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.

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Christine Schutt

Nina Subin

Schutt, who was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for her novel All Souls and a finalist for the National Book Award for her novel Florida, is known both for her gorgeous prose and for her fierce insights into marriage, money, class, and desire. She’s also an innovative stylist—an original you will want to read and re-read. Her most recent is Prosperous Friends. Start with: Souls

Mary Miller

Copyright Dolores Ulmer

Miller is both a fresh new voice and a wise old soul. Her debut novel, The Last Days of California (following a well-received story collection, Big World) is a road trip novel written from a teenager’s perspective; it's a funny, moving, and piquant look at American culture. Miller is a writer poised make her presence felt for a long time. Start with: The Last Days of California

David Gates

Marion Ettlinger

Gates entered millions of our homes every week as a culture writer for Newsweek, but fewer people know he is a ferociously gifted fiction writer. His first novel, Jernigan, a riveting black comedy about a man on the edge, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; Preston Falls is a darkly comic novel of a marriage gone bad. Gates, if you’re reading this, please write another! Start with: Preston Falls

Victoria Redel

Marion Ettlinger

One could say that Redel alternates between prose (four books, most recently Make Me Do Things) and poetry (three), but that’s not quite it, since her fiction is suffused with one gorgeously poetic line after another. She’s a great storyteller—her novel Loverboy was made into a movie starring Kyra Sedgwick—and has the ability to make every sentence shimmer. Start with: The Border of Truth

Michael Kimball

Rachel Bradley

Kimball's books have been translated into a dozen languages, and he always seems thisclose to attracting the wide audience he deserves in the United States. His strongest novel, Big Ray, is an unflinching portrait of an abusive father whose death the narrator still grieves; it's not what you'd call an easy read, but it is a transformative one. Kimball's language is so deceptively simple that you don't always see him creeping up on you with profound truths. Start with: Big Ray

Paule Marshall

Daniela Zedda

Paule Marshall's novels, like Brown Girl, Brownstones and Praisesong for the Widow are considered groundbreaking works of African-American literature, but they should be required reading for everyone. Marshall, who was mentored by Langston Hughes, writes with passion and precision about immigrants from the Caribbean. The novels have aged as well as their author, now 85; her most recent book was the striking memoir Triangular Road. Start with: Brown Girl, Brownstones

Pamela Erens

Miriam Berkley

Everyone who has the good fortune to pick up one of Erens' two novels becomes a fan. Whether writing about teenagers at boarding school (The Virgins) or a loner at the end of his tether (The Understory), Erens has a gift for making you want to spend time in her characters' company. Then you want to scout her other fans to discuss your good fortune of discovering her talents. Start with: The Understory

Kyle Minor

Miriam Berkley

Minor has written two story collections and is rapidly gaining a devoted fan base. The characters in his latest, Praying Drunk, lead hard lives, often marked by loss and violence. Minor gets to both the nitty gritty and the larger questions about life, art, and faith. Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) wrote: "I finished this book with my heart pounding and grateful, my coffee cold and my smile wide and crying like a baby." Start with: Praying Drunk

Stuart Dybek

Copyright Jon Randolph

Dybek writes about the immigrant experience in his modern classic The Coast of Chicago; he also writes, in crystalline prose, about Italy and about destinations found only in the heart and mind. The MacArthur genius fellow has two books out in June 2014, Paper Lantern: Love Stories and Ecstatic Cahoots: Fifty Short Stories. Here's a story in just two sentences, called "Inland Sea": Horizon, a clothesline strung between crabapples. A forgotten dress, that far away, bleached invisible by a succession of summer days until a thunderstorm drenches it blue again, as it is now, and despite the distance, a foam of rain drops at its hem sparkles, just before the wind lifts it into a wave that breaks against the man framed in a farmhouse doorway. Start with: The Coast of Chicago, then add his new titles to your summer reading list

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