The first half of the year has been filled with great books, largely by young or debut authors (as well as familiar names like Lydia Davis). From Helen Oyeyemi to Kyle Minor, these authors’ 2014 offerings come with the promise of decades-long careers to come, and bode well for the future of fiction.
Boy, Snow, Bird, Helen Oyeyemi
As we’ve said before, Oyeyemi might be made of magic. This retelling of Snow White, which has far more to do with race in America than it does with a beautiful princess living with seven dwarves, proved that she possesses a unique imagination, is a great storyteller, and is a writer operating on a different level.
Every Day Is for the Thief, Teju Cole
We’ve been waiting anxiously for a new book by Teju Cole since 2011’s Open City, and this small novel — originally published in Nigeria in 2007 — delivered. The story of a young Nigerian man visiting his home after a period of living in America, it paints an unforgettable portrait of Lagos through the eyes of Cole’s narrator that’s worth reading more than once.
Praying Drunk, Kyle Minor
A collection that pretty much smacked the face of everybody who read it, Kyle Minor’s astonishing book of short stories features plenty of God and death, but forces readers to look past the darkness for just a little beam of light.
The UnAmericans, Molly Antopol
In her debut collection, Molly Antopol tells the stories of Jews of the Old World and Jews of the New World, but in a way that everybody — whether you’re part of the Tribe or not — can relate to. In doing so, Antopol has us wondering what she’ll tackle next.
An Untamed State, Roxane Gay
Privilege, hardship, and survival all come into play in Roxane Gay’s debut novel. But what defines her storytelling is compassion — something we could use a lot more of in this world.
The Last Illusion, Porochista Khakpour
In this novel that sometimes feels like it’s dancing close to the line between fable and magical realism, Khakpour’s greatest trick is how often she makes the reader want to simultaneously laugh and cry.
Inside Madeleine, Paula Bomer
A complex and often challenging collection that should rightfully place Paula Bomer at the head of the class of young writers you can’t ignore.
Can’t and Won’t, Lydia Davis
Few literary events are more exciting than a new Lydia Davis book. Here, yet again, she shows off how she crafts a short story like nobody else.
Shovel Ready, Adam Sternbergh
With Spademan, Sternbergh gives us a new name to add to the list of great dystopian fiction characters. Smart, darkly humorous, and highly enjoyable, Shovel Ready is a post-apocalyptic tale that calls to mind 1980s cyberpunk and classic noir.
American Innovations, Rivka Galchen
We knew Galchen had to be working on something in the years since Atmospheric Disturbances, her 2008 debut novel. What she gave us with this collection was a little book full of tiny wonders.