Radhika Jones, Editor, Vanity Fair
Big Sky by Kate Atkinson (Little, Brown)
I have to keep Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie series on a very high shelf, because if I so much as pick up my copy of When Will There Be Good News? I will ignore work, family, everything until I’ve reread it (again). This year brought a new temptation by way of the fifth Brodie novel, Big Sky, which features our favorite ex-policeman, his now teenage son, and an appearance by the winning young sleuth of Good News,Reggie Chase, now working as a detective. I felt like I was at a reunion—a reunion where people may or may not be running sex-trafficking rings out of Yorkshire, but still! Kate Atkinson is an international treasure: She creates characters with the ease of Agatha Christie, makes narratives out of mysteries and mystery out of narrative (see Life After Life), and has written some of the most memorable scenes and dialogue I’ve encountered in the past decade. Block out time for this one, and for the rest of her oeuvre, if you’re lucky enough to be new to it.
Disappearing Earth: A Novel by Julia Phillips (Knopf)
In the first chapter of Disappearing Earth, two young girls, sisters, accept a ride with a man who promises to take them home but clearly, stomach-churningly, has other plans. I got that far and almost put the book down; I couldn’t face their inevitable ending. But the book takes another path, through the Kamchatka town where the girls and their mother live, to explore how their disappearance ricochets around the community. A collection of interwoven stories is a hard thing to execute—how do you keep the reader engaged when you’re introducing new characters and arcs every 25 pages, especially when all those characters and arcs might serve a greater mystery—but Julia Phillips pulls it off with verve, intelligence, and a mesmerizing, atmospheric sense of place.
Michael Hogan, Executive Digital Director, VF.com
Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe (Doubleday)
It’s difficult, if not impossible, to write about the Irish Republican Army dispassionately. Eight hundred years of oppression and blood-feud politics have a way of coloring the conversation. But Patrick Radden Keefe comes as close as anyone I can think of with this book, which calmly, methodically, and, in the end, devastatingly peels back the layers of coded silence and tribal hypocrisy that surrounds the three-decade campaign of violent resistance (or was it terrorism?) that vaulted Gerry Adams from scruffy underground militia leader to cuddly avatar of political reconciliation. Keefe’s secret is to tune out the blood-raising propaganda and stay focused on the human costs of the conflict, be they borne by a Protestant widow kidnapped in front of her children or a car-bombing, hunger-striking Catholic revolutionary left behind by the movement she helped build…Read more>>