Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Adichie gives this sprawling, coming-to-America story a welcome twist, as her protagonist thoughtfully assesses life (especially racial attitudes) in the U.S. and eventually re-embraces her native Nigeria.
Buck (Spiegel & Grau)
You can track Asante’s odyssey from thug to poet by the progression of hip-hop lyrics quoted in this memoir, which ends with his surprisingly dramatic confrontation with (of all things) a blank piece of paper. Spoiler alert: Asante wins.
Levels of Life (Knopf)
The passing of Barnes’s wife inspired this affecting meditation on love, death, and ballooning. Somehow, it works.
The Painted Screens of Baltimore: An Urban Folk Art Revealed (University Press of Mississippi)
Rafael Alvarez, who knows a few things about books and Baltimore, called Painted Screens “the single greatest book on Baltimore published in the last 50 years.” I agree.
The Circle (Knopf)
Eggers has been chided for noting that he didn’t visit any tech companies when writing this near-futuristic novel about social media’s sinister potential. But this is a work of fiction, and a damn good one. Enough said.
Owen Fitzstephen (Gordon McAlpine)
Hammett Unwritten (Seventh Street)
This ingenious mystery blurs fact and fiction, as it folds a literary hoax into Dashiell Hammett’s mythic life and work. It’s so convincing you might not be clear who actually wrote it.
The Third Bullet (Simon & Schuster)
A page turner, not-so-pure and not-so-simple.
This slim book about “an unremarkable woman’s unforgettable life” feels epic in scope, thanks to McDermott’s gift for economic and elegant storytelling.
The Good Lord Bird (Riverhead)
If some of McBride’s previous work was too restrained and reverential (think Song Yet Sung), this freewheeling, colorful story about John Brown’s posse of abolitionists more than compensates.
Hard Art, DC 1979 (Akashic)
Before Perkins won a pair of Pulitzers for photographing war zones around the globe, he shot events around D.C.—events like these early and scrappy punk shows that are now considered seminal.