The Best Books of 2024 So Far

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What does it mean to really belong? What happens when we can no longer recognize where we came from? And what do we owe to the places that raised us? These questions and more drive the best books of the year so far, a crop of novels, memoirs, and essay collections that tackle love, loss, friendship, and more. From Lydia Millet’s exploration of our collapsing planet to Kaveh Akbar’s portrait of an orphaned son looking for answers about his family’s history, these narratives interrogate deep feelings about the world and how to find a place in it.

Here, the best books of the year so far. 

There's Always This Year, Hanif Abdurraqib

In Hanif Abdurraqib’s There’s Always Next Year: On Basketball and Ascension, the Ohio-native channels his musings on life through the sport and the state that have shaped him. Structured in quarters with timestamps and timeouts like a basketball game, the essay collection moves through reflections on his father’s jump shot, a dissection of the legend of LeBron James, and more. Abdurraqib, a poet, cultural critic, and National Book Award finalist, offers a complex rumination on home, belonging, and mortality. —Cady Lang

Buy Now: There's Always This Year on Bookshop | Amazon

Martyr!, Kaveh Akbar

The protagonist of poet Kaveh Akbar’s devastating debut novel is grappling with a death that shaped him from an early age. When he was just a baby, Cyrus Shams lost his mother to a plane crash over the Persian Gulf. He then moved from Tehran to the U.S. with his father, who worked in the Midwest as a farmer. Now a college graduate and freshly sober, Cyrus finds himself drawn to an exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum, where a painter with terminal cancer is spending her remaining days on display. Martyr! explores the connection between these two characters, culminating in a decades-long examination of addiction, art, and belonging. —Annabel Gutterman

Buy Now: Martyr! on Bookshop | Amazon

Beautyland, Marie-Helene Bertino

Much like a certain lord and savior, the heroine of Marie-Helene Bertino’s strange, engrossing third novel is at once fully human and entirely otherworldly. Born in 1970s Philadelphia and raised by a penniless single mother, Adina Giorno also happens to be a space alien who communicates via fax with extraterrestrial overlords who’ve sent her to report on earth’s society. Beautyland tells the bittersweet story of her similarly contradictory life, a regular existence punctuated by flashes of the extraordinary. Underlying these paradoxes is the poetic observation that there’s nothing more human than the experience of gazing out at a planet full of incomprehensible people who look just like you and deciding that you must be from outer space. —Judy Berman

Buy Now: Beautyland on Bookshop | Amazon

James, Percival Everett

In James, Percival Everett finds new insight in retelling Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from a different point of view—that of Jim, who is enslaved by one of Huck’s guardians. Everett follows the original’s episodic adventures on the Mississippi river, but sticks with Jim as he escapes the plantation to find his wife and child. In reimagining the story through Jim, the author adds to it, imparting depth through keen observation and sharp humor as he exploits the familiar tale to skewer American racism and social expectations. The reader gets the inside view of James in his full, varied self, and how he hides his erudition and humanity to play an amenable caricature for the white people around him. With Everett’s deft writing, this playful, pointed novel is a commanding and captivating read. —Merrill Fabry

Buy Now: James on Bookshop | Amazon

Anita de Monte Laughs Last, Xochitl Gonzalez

It’s 1985 when Anita de Monte—the new jewel of the art world—falls out of a window and dies after a fight with her husband, the minimalist sculptor Jack Martin. De Monte’s legacy is shrouded and forgotten by time until Raquel Toro, a third-year art history student at Brown University, rediscovers her story in 1998 and goes on her own journey of navigating class, race, and misogyny in creative spaces. Inspired by real-life Cuban-American artist Ana Mendieta’s untimely death and her relationship with artist Carl Andre, author Xochitl Gonzalez’s latest novel delivers a hilarious, vivid, and blistering account of how power manifests not only in art but also in history—and who ultimately gets the last word. —Rachel Sonis

Buy Now: Anita de Monte Laughs Last on Bookshop | Amazon

Coming Home, Brittney Griner

Even those who closely followed the news of American basketball star Brittney Griner’s unlawful detainment in Russia in 2022 will find new insights in her story. In Coming Home, a searing memoir co-written with Michelle Burford, Griner takes readers behind the scenes to trace her steps from the airport security screening that resulted in her arrest on drug charges, to her first days in jail and on trial, to her transfer to a remote prison, and finally to her release in a prisoner swap. Griner’s voice jumps off the page as she turns an international news story into an intimate, moving tale of perseverance. —Lucy Feldman

Read TIME's excerpt from Brittney Griner’s Coming Home

Buy Now: Coming Home on Bookshop | Amazon

Splinters, Leslie Jamison

In her bruising memoir, Leslie Jamison traces the cracks in her marriage, which fell apart shortly after she gave birth to her daughter. Splinters follows the author as she navigates the COVID-19 shutdown while unexpectedly raising a child as a single mother. She also chronicles the ennui of teaching through a computer screen—and dating through one, too—in frank prose, imbuing passages with startling honesty and lush turns of phrase. —Meg Zukin

Buy Now: Splinters on Bookshop | Amazon

Real Americans, Rachel Khong

Rachel Khong broke out in 2017 with her debut novel Goodbye, Vitamin, which told the story of a woman caring for a parent after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. In Real Americans, she builds on her interest in the family story, this time offering a multigenerational tale that traces the lives of a mother, a daughter, and a grandson from Cultural Revolution-era China to near-future San Francisco. Khong never lets her reader settle too comfortably in any one character’s narrative, gently calling for deeper curiosity and compassion for the people in our lives, who, she posits, we may never fully understand. —L.F.

Read TIME’s profile of Rachel Khong

Buy Now: Real Americans on Bookshop | Amazon

The Book of Love, Kelly Link

When The Book of Love begins, teenagers Laura, Daniel, and Mo have just been resurrected from the dead. Though it’s news to them, the trio mysteriously disappeared almost a year ago, and they now have the opportunity to return to their lives, which are inextricably changed. But the chance to reverse their bad fortune is tricky—and made even more complicated by their burgeoning supernatural capabilities. Bizarre in the best way, Pulitzer Prize finalist Kelly Link’s debut novel offers a dizzying narrative about grief, love, and possibility as the group attempts to adjust to their new normal. —A.G.

Buy Now: The Book of Love on Bookshop | Amazon

We Loved It All, Lydia Millet

Lydia Millet’s award-winning fiction is rooted in her deep admiration of nature—and she dissects that passion in her first memoir, We Loved It All. In her strikingly clear voice, Millet moves between moments in her own life and those of the nonhumans that surround us all. She’s as honest in her reflections on love, motherhood, and ambition as she is in capturing the terrifying realities of climate change. Her novel is a love letter to the earth and all who inhabit it, punctuated by sharp and lyrical prose. —A.G.

Buy Now: We Loved It All on Bookshop | Amazon

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Write to Lucy Feldman at, Annabel Gutterman at and Cady Lang at