1. Tenth of December
By George Saunders
“Err in the direction of kindness,” Saunders told students in a commencement speech that went viral. His stories are somber, funny and bracingly strange, but that decency always shines through.
2. The Goldfinch
By Donna Tartt
No, it didn’t need to be 770 pages. But Tartt’s bildungsroman about a boy who loses his mom, steals a painting and is haunted by both is still the year’s greatest literary escape.
3. Going Clear
By Lawrence Wright
Wright’s history of Scientology reads like science fiction—with Tom Cruise in a starring role. A book that’s both captivating and necessary.
4. The Interestings
By Meg Wolitzer
United by artistic ambition, a group of camp pals meet wildly differing fates in this novel about talent, envy and the limits of friendship.
5. The Lowland
By Jhumpa Lahiri
One Calcutta-born brother chooses scholarship, the other revolution, yet their destinies remain entwined. A masterful family drama from the brilliant Lahiri.
6. Johnny Carson
By Henry Bushkin
The fascinating, philandering, fiercely private star comes alive in Bushkin’s bio.
7. The Husband’s Secret
By Liane Moriarty
Who says beach reads can’t make you think? This classy romance does.
By Sonali Deraniyagala
From the horror of her losses in the 2004 tsunami, a memoirist fashioned grace.
By Jeff Guinn
Monsters can never be fully explained, but Guinn’s insights shed light.
10. The Engagements
By J. Courtney Sullivan
A canny, engrossing novel about marriage and marketing. Read it before you slip on that ring.