23 Contemporary Writers You Should Have Read by Now
In a fair world, these critically acclaimed authors would be rocking the bestseller list.
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The world of contemporary literature is always changing and it's hard to know what books are worth the hype and what the buzz is all about—so we did the hard work for you. We've assembled 23 can't-miss contemporary authors for when you're looking for something new, wanting to catch-up on the latest good reads, or you're just looking for something that you won't want to put down. Next, for your reading pleasure, these 18 good books you can read in one day.
At once daringly inventive and acutely aware of the human heart, Tuten can move seamlessly from magic realism to more traditional prose. Tuten's novel The Adventures of Mao on the Long March is a modern classic (The New York Times called it "almost too good to be true," when it was first published in the '70s), and Walter Mosley is among his most devoted fans. In 2019, Tuten published his memoir My Young Life about growing up in New York and his early artistic endeavors which received an Editor's Choice award from BOMB magazine as well as a number of rave reviews for its heart and sharpness. Start with: The Green Hour
As the recent recipient of a MacArthur Genius Grant (MacArthur Fellowship) in 2019, Ocean Vuong is on the rise after his debut poetic novel, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, was an almost-instant New York Times Bestseller and shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal and the National Book Award for Fiction. The first novel from the Vietnamese-American poet is an epistolary non-linear narrative about adolescence, family, and immigration. His earlier poetry collection and later foray into epistolary poetic novel marks Vuong as one to watch with the Los Angeles Times calling Vuong's work, "of sustained beauty and lyricism, earnest and relentless, a series of high notes that trembles exquisitely almost without break."
Start with: Night Sky with Exit Wounds
Williams' stories, in collections such as Excitability, are as far out on the cutting edge as you can get. The New York Times once called her, "a double-agent in the house of fiction." Her 2018 anthology, The Collected Stories of Diane Williams, houses over three hundred previously published and new short stories and novellas with nearly 800 pages of rule-breaking fiction. The widely-anthologized author eschews chronology and just about every other narrative convention, yet her stories resonate powerfully because, on a deep, almost eerie level, they evoke the inner life. Start with: Vicky Swanky is a Beauty
Karen Tei Yamashita
Though Yamashita was a finalist for the National Book Award with I Hotel, which was all about San Francisco's Asian community in the '60s and '70s, she hasn't gained the broad recognition she richly deserves. In 2017, Yamashita published Letters to Memory, which is composed of archival material, family artifacts, and letters. The novel explores the period of Japanese internment with an epistolary and experimental style that the New York Times calls, "fluid and poetic as well as terrifying." I Hotel is her sixth novel and one of her most ambitious works to date; this 640-page epic story is made up of interconnected novellas, all centered at the hotel where people, politics, ideals, and history come together. Letters can tell stories long after they've reached their initial audience, check out these revealing found letters that can say more than you think. Start with: I Hotel
Evenson’s thrillingly unnerving books have won awards for mystery, horror, and literary fiction; this is work that’s scary on a deep level. Perhaps Peter Straub put it best: "Whenever I try to describe the resonant and disturbing literature that horror, whether acknowledged or not, lately has found itself capable of producing, I find myself alluding to Brian Evenson…[He] places himself furthest out on the sheerest, least sheltered narrative precipice—narrative at the far edge of narrative possibility…” Evenson is only picking up speed, receiving both the Guggenheim Fellowship and Shirley Jackson Award for The Warren in 2017. If you can't get enough mystery, suspense, and thrillers, check out the best of 2019. Start with: Fugue State
Svoboda does it all: novels, stories, memoir, biography, poetry that pops up in the New Yorker from time to time, and even a libretto. Her work spans continents and an astonishing breadth of subject matter, including mermaids, pirates, conquistadors, and ghosts to American veterans (Black Glasses Like Clark Kent), cattle herders on the Nile, and a young woman seeking self-discovery (Bohemian Girl). With Svoboda, you can expect the unexpected—and a big heart beating under every surprising line. Start with: Trailer Girl and Other Stories, a mix of novella and stories.
Wickersham’s most recent book is The News from Spain, a refreshing, elegant exploration of real, grownup love, with all its complications, consolations, and imperfect beauty. Few people write about the emotion with this much honesty and intelligence. Her memoir, The Suicide Index: Putting My Father's Death in Order, was a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award. If Wickersham has got you feeling lovesick, find out why we love who we love. Start with: The News from Spain
Montana-based Canty (Where the Money Went, Everything) has been rightfully compared to Richard Ford and Russell Banks. There's a strong sense of place in Canty's beautifully rendered novels and stories, but his work goes far beyond any notion of regionalism. The Underworld: A Novel deals with a Idaho mining town fire disaster and fictionalizes the aftermath for a number of real and imagined survivors inspired by true stories of loss and perseverance. His talents involve taking dark subjects such as divorce and mortality, suffusing them with wit and empathy, and arriving at unexpected, believable redemption. Start with: Everything
Stern, who draws inspiration from Yiddish folklore, is a master of the rollicking good tale. He's been called the successor of Isaac Bashevis Singer, but his exhilarating narratives—many of them set in the American South!—are entirely original. The Book of Mischief and his latest, The Pinch, are both a treat for anyone who enjoys magic, mayhem and an invigorating investigation of life's mysteries. Speaking of folklore and tradition, see which ways people used to use folklore to predict the weather. Start with: The Book of Mischief