Fiction: Novels

These stories thrust you into guerrilla warfare, romance in Italy, family loss, and various adventures across the West and abroad.

holiday books, fiction, novels
Alta

Enjoy nine novels written by contributors to Alta Journal, including California Book Club authors Paul Beatty, C Pam Zhang, Héctor Tobar, and Joy Lanzendorfer. The works appear in the fiction category of a special guide of books published in 2020 and 2021.

SEE THE COMPLETE GUIDE

SLUMBERLAND, BY PAUL BEATTY
slumberland, paul beatty
Picador

Paul Beatty—the first U.S. winner of the Man Booker Prize, whose novel The Sellout was a California Book Club selection—presents a new edition of his story about a Los Angeles–based DJ who embarks on a journey to a recently unified Berlin to find an ingenious jazz musician for a collaboration. Akin to the works of George Saunders and Colson Whitehead, Slumberland uses humor and irony to excavate what it means to be a person in an ever-changing and disorderly world where nothing is guaranteed. Picador, July 2021, 256 pages, $16 paperback

BUY THE BOOK

THE LIGHTEST OBJECT IN THE UNIVERSE, BY KIMI EISELE
the lightest object in the universe, kimi eisele
Algonquin Books

Kimi Eisele’s debut novel follows a man named Carson who embarks on a transcontinental journey to find his beloved, Beatrix, after the country’s electrical grid fails. Along the way, he encounters deceitful profiteers, hopeless wanderers, and those seeking redemption. Beatrix, meanwhile, spends her time building a cooperative community. The Lightest Object in the Universe holds the fates of these two characters in suspense, moving us to consider the enduring power of the human spirit. Algonquin Books, June 2020, 352 pages, $15.95 paperback

BUY THE BOOK

THE FIVE ACTS OF DIEGO LEÓN, BY ALEX ESPINOZA
the five acts of diego leÓn, alex espinoza
LARB Books

In Alex Espinoza’s sophomore novel, The Five Acts of Diego León, now being reissued, readers are thrust into the adventures and mishaps of the eponymous character, Diego. Growing up in a rural village during the Mexican Revolution, Diego is pressured by his aristocratic grandparents to follow a narrow and seemingly dignified path in life. Yet Diego leaves his country for the uncertain landscape of 1920s Hollywood, where he hopes his good looks will lead to fame and fortune. LARB Books, February 2020, 320 pages, $16 paperback

BUY THE BOOK

THE WORST KIND OF WANT, BY LISKA JACOBS
the worst kind of want, liska jacobs
Picador

Liska Jacobs plumbs the depths of womanhood, desire, and family in The Worst Kind of Want, a story about Pricilla “Cilla” Messing, who, burned-out from years of caring for her aging mother, heads to Italy to care for her rogue niece. Instead of providing discipline, the fortysomething woman finds herself drawn to the same reckless activities—and the same teenage crowd. The Italian summer enlivens Cilla even as it triggers traumatic memories and prompts a dangerous flirtation with a teenage boy. Picador, July 2021, 224 pages, $16 paperback

BUY THE BOOK

RIGHT BACK WHERE WE STARTED FROM, BY JOY LANZENDORFER
right back where we started from, joy lanzendorfer
Blackstone Publishing

California history is the backdrop to Right Back Where We Started From, a multigenerational tale about three women taken by the pursuit of wealth and the good life. The protagonist is Sandra Sanborn, a young woman trying to launch her acting career in Great Depression–era Hollywood, whose plans get derailed after receiving a letter from a man claiming to be her father. What she discovers is unraveled through her grandmother’s and mother’s life stories, explaining Sandra’s ambitious expectations and struggles. Blackstone Publishing, May 2021, 400 pages, $27.99 hardcover

BUY THE BOOK

PASSAGE WEST, BY RISHI REDDI
passage west, rishi reddi
Ecco

Exploring a forgotten chapter of California history, Passage West traces the life of Indian sharecropper Ram Singh, a migrant who arrives in the Imperial Valley in 1914. Ram leaves his pregnant wife in India so he can earn money to return and buy land. He meets with some success, picking cantaloupes and cotton, but becomes attracted to a Mexican woman and must endure xenophobia, hate crimes, and a country on the verge of war. Ecco, April 2020, 448 pages, $28.99 hardcover

BUY THE BOOK

THE LAST GREAT ROAD BUM, BY HÉCTOR TOBAR
the last great road bum, by héctor tobar
Picador

Blending fiction with biography, Héctor Tobar—whose Barbarian Nurseries is the December selection of Alta Journal’s California Book Club—rewrites the fantastic journeys of Joe Sanderson, a real-life adventurer who made his way around the world before he was killed while fighting alongside guerrillas in El Salvador. The partially fictionalized Sanderson finds himself on the sidelines (or in the middle) of critical historical events during the 1960s and ’70s, including the Vietnam War and the Biafran War. The Last Great Road Bum draws from several novels’ worth of unpublished fiction by Sanderson plus a slew of letters, journals, and eyewitness accounts. Picador, August 2021, 416 pages, $18 paperback

BUY THE BOOK

I LOVE YOU BUT I’VE CHOSEN DARKNESS, BY CLAIRE VAYE WATKINS
i love you but ive chosen darkness, by claire vaye watkins
Riverhead Books

Claire Vaye Watkins’s latest novel, I Love You but I’ve Chosen Darkness, follows a young mother, also named Claire, who is racked by postpartum depression as she makes her first trip away from her family. She travels to Reno, Nevada, for a speaking engagement, where encounters with her past lovers and her parents send her spiraling into the depths of regret and cause her to question what it means to create one’s life. Riverhead Books, October 2021, 304 pages, $27 hardcover

BUY THE BOOK

This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below