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21 Fiction Books By Female Authors For Your 2018 Reading List

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Hello Dear Readers, Kelsey here—Levo contributor and professional book lover (otherwise known as a Digital Marketing Manager for Touchstone at Simon & Schuster). One of the perks of my job is having a network of colleagues who can recommend books before they even hit the shelves. So for the new year, I sent out the call to all of my millennial sources at every major publishing house (along with some Levo members) and recruited nominations for the most anticipated books by women coming out over the next six months. 

This all-star list of must-reads is proof that the future is female. We're kicking things off with the best new fiction. (Check out our nonfiction picks here.) So sit back, relax and start smashing those pre-order buttons. 

1. The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin (Jan 9)

Every month independent booksellers (aka our nation’s heroes) nominate titles for what’s called the “Indie Next List”—their favorite books being published that month. They choose 20 titles each month, with one #1 pick as the crown jewel of the bunch. This January, The Immortalists is that crown jewel. The buzz for this novel, set in 1969 in NYC’s Lower East Side, has been going on so long you would think I’ve heard it all. But just last week I heard someone in publishing say it was her favorite book SHE’S EVER READ. PERIOD. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard someone in publishing say those words, so now I have to read it.

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2. This Could Hurt by Jillian Medoff (Jan 9)

I was already charmed by this cover—and then I read the description. “A razor-sharp and deeply felt novel that illuminates the pivotal role of work in our lives—a riveting fusion of The Nest, Up in the Air, and Then We Came to the End that captures the emotional complexities of five HR colleagues trying to balance ambition, hope, and fear as their small company is buffeted by economic forces that threaten to upend them.” Could anything be more Levo?

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3. Neon in Daylight by Hermoine Hoby (Jan 9)

Published by the fantastic independent press Catapult, Neon in Daylight is a “classic New York novel” (Stephanie Danler) that “channels the spirit of Joan Didion” (Alexandra Kleeman). And if those two quotes alone weren’t enough to sell you on it (they were for me), you better sit down for this one: "What do you get when a writer of extreme intelligence, insight, style and beauty chronicles the lives of self-absorbed hedonists?―The Great Gatsby, Bright Lights, Big City, and now Neon in Daylight. Hermione Hoby paints a garish world that drew me in and held me spellbound. She is a marvel." ―Ann Patchett

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4. Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan (Jan 23)

This suspenseful novel about a scandal among Britain's privileged elite has thus far only received starred reviews—dang. Here’s the story: Sophie’s husband James is a loving father and a charismatic public figure—and yet he stands accused of a terrible crime. Sophie is convinced he is innocent and desperate to protect her precious family from the lies that threaten to rip them apart. Kate is the relentlessly truth-seeking lawyer hired to prosecute the case—and she is certain James is guilty. Who is right about James? Sophie or Kate? AH I don’t know we gotta read it to find out!

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5. The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory (Jan 30)

If I had to choose one single person to get all reading recommendations from for the rest of my life, it would be Roxane Gay. Her Goodreads page is undoubtedly one of my most visited websites, and I’m not embarrassed at all. That said, this is all you need to know about The Wedding Date: “What a charming, warm, sexy gem of a novel. I couldn’t put The Wedding Date down. I love a good romance and this delivered from the first page to the last...One of the best books I’ve read in a while.” —Roxane Gay

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6. Self-Portrait with Boy by Rachel Lyon (Feb 6)

The premise of this debut is an immediate grabber: Lu Rile is a relentlessly focused young photographer struggling to make ends meet. One day, in the background of a self-portrait, Lu accidentally captures on film a boy falling past her window to his death. The photograph turns out to be startlingly gorgeous, the best work of art she’s ever made. It’s an image that could jumpstart her career, but would also devastate her most intimate friendship. Already gathering praise from Joyce Carol Oates, Amy Hempel, Robin Wasserman, Julie Buntin, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and others, Self-Portrait with a Boy is definitely on my TBR.

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7. Force of Nature by Jane Harper (Feb 6)

I heard such fantastic things about Jane Harper’s debut, The Dry, this year and before it even reached the top of my TBR she’s back with another already highly-acclaimed literary thriller! I sense Jane is going to be quite prolific… The description of Force of Nature is totally addictive: “When five colleagues are forced to go on a corporate retreat in the wilderness, they reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking down the muddy path. But one of the women doesn’t come out of the woods. And each of her companions tells a slightly different story about what happened.” How well do you really know your colleagues? Let’s find out, shall we...

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8. Look for Me by Lisa Gardner (Feb 6)

It’s pretty embarrassing to admit that I haven’t yet read one of Lisa Gardner’s highly-acclaimed thrillers—because people go absolutely nuts for them. Of Look for Me, Tess Gerritsen (another bestselling thriller writer) says, “A complex crime scene, a missing girl, a ticking clock: no one writes a more page-turning, gut-wrenching thriller.” I’m in.

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9. Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday (Feb 6)

In the tradition Lauren Groff, Jenny Offill, and Jennifer Egan, Asymmetry is a literary debut novel told in three distinct sections: First, “Folly” tells the coming-of-age story of Alice, a young American editor, and her relationship with the famous and much older writer Ezra Blazer. “Madness” is narrated by Amar, an Iraqi-American man who, on his way to visit his brother in Kurdistan, is detained by immigration officers and spends the last weekend of 2008 in a holding room in Heathrow. These two seemingly disparate stories interact and overlap in the third section, creating an original work that ultimately questions the nature of fiction itself.

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10. Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao (March 6)

A debut novel marketed for readers of Rupi Kaur? Okay, I Flatiron I see you… “Poornima and Savitha have three strikes against them. They are poor. They are driven. And they are girls. When Poornima was just a toddler, she was about to fall into a river. Her mother, beside herself, screamed at her father to grab her. But he hesitated: “I was standing there, and I was thinking…She’s just a girl. Let her go…That’s the thing with girls, isn’t it…You think, Push. That’s all it would take. Just one little push.”” Holy shit. After Poornima’s mother dies, life is predictably unkind to her. Then the independent, free-thinking Savitha enters the household and suddenly her village doesn’t seem so small. Girls Burn Brighter tells the story of these two young heroines driven apart by circumstance who never lose hope in their search to find one another again.

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11. Tangerine by Christine Mangan (March 27)

My friend at Ecco (the publisher of this highly anticipated debut novel) has been talking about this book nonstop for about six months at this point—and when you read it you’ll see why. Already optioned for film by George Clooney’s Smokehouse Picture with Scarlett Johansson to star, Tangerine is going to be *a thing.* And if being the first to know about #trendy #books doesn’t turn you on, this quote from Joyce Carol Oates surely will: “As if Donna Tartt, Gillian Flynn, and Patricia Highsmith had collaborated on a screenplay to be filmed by Hitchcock—suspenseful and atmospheric.”

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12. The Room on Rue Amélie by Kristin Harmel (March 27)

Historical fiction fans, perk up! For readers of Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale and Martha Hall Kelly’s Lilac Girls, The Room on Rue Amélie tells the story of an American woman, a British RAF pilot, and a young Jewish teenager whose lives intersect in occupied Paris during the tumultuous days of World War II. It’s already getting love from authors like Mary Alice Monroe, Mariah Stewart, Juliette Fay, and others, so you can be confident diving in.

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13. The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer (April 3)

Last week I went to a #publishing #party and there were a few ARCs (advance reading copies) of this book on the table. I spotted them across the room as soon as I walked in, did not greet a soul (let alone the extensive cheese tray), made a beeline to the table and put one into my purse. I have read almost all of Meg Wolitzer’s novels and her most recent, The Interestings, which came out in 2013, is one of my favorite books of all time. Now, so is The Female Persuasion. Just trust me on this one—pre-order it RIGHT NOW. 

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14. Heads of the Colored People: Stories by Nafissa Thompson-Spires (April 10)

When a publishing friend hand-delivers a galley to your desk and tells you to read it, you do it. This is one. A collection of moving, timely, and darkly comedic stories about black identity in this so-called “post-racial” (ha...ha ha) era, Heads of the Colored People announces a stunning new talent in literary fiction and explores essential contemporary themes of race, gun violence, and black culture through captivating stories told beautifully.

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15. The Husband Hour by Jamie Brenner (April 24)

You can tell from the cover that we’re entering summer reading territory and I am HERE for it! And a Jersey Shore setting? Sign me up immediately. “When a young widow's reclusive life in a charming beach town is interrupted by a surprise visitor, she is forced to reckon with dark secrets about her family, her late husband, and the past she tried to leave behind.” Lucky you, Jamie has three previous books you can check out while you wait: The Gin Lovers, The Wedding Sisters, and The Forever Summer.

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16. Welcome to Lagos by Chibundu Onuzo (May 1)

Ugh, indie presses have the best covers. Catch the eff up Big 5!!! Ahem...anyway. Welcome to Lagos is a debut set in modern-day Nigeria, as army officer Chike Ameobi becomes the leader of a new platoon—a band of runaways who share his desire for a different kind of life. An interesting cast of characters in an eclectic city make for a novel full of humor and heart that I, for one, am really looking forward to.

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17. The Map of Salt and Stars by Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar (May 1)

I’ve got the real inside scoop in this one (as it is another one of Touchstone’s) and can tell you that although the cover is not public yet it will absolutely knock your socks off. And that’s to say nothing of the writing… Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar is a Syrian-American debut novelist whose talent and heart overflows from these pages. In The Map of Salt and Stars, you will meet Nour, our sweet young narrator whose home in Syria is destroyed by a shell and is forced to flee with her family. She is the fully dimensional, captivating embodiment of the horror we’ve been witnessing on the news for years now, and her story will break you and put you back together again.

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18. The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll (May 15)

Jessica Knoll is back friends! And the description of this novel has me even more hooked than I was reading The Luckiest Girl Alive. “When five hyper-successful women agree to appear on a reality series set in New York City called Goal Diggers, the producers never expect the season will end in murder…The Favorite Sister explores the invisible barriers that prevent women from rising up the ranks in today’s America—and offers a scathing take on the oft-lionized bonds of sisterhood, and the relentless pressure to stay young, relevant, and salable.” Done. Sold. I’m in. Someone get me in ARC, please and thank you.

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19. The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner (May 1)

From the twice National Book Award-nominated author of Flamethrowers, The Mars Room is a novel set at Stanville Women’s Correctional Facility in California. It follows Romy Hall, a woman at the start of two consecutive life sentences coping with the contrast between her life with her young son in San Francisco and the horror of institutional living. I don’t know what she did yet but I’m jointly terrified and desperate to find out…

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20. Playing with Matches by Hannah Orenstein (June 26)

*Touchstone book disclaimer* A novel set in NYC about a young matchmaker for an elite dating service whose personal life starts crumbling just as she starts finding success for her clients—it’s summer reading catnip and I can personally assure you that the hilarious, upbeat writing lives up to the hook! That’s because it’s written by Hannah Orenstein, longtime Seventeen Features Editor, current Dating Editor at Elite Daily, budding media mogul, and Twitter must-follow (though you probably already do.) It’s a must-read for single ladies and the friends who swipe for them.

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21. Florida by Lauren Groff (June 5)

Already one of the most coveted ARCs of 2018, Florida is Lauren Groff’s follow-up publication to Barack Obama and my favorite novel of 2015, Fates and Furies. This is a story collection spanning characters, towns, decades, even centuries, but at its heart is Florida—the weirdest state in the country by any rational measure and a world of fascinating landscapes, climates, history, and state of mind. I can’t wait.

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*All of the books we love, we link to through our affiliate partnership with Amazon, so we get a share of the revenue from your purchase. Thanks, fellow book-lovers.

(Image by H.Armstrong/Getty)

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