2024 Notable Books List Announced: Year’s Best in Fiction, Nonfiction and Poetry

BALTIMORE: The Notable Books Council, first established in 1944, has announced the 2024 selections of the Notable Books List, an annual best-of-list comprised of twenty six titles written for adult readers and published in the US including fiction, nonfiction and poetry. The list was announced today during the Reference & User Services Book & Media Awards Ceremony.

The 2024 selections are:

Fiction

“Biography of X” by Catherine Lacey (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

An artist’s widow reckons with grief by seeking the truth about her late wife against the backdrop of a richly detailed alternate history.

“Chain-Gang All-Stars” by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah (Pantheon Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC)

Incisive allegory and brutal violence combine in a thought-provoking dystopia about the dehumanization of incarcerated people and the power of love.

“Dearborn” by Ghassan Zeineddine (Tin House)

Stories of heritage, family, and trauma interconnect within a Michigan Arab American community.

“Hangman” by Maya Binyam (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

A man embarks on a surreal journey to visit his ailing brother, returning to his home country after years abroad.

“In Memoriam” by Alice Winn (A Borzoi book published by Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House LLC)

A love story of two young British men who leave their boarding school for the trenches of World War I.

“North Woods” by Daniel Mason (Random House, an imprint and division of Penguin Random House LLC)

A New England forest endures the animal and human lives that first inhabit and later haunt it.

“Open Throat” by Henry Hoke (MCD, a division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

A mountain lion wrestles with the encroaching human world and the desire to both join and destroy it in a brief fever-dream of a novel.

“Same Bed Different Dreams” by Ed Park (Random House, an imprint and division of Penguin Random House LLC)

An audacious, experimental novel about the history of Korea, real and imagined.

“The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store” by James McBride (Riverhead Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC)

Black, Jewish, and European residents of Chicken Hill cleverly navigate the discriminatory and hypocritical social structure forced upon them by white Christian America in the mid-20th century.

“The Reformatory” by Tananarive Due (Saga Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc.)

An imprisoned twelve-year old boy is haunted during the Jim Crow era while his older sister grapples with racist bureaucracy to secure his release.

“Y/N” by Esther Yi (Astra House, a division of Astra Publishing House)

A surreal, slippery novel traces a woman’s obsession with a K-pop star as it spirals into questions of the self and identity.

Nonfiction

“A Fever in the Heartland: The Ku Klux Klan’s Plot to Take Over America, and the Woman Who Stopped Them” by Timothy Egan (Viking, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC)

A Midwestern demagogue rises to and falls from power in a gripping story with terrifying relevance.

“Dyscalculia: A Love Story of Epic Miscalculation” by Camonghne Felix (One World, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC)

 The demise of a relationship spurs a reckoning with trauma and a journey toward healing.

“How to Say Babylon: A Memoir” by Safiya Sinclar (37 Ink, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Inc.)

A poet finds her voice as she breaks free from the abuse and constraint of her Rastafarian father.

“King: A Life” by Jonathan Eig (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Newly revealed documents create an intimate portrait of the man and his ministry in the context of the Civil Rights movement.

“Master, Slave, Husband, Wife: An Epic Journey from Slavery to Freedom” by Ilyon Woo (Simon and Schuster)

Self-emancipation prevails against all odds when an enslaved couple uses perceived identity to claim power.

“Mott Street: A Chinese American Family’s Story of Exclusion and Homecoming” by Ava Chin (Penguin Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC)

Lost and erased stories from multiple generations find new life in this imaginative and epic recounting.

“Our Migrant Souls: A Meditation on Race and the Meanings and Myths of ‘Latino’” by Héctor Tobar (MCD, a division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

A reflective and complex examination of Latinidad and Latinx identity, history, experience, and culture in the United States.

“Poverty, by America” by Matthew Desmond (Crown, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC)

Meticulous research excavates the factors that perpetuate income inequality in the United States.

“The Exceptions: Nancy Hopkins, MIT, and the Fight for Women in Science” by Kate Zernike (Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc.)

A struggle for truly equal opportunity in elite academia illustrates the sometimes flagrant but often subtle contours of modern discrimination.

“The Great Displacement: Climate Change and the Next American Migration” by Jake Bittle (Simon & Schuster)

Escalating disasters and their far-reaching consequences are made personal through portraits of individuals and communities.

“The Talk” by Darrin Bell (Henry Holt and Company)

Microaggressions and outright prejudice mark the author’s path to adulthood in this memoir that artfully interweaves flashbacks, pop culture, and current politics.

“The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny, and Murder” by David Grann (Doubleday, a division of Penguin Random House LLC)

A ship flounders, placing the captain and his crew at odds in this riveting examination of human behavior in desperate circumstances.

Poetry

“Promises of Gold / Promesas de Oro” by José Olivarez (Henry Holt and Company)

A bilingual exploration of love’s varieties—romantic, familial, platonic, cultural, self, and societal—celebrates their contradictions and nuance.

“Side Notes from the Archivist” by Anastacia-Renee (Amistad, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers)

A vibrant, meditative preservation of Blackness and Black womanhood.

“Trace Evidence” by Charif Shanahan (Tin House)

Queer desire, death, and identity collide in this piercing collection.

The winners were selected by the Notable Books Council whose members include twelve expert readers’ advisory and collection development librarians. The Council considers titles based on stellar reviews published in standard library reviewing sources and other authoritative sources. Derived from this list is the longlist for the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction, ALA’s highest honor for books written for adults.

The Council includes Sara Duff, University of Central Florida, chair; Dr. Jo Phillips, Stark County (Ohio) Public Library, vice chair; Crystal Chen, Facing History & Ourselves; Paige Bentley-Flannery, Deschutes Public Library; Marianne Ramirez, Sayville Library; Katharine Phenix, Boulder Public Library; Kristen Allen-Vogel, Dayton Metro Library; Robyn Lupa, Jefferson County Public Library (CO); Rochelle Lundy, Stanford University; Dr. Valerie Freeman, South Piedmont AHEC; and Dr. Tricia Clarke, University of the District of Columbia.

The Reference and User Services Association (RUSA), a division of the American Library Association, represents librarians and library staff in the fields of reference, specialized reference, collection development, readers’ advisory and resource sharing. RUSA is the foremost organization of reference and information professionals who make the connections between people and the information sources, services, and collection materials they need. Learn more at www.rusaupdate.org.