With the start of the new year, Travel + Leisure looks ahead at the best books from 2016 that will inspire your wanderlust. These titles will carry you off to Bulgaria, Paris, and beyond.
The Happy Marriage by Tahar Ben Jelloun (Melville House)
Jelloun’s intimate novel is the story of a Moroccan couple, told from both the perspective of husband and wife. He is a painter, convinced that his marriage is the source of all his problems after an accident leaves him paralyzed. In depicting their struggle for the truth, the story poses stirring questions about equality within a marriage and in the world at large.
What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell, on sale January 19 (FSG)
Greenwell’s much-anticipated debut takes us to Bulgaria, where an American-English teacher pays to sleep with a seductive young hustler named Mitko. He can’t escape his ache and desire for Mitko. This is a powerful exploration of loneliness and longing, made exquisite by Greenwell’s poetic language.
The Winter Girl by Matt Marinovich, on sale January 19 (Doubleday)
Marinovch’s novel, set in wintertime in the Hamptons, is a sexy update of Hitchcock’s Rear Window. Scott and Elise are staying in the Hamptons to care for her aging father. Scott’s irrepressible curiosity about the vacant house next door leads to a dangerous and thrilling discovery.
The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee, on sale February 2 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Chee’s second novel takes us to the Paris Opera in the mid-nineteenth century, where world-renowned soprano Lilliet Berne is offered an opportunity most singers only dream of: to perform a libretto with an original role written just for her. But she’s shocked to realize that the opera is based on a part of her past she has tried to hide. To identify who betrayed her, she must retrace her rise to fame, uncovering the wide range of roles she held before fame: circus performer, courtesan, maid to an empress. It’s a lush, imaginative novel, one that you’ll hope never ends.
Dog Run Moon by Callan Wink, on sale February 9 (Dial Press)
Set in Wyoming and Montana, these stories are imaginative and often funny, shot through with myth, grit, and wonder. Each showcases Callan’s strong voice as a writer and his mastery of character. This debut collection from Wink, a fly-fishing guide living in Montana, is fresh and evocative and makes for compulsive reading.
Wreck and Order by Hannah Tennant-Moore, on sale February 9 (Hogarth)
Privileged, intelligent Elsie believes travel is the best education. After returning from a trip to Paris, she decides to leave a dead-end newspaper job and an abusive boyfriend to see more of the world. She heads to Sri Lanka, seeking new ways of living, answers to her inner questions, and hope.
Ways to Disappear by Idra Novey, on sale February 9 (Little, Brown)
Tender by Belinda McKeon, on sale February 16 (Lee Boudreaux Books)
A dreamy and absorbing story following two young college students who meet in Dublin, Ireland, McKeon’s novel is rife with psychological insights and truths large and small about the betrayals and passion between friends.
Blackass by A. Igoni Barrett, on sale March 1 (Graywolf)
This very funny, very fierce novel follows Furo Wariboko, a young Nigerian man who wakes up to find he’s turned into a white man overnight—all of him, except his … black ass. His new whiteness brings with it a host of surprising privileges and an unfamiliar reality. Barrett conveys life in contemporary Lagos with sharp social insight and a searing examination of the prejudices that rule the modern world.
Peacekeeping by Mischa Berlinski, on sale March 8 (FSG)
The peripatetic Berlinski, who’s most recently lived in Italy, West Africa, and Haiti, brought us 2007’s Fieldwork, a gripping thriller of a novel set in Thailand. His latest book is poised to be just as compelling. Peacekeeping is set in Haiti during the financial crisis of 2008 and is part political thriller, part a novel of place, part love story, and all parts brilliant.
The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota, on sale March 19 (Knopf)
This much-lauded book by British author Sahota makes its American debut this spring. It’s an engrossing story of three men and a woman who flee India for England, hoping for a fresh start. The book covers the first year of their new lives, where they learn immigration brings a host of challenges, and that it may not be possible to run away from the past.
The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan, on sale March 22 (Viking)
This book looks at the aftermath of a “small” terrorist attack in a Delhi marketplace, incorporating the pains and passions of victims, survivors, and perpetrators. A novel of politics, empathy, family, and place.
Far and Away: Reporting from the Brink of Change, Seven Continents, Twenty-Five Years by Andrew Solomon, on sale April 19 (Scribner)
Journalist Solomon has made a career of observing the environments in countries undergoing enormous political, cultural, and spiritual upheavals. His accounts capture the hope, confusion, and challenges that come with social change. Here, his essays and pieces of journalism are compiled, recounting his experiences in post-Soviet Union Moscow in 1991 and Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban in 2002, as well as many other stories of places where society has been radically, irrevocably altered.
White Sands: Experiences from the Outside World by Geoff Dyer, on sale May 3 (Pantheon)
The essays in this collection follow Dyer as he explores places both far-off and nearby: Beijing, French Polynesia, New Mexico, Los Angeles. Dyer turns his eye to the places he observes and to the wider notion of travel, examining “what a certain place—a certain way of marking the landscape—means; what it’s trying to tell us; what we go to it for.”
Enchanted Islands by Allison Amend, on sale May 24 (Doubleday)
Inspired by the memoirs of Frances Conway, this is the dazzling fictionalized story of a woman’s move from Minnesota to the Galápagos Islands just before WWII. Fanny was working as a secretary for the Office of Naval Intelligence, where she met Ainslie, an intelligence officer, who’s sent to the Galápagos for work. Together they navigate the volcanoes, the flora, the fauna, and the war, and struggle to build a marriage and a home.
The Yoga of Max’s Discontent by Karan Bajaj, on sale May 3 (Riverhead)
After his mother’s death, Wall Street Analyst Max travels to India seeking answers about mortality and suffering. He hikes in the Himalayas, visits an ashram in a city stricken with drought, tries to meditate. It’s part adventure story, part journey for transcendence.
Barkskins by Annie Proulx, on sale June 14 (Scribner)
Ten years in the making, this novel is the perfect storm of Proulx’s outstanding imagination and brilliant research. The story spans centuries and follows the families of two woodsmen who cross the Atlantic from France to New France to work. In exchange for land, they must clear the forest. The men’s lives take off: one stays and marries an Indian healer, and the other starts a logging corporation and travels the world. Proulx explores the families’ quests for fortune, wellbeing, and revenge.
Chronicle of a Last Summer: A Novel of Egypt by Yasmine El Rashidi, on sale June 28 (Tim Duggan: Crown)
This novel follows one woman across decades, starting with her childhood in Cairo, at the start of Mubarak’s regime, and into college, where she becomes passionate about language and repression. We meet her later, too, as an adult after Mubarak is overthrown, where she is a writer retracing her past. A moving novel about a woman’s coming of age in a country that tried to silence her.