Emma: The Land of Steady Habits, by Ted Thompson
Anders Hill is having a terrible holiday season. He’s upended his life, leaving behind his fancy house and kind wife for a dreary condo and an inappropriate friendship with the druggy son of a friend. You’ve read plenty of novels set in suburban Connecticut before, but Ted Thompson’s sentences are truly and originally exquisite. He’s a major new talent, and his debut novel is a joy.
The comparisons to the X-Men are inescapable, but Sakey’s bendy sci-fi thriller about society’s War on Brilliants (the “gifted” among us) stands on its own, with a particularly popcorn-munching, cinematic flourish: it’s no wonder the film rights to this puppy have already been snapped up.
Paul: The Whispering Muse, by Sjón
Acclaimed Icelandic novelist Sjón’s latest work to be translated into English is a fascinating fusion of fiction and myth that revolves around a self-absorbed scholar (who believes that the Nordic race is intellectually and physically superior to other races because of their fish-based diet) who accepts an invitation to be a guest passenger on a cargo ship’s maiden voyage only to realize that the second mate on the ship may very well be the mythical hero Caeneus; this little gem of a novel is powered by a lyrical and surreal narrative, and reading it is like stepping into a dream.
Dahlia: Open Road Summer, by Emery Lord
Lord’s wonderfully written debut is absolutely everything a lover of contemporary YA could want, from a fantastic friendship between the main character and her Taylor Swift–esque BFF, to a great setting on the road, to your new favorite book boyfriend.
Sara: It Happened One Wedding, by Julie James
I love everything about James’s series of legal-themed contemporary romances. They combine what I used to love about Aaron Sorkin’s work—the pleasure of watching people be truly awesome at hard jobs—with characters I’d want to be friends with, and there’s a touch of danger to keep things exciting along with the pretty dresses and sexy banter. And seriously, whose wedding-season fantasy doesn’t include a sexy, single best man?
Lauren: We Were Liars, by E. Lockhart
I read this book so fast I worried I wasn’t taking it in enough—I could not wait to find out what had happened to the protagonist, a damaged girl spending time with her wealthy family at their beach house. The whole time, it’s clear something is amiss, and I can’t tell you what it is. I’ve said too much already. You just have to read it and find out for yourself. The writing is superb, the story is haunting, and the twist will kill you. Read it now before everyone else does, and before someone spoils the smart ending for you.
Melissa: Grasshopper Jungle, by Andrew Smith
This book guns it straight to the edge and over it into sheer, brain-melting insanity. In setting confused teen Austin’s bisexual awakening in a podunk town against the background of an advancing plague of monstrous, unstoppable insects, Smith has created a foul, bombastic sci-fi with an overdeveloped sense of history and heart.
Molly: Tenth of December, by George Saunders
This inventive collection of sharp, eerie, and still somehow heartwarming stories is difficult not to read in one sitting—but it’s also the perfect book to dip in and out of, as each story will stay with you long after you’ve finished it.
Joel: Hild, by Nicola Griffith
Nicola Griffith is best known for her science fiction, but here she creates an entirely different alien world—a richly detailed, thoroughly researched 7th-century Britain. Her account of the life of St. Hilda, who played an essential role in the establishment of Christianity in Europe, paints a portrait of a fascinating, complex woman who defied the rigid gender roles of her time and changed the world doing it.
Dell: Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles
“‘To New York,’ I said. ‘To Manahttan,’ she corrected. We drank.” Katey and Eve are best friends with two dollars between them in the center of the world on the last night of 1937, and by 12:01, their lives have suddenly, irreversibly shifted. Refresh your gin martini and hang on: with witty, inscrutable Katey Kontent as your guide, experience all the dizzying, glamorous excess of Manhattan’s upper crust in this mesmerizing novel.
Amy: Can’t And Won’t, by Lydia Davis
Davis is the master of the subtle and strange, offering wry observations and somber meditations through her own unique brand of storytelling, and this—her fifth collection—is no exception; beyond the primal pleasure so often inherent in her work, Davis’ Can’t and Won’t is also an incredibly pleasant departure from her contemporaries’ sometimes needlessly talky collections.
What are you reading this month?