Fiction A to Z
The Weight of a Piano by Chris CanderWhat it's about: quite literally, a piano. And a series of chance events surrounding that piano that bring two flawed people together.
Starring: an immigrant from the Soviet Union; an orphaned mechanic; a talented photographer. Though their time with the piano is separated by decades, their attachment to it links them together.
For fans of: Annie Proulx's Accordion Crimes;
Elsey Come Home by Susan ConleyStarring: American expat Elsey, who lives in China with her Dutch husband and their kids. A frustrated painter, Elsey's also a heavy drinker.
What happens: At the request of her husband, Elsey attends a yoga retreat. There, she's forced to face her drinking and her fears about parenting, painting, and so much else.
Why you might like it: Straightforward, vulnerable Elsey is a sympathetic heroine at a crossroads.
Unmarriageable by Soniah KamalWhat it is: a retelling of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice set in modern-day Pakistan.
What else do you need to know? Scene-by-scene recreations will delight Janeites, but the setting also provides both humor and thought-provoking insight into Pakistani culture.
Want a taste? "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a girl can go from pauper to princess or princess to pauper in the mere seconds it takes for her to accept a proposal."
An Orchestra of Minorities by Chigozie ObiomaWhat it is: a devastating account of Nigerian poultry farmer Chinonso's attempts to win the woman he loves, as told by his chi (guardian spirit).
Why you might like it: A contemporary twist on Homer's The Odyssey, Chinonso's quest invokes Nigerian history and cosmology; this heartbreaking slow burn is both tense and tragic.
Reviewers say: "magnificently multilayered" (Booklist); "a rare treasure" (Seattle Times).
Golden State by Ben H. WintersIn a world... where everything is documented and even tiny lies are a punishable offence, Golden State is an independent nation that values truth above all else, even though its history is murky.
What happens: In the wake of a suspicious death, veteran special agent Lazlo Ratesic begins to doubt the laws he's always upheld.
Why you might like it: Part police procedural, part dystopian fiction, this thought-provoking tale explores terrifying territory similar to George Orwell's 1984.
Focus on: Recent Short Stories
How to Love a Jamaican by Alexia ArthursWhat it is: a debut collection of vignettes set in Jamaica, New York, and the American Midwest, which together embody the variety in the Jamaican experience.
Starring: Multicultural main characters varying in age, gender, sexual orientations, and values who navigate evolving senses of race, family, history, and tradition.
Kudos: One story won the Paris Review's Plimpton Award; the book was named a "top 15" book of 2018 by O: The Oprah Magazine.
The Largesse of the Sea Maiden by Denis JohnsonWhat it is: a witty, edgy collection of five short stories by National Book Award-winning Denis Johnson, published posthumously.
Why you might like it: From mental illness and self-destruction to old age and mortality, these are melancholy and offbeat tales. And while there's a masculine bent to the collection, you needn't be a man to enjoy it.
Reviewers say: "an instant classic" (Publishers Weekly); "incisive" (Booklist).
Beautiful Days by Joyce Carol OatesWhat it is: Dark and complex, this new collection from the prolific Joyce Carol Oates includes the Pushcart Prize-winning "Undocumented Alien" and 12 other devastating stories.
Featuring: awkward encounters, violent clashes, acts of defiance; broken characters and flawed relationships; secret inner lives and overweening guilt.
Fan favorites: "Fleuve Bleu," "Undocumented Alien," and "Fractal."
Property: Stories Between Two Novellas by Lionel ShriverWhat it is: two novellas and ten short stories, all focusing on belongings -- whether real estate or more personal possessions.
Read it for: precise language and well-developed characters, wry humor, and clever takes on co-habitation and home ownership in the U.S. and U.K.
Want a taste? "She enjoyed being in his physical company the way she enjoyed sitting in a smartly decorated restaurant."
You Think It, I'll Say It by Curtis SittenfeldWhat it is: a collection of both original and previously published short stories, generally focusing on white middle class characters with humor and honesty.
Why you might like it: Conversational and witty, these stories explore contemporary issues (social media addiction) and familiar quandaries (ambivalence towards motherhood).
Fan favorites: "Gender Studies," "The Prairie Wife," "Off the Record."