KTEP - El Paso, Texas

Gabino Iglesias

Hanya Yanagihara's To Paradise defies categorization.

At once a novel that reimagines the world three times and a collection of barely interconnected novels about different people in some of the same places, the book deals with themes like LGBTQ+ relationships in different times and contexts, racism, pandemics, loss, unrequited love, and family.

However, these things are all wrapped in 720 pages of small details, loose ends, and narratives within narratives that ultimately make the novel feel like a bit too much.

Wanda M. Morris' All Her Little Secrets is a carefully constructed thriller wrapped in a narrative about racism, gentrification, and being the only Black person in an all-white environment.

It's also a story about how we can move away from home and try to change who we are, but we're almost always unable to escape the past.

We often talk about how scary or unsettling horror fiction is, but rarely about how it can also be incredibly fun to read — and sometimes even heartwarming.

Celso Hurtado's The Ghost Tracks is a wonderfully entertaining YA horror novel that combines a real San Antonio legend with classic elements of YA narratives — like growing up and first love, violence, and crime — to tell a story of friendship that explores the possibility of the supernatural.

The National Rifle Association — once one of the most well-known and influential lobbying organizations in the country — is a wounded beast.

Gus Moreno's This Thing Between Us is the kind of horror novel that makes you uncomfortable in the best way possible. Some of the discomfort comes from the book's unrelenting creepiness; apparitions, a resurrected dog, mysterious rituals, a mouth full of shattered teeth. But some of it comes from the way Moreno explores grief and how it can be so strong it changes the way we interpret reality.

James Han Mattson's Reprieve is a novel about otherness, loneliness, racism, and identity wrapped in a gory tale about a full-contact escape room attraction. Mattson walks the line between pulpy horror and smart literary fiction here, and the result is a multilayered book that has enough going on to please fans of both genres ... or turn them off.

As soon as you crack open Catriona Ward's The Last House on Needless Street, you know something's very wrong. More than biting into a nice apple and finding a worm, this book is like unexpectedly stepping on the worm barefoot, only to find out the worm isn't a worm — and I mean that in the best way possible. Horror fiction can scare readers, make them anxious, or upset their stomachs, but the most powerful narratives in the genre manage to create an unshakable sense of unease, and that's exactly what this novel does.

Joy Harjo's Poet Warrior is a wonderful hybrid text that mixes memoir, poetry, songs, and dreams into something unique that opens a window into the most important events of Harjo's life and invites readers to reconnect with themselves — as well as with the land and the knowledge of their people.

Given the success of Mexican Gothic, which landed Silvia Moreno-Garcia in the New York Times bestsellers list and made her — finally — a household name, it'd be understandable to expect her to repeat that novel's formula; a wonderful mix of gothic horror, historical fiction, and nightmares.

There's a difference between authors who set out to write a novel and authors who set out to tell a story. I don't have the space to explain that difference here, but I know some of you nodded as soon as you read that. Maryse Condé is the type of author who sets out to tell a story — and writes superb novels in the process. Waiting for the Waters to Rise, her latest novel, is a perfect example.

Omar El Akkad's knows about the cultural, historical, and political forces that drive countless people to migrate illegally, but in What Strange Paradise, he leaves those things aside and focuses instead on telling the stories of the people at the core of the migrant crisis. This book is hard to read because it brings to the page the fear, suffering, language barriers, injustices, and risk of death that come with leaving home for some other hostile place, but it's also a pleasure to read, because hope and kindness light the story in unexpected ways.

Kristen Radtke's Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness defies categorization — and it does so in spectacular fashion.

At once a memoir, a personal essay about loneliness, an exploration of the science of solitude and its effects, and an invitation to come together in a world built to separate us, Seek You looks at isolation as a problem and investigates where it comes from, how it shapes us, and why we should battle against it.

The Demon Dog of Crime Fiction is back, and this time around it's more boocoo bad business, crooked cops, pervs, prowlers, and putzo politicians than ever, and that's saying a lot.

On Friday, Nov. 22, 1963, at 12:30 p.m. CST in Dallas, Texas, John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, was riding in the back of a car as his presidential motorcade wound its way through Dealey Plaza. A second later, a bullet entered his head and ended his life.

Lilly Dancyger's Negative Space is a double biography that tells Dancyger's story while simultaneously discovering her dead father's life.

At once an exploration of grief and a literary séance in which the author speaks to her father through art and interviews with his friends and exes, this book is also a coming-of-age narrative where grief and anger become a path that leads to destruction, addiction and, ultimately, redemption.

Comparing multilayered narratives to onions can be an effective way of communicating that they possess various levels and many elements that work together simultaneously.

However, I've always thought the onion comparison implies some kind of organic nature, a type of structure that grows naturally. In the case of Elissa Washuta's White Magic, a better comparison is to a hand-rolled cigar — because there was clearly a deliberate layering after a series of violent events and a lot of pressure involved in the process.

Reading Helen Oyeyemi's Peaces is like walking into a bizarre interstitial space between a surrealist narrative populated by mongooses and strange characters and the realm of classic Agatha Christie-esque mysteries that take place on trains to undisclosed locations. If that doesn't make much sense, you're beginning to get an idea of what this novel is like.

Gina Nutt's Night Rooms is a collection of biographical essays in which memories and movies — mostly horror ones — merge to create a narrative that explores identity, body image, fear, revenge, and angst.

Jumping between past and present with ease, Nutt slashes to the center of issues like motherhood and depression and ultimately emerges as the quintessential final girl of her own film.

Sarah Langan's Good Neighbors is one of the creepiest, most unnerving deconstructions of American suburbia I've ever read. Langan cuts to the heart of upper middle class lives like a skilled surgeon and exposes the rotten realities behind manicured lawns and perfect families, and the result is horrifically plausible.

There are violent ghosts, flying whales, and dead people with mouthfuls of saltwater hundreds of miles from the ocean in Sam J. Miller's The Blade Between, but it all makes sense. It all makes sense because the story takes place in Hudson, New York, a place built on the remains of slaughtered whales, where their unused parts were buried underground and the scraps were fed to animals later used to feed people. Hudson is full of angry spirits, but now a different monster is destroying it: gentrification.

Michael Eric Dyson's Long Time Coming is a timely, heartfelt book that uses history to slice our nation open and show how racism is a sickness that has shaped our culture and society in a variety of insidious ways.

Definitive is a word we must use carefully when talking about biographies because it implies a degree of finality that research and new information may prove wrong.

That said, Les and Tamara Payne's The Dead are Arising is, for now, the definitive biography of Malcolm X.

Brian Selfon's The Nightworkers is a dark slice of Brooklyn noir with a family drama at its core. Noir is frequently about people caught in bad situation,s and tends to focus on the actions they take to cope or to escape; Selfon has altered that equation and turned the focus inward to explore the psychological effects of stress and fear. Here, crime is often the result of circumstances that have nothing to do with evil.

I was 12- or 13-years-old when an uncle gave me a copy of Jostein Gaarder's Sophie's World. It was long and full of ideas that were new to me, so I spent the summer with my head in and out of that book.

It opened the door to philosophy, and I crossed the threshold because it was fun — it spoke to me. That love for philosophy lasted until I got to college. Nothing kills the love for philosophy faster than people who think they understand Foucault, Baudrillard, or Kierkegaard better than you — and then try to explain them.

If terrorists poisoned most of the water U.S. citizens consume, the event would take over the news cycle and it would be the only thing we'd talk about until the situation was fixed.

Well, the water is being poisoned — except it isn't coming from terrorists; it's being done by a variety of factories, companies, and processing plants.

So why are they not constantly on the news?