One of life’s greatest pleasures is opening up a good book for the first time and not setting it down until you’ve excavated everything inside of it.
Once you leave school and all mandatory English classes with well-informed syllabi, though, the sheer amount of books out there is overwhelming. Sometimes instead of picking the wrong one to devote our time to, we pick none.
If working through a list of the great literary classics doesn’t appeal to you and you’d prefer to read something that better engages with now, “best books of the year” lists are going to be the best resource out there, second (maybe) only to word-of-mouth recommendations from close friends.
Below are the 10 books Amazon’s book editors think are the best to come out so far this calendar year; many of them have been featured in op-eds and other critical areas of pop culture.
The great thing about such a wide category as “best books of the year” is that you’ll get the best without narrowing your search to a genre. Here you have novels and memoirs of vastly different topics and authors, yet they all (at least based on their growing popularity) will pay you back for any cautious investment of your time.
If you have a flight coming up or a long commute to work, one of these 10 might be a great new companion.
All captions are provided by Amazon editors.
1. “The Ministry of Utmost Happiness: A novel” by Arundhati Roy
Arundhati Roy’s new novel, “The Ministry of Utmost Happiness,” is an intricate and graceful story of lives touched by magic, broken by tragedy, and mended with love. It’s an exceptional work of storytelling well worth the 20-year wait since “The God of Small Things.”
2. “Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI” by David Grann
Smart, taut, and gripping, Grann’s true-if-largely-unknown tale of big oil and serial murder on the Osage Indian Reservation in the 1920s is sobering for how it is at once unsurprising and unbelievable, full of the arrogance, and inhumanity that our society still has yet to overcome.
3. “Beartown: A Novel” by Fredrik Backman
The author of “A Man Called” sidesteps the predictable as he forges a new path of soul-searching and truth-telling in his gripping new novel about a small, hockey-mad town whose hopes and loyalties are torn apart by a crime no one wants to believe happened.
4. “Exit West: A Novel” by Mohsin Hamid
In Mohsin Hamid’s futuristic novel, young lovers flee a war-torn Middle Eastern country to seek safety in the West, where cities like London have become embattled refugee settlements. Hamid (author of “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”) has said that in some sense we are all refugees, and it’s easy to sympathize with his protagonists, who find their romance tested by their travails in exile.
5. “Priestdaddy: A Memoir” by Patricia Lockwood
When Patricia Lockwood temporarily moved back in with her parents—her father a Catholic priest who loves electric guitars; her mother focused on disasters and Satan worshippers—Lockwood returned as well to memories of her upbringing. Poetically precise language and darkly hilarious observations spark zingers that will make you rethink your own childhood indoctrinations.
6. “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me: A Memoir” by Sherman Alexie
In this family memoir set mostly in the Spokane Indian Reservation, Alexie (of “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven”) connects, with humor and poignancy, the troubled life of his whip-smart, sometimes cruel mother to the history of oppression and violence suffered by the larger American Indian community.
7. “Lincoln in the Bardo: A Novel” by George Saunders
Set in 1862, at a ghost-filled cemetery where President Lincoln’s beloved son Willie has been laid to rest, this first novel by acclaimed short-story-writer and essayist George Saunders (of “Tenth of December”) will upend your expectations and leave you hooting with laughter when you aren’t wiping away your tears.
8. “The Impossible Fortress: A Novel” by Jason Rekulak
“The Impossible Fortress” is a coming-of-age story tucked inside a love letter to the strange and wonderful 1980s. It’s one of those rare and special books where once you’ve finished it, you want all your friends to read it immediately.
9. “Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body” by Roxane Gay
In this brutally honest and brave memoir, the bestselling author of “Bad Feminist” recounts how a childhood sexual assault led her to purposely gain weight in order to be unseen and therefore feel safe; it’s a story that will inspire you to be more considerate of the bodies of others, and more accepting of your own.
10. “Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow” by Yuval Noah Harari
With “Homo Deus,” Yuval Noah Harari follows up his bestselling “Sapiens” — which looked back at the last 70,000 years of human evolution and history — with a look forward. In short, Where do we go from here?