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23 Contemporary Writers You Should Have Read by Now

In a fair world, these critically acclaimed authors would be rocking the bestseller list. If you haven't discovered them yet, our Books Editor has set you up for some incredibly memorable reads.

Mike Yoder

Daniel Woodrell

You might have seen Jennifer Lawrence's breakout role in Winter's Bone, but did you know the movie is based on a novel by the audaciously talented Woodrell? The author of nine widely-praised novels is sometimes described as a master of Ozark noir, but his gripping narratives and pitch-perfect language transcend genre. His most recent is The Maid's Version. Start with: The Death of Sweet Mister

Dominique Nabokov

Frederic Tuten

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 his recent book, the story collection Self Portraits, Tuten writes about loss and the passage of time with wit, brio, and heartbreak. Start with: The Green Hour

Cybele Knowles

Kate Bernheimer

Like most of us, Bernheimer loves fairytales—and she also loves to turn them on their ear. Her strangely moving stories, such as the eight collected in Horse, Flower, Bird, combine fantasy with deep wisdom; the illustrations by Rikki Ducornet are an added delight. Bernheimer also wrote a trilogy of fairytale-inspired novels and edited two anthologies that take beloved myths as inspiration, spinning them into delectable grownup pleasures. Start with: The Complete Tales of Ketzia Gold

Bill Hayward

Diane Williams

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." 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

Carolyn Lagattuta

Karen Tei Yamashita

Though Yamashita was a finalist for the National Book Award with I Hotel, about San Francisco's Asian community in the 60s and 70s, she hasn't gained the broad recognition she richly deserves. I Hotel is her sixth novel and most ambitious work 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. Start with: I Hotel

Valerie Evenson

Brian Evenson

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…” His most recent books are the story collection Windeye and the novel Immobility, both finalists for a Shirley Jackson Award. Start with: Fugue State

Joyce George

Terese Svoboda

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 (Back 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

Michael Lionstar

Joan Wickersham

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. Start with: The News from Spain

Nora Canty

Kevin Canty

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. 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

Sabrina Jones

Steve Stern

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, among others, is a treat for anyone who enjoys magic, mayhem, and an invigorating investigation of life's mysteries. Start with: The Book of Mischief

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest