-age story is certain to evoke a winning reaction.” (Amazon)

Displacement: A Travelogue by Lucy Knisley (Graphic Memoir)

“In her graphic memoirs, New York Times-best selling cartoonist Lucy Knisley paints a warts-and-all portrait of contemporary, twentysomething womanhood, like writer Lena Dunham ( Girls ). In the next installment of her graphic travelogue series, Displacement , Knisley volunteers to watch over her ailing grandparents on a cruise. (The book’s watercolors evoke the ocean that surrounds them.) In a book that is part graphic memoir, part travelogue, and part family history, Knisley not only tries to connect with her grandparents, but to reconcile their younger and older selves. She is aided in her quest by her grandfather’s WWII memoir, which is excerpted. Readers will identify with Knisley s frustration, her fears, her compassion, and her attempts to come to terms with mortality, as she copes with the stress of travel complicated by her grandparents’ frailty.” (Goodreads)

Edinburgh by Alexander Chee

“Twelve-year-old Fee is a shy Korean American boy and a newly named section leader of the first sopranos in his local boys’ choir. But when Fee learns how the director treats his section leaders, he is so ashamed he says nothing of the abuse, not even when Peter, his best friend, is in line to be next. When the director is arrested, Fee tries to forgive himself for his silence. But when Peter takes his own life, Fee blames only himself. In the years that follow he slowly builds a new life, teaching near his hometown. There he meets a young student who is the picture of Peter and is forced to confront the past he believed was gone.” (Amazon)

The End We Start From by Megan Hunter (Fiction)

“Megan Hunter’s debut is a searing original, a modern-day parable of rebirth and renewal, of maternal bonds, and the instinct to survive and thrive in the absence of all that’s familiar.

As London is submerged below floodwaters, a woman gives birth to her first child, Z. Days later, she and her baby are forced to leave their home in search of safety. They head north through a newly dangerous country seeking refuge from place to place. The story traces fear and wonder as the baby grows, thriving and content against all the odds.

The End We Start From  is an indelible and elemental first book―a lyrical vision of the strangeness and beauty of new motherhood, and a tale of endurance in the face of ungovernable change.” (Amazon)

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire (Fantasy)

“Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else.

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.

But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of things.

No matter the cost.” (Amazon)

Ex Libris cover

Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman (Nonfiction)

“Anne Fadiman is–by her own admission–the sort of person who learned about sex from her father’s copy of  Fanny Hill , whose husband buys her 19 pounds of dusty books for her birthday, and who once found herself poring over her roommate’s 1974 Toyota Corolla manual because it was the only written material in the apartment that she had not read at least twice.

This witty collection of essays recounts a lifelong love affair with books and language.” (Amazon)

Fierce Fairytales by Nikita Gill (Poetry)

“In this rousing new prose and poetry collection, Nikita Gill gives Once Upon a Time a much-needed modern makeover. Through her gorgeous reimagining of fairytale classics and spellbinding original tales, she dismantles the old-fashioned tropes that have been ingrained in our minds. In this book, gone are the docile women and male saviors. Instead, lines blur between heroes and villains. You will meet fearless princesses, a new kind of wolf lurking in the concrete jungle, and an independent Gretel who can bring down monsters on her own.

Complete with beautifully hand-drawn illustrations by Gill herself,  Fierce Fairytales  is an empowering collection of poems and stories for a new generation.” (Amazon)

The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis (Nonfiction)

“Michael Lewis’s brilliant narrative takes us into the engine rooms of a government under attack by its own leaders. In Agriculture the funding of vital programs like food stamps and school lunches is being slashed. The Commerce Department may not have enough staff to conduct the 2020 Census properly. Over at Energy, where international nuclear risk is managed, it’s not clear there will be enough inspectors to track and locate black market uranium before terrorists do….

If there are dangerous fools in this book, there are also heroes, unsung, of course. They are the linchpins of the system―those public servants whose knowledge, dedication, and proactivity keep the machinery running. Michael Lewis finds them, and he asks them what keeps them up at night.” (Amazon)

Fox 8 by George Saunders (Fiction)

“Fox 8 has always been known as the daydreamer in his pack, the one his fellow foxes regard with a knowing snort and a roll of the eyes. That is, until he develops a unique skill: He teaches himself to speak “Yuman” by hiding in the bushes outside a house and listening to children’s bedtime stories. The power of language fuels his abundant curiosity about people—even after “danjer” arrives in the form of a new shopping mall that cuts off his food supply, sending Fox 8 on a harrowing quest to help save his pack.” (Amazon)

The Friend by Sigrid Nunez (Fiction)

“When a woman unexpectedly loses her lifelong best friend and mentor, she finds herself burdened with the unwanted dog he has left behind. Her own battle against grief is intensified by the mute suffering of the dog, a huge Great Dane traumatized by the inexplicable disappearance of its master, and by the threat of eviction: dogs are prohibited in her apartment building.

While others worry that grief has made her a victim of magical thinking, the woman refuses to be separated from the dog except for brief periods of time. Isolated from the rest of the world, increasingly obsessed with the dog’s care, determined to read its mind and fathom its heart, she comes dangerously close to unraveling. But while troubles abound, rich and surprising rewards lie in store for both of them.

Elegiac and searching,  The Friend  is both a meditation on loss and a celebration of human-canine devotion.” (Amazon)

Cover of Goodbye, Vitamin

Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong (Fiction)

“Her life at a crossroads, a young woman goes home again in this funny and inescapably moving debut from a wonderfully original new literary voice.

Freshly disengaged from her fiancé and feeling that life has not turned out quite the way she planned, thirty-year-old Ruth quits her job, leaves town and arrives at her parents’ home to find that situation more complicated than she’d realized. Her father, a prominent history professor, is losing his memory and is only erratically lucid. Ruth’s mother, meanwhile, is lucidly erratic. But as Ruth’s father’s condition intensifies, the comedy in her situation takes hold, gently transforming all her grief.

Told in captivating glimpses and drawn from a deep well of insight, humor, and unexpected tenderness,  Goodbye, Vitamin  pilots through the loss, love, and absurdity of finding one’s footing in this life.” (Amazon)

The Grownup by Gillian Flynn (Mystery)

“A canny young woman is struggling to survive by perpetrating various levels of mostly harmless fraud. On a rainy April morning, she is reading auras at Spiritual Palms when Susan Burke walks in. A keen observer of human behavior, our unnamed narrator immediately diagnoses beautiful, rich Susan as an unhappy woman eager to give her lovely life a drama injection. However, when the “psychic” visits the eerie Victorian home that has been the source of Susan’s terror and grief, she realizes she may not have to pretend to believe in ghosts anymore. Miles, Susan’s teenage stepson, doesn’t help matters with his disturbing manner and grisly imagination. The three are soon locked in a chilling battle to discover where the evil truly lurks and what, if anything, can be done to escape it. ” (Amazon)

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (Horror)

“First published in 1959, Shirley Jackson’s  The Haunting of Hill House  has been hailed as a perfect work of unnerving terror. It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a “haunting”; Theodora, his lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.” (Amazon)

Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot (Memoir)

“ Heart Berries  is a powerful, poetic memoir of a woman’s coming of age on the Seabird Island Band in the Pacific Northwest. Having survived a profoundly dysfunctional upbringing only to find herself hospitalized and facing a dual diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder and bipolar II disorder; Terese Marie Mailhot is given a notebook and begins to write her way out of trauma. The triumphant result is  Heart Berries , a memorial for Mailhot’s mother, a social worker and activist who had a thing for prisoners; a story of reconciliation with her father―an abusive drunk and a brilliant artist―who was murdered under mysterious circumstances; and an elegy on how difficult it is to love someone while dragging the long shadows of shame.

Mailhot trusts the reader to understand that memory isn’t exact, but melded to imagination, pain, and what we can bring ourselves to accept. Her unique and at times unsettling voice graphically illustrates her mental state. As she writes, she discovers her own true voice, seizes control of her story, and, in so doing, reestablishes her connection to her family, to her people, and to her place in the world.” (Amazon)

Her Body and Other Parties by Carman Maria Machado (Fiction)

“In  Her Body and Other Parties , Carmen Maria Machado blithely demolishes the arbitrary borders between psychological realism and science fiction, comedy and horror, fantasy and fabulism. While her work has earned her comparisons to Karen Russell and Kelly Link, she has a voice that is all her own. In this electric and provocative debut, Machado bends genre to shape startling narratives that map the realities of women’s lives and the violence visited upon their bodies.” (Amazon)

the cover of How to Be a Good Creature

How to Be a Good Creature by Sy Montgomery (Memoir)

“Understanding someone who belongs to another species can be transformative. No one knows this better than author, naturalist, and adventurer Sy Montgomery. To research her books, Sy has traveled the world and encountered some of the planet’s rarest and most beautiful animals. From tarantulas to tigers, Sy’s life continually intersects with and is informed by the creatures she meets.

This restorative memoir reflects on the personalities and quirks of thirteen animals—Sy’s friends—and the truths revealed by their grace. It also explores vast themes: the otherness and sameness of people and animals; the various ways we learn to love and become empathetic; how we find our passion; how we create our families; coping with loss and despair; gratitude; forgiveness; and most of all, how to be a good creature in the world.” (Amazon)

I’m Afraid of Men by Vivek Shraya (Memoir)

“A trans artist explores how masculinity was imposed on her as a boy and continues to haunt her as a girl–and how we might reimagine gender for the twenty-first century.

Vivek Shraya has reason to be afraid. Throughout her life she’s endured acts of cruelty and aggression for being too feminine as a boy and not feminine enough as a girl. In order to survive childhood, she had to learn to convincingly perform masculinity. As an adult, she makes daily compromises to steel herself against everything from verbal attacks to heartbreak.

Now, with raw honesty, Shraya delivers an important record of the cumulative damage caused by misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia, releasing trauma from a body that has always refused to assimilate.  I’m Afraid of Men  is a journey from camouflage to a riot of colour and a blueprint for how we might cherish all that makes us different and conquer all that makes us afraid.” (Amazon)

The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon (Fiction)

“Phoebe Lin and Will Kendall meet in their first month at prestigious Edwards University. Phoebe is a glamorous girl who doesn’t tell anyone she blames herself for her mother’s recent death. Will is a misfit scholarship boy who transfers to Edwards from Bible college, waiting tables to get by. What he knows for sure is that he loves Phoebe.

Grieving and guilt-ridden, Phoebe is drawn into a secretive cult founded by a charismatic former student with an enigmatic past. When the group commits a violent act in the name of faith, Will finds himself struggling to confront a new version of the fanaticism he’s worked so hard to escape. Haunting and intense,  The Incendiaries  is a fractured love story that explores what can befall those who lose what they love most.” (Amazon)

Killing and Dying by Adrian Tamine (Graphic Novel)

“ Killing and Dying  is a stunning showcase of the possibilities of the graphic novel medium and a wry exploration of loss, creative ambition, identity, and family dynamics. With this work, Adrian Tomine ( Shortcomings ,  Scenes from an Impending Marriage ) reaffirms his place not only as one of the most significant creators of contemporary comics but as one of the great voices of modern American literature. His gift for capturing emotion and intellect resonates here: the weight of love and its absence, the pride and disappointment of family, the anxiety and hopefulness of being alive in the twenty-first century.” (Amazon)

Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto (Fiction)

“With the publication of  Kitchen,  the dazzling English-language debut that is still her best-loved book, the literary world realized that Yoshimoto was a young writer of enduring talent whose work has quickly earned a place among the best of contemporary Japanese literature.  Kitchen  is an enchantingly original book that juxtaposes two tales about mothers, love, tragedy, and the power of the kitchen and home in the lives of a pair of free-spirited young women in contemporary Japan. Mikage, the heroine, is an orphan raised by her grandmother, who has passed away. Grieving, Mikage is taken in by her friend Yoichi and his mother (who is really his cross-dressing father) Eriko. As the three of them form an improvised family that soon weathers its own tragic losses, Yoshimoto spins a lovely, evocative tale with the kitchen and the comforts of home at its heart.” (Amazon)

The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline book cover

The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline (YA Fiction)

“Humanity has nearly destroyed its world through global warming, but now an even greater evil lurks. The indigenous people of North America are being hunted and harvested for their bone marrow, which carries the key to recovering something the rest of the population has lost: the ability to dream. In this dark world, Frenchie and his companions struggle to survive as they make their way up north to the old lands. For now, survival means staying hidden—but what they don’t know is that one of them holds the secret to defeating the marrow thieves.” (Amazon)

Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit (Nonfiction)

“In her comic, scathing essay, “Men Explain Things to Me,” Rebecca Solnit took on what often goes wrong in conversations between men and women. She wrote about men who wrongly assume they know things and wrongly assume women don’t, about why this arises, and how this aspect of the gender wars works, airing some of her own hilariously awful encounters.

This updated edition with two new essays of this national bestseller book features that now-classic essay as well as “#YesAllWomen,” an essay written in response to 2014 Isla Vista killings and the grassroots movement that arose with it to end violence against women and misogyny, and the essay “Cassandra Syndrome.” This book is also available in hardcover.” (Amazon)

The Merry Spinster by Daniel M. Lavery (Fantasy)

“Adapted from the beloved “Children’s Stories Made Horrific” series, The Merry Spinster takes up the trademark wit that endeared Daniel M. Lavery to readers of both The Toast and the bestselling debut Texts from Jane Eyre . Sinister and inviting, familiar and alien all at the same time, The Merry Spinster twists traditional children’s stories and fairy tales with elements of psychological horror, emotional clarity, and a keen sense of feminist mischief. Unfalteringly faithful to its beloved source material, The Merry Spinster also illuminates the unsuspected and frequently alarming emotional complexities at play in the stories we tell ourselves, and each other, as we tuck ourselves in for the night.” (Amazon)

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur (Poetry)

“The book is divided into four chapters, and each chapter serves a different purpose. Deals with a different pain. Heals a different heartache.  Milk and Honey  takes readers through a journey of the most bitter moments in life and finds sweetness in them because there is sweetness everywhere if you are just willing to look.” (Amazon)

The Misfit’s Manifesto by Lidia Yuknavitch (Nonfiction)

“The feeling of not fitting in is universal.  The Misfit’s Manifesto  is for misfits around the world—the rebels, the eccentrics, the oddballs, and anyone who has ever felt like she was messing up. It’s Lidia Yuknavitch’s love letter to all those who can’t ever seem to find the “right” path. She won’t tell you how to stop being a misfit—quite the opposite. In her charming, poetic, funny, and frank style, Lidia will reveal why being a misfit is not something to overcome, but something to embrace. Lidia also encourages her fellow misfits not to be afraid of pursuing goals, how to stand up, how to ask for the things they want most. Misfits belong in the room, too, she reminds us, even if their path to that room is bumpy and winding. An important idea that transcends all cultures and countries, this book has created a brave and compassionate community for misfits, a place where everyone can belong.” (Amazon)

nutshell cover

Nutshell by Ian McEwan (Fiction)

“Trudy has been unfaithful to her husband, John. What’s more, she has kicked him out of their marital home, a valuable old London town house, and in his place is his own brother, the profoundly banal Claude. The illicit couple have hatched a scheme to rid themselves of her inconvenient husband forever. But there is a witness to their plot: the inquisitive, nine-month-old resident of Trudy’s womb.

As Trudy’s unborn son listens, bound within her body, to his mother and his uncle’s murderous plans, he gives us a truly new perspective on our world, seen from the confines of his. McEwan’s brilliant recasting of Shakespeare lends new weight to the age-old question of Hamlet’s hesitation, and is a tour de force of storytelling.” (Amazon)

The Only Great Harmless Thing by Brooke Bolander (Sci-Fi)

“ The Only Harmless Great Thing  is a heart-wrenching alternative history by Brooke Bolander that imagines an intersection between the Radium Girls and noble, sentient elephants.

In the early years of the 20th century, a group of female factory workers in Newark, New Jersey slowly died of radiation poisoning. Around the same time, an Indian elephant was deliberately put to death by electricity in Coney Island.

These are the facts.

Now these two tragedies are intertwined in a dark alternate history of rage, radioactivity, and injustice crying out to be righted. Prepare yourself for a wrenching journey that crosses eras, chronicling histories of cruelty both grand and petty in search of meaning and justice.” (Amazon)

The Red Parts by Maggie Nelson (Memoir)

“Late in 2004, Maggie Nelson was looking forward to the publication of her book  Jane: A Murder , a narrative in verse about the life and death of her aunt, who had been murdered thirty-five years before. The case remained unsolved, but Jane was assumed to have been the victim of an infamous serial killer in Michigan in 1969.

Then, one November afternoon, Nelson received a call from her mother, who announced that the case had been reopened; a new suspect would be arrested and tried on the basis of a DNA match. Over the months that followed, Nelson found herself attending the trial with her mother and reflecting anew on the aura of dread and fear that hung over her family and childhood–an aura that derived not only from the terrible facts of her aunt’s murder but also from her own complicated journey through sisterhood, daughterhood, and girlhood.

The Red Parts  is a memoir, an account of a trial, and a provocative essay that interrogates the American obsession with violence and missing white women, and that scrupulously explores the nature of grief, justice, and empathy.” (Amazon)

A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood (Fiction)

“Welcome to sunny suburban 1960s Southern California. George is a gay middle-aged English professor, adjusting to solitude after the tragic death of his young partner. He is determined to persist in the routines of his former life.  A Single Man  follows him over the course of an ordinary twenty-four hours. Behind his British reserve, tides of grief, rage, and loneliness surge―but what is revealed is a man who loves being alive despite all the everyday injustices.” (Amazon)

Sisters by Lily Tuck (Fiction)

“In her singular new novel  Sisters , Tuck gives a very different portrait of marital life, exposing the intricacies and scandals of a new marriage sprung from betrayal.

Tuck’s unnamed narrator lives with her new husband, his two teenagers, and the unbanishable presence of his first wife―known only as  she . Obsessed with her, our narrator moves through her days presided over by the all-too-real ghost of the first marriage, fantasizing about how the first wife lives her life. Will the narrator ever equal  she  intellectually, or ever forget the betrayal that lies between them? And what of the secrets between her husband and  she , from which the narrator is excluded? The daring and precise build up to an eerily wonderful denouement is a triumph of subtlety and surprise.

With  Sisters , Lily Tuck delivers riveting psychological portrait of marriage, infidelity, and obsession; charting with elegance and insight love in all its phases.” (Amazon)

the cover of Skim

Skim by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki (YA Graphic Novel)

“‘Skim’ is Kimberly Keiko Cameron, a not-slim, would-be Wiccan goth who goes to a private girls’ school in the early ’90s. When her classmate Katie Matthews is dumped by her boyfriend, who then kills himself — possibly because he’s (maybe) gay — the entire school goes into mourning overdrive. It’s a weird time to fall in love, but that’s what happens to Skim when she starts meeting secretly with her neo-hippie English teacher, Ms. Archer. But then Ms. Archer abruptly leaves the school, and Skim has to cope with her confusion and isolation while her best friend, Lisa, tries to pull her into ‘real’ life by setting up a hilarious double-date for the school’s semi formal. Suicide, depression, love, homosexuality, crushes, cliques of popular, manipulative peers — the whole gamut of teen life is explored in this poignant glimpse into the heartache of being 16.” (Amazon)

Sleep No More: Six Murderous Tales by P.D. James (Mystery)

“When it comes to crime, it’s not always a question of ‘who dunnit?’ Sometimes there’s more mystery in the  why  or the  how . And what about the clever few who carry out what appears to be the perfect crime? Or whose most essential selves are changed by the crimes they commit? And what about those who know the identity of the murderer but keep the information to themselves? These are some of the questions that these six stories begin to unlock as they draw us into the inner workings—the thoughts and emotional machinations, the recollections and rationalizations, the dreams and desires—behind both murderous cause and effect. And no one gets inside the head of a perpetrator—or makes it a peerlessly thrilling and entertaining read—like the incomparable P. D. James.” (Amazon)

The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami, translated by Ted Goossen (Fiction)

“Opening the flaps on this unique little book, readers will find themselves immersed in the strange world of best-selling Haruki Murakami’s wild imagination. The story of a lonely boy, a mysterious girl, and a tormented sheep man plotting their escape from a nightmarish library, the book is like nothing else Murakami has written. Designed by Chip Kidd and fully illustrated, in full color, throughout, this small format, 96 page volume is a treat for book lovers of all ages.” (Amazon)

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett (Fiction)

“When her corgis stray into a mobile library parked near Buckingham Palace, the Queen feels duty-bound to borrow a book. Discovering the joy of reading widely (from J. R. Ackerley, Jean Genet, and Ivy Compton-Burnett to the classics) and intelligently, she finds that her view of the world changes dramatically. Abetted in her newfound obsession by Norman, a young man from the royal kitchens, the Queen comes to question the prescribed order of the world and loses patience with the routines of her role as monarch. Her new passion for reading initially alarms the palace staff and soon leads to surprising and very funny consequences for the country at large.” (Amazon)

The Vegetarian by Han Kang, translated by Deborah Smith (Fiction)

“Before the nightmares began, Yeong-hye and her husband lived an ordinary, controlled life. But the dreams—invasive images of blood and brutality—torture her, driving Yeong-hye to purge her mind and renounce eating meat altogether. It’s a small act of independence, but it interrupts her marriage and sets into motion an increasingly grotesque chain of events at home. As her husband, her brother-in-law and sister each fight to reassert their control, Yeong-hye obsessively defends the choice that’s become sacred to her. Soon their attempts turn desperate, subjecting first her mind, and then her body, to ever more intrusive and perverse violations, sending Yeong-hye spiraling into a dangerous, bizarre estrangement, not only from those closest to her, but also from herself.” (Amazon)

Waiting for Eden book cover

Waiting for Eden by Elliot Ackerman (Fiction)

“Eden Malcom lies in a bed, unable to move or to speak, imprisoned in his own mind. His wife Mary spends every day on the sofa in his hospital room. He has never even met their young daughter. And he will never again see the friend and fellow soldier who didn’t make it back home–and who narrates the novel. But on Christmas, the one day Mary is not at his bedside, Eden’s re-ordered consciousness comes flickering alive. As he begins to find a way to communicate, some troubling truths about his marriage–and about his life before he went to war–come to the surface. Is Eden the same man he once was: a husband, a friend, a father-to-be? What makes a life worth living? A piercingly insightful, deeply felt meditation on loyalty and betrayal, love and fear,  Waiting for Eden  is a tour de force of profound humanity.” (Amazon)

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour (YA Fiction)

“Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.” (Amazon)

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nonfiction)

“In this personal, eloquently-argued essay—adapted from the much-admired TEDx talk of the same name—Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century, one rooted in inclusion and awareness. Drawing extensively on her own experiences and her deep understanding of the often masked realities of sexual politics, here is one remarkable author’s exploration of what it means to be a woman now—and an of-the-moment rallying cry for why we should all be feminists.” (Amazon)

The White Darkness by David Grann (Nonfiction)

“Henry Worsley was a devoted husband and father and a decorated British special forces officer who believed in honor and sacrifice. He was also a man obsessed. He spent his life idolizing Ernest Shackleton, the nineteenth-century polar explorer, who tried to become the first person to reach the South Pole, and later sought to cross Antarctica on foot. Shackleton never completed his journeys, but he repeatedly rescued his men from certain death, and emerged as one of the greatest leaders in history.

Worsley felt an overpowering connection to those expeditions. He was related to one of Shackleton’s men, Frank Worsley, and spent a fortune collecting artifacts from their epic treks across the continent. He modeled his military command on Shackleton’s legendary skills and was determined to measure his own powers of endurance against them. He would succeed where Shackleton had failed, in the most brutal landscape in the world.

In 2008, Worsley set out across Antarctica with two other descendants of Shackleton’s crew, battling the freezing, desolate landscape, life-threatening physical exhaustion, and hidden crevasses. Yet when he returned home he felt compelled to go back.” (Amazon)

the cover of Women & Power

Women & Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard (Nonfiction)

“Britain’s best-known classicist Mary Beard, is also a committed and vocal feminist. With wry wit, she revisits the gender agenda and shows how history has treated powerful women. Her examples range from the classical world to the modern day, from Medusa and Athena to Theresa May and Hillary Clinton. Beard explores the cultural underpinnings of misogyny, considering the public voice of women, our cultural assumptions about women’s relationship with power, and how powerful women resist being packaged into a male template.

With personal reflections on her own experiences of the sexism and gendered aggression she has endured online, Mary asks: if women aren’t perceived to be within the structures of power, isn’t it power that we need to redefine?” (Amazon)

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'Maus' author Art Spiegelman on book banning

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The cover of the graphic novel &quot;Maus&quot; by Art Spiegelman. (Maro Siranosian/Getty Images)

The American Library Association has dubbed next week, Oct. 1 through Oct. 7, as Banned Book Week, a time to celebrate reading and fight censorship. One author targeted by book banning is Pulitzer Prize winner Art Spiegelman , who wrote the graphic novel " Maus " as a memoir of his family's experiences during the time of Nazi Germany.

Spiegelman speaks with Here & Now 's Scott Tong about writing long comics and about the potent irony of having a book about the rise of the Nazis being banned.

This segment aired on September 25, 2023.

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How the Writers Guild Deal Reflects Organized Labor’s Power

Reports suggest that screenwriters won concessions from Hollywood studios on key issues. That reflects the strength of unions’ hands in the current moment.

By Andrew Ross Sorkin ,  Ravi Mattu ,  Bernhard Warner ,  Sarah Kessler and Michael J. de la Merced

People standing in red shirts holding picket signs, whilst striking outside.

What we learned from the writers strike

One of the longest-running strikes of 2023 is near an end: The Writers Guild of America reached a tentative agreement on Sunday with Hollywood studios on a new contract, 146 days after its more than 11,000 screenwriters walked out of movie and television productions.

The work stoppage isn’t officially over yet, and actors remain on strike. But hints about what the W.G.A. attained suggest that as organized labor enjoys a surge in popularity across a variety of industries, its muscle-flexing is achieving results.

“We can say, with great pride, that this deal is exceptional,” the W.G.A. told its members on Sunday, though it hasn’t yet disclosed details. News reports suggest the deal includes provisions for residual payments from streaming, minimum staffing of shows and limits on the use of artificial intelligence.

Expect more particulars once the W.G.A. informs its membership ahead of a vote that’s expected on Tuesday. Until then, writers are still on strike, though they’re not actively picketing. Late-night talk shows, which don’t rely on striking actors, are likely to resume production first.

The W.G.A. appears to have won more than analysts initially believed possible. Studios suggested early on that they wouldn’t bend on issues like residuals or staffing, citing changes streaming has made to their industry.

But the strike — coupled with the SAG-AFTRA walkout — has crippled Hollywood, with studio owners like Warner Bros. Discovery predicting big hits to their earnings. Analysts have estimated that studios could lose as much as $1.6 billion in global ticket sales because of movie delays. Shares in Warner Bros. and Paramount Global jumped in premarket trading on Monday morning.

The W.G.A. also benefited from strong public support for unions. A Gallup poll last month found that two-thirds of Americans backed organized labor. Writers enjoyed even more support, at 72 percent. (Studios garnered just 19 percent.)

That could inspire other unions in their own negotiations with management. About 54 percent of Americans support the U.A.W. in its battle with big Detroit automakers, according to a recent Morning Consult poll. In a sign of the political stakes, President Biden will head to the U.A.W. picket line in Michigan tomorrow.

So far, the autoworkers’ group is holding strong, expanding its strike against General Motors and the Jeep owner Stellantis. (It has spared Ford from further walkouts, citing greater progress in talks with that company.)

The risk run by striking unions, of course, is that public sentiment could reverse if their walkouts drag on and economic pain mounts. Consider that California’s economy has lost over $5 billion from the Hollywood shutdown, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom, or that a protracted auto strike could potentially push the U.S. into a recession.


A top Nomura banker is said to be barred from leaving mainland China. Charles Wang Zhonghe , the Japanese bank’s chair of investment banking in China, has been hit by an exit ban in connection with an investigation into Bao Fan, one of China’s top tech dealmakers, according to The Financial Times. The apparent restrictions on Wang, who is based in Hong Kong, come as the confidence of Western businesses operating in China has plunged. Bao hasn’t been seen for months.

Poultry giants are under investigation over work done by migrant children. The Labor Department opened the investigation into Tyson Foods and Perdue Farms after The New York Times Magazine reported that contractors forced children as young as 13 to clean slaughterhouses. The investigation hinges on whether corporations can be considered employers in instances like these.

Sanctions on Russia’s oil exports are reportedly falling short. Russia has been able to sell about three-quarters of its oil above the $60-a-barrel cap set by the Group of Seven, according to The Financial Times, lifting revenues as crude prices soar. The Kremlin announced recently that it would significantly increase spending next year , with a big boost to defense.

The A.I. arms race heats up

Amazon has upped its bet on artificial intelligence, saying on Monday that it will invest up to $4 billion in Anthropic , a start-up founded two years ago that is one of a wave of young companies pulling in big money from big tech.

Amazon will initially invest $1.25 billion for a minority stake. The new valuation of Anthropic hasn’t been determined, according to The Wall Street Journal , but under the terms of the deal, Amazon’s investment could increase. Anthropic will also use the tech giant’s cloud computing platform and its A.I. chips to build its models. (That seems to be a shift, after the start-up said it would use Google’s services to do the same in February.)

Big Tech is piling into the sector. The Amazon-Anthropic deal has echoes of Microsoft’s relationship with OpenAI, the generative A.I. company behind ChatGPT, and big funding rounds have proliferated across the sector. Other deals include:

Anthropic raised $450 million in a funding round in May that included backing from Google and Salesforce at a valuation of $4 billion.

OpenAI got $1 billion from Microsoft in 2019, and the Windows maker plowed in another $10 billion in January, at a valuation of $29 billion.

Inflection AI, a year-old start-up, pulled in $1.3 billion from Microsoft and the chipmaker Nvidia in June at a valuation of $4 billion.

Databricks, a data analytics company, raised more than $500 million in a funding round that included Nvidia at a valuation of $43 billion this month.

Cohere, a generative A.I. start-up, raised $270 million from Nvidia and others in June at a valuation of $2 billion.

Hugging Face, a software company, raised $235 million last month at a valuation of $4.5 billion, in a round backed by Google, Amazon, IBM, Nvidia and Qualcomm, the chipmaker.

The relationships are about more than money. Mustafa Suleyman , a co-founder of Inflection AI and Google DeepMind, told DealBook this month that Inflection received early access to Nvidia chips, partly to help test and debug them. “In return for early access, we identify failure models, we stress-test them to the max,” he said.

Amazon is playing catch-up in generative A.I . The partnership with Anthropic was announced just days after the e-commerce behemoth said it would apply the latest tech to Alexa, its voice assistant. And all of this is happening as consumer tech giants race to bring A.I. to the masses.

Anticipating the damage from a government shutdown

With a Saturday deadline looming, it’s a make-or-break week in Washington on budget talks. Republicans are no closer to ending their civil war, making a government shutdown more likely and adding volatility to slumping stock and bond markets.

A round of talks over the weekend failed to move the needle. A group of far-right House Republicans are insisting on about $120 billion in budget cuts and plan to block any stopgap spending measures.

While Speaker Kevin McCarthy is weighing a 45-day extension of government spending, holdouts in his party say that’s a nonstarter. “Continuing resolutions don’t solve the problem,” Representative Tony Gonzales of Texas said on Sunday. “They just kick the can down the road.”

Growth fears persist. The Biden administration called on Republicans to resolve their differences, warning that a shutdown would mean federal employees, including members of the military, wouldn’t get paid and that travelers could face disruptions at airports. Goldman Sachs economists have forecast that a shutdown would cut G.D.P. by about 0.2 percentage points per week .

That potential headwind comes as the economy faces a triple threat of soaring oil prices, widespread labor strikes and the resumption of student-loan payments — all of which could sap consumers’ spending power.

Stocks look vulnerable. Equity analysts at RBC Capital Markets, who examined data going back to the 1970s, calculated that extended shutdowns tend to knock as much as 10 percent off the value of the S&P 500. A lengthy shutdown “would take the index a little north of 4,100,” according to Lori Calvasina, the bank’s head of U.S. equity strategy, implying a roughly 5 percent drop from Friday’s market close.

Investors are getting a dose of gridlock déjà vu. Washington barely avoided a federal default in June, but two months later Fitch downgraded the country’s long-term credit rating, citing its ballooning debt and brinkmanship politics. The downgrade took some market watchers by surprise , and added to the doubts hanging over a bond market that’s been hurt by elevated interest rates.

A sell-off in bonds last week pushed the yield on 10-year Treasury notes to a 16-year high, prompting the billionaire investors Bill Ackman and Bill Gross to warn that the rout could persist as the economy faces a host of uncertainties.

“The presidential pot is simmering, and he is happy to stir it.”

— A former colleague of Glenn Youngkin , the Republican governor of Virginia and a former top executive at the investment giant Carlyle, on speculation that Youngkin could run for president. A number of Republican megadonors have urged him to do so amid dissatisfaction with both President Biden and Donald Trump .

The week ahead

Inflation data, earnings and more corporate A.I. news: Here’s what to watch for this week.

Tuesday: The Conference Board’s latest survey on consumer confidence and the Case-Shiller report, which details housing affordability, are scheduled for release.

Wednesday: Micron Technology and H&M, the fashion retailer, are set to report earnings. Meta Connect, the annual developers conference held by Facebook’s parent, kicks off, with a focus on the company’s plans for A.I. and the metaverse.

Thursday: Nike and CarMax are set to deliver quarterly results, offering more insight into consumer spending.

Friday: The Commerce Department will publish data on personal consumption expenditures. The closely watched inflation measure is expected to show that “core” P.C.E., which excludes food and energy prices, rose 3.9 percent last month on an annual basis — a stark improvement from a year ago, but still well above the Fed’s target. Across the Atlantic, the latest report on consumer prices in the eurozone is scheduled for release.


How Pentwater Capital, a hedge fund that bets on mergers’ outcomes, profited by betting against antitrust regulators’ efforts to block deals. (WSJ)

The European Commission blocked Booking Holdings’ 1.6 billion euro ($1.7 billion) takeover bid for Etraveli Group, an online travel company, saying it would be bad for consumers. (Bloomberg)

“Taxpayers Stuck Paying the Bills for Oligarchs’ Seized Yachts and Mansions ” (WSJ)

Senator Bob Menendez, the New Jersey Democrat charged with bribery , now faces at least one primary opponent , with Democratic control of the Senate hanging in the balance. (NYT, Politico)

Best of the rest

The American nuclear energy has a new champion: the current Miss America . (WSJ)

Lego will stop selling toy bricks made from an oil-free formulation, saying it had a higher carbon footprint. (FT)

“Netflix Prepares to Send Its Final Red Envelope ” (NYT)

We’d like your feedback! Please email thoughts and suggestions to [email protected] .

Andrew Ross Sorkin is a columnist and the founder and editor at large of DealBook. He is a co-anchor of CNBC’s "Squawk Box" and the author of “Too Big to Fail.” He is also a co-creator of the Showtime drama series "Billions." More about Andrew Ross Sorkin

Ravi Mattu is the managing editor of DealBook, based in London. He joined The New York Times in 2022 from the Financial Times, where he held a number of senior roles in Hong Kong and London. More about Ravi Mattu

Bernhard Warner joined the The Times in 2022 as a senior editor for DealBook. Previously he was a senior writer and editor at Fortune focusing on business, the economy and the markets. More about Bernhard Warner

Sarah Kessler is an editor for the DealBook newsletter and writes features on business and how workplaces are changing. More about Sarah Kessler

Michael de la Merced joined The Times as a reporter in 2006, covering Wall Street and finance. Among his main coverage areas are mergers and acquisitions, bankruptcies and the private equity industry. More about Michael J. de la Merced

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‘Game of Thrones’ creator and other authors sue ChatGPT-maker OpenAI for copyright infringement

Author John Grisham appears at the opening night of "A Time To Kill" on Broadway in New York on Oct. 20, 2013, left, and author R.R. Martin appears in Toronto on March 12, 2012. Grisham and Martin are among 17 authors suing OpenAI for “systematic theft on a mass scale.” Their suit was filed Tuesday in New York and is the latest in a wave of legal action by writers concerned that AI programs are using their copyrighted works without permission. (AP Photo)

Author John Grisham appears at the opening night of “A Time To Kill” on Broadway in New York on Oct. 20, 2013, left, and author R.R. Martin appears in Toronto on March 12, 2012. Grisham and Martin are among 17 authors suing OpenAI for “systematic theft on a mass scale.” Their suit was filed Tuesday in New York and is the latest in a wave of legal action by writers concerned that AI programs are using their copyrighted works without permission. (AP Photo)

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NEW YORK (AP) — John Grisham, Jodi Picoult and George R.R. Martin are among 17 authors suing OpenAI for “systematic theft on a mass scale,” the latest in a wave of legal action by writers concerned that artificial intelligence programs are using their copyrighted works without permission.

In papers filed Tuesday in federal court in New York, the authors alleged “flagrant and harmful infringements of plaintiffs’ registered copyrights” and called the ChatGPT program a “massive commercial enterprise” that is reliant upon “systematic theft on a mass scale.”

The suit was organized by the Authors Guild and also includes David Baldacci, Sylvia Day, Jonathan Franzen and Elin Hilderbrand among others.

“It is imperative that we stop this theft in its tracks or we will destroy our incredible literary culture, which feeds many other creative industries in the U.S.,” Authors Guild CEO Mary Rasenberger said in a statement. “Great books are generally written by those who spend their careers and, indeed, their lives, learning and perfecting their crafts. To preserve our literature, authors must have the ability to control if and how their works are used by generative AI.”

FILE - Various Google logos are displayed on a Google search, Monday, Sept. 11, 2023, in New York. On Tuesday, Sept. 19, Google announced that it is introducing its artificially intelligent chatbot, Bard, to other members of its digital family, including Gmail, Maps and YouTube, as part of the next step in its effort to ward off threats posed by similar technology run by Open AI and Microsoft. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

The lawsuit cites specific ChatGPT searches for each author, such as one for Martin that alleges the program generated “an infringing, unauthorized, and detailed outline for a prequel” to “A Game of Thrones” that was titled “A Dawn of Direwolves” and used “the same characters from Martin’s existing books in the series “A Song of Ice and Fire.”

In a statement Wednesday, an OpenAI spokesperson said that the company respects “the rights of writers and authors, and believe they should benefit from AI technology.

“We’re having productive conversations with many creators around the world, including the Authors Guild, and have been working cooperatively to understand and discuss their concerns about AI. We’re optimistic we will continue to find mutually beneficial ways to work together to help people utilize new technology in a rich content ecosystem,” the statement reads.

Earlier this month, a handful of authors that included Michael Chabon and David Henry Hwang sued OpenAI in San Francisco for “clear infringement of intellectual property.”

In August, OpenAI asked a federal judge in California to dismiss two similar lawsuits, one involving comedian Sarah Silverman and another from author Paul Tremblay. In a court filing, OpenAI said the claims “misconceive the scope of copyright, failing to take into account the limitations and exceptions (including fair use) that properly leave room for innovations like the large language models now at the forefront of artificial intelligence.”

Author objections to AI have helped lead Amazon.com, the country’s largest book retailer, to change its policies on e-books. The online giant is now asking writers who want to publish through its Kindle Direct Program to notify Amazon in advance that they are including AI-generated material. Amazon is also limiting authors to three new self-published books on Kindle Direct per day, an effort to restrict the proliferation of AI texts.

Books | America has always believed conspiracy…

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Books | high school football live updates: friday’s games for week 6 in southern california, things to do, books | america has always believed conspiracy theories, says ‘under the eye of power’ author, in his new book, 'under the eye of power: how fear of secret societies shapes american democracy,' colin dickey discusses america's founding narrative..

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In his new book, “Under the Eye of Power: How Fear of Secret Societies Shapes American Democracy,” Colin Dickey wastes no time getting to the point. “The United States was born in paranoia,” he writes in the book’s introduction. “It has been with this country from the very beginning, shadowing it ever since.”

It’s a sobering reminder that conspiracy theories didn’t start with Pizzagate, QAnon or any of the other dangerous belief systems that have recently taken hold in American society — this has been going on since the 18th century. 

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Dickey’s book takes a look at some of the more notable conspiracy theories that have, at one time or another, captured the nation’s imagination, including the Illuminati, Henry Ford’s infamous, antisemitic lies and the “Satanic panic” of the 1980s. Underscoring the book is a series of questions: Where do these theories come from, and why do people believe them?

“Under the Eye of Power” is the fifth book from cultural historian Dickey , who has previously written about haunted places in “Ghostland” and mysterious phenomena in “The Unidentified.” Dickey grew up in the Bay Area and lived in Los Angeles from 1999 to 2012, where he was educated at CalArts and USC. He discussed his new book via telephone from Brooklyn where he now lives. This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.

Q: Are conspiracy theories something you’ve been interested in for a long time?

I’ve been researching them for a while, ever since I wrote this essay for The Believer about conspiracy theories involving musical tuning and why concert instruments are tuned the way they are. That seemed like just a wacky, fun story until I got into the weeds and found out that there was actually this kind of darker underbelly to a lot of that. Ever since then, I’ve been aware that even the kookiest and most fun conspiracy theories often have a darker, weirder edge to them. I really wanted to try and understand that, and I’ve been researching that in various forms for the past 10 years.

Q: You make the point in the book that American conspiracy theories are as old as the country itself. Is there a founding U.S. conspiracy theory, one that took hold to a degree that maybe the others didn’t as much?

The most central one that runs through almost all of the U.S. is the Illuminati, which was an actual organization in Bavaria, Germany, for about 10 years in the 1770s. They were stamped out by the Bavarian authorities, and that was the end of them. But after the French Revolution, people started asking questions like, “How did things go so wrong? How did it get so violent? How was there so much bloodshed?” A Scottish Freemason and a French priest independently began asserting that what had happened was the French Revolution was secretly the work of the Illuminati, and that it somehow persisted, and that the hidden hand behind the French Revolution filtered over to the United States to the point by the 1790s that it was infecting American politics. In the election of 1800, which was our first contested presidential election after Washington’s two terms, both sides alleged that the other one was a stooge of the Illuminati.

In terms of a founding narrative, what’s behind that is this idea that at the very beginning of democracy, people were already looking for external ways to describe and explain how things might not go their team’s way. The idea that there’s a secret foreign group that is somehow distorting the will of people has remained a central and recurring conspiracy theory since the country began.

Q: So many of these theories are easily disproved. Why do you think some people insist on believing them? 

What I come to time and time again is that the thing about a conspiracy theory is that it provides a narrative and order to an otherwise chaotic or random world. And even though that order may seem malevolent or nefarious, it nonetheless offers an explanatory mechanism to make sense of things. That is something a lot of people crave, even more so than a benevolent order. They would rather have a nefarious order running things than pure randomness. That just provides a measure of comfort. The guy who first coined the term conspiracy theory, the philosopher Karl Popper, said, “The conspiracy theory of society … comes from abandoning God and then asking, ‘Who is in his place?’” This idea that the Illuminati are the ones who are controlling everything, and have this sort of omnipotent, omniscient plan, and we’re all just sort of pawns, is very much an almost theological replacement for a kind of godless world.

Q: There are active conspiracy theories that keep making the rounds on the Internet. Are there any that you think have the potential to be profoundly damaging to the country?

The one we’re struggling with right now in the most acute way, and has caused a great deal of damage, is what’s known as the great replacement theory. It’s something that was regularly advocated on Tucker Carlson’s program on Fox News. It basically asserts that the Democrats are conspiring to import non-White people into this country to dilute the quote-unquote average Americans, by which they mean older White people, to ensure voting supremacy. This theory, which gets thrown around a lot in conservative media, has inspired multiple mass shootings, including the one in El Paso and the one in Buffalo. Both of those shooters claimed that as part of their rationale. It’s a really pernicious and really deadly theory and I think that it’s incumbent upon us to be aware of it. 

Q: Do you think it’s inevitable that conspiracy theories are going to play a role in the next election? And if so, what can people do to fight that?

The conclusion that I came to is that part of the thing about democracy is it is a structure by which it is very easy to look up and say that you see that you’ve lost an election, and rather than admit that maybe your candidate wasn’t good, or the policies were bad, it’s perhaps easier for you psychologically to say, “Oh, no, there was a conspiracy and it was stolen from us.” What I find again and again is that people who embrace conspiracy theories aren’t necessarily stupid or wrong or delusional. They are looking for something in the conspiracy theory that satisfies them on an emotional or an existential or an intellectual level. And I think the thing to do, rather than just shout facts at them, is to try and understand what that emotional need is that’s being satisfied, and figure out if there’s a way to address that, and shift them off the conspiratorial thinking rather than go after them adversarially.

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