Also of fraught friendships

Subtle Bodies; The Story of a New Name; At the Bottom of Everything; The Disaster Artist

Subtle Bodies

by Norman Rush (Knopf, $27)

Novelist Norman Rush breathes life into his fictional characters “better than just about any other contemporary writer,” said Rebecca Steinitz in The Boston Globe. The National Book Award winner has done so again with the central couple in his third novel, but the book’s plot is “as flimsy as the Big Chill–esque premise is hoary”: When a group of old school chums gather in 2003 to mourn a friend’s untimely death, they uncover secrets in the deceased’s past.

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The Story of a New Name

by Elena Ferrante (Europa, $18)

“Every so often you encounter an author so unusual it takes a while to make sense of her voice,” said Joseph Luzzi in The New York Times. Italian novelist Elena Ferrante turns out to be just such a writer, and her second book in a trilogy about a rivalrous pair of girlfriends from Naples brims with “intricate plotlines spun like fine thread.” Insights on class and gender abound, but it’s Ferrante’s “quiet, unhurried” tone that hooks the reader. “By the end she has you in tears.”

At the Bottom of Everything

by Ben Dolnick (Pantheon, $25)

The two young men at the center of this novel feel “recognizable, even if their unusual situation is not,” said Drew Toal in A decade after a car accident disrupts their friendship, an underemployed tutor is coaxed into helping his old pal overcome ongoing bouts with guilt by following him to India. Though the plot “goes a bit off the rails,” author Ben Dolnick “perfectly captures” the dynamics of a certain kind of male friendship—one that fades without ever dying.

The Disaster Artist

by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell (Simon & Schuster, $26)

The Disaster Artist is “not only the terrifically engaging tale of a bad Hollywood movie, it’s one of the most honest books about friendship I’ve read in years,” said Jim Ruland in the Los Angeles Times. Greg Sestero was once roommates with the director who created an inadvertent cult hit with 2003’s The Room. While Sestero never does sort out if his pal was just a con artist, you won’t fault him for having stayed loyal for too long.

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