You’ll be transfixed before you read a word: Dodson, a book designer as well as an author, has written two imaginative stories — one set in 1843, the other 300 years later — and intertwined them on facing pages in a volume chockablock with foldout maps, torn telegrams, bat drawings and an envelope labeled “Do Not Open.” (Resist!) — Keith Donohue
This poignant novel is narrated by Todd Aaron, a 50-something man with autism who listens to Barry Manilow and works as a tour guide at the facility he’s lived in for decades. Todd is a hero of such singular character and clear spirit that you will pray for him to wrest control of his future. — Ann Bauer
This daring venture into a medieval wilderness is a spectacular, rousing departure from anything Ishiguro has ever written, and yet it’s a classic Ishiguro story: graceful, original and humane. — Marie Arana
Hallberg conjures what he calls the “muchness” of New York City. For almost a thousand pages, he swirls around a single tragedy — the shooting of a college student in Central Park — sweeping up tangential characters and making every one of them thrum with real life until the lightning strikes, the electric grid overloads and the city goes mad on that dark summer night in 1977. — Ron Charles
A boxed set of the complete works of the Italian writer captures the breadth of his literary career: his devastating 1947 memoir, “If This Is a Man,” alongside his stories, poetry and hitherto uncollected fiction and nonfiction. — Michael Dirda
Newman’s richly imagined future world is inhabited almost entirely by African American children and teens who are immune to a deadly virus — and whose complex, slang-evolved patois makes this sweeping epic both fascinating and challenging to read. — Chris Bohjalian
A propulsive story about a teenager trying to save his drug-addicted mother from indentured servitude on a modern-day fruit farm. In swift, startling scenes, Hannaham makes visible the ornate prison of racism. The narcotic high from this novel comes from alternating chapters narrated in the disembodied voice of crack cocaine itself. — R.C.
THE DISCREET HERO
by Mario Vargas Llosa, translated from the Spanish by Edith Grossman (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
This exquisite concoction — a delicious melodrama of sex and betrayal, love and revenge — demonstrates that the Peruvian Nobel laureate is still at the top of his game. — Marcela Valdes
THE DYING GRASS: A Novel of the Nez Perce War
by William T. Vollmann (Viking)
This complex recounting of noble Indian Chief Joseph’s doomed fight for survival is a masterpiece — an American tragedy with all the light and shadow, vast distances and unforgiving climates (political, emotional, physical) of our nation. — David Treuer
In this dark, Hitchockian novel, Eileen Dunlop — an endearing misfit who works in a boys’ prison outside Boston in the early ’60s — is clearly headed for disaster. But even when it arrives, in predictable violence, the reader can only gape in awe. — Patrick Anderson
by Mary Doria Russell (Ecco)
An epic retelling of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral that sets the 30-second battle within the broader context of the times. Russell creates a sweeping canvas that touches on subjects as disparate as the politics of President Chester A. Arthur and life in the Jewish quarter of San Francisco. — Steve Donoghue
The kind of novel Washington loves: Set mostly in 1986 and 1987, “Finale” is a political drama anchored in historical events and oozing withering assessments of real-life people: Nancy Reagan, Richard Nixon and, of course, the Gipper himself. — Connie Schultz
A disgruntled reader sets off this complex tale of literary obsession and its consequences. A superb stay-up-all-night thriller, this sly story recalls the themes of King’s classic 1987 novel, “Misery.” — Elizabeth Hand
What happens when the world discovers that a quiet, 42-year-old bookstore employee and former priest has the power of forgiveness? Can he really offer absolution to any sinner? And even if he can, should he? These are some of the questions posed in Bauer’s lively, touching and often funny novel. — Reeve Lindbergh
From ravaged American cities to South Korea and abandoned torture chambers, the six stories in this collection, which won the National Book Award in fiction, take place in an uncanny world you recognize but don’t. They’re all cast in an unsettling twilight of moral struggle, and each one is a miniature demonstration of why Johnson won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. — R.C.
The Nobel Prize-winning author grapples daringly with China’s recently relaxed one-child policy. The narrator is a writer struggling to turn the life of his aunt, a midwife-turned-abortionist, into a nine-act play, which forms the book’s epilogue. — Steven Moore
Set in mid-1970s Britain and first published in 1980, “GBH” is one of the most coldly brilliant crime novels you will ever read. Lewis’s last and possibly greatest work, while not for the faint of heart, is a mesmerizing story of power, love, hubris and betrayal — but, above all, the portrait of what one might call a tragic villain. — Michael Dirda
To understand the particular weirdness, the pleasing charm of “Get in Trouble,” it pays to look at the work of authors such as Joan Aiken, Elizabeth Hand, Ursula Le Guin and Karen Joy Fowler: writers who excel in fiction that may be characterized loosely as “fantastika.” In Link’s stories, you won’t find tediously believable situations or even truthfulness to life. Instead, you’ll find magic and wonder. — M.D.
Constance Kopp, the feisty heroine of Stewart’s charming novel, is a formidable character who can pack heat, deliver a zinger and catch a criminal without missing a beat. Based on the little-known story of the real Constance Kopp, one of America’s first female deputy sheriffs, the novel is an entertaining story of how far one woman will go to protect her family. — Carol Memmott
A sequel of sorts to her beloved “Life After Life” (2013), this new novel tells the story of Teddy Todd, who served as a Royal Air Force bomber pilot in World War II. A powerful work about young men and war. — Maureen Corrigan
This searing debut is about the barren world that awaits us. Luz Dunn is living in a starlet’s abandoned mansion in Los Angeles when she and her partner kidnap a child they assume is being neglected. When this makeshift family flees into the desert, they find an isolated colony of survivors that might help — or let them fry. — R.C.
The final installment of Jane Smiley’s Last Hundred Years trilogy, which traces the history of one Iowa farm family over five generations. Smiley’s saga also tells the story of the transformation of white middle America — how each ensuing generation accumulated learning, sophistication, power and wealth; and, most crucially for this last volume, how they witness the imminent destruction of the planet. — Valerie Sayers
Welcome to the Madigan family of County Clare: four adult children, all contending with the emotional tyranny of their never-satisfied mother. When Enright brings the kids back to the old family home for a Christmas reckoning, the result is momentous and buoyed by tender humor. — R.C.
This collection of appealingly offbeat, often bittersweet, love stories is filled with sly charm and a rich and precise vocabulary. Pearlman even writes elegantly about sex. — Heller McAlpin
By the author of “The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet,” this ingenious masterpiece of geekhood ranges over continents and decades. It’s thick with scientific references, tech talk, arcane erudition and historical research, and it features a child born black to white parents. — Steven Moore
In this perceptive novel about the way we fight our wars today, the misadventures of a British platoon in Afghanistan alternate with the story of its captain’s grandmother, who is falling prey to dementia back home. Each plot is, in its own way, a matter of life and death. — Adam Kirsch
Berlin’s stories embody rather than merely describe the challenges faced by her marginalized narrators and protagonists. Unlike the chiseled tales of her contemporary Raymond Carver, Berlin’s beautiful, rangy prose builds into unpredictable shapes that speak of the sprawling rural and urban western and South American landscapes that fueled her imagination. — Laird Hunt
A captivating story — told in a relentless volley of short soliloquies — about a Dominican girl from Brooklyn who is befriended by a needy white woman in Upstate New York. — R.C.
Hoffman imagines the interior lives of Camille Pissarro and his parents and surrounds them with a full-bodied supporting cast of characters. The result is a fierce, sorrowful tale of the conflict between personal desire and social constraints through three generations on the island of St. Thomas. — Wendy Smith
This Norwegian epic, probably the longest autobiographical narrative since the death of Knausgaard’s idol, Marcel Proust, continues to be a literary sensation. The author’s brooding Scandinavian obsessiveness has a way of getting under a reader’s skin, not because his life is so exciting and eventful — it isn’t — but because it’s so familiar. — Rodney Welch
Neighbors Addie and Louis live alone in Holt, Colo., nursing memories of doleful marriages they stuck with until illness stole away their spouses. Neither has any reason to expect the remaining years will offer relief from the arid rituals of retirement, but then a surprising love affair develops. A gift from Haruf, who died in 2014. — R.C.
A fictionalized telling of the life of Mazie Phillips-Gordon, the Queen of the Bowery, who occupied the ticket booth of New York’s famous Venice movie theater at the south end of the Bowery from the beginning of Prohibition to the end of the Depression. — Caroline Preston
Brooks, who won a Pulitzer Prize for her Civil War novel “March,” turns her skill at re-creating the past to the story of David, the Hebrew warrior king. In some ways, the novel reads like a prose poem, filled with battles, passions, loyalties and betrayal, but it’s a page-turner of a poem. — Alice Hoffman
Lent’s heartbreaking novel chronicles the agonized aftermath of a Union veteran’s return to the Finger Lakes region of New York. Lent has always been as deft with plot as any thriller author, and here he weaves a half-dozen narrative strands into a richly textured tapestry. — Wendy Smith
These quirky characters — adult children and the aging parents they come to help — initially look like the same Baltimore family members we’ve socialized with for 50 years in Tyler’s fiction. But somehow what’s familiar seems transcended in this wonderful novel, infused with freshness and surprise. — R.C.
Beattie’s unsurpassed talent for rural tragicomedy is on display in a splendid collection of short stories largely set in Maine, where her characters live in a state of existential chagrin and exhaustion. — Howard Norman
The fourth installment in Ferrante’s acclaimed series continues the story of two lifelong friends, Lila and Lenú, against the backdrop of Naples. This knowing and complex tale showcases Ferrante’s breadth of vision — and makes this final installment feel like the essential volume. — John Domini
A STRANGENESS IN MY MIND
by Orhan Pamuk (Knopf)
In telling the story of a sweet-tempered village boy who moves to Istanbul and scrapes by for 40 years, Pamuk lovingly does for Istanbul something like what James Joyce did for Dublin: He captures not just the look and feel of the city, but its people, their beliefs and their values. — Adam Kirsch
On one level, this enthralling novel is pure adventure: Young Ensign William Avery and rogue agent Jeremiah Blake set out to find the missing writer Xavier Mountstuart in 1837 India. On a deeper level, it’s a subtle critique of how fact and fiction, myth and history, intertwine. — Keith Donohue
A cerebral thriller wrapped around a desperate expat story. The narration comes to us as a confession written and rewritten by an imprisoned Viet Cong captain who recalls fleeing with a South Vietnamese general and insinuating himself into the refugee community around Los Angeles. — R.C.
Baxter’s sixth book of short fiction shows him as a master of the genre. Most of the tales here focus on love, both romantic and familial, and Baxter is wonderful at capturing the delicate mysteries of courtship, how couples size each other up and how “sometimes you arrive at love before going through the first stage of attraction.” — Lisa Zeidner
This remarkable collection of linked short stories moves from the last century to this one, from Leningrad to Kirovsk, a Siberian labor camp turned toxic hellhole, from Chechnya into outer space. — Francine Prose
This weirdly funny novel translates the bloody conflicts between rationalists and religious fanatics into the comic-book antics of warring jinn wielding bolts of fire, mystical transmutations and rhyming battle spells. — R.C.
McManus’s first novel merges Old World elegance and modern irony in a brilliant social satire of life among the 1 percent of the 1 percent. The result is a novel about money and how having too much or too little can twist the spine and the spirit. It’s such a trenchant vision of American aristocracy that copies should be printed on Crane stationery and delivered by a white-gloved chauffeur. — R.C.
The stories collected here begin realistically enough, then permute into hallucinatory tales, as grim as anything in Grimm, but also grimly funny. Don’t read them straight through — better to dip in slowly, maybe randomly, getting lost in the characters’ melancholy as they themselves are lost. — Lisa Zeidner
These stories play out in scorched-earth country where the land is cracked and hard, where “barbed wire twinkled like spiderwebs and dew.” A subtle and moving exploration of the boundaries and contradictions of ethnic identity shimmers through these tales like a melody. — Michael Lindgren
When Theo Melville, heir to the Ellinghurst estate, is killed in Flanders, the cataclysmic events of World War I upend his family’s quiet country manor life. With splendid breadth and depth, the novel treats readers to an era’s worth of historical reverberations, from romance to women’s suffrage to psychics to quantum mechanics. — Donna Rifkind
This gritty debut novel pairs a nail-biter about a drone pilot involved in a major intelligence screw-up with a provocative story about currency traders who profit from the financial impact of global terrorism. — Carol Memmott
O’Nan compassionately and beautifully evokes the grim last act of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s life, when he worked as a Hollywood screenwriter. Sick with alcoholism and tuberculosis, he labored to make flimsy scripts better, a tired but relentless craftsman. — Maureen Corrigan
When her husband’s career tanks, Alice takes a job at a high-tech book-selling venture, while continuing to care for her small children and her aging parents. In this comic novel about the elusive work/life balance, Alice is truly a person to love and root for. — Emma Straub