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The Most Exciting Fiction Books of 2017’s First Half

The Most Exciting Fiction Books of 2017’s First Half


David Foster Wallace famously said that “good fiction’s job is to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” I think we can all agree that in these volatile times of bigotry and xenophobia, we could all do with a little comforting. Here are a few diverse, timely, and outstanding upcoming works of fiction which are sure to give you your fair share of escapism. Happy reading!

9781101982242_8f898Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran
GP Putnam’s Sons (January 10, 2017)

Lucky Boy is a timely story of immigration, privilege and parenthood. A tale of two very different women, this deeply compassionate novel is about motherhood and ultimately, of humanity.

9781101906729_967dd-1Human Acts by Han Kang
Hogarth (January 17, 2017)

After the highly acclaimed The Vegetarian, Han Kang returns with another novel which explores the traumatic legacy of the 1980s Gwangju massacre in post-war Korean history. This heart-wrenching, profound book is a disquieting story about oppression and a relevant piece of writing of our times.

9781250113320_1e13aLillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney
St. Martin’s Press (January 17, 2017)

From our interview: “Rooney’s second novel is about an elderly woman who walks from midtown to downtown Manhattan and back on New Year’s Eve, 1984. But Lillian Boxfish isnt just any elderly woman, she’s a fictional version of Margaret Fishback, the real-life female Don Draper of 1940s advertising and an accomplished poet. The book bounces around the 20th century and tackles themes of work, time, motherhood, and what it means to be truly in love with a city. It’s one of my all-time favorite New York novels, right up there with Winter’s Tale, Invisible Man, and The Golem and the Jinni.”

9781609453657_595d5The Gringo Champion by Aura Xilonen
Europa Editions (January 17, 2017)

This novel, translated by Andrea Rosenberg, is narrated by Liborio, a young man who illegally immigrates to the United States from Mexico to reach ‘the promised land’. We follow his journey as he falls in love and becomes a boxer.

9780062450326_6d6b9Perfect Little World by Kevin Wilson
Ecco (January 24, 2017)

This much awaited book from the writer of The Family Fang, is about a brilliant researcher who runs a longitudinal study of inclusive communal parenting called The Infinite Family Project. A bevy of eccentric characters and crisp language makes this a moving story of what it truly means to become a family.

9780802126399_db599The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen
Grove Press (February 7, 2017)

From the Pulitzer prize-winning author of The Sympathizer comes this collection of short stories about Vietnamese refugees in the US. These lucid stories provide intimate insights into the refugee experience and are a timely read for the current ugly political climate.

9780374282103_b809eUniversal Harvester by John Darnielle
Farrar, Straus and Giroux (February 7, 2017)

In this suspenseful domestic drama, a set of creepy VHS tapes pushes two video-store workers into a journey of discovery. This inventive novel explores how we contend with loss and is a compelling read.

A 9780399576102_61944Separation by Katie Kitamura
Riverhead Books (February 7, 2017)

This intensely observed portrait of a marital estrangement is one of my top picks of 2017. A Separation is an intricately plotted novel about infidelity and intimacy. It is touted to be the Gone Girl of this year, and the exceptional writing has already earned comparisons to that of Ferrante and Patricia Highsmith.

9781455563937_1d20ePachinko by Min Jin Lee
Grand Central Publishing (February 7, 2017)

Pachinko is a riveting family saga, spanning 70 years,which follows one Korean family through the generations. The sprawling narration provides insight into the difficulties faced by ethnic Koreans in Japan and is an absorbing epic about family dynamics, identity and immigrant experience.

9780812995343_73f0aLincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
Random House (February 14, 2017)

The highly anticipated first novel of acclaimed short story writer, George Saunders, is an unconventional, often disorienting but ultimately fulfilling book .The story takes place in a cemetery at night as Abraham Lincoln pays a visit to the grave of his recently deceased son. Imaginative and haunting, this historical novel and part ghost story is a mesmerizing exploration of grief, death and the power of good and evil.

9780062356260_bd19cA Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline
William Morrow (February 21, 2017)

This mesmerizing, atmospheric tale is inspired by Andrew Wyeth’s mysterious and iconic painting Christina’s World. Kline’s insightful and evocative prose transports us to a mid-century farmhouse on the coast of Maine in this stunning novel about art, passion and friendship.

9780062476722_cf18fMiss Treadway and the Field of Stars by Miranda Emmerson
Harper (February 28, 2017)

This compelling mystery about a missing American actress is a literary thriller reminiscent of Kate Atkinson. Set in London in the Swinging Sixties, this deftly assured debut is a complex story of prejudice and immigration.

9780345476043_6498cIll Will by Dan Chaon
Ballantine Books (March 7, 2017)

Ill Will is the book I am most excited about this year. This creepy literary suspense is about a psychologist who is unwillingly embroiled in two crimes – one in the past and another in the present. A darkly stunning novel about the fallacies of memory and people living in the margins of society.

9781101981085_d97d2The Night Ocean by Paul La Farge
Penguin Press (March 7, 2017)

This brilliantly original novel is inspired by the lives of H.P. Lovecraft and his circle and is an electric exploration of horror, obsession and madness. The Night Ocean is a fascinating tale about secrets and scandals, pulp fiction and psychiatry.

9780735212176_8834cExit West by Mohsin Hamid
Riverhead Books (March 7, 2017)

The highly awaited book from the bestselling author of Moth Smoke and The Reluctant Fudamentalist is a relevant love story of modern times. Set in a country on the brink of civil war, this slim novel observes the inevitability of mass global immigration and love and loyalty in the time of violence.

9781594205613_4ae25The Idiot by Elif Batuman
Penguin Press (March 14, 2017)

This delightful first novel is a bildungsroman of an 18 year-old daughter of Turkish immigrants. Equal parts hilarious and moving, The Idiot captures the uncertainties of life as seen from the perspective of someone on the brink of adulthood.

9780399574634_410d5The Wanderers by Meg Howrey
G.P. Putnam’s Sons (March 14, 2017)

In the near-future, three astronauts—an American, a Russian, and a Japanese—embark on an intense field-training exercise in the Utah wilderness before becoming the first humans on Mars. It’s been compared to The Martian and Station Eleven, but don’t expect much science fiction or orbital physics; this book is primarily focused on inner journeys and what makes us human. That said, it’s fantastic.

9780451493699_50a6dWhite Tears by Hari Kunzru
Knopf (March 14, 2017)

White Tears is a hallucinatory ghost story, a compelling murder mystery and an incisive meditation on race, privilege and music. Spanning decades, this novel bring alive the history of old-time blues and America’s racial conscience.

9781627797641_5c44eMarlena by Julie Buntin
Henry Holt and Co. (April 4, 2017)

This sparkling debut is a lacerating portrayal of the blindness of youth, love and addiction. Marlena is the story of an unlikely friendship shared by two teenage girls and the loss felt by the survivor of the pair, as she continues to feel the reverberations of the past.

9781555977696_2fdd1A Little More Human by Fiona Maazel
Graywolf Press (April 4, 2017)

This dazzling tragicomedy is the story of Phil Snyder: new father, nursing assistant at a cutting-edge biotech facility on Staten Island, and of how his life starts falling apart. A Little More Human intelligently questions how much we really know ourselves.

9780062472984_3c404No One Is Coming to Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts
Ecco (April 4, 2017)

This novel uses the framework of The Great Gatsby to tell the story of an African-American family in the struggling North Carolina town. This universally resonant story of the American Dream is a poignant examination of family and human nature.

9781616956813_038ebCruel Is the Night by Karo Hamalainen
Soho Crime (April 11, 2017)

See Also

This English language debut from the prizewinning Finnish author is a literary homage to Agatha Christie and is described by its publisher as “Agatha Christie, turning into Alfred Hitchcock, and ending up with pure Quentin Tarantino.” I am definitely intrigued by that description and very excited to read this black comedy locked-room mystery.

9780062560292_8deb4The Day I Died by Lori Rader-Day
William Morrow (April 19, 2017)

Chicago’s award-winning mystery writer is back with her third novel, about a handwriting specialist who helps the police search for a kidnapped child. Anna Winger is just starting to make headway on the ransom note when her own son disappears.

9780811226073_cb8edThe Teeth of the Comb & Other Stories by Osama Alomar
New Directions (April 25, 2017)

These eclectic stories by a gifted Syrian refugee personify animals and man-made objects. Alomar’s sly moral fables and sharp political allegories are shrewd and full of intelligence.

9780374115241_8e3ddBorne by Jeff VanderMeer
FSG (April 25, 2017)

The author of the Southern Reach trilogy returns with a new weird novel set in an unnamed city ravaged by the effects of climate change. A scavenger named Rachel discovers Borne—initially a small, anemone-like creature that keeps growing and changing—and fights to save the city from Mord, a gigantic, psychotic, flying bear) and the Magician. Yep, that’s the real synopsis; no one can accuse VanderMeer of playing it safe.

9781616206888_42962The Leavers by Lisa Ko
Algonquin Books (May 2, 2017)

This compelling debut novel,which won the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Prize for fiction is an emotionally harrowing story of an undocumented Chinese immigrant who goes missing, and her little boy. The Leavers is an important book of our time as it sensitively explores issues of social justice such as assimilation, immigration and loss.

9781478975052_45220The Dinner Party and Other Stories by Joshua Ferris
Little, Brown and Company (May 2, 2017)

One of the most anticipated books of the year, this sublime first collection of short stories by the prize winning writer is about people searching for answers in the aftermath of life’s emotional fissures. Profound, moving and humorous, these stories are full of keenly observed characters and heartbreaking absurdity.

9781250112118_66c7cNo One Can Pronounce My Name by Rakesh Satyal
Picador (May 2, 2017)

This hilarious, affecting multigenerational novel is about immigrants and outsiders finding their place in American society. A witty book on American misfits, this book will specially appeal to fans of last year’s breakout success The Wangs vs the World and The Turner House.

9781101904251_21760Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki
Hogarth (May 9, 2017)

This sinister noir, set in L.A, is about art and motherhood and asks the big question about identity, art, ethics and parenthood. This darkly comic novel from the bestselling author of California looks incisively at the different relationships women have.

9781555977726_c1566Broken River by J. Robert Lennon
Graywolf Press (May 16, 2017)

This inventive,darkly comic novel is about a disintegrating family watched over by a spectral presence. Broken River is a riveting psychological thriller which is as as absurd as it is wonderful.

9781941920589_9fdf3The Golden Cockerel & Other Writings By Juan Rulfo
Deep Vellum (May 16, 2017)

The Golden Cockerel is the legendary lost novella from Mexico’s mega-influential Juan Rulfo, published here in English for the first time on the 100th anniversary of his birth. With previously-untranslated or hard-to-find writings by the author, most never before published in English, this heralds a landmark event in world literature.

9781908276926_6cdf0Kingdom Cons by Yuri Herrera
And Other Stories (June 13, 2017)

Kingdom Cons, a  prize-winning novel, is part surreal fable and part narco-lit romance. This new translation of Mexico’s greatest novelist questions the price of keeping your integrity in a world ruled by patronage and power.

Rabeea Saleem is a freelance writer and book critic based in Karachi. Her work is appearing in Culturefly, Wales Art Review, Entropy, Minor Literatures, Books & Authors and elsewhere.

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