4 of 7
By Paul Beatty
304 pages; Picador

Beatty's outrageous fourth novel, the winner of the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction, makes clear from its opening pages that it's not going to play nice with its themes of unity and diversity: Its narrator stands before the Supreme Court accused of "everything from desecration of the Homeland to conspiracy to upset the apple cart just when things were going so well." In the pages that follow, he unleashes an unsparing critique of American race relations. The black narrator's "crime," in fact, is repossessing a parcel of California land to reinstate slavery and segregation, and his absurd actions shed light on bigotry even while Beatty's prose makes you laugh with its sheer audacity. Last year, our reviewer called it "a work of a genius, a satirical opus on race in 21st-century America," and it's destined to be the funniest and most provocative work of fiction on the subject for years to come.