Feature

Kate Baer's 6 favorite risk-taking novels

The poet recommends works by Raven Leilani, Lauren Groff, and more

Kate Baer's latest best-selling poetry collection, I Hope This Finds You Well, consists of poems she created using messages she received from admirers and trolls. Below, the author of What Kind of Woman names six favorite novels that also take risks.

Luster by Raven Leilani (2020).

One minute you'll be chuckling, the next you'll be crawling out of your skin. In Edie — 23, Black, sleeping with a married older white man — Leilani creates a dynamic and complicated protagonist and zips from scene to scene without any warning of what's coming next. This novel does not beg for your love. Instead, its incredible prose grabs you by the shoulders and doesn't let go. Buy it here.

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff (2015).

I've reread this book so often that the cover is long gone. Its story of dueling perspectives on a marriage has it all, and each time I return to it, I am blown away by its unpredictability and chaos and left breathless by Groff's ambition. A master class in risk and reward. Buy it here.

The Power by Naomi Alderman (2016).

The premise alone! Women become leaders and reset the world after discovering an electrifying latent power within themselves. Alderman's imagination runs wild in this provocative take on power and gender — a page-turning thriller to ponder for years to come. Buy it here.

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo (2019).

For 464 pages, Evaristo unravels 12 central characters in what might be the longest and most gorgeous poem ever written. Using an unconventional structure, she zeroes in on the intersections of identity and Black British experience while inviting writers and readers to reimagine modern storytelling. Buy it here.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender (2010).

Every sentence in this novel is so clear and lovely, it's as if Bender wrote it over and over until each word was perfect. And the plot! Not to spoil anything, but the brother of the young protagonist turns into a chair. The risks Bender takes with absurdity pay off in rich and tender prose. Buy it here.

The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd (2020).

Where to begin? It's the story of Ana, wife of Jesus. It's a bold and audacious take on one of the most recognized stories in history. It's also deeply healing for anyone who grew up entrenched in white, evangelical Christian culture. I will carry it with me for the rest of my life. Buy it here.

This article was first published in the latest issue of The Week magazine. If you want to read more like it, you can try six risk-free issues of the magazine here.

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