From a dark parody of our current obsession with self-care and examinations of female rage to a thrilling true-crime story that led to the suspect’s eventual capture, here are the 35 best books we read this year.
MY YEAR OF REST AND RELAXATION BY OTTESSA MOSHFEGH
An unnamed woman decides to avoid the ills of the world (and her own life) by hibernating for a year…all inside her fancy Upper East Side apartment. A darkly funny look at extreme self-care.
MILKMAN BY ANNA BURNS
This winner of the Man Booker Prize is set during The Troubles in Northern Ireland, and follows an 18-year-old girl who’s forced into a relationship by an older married man.
GIRLS BURN BRIGHTER BY SHOBHA RAO
Set in an Indian village in the early 2000s, this debut novel explores how far a woman will go to reclaim the one sustaining relationship in her life. It’s ideal for fans of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels.
Set in 1980s Chicago and contemporary Paris, Makkai’s intertwining stories are about friendship, redemption and trying to find goodness in the midst of disaster.
A RIVER OF STARS BY VANESSA HUA
After getting pregnant by her married boss, a Chinese woman is sent to a secret maternity home in L.A., where she tries to deal with her overbearing housemates and grab her share of the American dream.
ASYMMETRY BY LISA HALLIDAY
Halliday’s debut alternates between two stories: In New York, a young editor begins an affair with a much older, world-famous writer. In London, an Iraqi-American economist en route to Kurdistan finds himself detained for the weekend.
AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE BY TAYARI JONES
This Oprah Book Club pick is a modern love story about a young couple who gets torn apart by a wrongful conviction. If you’re fascinated by the intimacies and struggles of relationships, you’ll zip right through it.
BITTER ORANGE BY CLAIRE FULLER
Set in the summer of 1969 in a dilapidated English country mansion, a woman becomes enthralled by the lives of her neighbors: a glamorous, hedonistic couple who might not be what they seem.
THE IMMORTALISTS BY CHLOE BENJAMIN
In 1969 in New York City, four siblings go to a psychic who tells them the day they’ll die. Told from each sibling’s perspective, it raises the question of whether knowing when you’ll die encourages you to live life to the fullest or causes more harm than good?
TELL THE MACHINE GOODNIGHT BY KATIE WILLIAMS
Told from the alternating perspectives of a woman and her teenage son, Tell the Machine Goodnight offers a smart and touching commentary on technological advances and the ways they define us.
THE FRIEND BY SIGRID NUNEZ
When a woman unexpectedly loses her lifelong best friend and mentor, she’s left to care for his giant Great Dane. The Friend is a meditation on loss and a celebration of the love humans have for their dogs.
A PLACE FOR US BY FATIMA FARHEEN MIRZA
In the first novel from Sarah Jessica Parker’s new publishing imprint, an Indian wedding brings a family back together, forcing patriarch Rafiq and matriarch Layla to come to grips with certain choices their children have made.
Essays and Short Stories
FEEL FREE BY ZADIE SMITH
The essays in Smith’s latest collection were written during the Obama presidency, but they’re neither stale nor dated, and span topics from identity and freedom to the comedy of Key and Peele.
YOU THINK IT, I’LL SAY IT BY CURTIS SITTENFELD
From the whip-smart author of American Wife and Eligible, an engrossing collection of short stories about everything from female friendship and social media to the election of Donald Trump.
ALL THE NAMES THEY USED FOR GOD BY ANJALI SACHDEVA
The nine stories in Sachdeva’s enchanting debut span time (past and future), space (Nigeria to New Hampshire) and logic (realism and magical realism).
FLORIDA BY LAUREN GROFF
From the author of Fates and Furies, these strange and spooky stories concern snakes, storms and motherhood, and are all set in the titular state.
MOTHERHOOD BY SHEILA HETI
From the author of How Should a Person Be?, Motherhood asks what’s gained and what’s lost (physically, mentally and emotionally) when a woman becomes a mother—all with candor and humor.
YOU’RE ON AN AIRPLANE BY PARKER POSEY
Actress Posey (Dazed and Confused, You’ve Got Mail) opens up in her first-ever memoir about her colorful Southern childhood, life on the set and the realities of fame.
BECOMING BY MICHELLE OBAMA
From her childhood on the South Side of Chicago, to her years as an executive, to her time spent in the White House, the former first lady’s highly anticipated memoir is candid and inspiring.
ALL YOU CAN EVER KNOW BY NICOLE CHUNG
Chung was born to Korean parents and adopted and raised by a white family in Oregon. Her debut memoir is a moving story about her search for her birth parents while expecting a child of her own.
EDUCATED BY TARA WESTOVER
Born to survivalists in Idaho, Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Her memoir charts her quest for knowledge from Harvard and Cambridge University and beyond.
SMALL FRY BY LISA BRENNAN-JOBS
The daughter of Steve Jobs and artist Chrisann Brennan, Small Fry unpacks the author’s childhood in a rapidly changing Silicon Valley and her strained relationship with both of her parents.
UNWIFEABLE BY MANDY STADTMILLER
Candid, messy and funny, the writer and comedian’s first memoir is packed with wild, name drop-y stories about high-profile hookups and the author’s roundabout path to self-discovery.
History and True Crime
NINETY-NINE GLIMPSES OF PRINCESS MARGARET BY CRAIG BROWN
Combining interviews, diaries, announcements and more, Brown’s biography chronicles the dramatic and fascinating life of Queen Elizabeth’s enigmatic and divisive sister.
I’LL BE GONE IN THE DARK BY MICHELLE MCNAMARA
Published two years after McNamara’s death, her book examines the previously unsolved case of the Golden State Killer, and contributed to his ultimate capture this past spring.
THE REAL LOLITA BY SARAH WEINMAN
Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita was inspired by the 1948 abduction of 11-year-old Sally Horner. Weaving together crime narrative, cultural and social history and literary investigation, Weinman tells Horner’s full story for the first time.
Politics and Identity
RAGE BECOMES HER BY SORAYA CHEMALY
In Rage Becomes Her, Chemaly examines women’s anger, the ways in which we’re encouraged to resist our rage and how women who justifiably express it are often punished.
GOOD AND MAD BY REBECCA TRAISTER
Traister’s (All the Single Ladies) latest is an exploration of the transformative power of female anger and its ability to transcend into a political movement.
ELOQUENT RAGE BY BRITTNEY COOPER
In this timely book, Women’s and Gender Studies and Africana Studies professor Cooper explores the ways sexism, racism and classism are linked, and how feminism has the potential to begin undoing the damage.
CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE BY TOMI ADEYEMI
In this captivating, West African-inspired debut, 17-year-old Zélie journeys to a mythical land to try to bring back magic to her country, Orïsha. Put it on your to-read list immediately.
THE POET X BY ELIZABETH ACEVEDO
Xiomara is 15 years old and feels simultaneously unheard and unable to hide. In her Harlem neighborhood, she resorts to fighting to stand her ground. Then she discovers slam poetry, and it transforms her relationship to the world.
BLOOD WATER PAINT BY JOY MCCULLOUGH
Though set in 17th-century Rome, this haunting retelling of the life of artist and feminist icon Artemisia Gentileschi is timely, tackling patriarchal oppression and sexual assault.
THE FAVORITE SISTER BY JESSICA KNOLL
Knoll’s (Luckiest Girl Alive) latest juicy read follows five hyper-competitive women appearing on a reality show that’s part Real Housewives, part Shark Tank.
THE WITCH ELM BY TANA FRENCH
When an easygoing 20-something is badly beaten in his apartment by robbers, the damage permeates every aspect of his life, from his appearance and memory to his sense of self.
THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW BY A.J. FINN
An agoraphobic woman witnesses something she shouldn’t while spying on the family across the street in this creepily enthralling novel that you can easily devour in a day or two.