Kevin Wilson is the author of the collection, Tunneling to the Center of the Earth (Ecco/Harper Perennial, 2009), which received an Alex Award from the American Library Association and the Shirley Jackson Award, and a novel, The Family Fang (Ecco, 2011). His fiction has appeared in Ploughshares, Tin House, One Story, Cincinnati Review, and elsewhere, and has appeared in four volumes of the New Stories from the South: The Years Best anthology as well as The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories 2012. He has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, and the KHN Center for the Arts. He lives in Sewanee, Tennessee, with his wife, the poet Leigh Anne Couch, and his sons, Griff and Patch, where he is an Assistant Professor in the English Department at the University of the South.
Sucker (2023) Daniel Hornsby "Daniel Hornsby has pulled off an incredibly impressive feat with Sucker, a wildly funny satire of technology, of obscene wealth, of the real and fake narratives we tell about ourselves. Just when you think you know where it's going, how it will fall in line with the absurdities of our own world, he swerves in ways that open up the story beyond what you could have imagined. Exceptional, horrifically hilarious, and deeply original."
Sam (2023) Allegra Goodman "Sam is one of the most evocative and tender examinations of youth that I've ever read . . . One of the best writers around, Goodman has made something truly beautiful, evoking a feeling that is hard to name but stirs inside us with every line."
We Are the Light (2022) Matthew Quick "Matthew Quick has always been a brilliant chronicler of the ways in which we get broken, and the spectacular ways our lives can fall apart, and yet his greatest gift is the way he tries to find, within every story, an opportunity to put some of those pieces back together. In We Are the Light, where unexpected connections offer a way forward, Quick writes with such honesty and openhearted understanding of the pain and joy of being alive."
Book of Extraordinary Tragedies (2022) Joe Meno "'Catastrophe will never let you down,' we're told in Joe Meno's deeply felt new novel, one that plumbs the depths of family, all the painful ways we're bound to the people who shaped us, and all the generations previous. But having been a fan of Meno's work for so long, I also know that he will never let you down, that he will find some measure of the extraordinary in any story, some deeply human and beautiful thing that keeps us reading. A sensitive and imaginative work by a writer who deserves every reader."
Florida Woman (2022) Deb Rogers "Florida Woman is a razor-sharp portrait of a woman who believes she might be an agent of chaos, who cannot avoid disaster, and the steps she takes, in the strangest of settings, to find a way not only to survive the disaster, but to be transformed by it. Deb Rogers writes with such verve and honesty about all the ways we stumble through life, and, like all great storytellers, gives us something wondrous when we reach the end of the journey."
Hurricane Girl (2022) Marcy Dermansky "Marcy Dermansky is one of the most wildly original writers that I've ever read, and Hurricane Girl showcases what makes her so amazing. In tracking the unpredictable movements of a strange and hypnotic journey in the aftermath of a natural disaster, Dermansky nails the sensation of being alive, of navigating a world so strange that it's almost a dream, of trying, again and again, to anchor yourself to a moment, to assure yourself that you exist, to withstand anything and somehow keep living."
After Everyone Else (2022) (BAE, book 2) Leslie Hooton "After Everyone Else brings us back into the life of Bailey Edgeworth, Leslie Hooton's memorable, sparkling character from her first novel, but Hooton is such a gifted writer and natural storyteller that this story brings us new twists, new drama, new terrain, all in that witty, emotional resonant writing style. And, always, at the heart of Hooton's writing, there is an exploration of the past, how we are made, and how family and love open up new possibilities that we never expected."
Remarkably Bright Creatures (2022) Shelby Van Pelt "A beautiful examination of how loneliness can be transformed, cracked open, with the slightest touch from another living thing. Shelby Van Pelt makes good on this wild conceit, somehow making me love a misanthropic octopus, but her writing is so finely tuned that it's a natural element of a larger story about family, about loss and the electricity of something found."
Unlikely Animals (2022) Annie Hartnett "Unlikely Animals is a testament to the wild talent of Annie Hartnett. This novel possesses such tenderness and empathy for a world that wears us down and ruins us, a world that sometimes offers a glimmer of hope, and Hartnett knows how to turn up the brilliance of that light and wield it to do magical things."
Shit Cassandra Saw (2022) Gwen E Kirby "When I reached the end of every single one of Gwen E. Kirby's wildly unique stories, I felt like she had altered the universe a little, created a new element, opened up some fault lines in the earth. Kirby writes with boundless humor, a confidence and ease with strange premises, and yet there is always that flash of a fang or a blade or a Sharpie, reminding you to pay closer attention."
When Ghosts Come Home (2021) Wiley Cash "In When Ghosts Come Home Wiley Cash reveals how family and history and the threads that connect us can contain such mystery. This is a masterful example of storytelling, told by one of the most open-hearted and clear-eyed writers I know."
Nightbitch (2021) Rachel Yoder "I could not love a novel more than Rachel Yoder's Nightbitch. It's such a uniquely brilliant book, one that looks at the intersection of motherhood and art, the terror of "a thousand artless afternoons". And it is so wonderfully observant, so precise, and yet manages to expand and expand upon those initial concerns, turning magical, dark, and funny."
How Lucky (2021) Will Leitch "It's a testament to Will Leitch's ability that he can blend seemingly disparate elements mystery and illness and humor and football and come away with something so winning. How Lucky asserts that "the world is a terrifying place these days" and the novel explores those terrors quite convincingly, yet I was heartened by the depth of Leitch's writing, his obvious love for the world and what it could be. He imbues his hero with a kind of hopefulness that comes from seeing the worst and finding some way to keep living."
The Vietri Project (2021) Nicola DeRobertis-Theye "The Vietri Project offers the best kind of mystery, one where each new discovery not only opens up our understanding of the story, but of the world we live in. Nicola DeRobertis-Theye writes with precision, such finely-tuned sentences, and conjures the past without getting lost in it, using it as a map to find a way towards something beautiful."
The House Uptown (2021) Melissa Ginsburg "Ginsburg's brilliance is on full display in The House Uptown. By giving us these layered, complicated characters, all suffering from previous traumas, Ginsburg reveals how the past keeps reaching toward us, and what we'll do to stay out of its reach. It's a book that breaks you down, even though you can't put it down."
Good Neighbours (2021) Sarah Langan "In Sarah Langan's amazing, riveting Good Neighbors, we sift through the wreckage of a neighborhood, trying to make sense of the violence and hidden darkness of a small community in the aftermath of disaster. Langan is an inventive, confident writer, with such a sharp sense of humor, and she so deftly handles the complex ways in which we find ourselves inextricably linked to each other, how little it takes to push us over the edge. A chilling, compulsively readable novel that looks toward the future in order to help us understand how we live now."
The Fortunate Ones (2021) Ed Tarkington "There's a sharpness to Ed Tarkington's view of the world, an exacting truthfulness of how things work, but he marries it to such an open-hearted and resonant humanity in his writing that it's hard not to place him easily in the company of Pat Conroy and Alice McDermott. In The Fortunate Ones, Tarkington examines privilege and friendship with that same incredible perspective, and he helps us see the difficulties of trying to hold onto yourself even as you want so badly to be transformed. An amazing, thought-provoking novel by one of our most generous writers."
White Ivy (2020) Susie Yang "It's a testament to Susie Yang's skill that she can explore and upend our ideas of class, race, family, and identity while moving us through a plot that twists in such wonderful ways. But none of that would matter nearly as much if not for the truly unforgettable narrator, Ivy, who is so hypnotic, the way her voice feels both wild and controlled. She ran right through me."
The Orchard (2020) David Hopen "The Orchard is a wildly ambitious, propulsive novel touching on big, life-altering topics, but David Hopen manages that weight by never losing grip on the story, which blends philosophical questions with a unique thriller and a group of teenagers who command your attention. At the heart of the novel there’s a yearning, a reckoning with those moments when we transform and when we wonder if we can ever go back. I’d be so wary of comparing any novel to Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, but The Orchard can handle it because it diverges in such interesting ways."
Nights When Nothing Happened (2020) Simon Han "In this beautiful, unsettling novel, Simon Han captures the state of being awake and yet asleep, of belonging and yet not, of waiting for the moment when the world opens up. With the turn of a crystalline sentence, he reveals how fragile we are, and what it takes to survive. An unbelievable debut."
Shelter in Place (2020) David Leavitt "David Leavitt is a masterful writer and his dialogue, his innate sense of the rhythm of how people talk to each other, both in public and in private, is absolutely incredible. It's impossible not to be pulled into this novel, to see the epicentre of chaos in the lives of these characters, and listen to them try to talk themselves into a new imagining of the world. With precision and humour, Leavitt has created something amazing."
The Boy in the Field (2020) Margot Livesey "Margot Livesey has the unique ability to find the hidden darkness beneath the surface of our lives, no matter how deeply buried. A deceptively simple story that explores the aftermath of a moment of violence, The Boy in the Field amazed me with its insight, and the subtlety of Livesey's beautiful, almost dreamlike prose. She speaks of a sensation -- 'quick as a mousetrap, sharp as a thorn' -- and I can't think of a better description of her work. Quick and sharp."
The Son of Good Fortune (2020) Lysley Tenorio "Lysley Tenorio's The Son of Good Fortune is flat-out brilliant, and what makes it so wondrous is how Tenorio controls the complexity of the narrative. How can a book be filled with so much humor, such a light touch, and yet still touch that weird place in our heart that can break us apart? Excel and his mother, Maxima, are characters you won't forget, and the world in which they exist, stuck between belonging and not belonging, does not deserve them."
Must I Go (2020) Yiyun Li "There is no writer like Yiyun Li, no one in contemporary literature who is as masterful at digging into the uncertainty of our existence on this earth. And Must I Go is sheer brilliance. Lilia Liska is one of the most arresting, strangely funny, and complex characters I've ever met. In constructing a narrative that allows us to look into the past in order to reckon with what comes next, Li does something truly transformative. She remakes our world for us, so we can figure out how to keep living in it."
Everything Here Is Under Control (2020) Emily Adrian "Emily Adrian is such a uniquely perceptive writer, possessing a kind of X-ray vision that finds the hidden truths inside of us, no matter how painful they might be. Everything Here Is Under Control skillfully lays out a story that converges on motherhood, friendship, and our responsibilities to the world around us, the lives that touch us. A beautiful, bracing novel by an amazing, open-hearted writer."
The Knockout Queen (2020) Rufi Thorpe "The Knockout Queen is an intense, unflinching examination of friendship, the threads that connect us in such strange ways. Rufi Thorpe navigates this difficult terrain thanks to a masterful use of detail and a wonderfully dark sense of humor that lands at just the right moment. Michael and Bunny are two of the most unique characters I've ever met, drawn with such precision that it's impossible to leave them behind. This is a hypnotic, beautiful novel, and Rufi Thorpe is an unbelievably unique talent."
Dear Edward (2020) Ann Napolitano "Dear Edward isn’t just a beautiful novel, clear-eyed and compassionate even as it pulls us into difficult terrain. It’s an examination of what makes us human, how we survive in this mysterious world, how we take care of each other. It’s the kind of book that forces you to trust that the author, who will break your heart, will also lead you toward something wondrous, something profound. After this brilliant novel, I will follow Ann Napolitano to the ends of the earth."
The Municipalists (2019) Seth Fried "The longer you bask in the glow of Seth Fried's wondrous novel, big concepts like Technology and Work and Friendship begin to take on a curious shape, turn into something so unique that you wonder how one writer has so much imagination, so much insight, so much fun with the world they've created. The Municipalists is the work of a hilarious and empathetic talent."
The Last Romantics (2019) Tara Conklin "A triumph of storytelling, an ambitious examination of the failures of love and how we, against all odds, find a way to survive.... A complex, resonant work that will reshape your understanding of family."
What You Don't Know About Charlie Outlaw (2018) Leah Stewart "In What You Don't Know About Charlie Outlaw, Leah Stewart displays such an amazing range as a writer, balancing intensity and suspense alongside deep introspection and then shifting to reveal such precise comic timing. She has a keen eye for the details that most of us would miss, presenting a clear vision of the absurdity of fame and the characters who struggle to live with and without it. And holding it all together is Stewart's unique understanding of what it is to be human, which always gives way to something perfect and true."
Sycamore (2017) Bryn Chancellor "Sycamore is an amazing showcase for Bryn Chancellor's great talent, the way she allows each of the various characters to shine on their own, but connects them with such subtlety that their light forms a constellation that maps out the grief, the regrets, and the strength of an entire community. This is a powerful debut novel, one without flaw, and it will slay you."