1. These violent joys of Micah Nemerever
This novel is really unique, thrilling and thrilling. If you're a fan of Alfred Hitchcock's Rope, you will likely love this book. This book is a psychological thriller with fine poetry in prose and revolves around two young queer men in Pittsburgh in the 1970s. Their obsessive relationship goes up and down with a gruesome murder. And don't worry, this isn't a spoiler – the book actually starts with her crime and then goes through time to show us how we got there.
2. Written in the stars by Alexandria Bellefleur
On the other end of the spectrum, we have a fluffy, fun, heartwarming rom-com that focuses on two queer women in Seattle. This book is a quick read that feels very timely – references to tarot cards and dating apps scatter the text, and luckily for our couple there is no trauma in this sharp portrayal of an act between enemies and lovers.
3. Brown album by Porochista Khakpour
This is a compelling, important collection of essays on immigration and Iranian-American life today, including the author's experience as a refugee after September 11th by Donald Trump's election.
4. Death in their hands by Ottessa Moshfegh
You probably already know Moshfegh's bestseller "My Year of Rest and Relaxation", but death in your hands is superb too. This book is a quick read with Moshfegh's tell-tale strong voice and dry sense of humor. What makes death unique in their hands is the satirical portrayal of detective stories and the portrayal of an elderly woman as a narrator, which we generally don't see enough in literature. We follow the main character on her journey to investigate what appears to be murder in her rural town, and she doesn't put the clues together until the answer is literally right in front of her.
5th Days of Distraction from Alexandra Chang
A calm, intriguing novel about a young woman in color who moves from an unfulfilled job in technology journalism to an extremely white, rural area to pursue her boyfriend's ambitions. The real essence of her trip, however, is that she flies alone to visit her father in China.
6. Paper is white by Hilary Zaid
This novel is an excellent unsung hero who came to life via an independent press. Set in San Francisco in the 1990s, Paper is White revolves around a young Jewish lesbian planning a wedding before marriage equality. The other thread focuses on her work recording the stories of Holocaust survivors – and her fascination with one particular survivor who may just have a strange love story of her own. This book is also a great look at intergenerational trauma.
7. The Historical Corrections Office of Danielle Evans
Without a doubt, this is one of my favorite short story collections. Evans is a master of form and her prose absolutely sings. The collection, which includes a novella, feels very contemporary in terms of social media, dating, and structural and systemic racism. There is humor, sadness, and surprise in every story, and it's absolutely a book that gets people talking.
8. A spirit spread on the floor by Alicia Elliott
A stunning work of personal nonfiction that combines firsthand experience with research and numbers. Elliott, a Haudenosaunee woman, graciously addresses a variety of serious issues including mental health, gentrification, poverty, food insecurity, intergenerational trauma, and systemic effects of capitalism and colonialism. This collection of essays is a slap in the face in the best possible way.
9. Big Girl, Small Town by Michelle Gallen
This novel is absolutely funny. Even better, this fiction is both funny and graceful when dealing with serious subjects. Located in the fictional border village of Aghybogey, Northern Ireland, Big Girl, Small Town revolves around a crooked young woman who works at a fast food restaurant while her family recovers from a disturbing violent crime.
10. Can't even get by Anne Helen Petersen
Daily Kos readers will probably love this book for the same reasons I do. This nonfiction book is a smart, focused version of burnout, but it doesn't just focus on the millennial experience. Instead, the book deals with wide-ranging aspects of burnout in our culture with a center in the workplace, but also includes parenting, class dynamics, education, and the structural barriers in each location. Petersen uses her personal experience to direct the book, but also includes interviews and experts at every step. Excellent read if you are interested in the burnout epidemic, but also if you are interested in labor rights, labor laws, and the gig economy.
What are your favorite books that haven't got the attention they deserve? Feel free to share and discuss below, especially if these are books that debuted during the pandemic and may have received less media attention than usual!