A wealth of exciting titles have been published so far this year, and, thankfully, many by burgeoning lit stars have gotten the attention they deserve. Leslie Jamison's The Empathy Exams, a collection of deeply personal essays, was a surprise bestseller. Akhil Sharma's deeply affecting Family Life, which took him 13 years to pen and polish, got glowing reviews. And a slew of heavyweights -- Lydia Davis, Karen Russell, Teju Cole, Peter Matthiesen and J.K. Rowling -- have continued to produce fantastic, thoughtful stories.
Still, there are those authors whose skills have arguably waned, but whose reputations earn them guaranteed coverage. Rather than picking up the latest from Lorrie Moore or Michael Cunningham, we suggest you grab a copy of one of the below books, which might've flown under your radar.
The following titles were woefully under-hyped when they were released earlier this year. Many are works in translation, others were released from independent presses, and still others were simply overshadowed by better-known names.
Here are 8 great books you might've missed this year:
Blasim's collection, which was first published in English this winter, might be flawed. Some of the stories feature gratuitous violence, and others seem cobbled together. But the stories that do work are inventive and are told in a fresh voice. "Crosswords" is a particularly worthy read -- in its few pages it manages to offer a full examination of the ways friendships can transform during wartime.
Ball's book is tough to categorize, which is why it might've received less attention than it should've. He's a poet by trade, so his story is immaculate on a sentence-level, and some individual scenes -- such as the protagonist's family's mission to visit every waterfall in Japan, before settling on the quaintest as their favorite -- can be tear-jerkers. Silence Once Begun isn't merely a familial meditation; it's also a mystery about a man who's taken a vow of silence after confessing to a crime he didn't commit.
Heller's debut, The Dog Stars, garnered praise, but his second, stronger novel wasn't as celebrated. It's a page-turner narrated by a painter who has fled his former home and scene in New Mexico to live in relative quiet in Colorado. Jim's reserved, sensitive side is juxtaposed by infrequent but dangerous rage, which has gotten him into trouble. Heller's examination of an abstract artist's manic tendencies is both gripping and subtle.
Antopol was a National Book Award "5 Under 35" honoree, and for good reason. Her debut short story collection hones in on political dissidents, citizens estranged from their heritage, and other people who might be described as on the fringes of the societies they inhabit. Perhaps the best of the collection, "Minor Heroics" examines the hidden ambitions of two Israeli brothers.
Levy is a former Booker Prize nominee, in spite of her peculiar stylistic choices. Her stories are quick, undulating and dreamlike. Fans of Lydia Davis might be better off picking up Black Vodka than Can't and Won't -- Levy seems more prone to imbuing her scenes with both momentum and insight. "Placing a Call," the most inventive of the collection, punctuates anxious memories from a failed relationship with jarring rings on a telephone.
Shin is a prominent Korean author, but I'll Be Right There is her first work to be translated into English. It's a subtle story about personal relationships during a time of political tumult, as three students studying in Seoul form what they believe is an unbreakable bond before being torn apart. Shin graces simple scenes with touching details, transforming a quiet story about long walks and warm meals into a page-turner.
Bomer's collection -- which features a novella and related short stories -- explores issues such as obesity and unhealthy relationships through an exclusively feminine lens. Her writing is at times unadorned, and is alluring in its rawness, but encapsulates much more than off-the-cuff dirty remarks. #NoFilter definitely applies.
A crew of students lazes around their stuffy, small apartment in the opening of this fast-paced literary thriller, which begins as a tense page-turner (the young protagonists are disturbed by word of a violent attacker on the prowl nearby), but unfolds into an insightful look at city life and the ambitions, hopes and dreams often attached to it.