10 Controversial Contemporary Novels to Curl Up With

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If there was ever a need for an escape from reality, it is now.

Distracting yourself with a good book could be the perfect remedy. Here are ten recommendations, some have controversial subject matter while others have broadly varying reviews. So, put down the remote and curl up with one of these conspicuous contemporary novels. 

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American Dirt

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by Jeanine Cummins
Flatiron Books
January 21, 2020

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The less you know about this highly rated read, the better. American Dirt is unforgettable, authentic, and shocking.


Normal People

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by Sally Rooney
Hogarth Press
April 16, 2019

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Marianne and Connell go to high school together. The two characters could not be more different: Marianne is odd, a bit of a loner and comes from a wealthy family, while Connell is a poverty-stricken charismatic athlete. They are bound together because Connell’s mother cleans Marianne’s house. Familiar yet thought-provoking, Normal People deeply captures a moment in time.


All We Ever Wanted

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by Emily Giffin
Ballantine Books
June 26, 2018

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What do you get when you combine extreme privilege, teenagers, sexual assault, and race? Ding ding! A riveting, unputdownable read.


Such a Fun Age

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by Kiley Reid
G.P. Putnam’s Sons
December 31, 2019

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Fast-paced and compulsively entertaining, Such a Fun Age is a remarkable debut novel revolving around themes of race and privilege. One of those most anticipated books of 2020, this is one you don’t want to miss.


An American Marriage

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by Tayari Jones
Algonquin Books
February 6, 2018

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A stirring and unique story following Roy and Celestial, a newlywed couple. Settling into a routine and starting their lives together, their life is horrifyingly ripped apart when Roy is wrongfully sentenced to twelve years in prison. Following their letters to each other while Roy is incarcerated and Celestial’s career is booming, An American Marriage is an engrossing novel that you won’t be able to put down.


Anna K

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by Jenny Lee
Flatiron Books
March 3, 2020

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Geared toward young-adults and set among Manhattan’s super-elite, this modern day retelling of the Russian classic Anna Karenina hones in on racism, privilege, and, true to the title, love. Staying true to Tolstoy with themes of scandal and infidelity, Lee’s version is a bit more Gossip Girl with exorbitant wealth, expensive drugs, horrible parenting, and wild parties.


My Dark Vanessa

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by Kate Elizabeth Russell
William Morrow
March 10, 2020

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A highly anticipated debut novel that will perturb you to your core and keep you curious until the last page.


A Good Neighborhood

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by Therese Anne Fowler
St. Martin’s Press
March 10, 2020

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For fans of Little Fires Everywhere is a guaranteed book club worthy selection. Told from multiple viewpoints, A Good Neighborhood magnifies a modern day North Carolinian community. Fowler urges readers to question what it means to be a good neighbor while examining the influence of nurture v. nature.


The Girl with the Louding Voice

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by Abi Daré
Dutton Books
February 4, 2020

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A compelling debut novel about a young Nigerian woman who runs away from a life of servitude to follow her dreams and, against all odds, find her voice.


Little Fires Everywhere

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by Celeste Ng
Penguin Press
September 12, 2017

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Welcome to Shaker Heights, a planned community. The grass must be mowed before it reaches six inches tall. Houses are required be painted a certain color and shade. The roads are meticulously curvy so that no one drives too fast. While appearing perfect, turmoil and dysfunction lurk behind every door. When this utopian community is confronted with issues of race, poverty, privilege, custody battles, and abortion, will they reflect upon themselves and grow? No, that’s too easy. They will point fingers.6cropped-bvb-logo.png6

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