The Barbarous Century by Leah Umansky


Refreshingly unafraid to explore significant mass-cultural touchpoints like TV’s Mad Men and Game of Thrones, The Barbarous Century is nonetheless an intensely literate collection; one built on a lexicon devoid of pretense or filler. Umansky’s poetry never forgets its debt to the world in which we live; likewise, it demonstrates the capability of a true artist to elevate our perceptions of that world.

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The Color Inside a Melon by John Domini


Sporting pre-publication blurbs from Booker-winners Marlon James and Salman Rushdie, John Domini returns with some of the most assured writing of his career. Set in Naples in the wake of an earthquake, The Color Inside a Melon is a brisk, literary mystery that marries art and the investigation of a murder with questions of immigration, race, and class. Domini is at the top of his game in what may be the surprise hit of the summer.

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Portrait of Sebastian Khan by Aatif Rashid


The portrait of Sebastian Khan that emerges in Rashid’s debut is a humorous, edgy early-twentysomething coming-of-age, a character who will recall, for some readers, Charles Highway of Martin Amis’s The Rachel Papers. Told in an accessible third person and, at times, cutting nearly to the point of drawing blood, this is a book you can’t help but like from its first page.

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If This is Paradise Why Are We Still Driving by Brendan Lorber


Formed with great cleverness and care, Lorber’s If This is Paradise Why Are We Still Driving presents a reality loaded with contradictions. Following Milan Kundera’s maxim that the writer’s role is to ask questions, not to answer them, Lorber’s keen sociological eye and still keener wit are on display throughout.


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A Dog Between Us by Duncan Barlow


A tale of the living and the dead—and the myriad paths connecting them—A Dog Between Us is a soulful yet highly visceral book, a testament to the sheer linguistic skill with which Barlow brings his fictional world to life. Readers anxious to experience a synthesis of meticulously written prose, pitch-perfect description, and true honesty will be following Duncan Barlow for years to come.

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All the Bayou Stories End with Drowned by Erica Wright


Wild, weird, and biting Erica Wright’s All the Bayou Stories End with Drowned is an absolute knock-your-glasses-off stunner of a poetry collection, possibly the best I’ve read in the last several years. The links between its lines and thoughts at times flirting with evanescence, the result is a trippy, jittery race through a world that may be dying…or already dead. Apocalyptic yet fanciful, this book is dark, but in just the right way, one that threatens to leave us smiling in amazement as the world falls down around us.

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KURT BAUMEISTER reviews books for The Nervous Breakdown. His writing has appeared in Salon, Electric Literature, Guernica, Entropy, Volume 1 Brooklyn, Rain Taxi, The Rumpus, The Weeklings, The Good Men Project, and others. His debut novel PAX AMERICANA was published in 2017 by Stalking Horse Press. Find him at www.kurtbaumeister.com.

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