Lydia Kiesling is the editor of The Millions. Her essays and criticism have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the Guardian, Slate, and the New Yorker online, and have been recognized in The Best American Essays 2016. She lives in San Francisco with her family.
Lydia Kiesling recommends
The Hotel Neversink (2019)
Adam O'Fallon Price
"A gripping, atmospheric, heart-breaking, almost-ghost story. Not since Stephen King's Overlook has a hotel hiding a secret been brought to such vivid life."
Kept Animals (2020)
"Kept Animals is a searing, beautifully written look at a place, a time, and a community set along the fault lines of class, race, climate, and coincidence. This novel will stay with me for a long time."
Take Me Apart (2020)
"Take Me Apart is such a delicious novel: perfectly plotted, atmospheric, disturbing, sad?even sexy. Sara Sligar brings both the northern California coast and the personal history of a brilliant artist to vivid life. I couldn't put it down."
Amy Jo Burns
"Shiner is a lush, gripping novel that explores love, grief, rage, and regeneration in a small Appalachian community. A story that feels both out of time and of its time, I won't forget the haunting mood, place, and characters that Burns brings to life."
Everything Here Is Under Control (2020)
"A sharp, thoughtful, poignant look at early motherhood, a small town, and the complex, challenging, and beautiful relationships that make up our families both biological and chosen."
Life Events (2020)
"Life Events is a hypnotic novel that beautifully grapples with fundamental questions about how to die and how to live. Karolina Waclawiak transports the reader into the streets of Los Angeles, the deserts of the southwest, the apartments of the dying, and a woman's life at a moment of profound change. Filled with compelling, provocative details about the work of "exit guides" for terminally ill people, Life Events is both a mid-life bildungsroman and a meditation on self-determination. I can't stop thinking about this novel."
If I Had Two Wings (2020)
"This is a riveting collection of stories with a vibrant cast of characters, both corporeal and fantastical, and a stunning sense of place. Stories--comic, tragic, and human; with themes of faith, fury, chicanery, miracles, and weather--swirl out from Down East North Carolina, touch down gently around the world and come home to the magnetic center of Tims Creek. It was a pleasure to live in this book."
Last Call on Decatur Street (2020)
Iris Martin Cohen
"Last Call on Decatur Street is an atmospheric novel that brings readers right into its world--probing, celebrating, and sometimes puncturing the mythologies that surround the French Quarter of New Orleans. In a novel about relationships, family, and place, told from the perspective of its real and messy protagonist, Iris Martin Cohen grapples thoughtfully with the rifts between people--both the ones that might be mended, and the ones that might not."
Out of Mesopotamia (2020)
"This is a masterful, stylish novel. Through the eye of his disarming, disaffected narrator, Salar Abdoh weaves a story at once wry and aching, beautifully illustrating the paradoxes of war in the field and on the home front. Alternating moments of brutality and comradeship, Abdoh's novel shows war's pointless heroisms, its random accidents, its absurdities, and its ongoing human costs. This is at once a probing and masterful novel of the disaster in Syria and Iraq, and an affectionate yet gimlet-eyed view of masculinity, art, and cultural politics."
Bright and Dangerous Objects (2020)
"I was instantly fascinated by Bright and Dangerous Objects, which uses the backdrops of undersea welding and a hypothetical expedition to Mars to deftly explore ideas of independence, grief, motherhood, and romantic relationships and how they shape one woman’s life. . . . This is an original, inventive, and incredibly enjoyable book. I loved it."
Leave the World Behind (2020)
"This novel left me tense, overwhelmed, and bristling with admiration. Rumaan Alam is a brilliant writer, a beautiful prose stylist with an uncanny talent for drawing charactersboth their individual quirks and foibles, and the subtle gradations of class and circumstance. In this novel he combines those gifts with absolutely superb pacing and atmospheric control, balancing the comic and the tragic, the real and the surreal, the cynical and the empathetic, the individual and the collective. I'm blown away by this novel."
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