Critics disagreed sharply on the best work of fiction this year, but amid the plethora of best-book-of-the-year lists there were some clear, and surprising, winners.
Two of the biggest surprises were a posthumous short-story collection and a satirical novel about race relations, both of which came seemingly out of nowhere to earn top spots, lifting their profiles – and their sales.
“A Manual for Cleaning Women,” a bracing short-story collection by the late Lucia Berlin, was named on eight out of 21 lists reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Paul Beatty‘s “The Sellout,” a novel in which the black narrator tries to reinstate segregation and slavery, earned at least half a dozen mentions.
That put them both in the company of novels that so far this year had enjoyed much more buzz: Hanya Yanagihara’s “A Little Life” and Elena Ferrante’s “The Story of the Lost Child” (tied with 12 mentions); Lauren Groff’s “Fates and Furies” (nine) and Jonathan Franzen’s “Purity” (seven).