1. The Mirror Thief by Martin Seay Why this novel has not been on loads of year-end lists is a mystery as engrossing as the story at its core, about pirating away the secrets of mirror-making in 16th-century Venice. Visits to late-’50s Venice, California, and 2003 Las Vegas compound the enigma.
2. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead Last we heard from Mr. Whitehead was two years ago in Noble Hustle, about his attempt to crash the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. This year he crashed best-seller lists with a novel about two slaves on the title path to freedom.
3. Love Wins by Debbie Cenziper and Jim Obergefell Here’s hoping we do not soon have a Supreme Court eager to overturn the Obergefell ruling, which struck down state laws banning gay marriage. A heartfelt, if slightly wonky, recounting of how the case was made and won.
4. The Nix by Nathan Hill This time-tripping tale more than overcomes its somewhat TV movie-like mix of oddball characters and situations in unraveling a web of complications in the life of an English professor.
5. Swing Timeby Zadie Smith Two girls from the novelist’s home neighborhood in Northwest London start as dancers before their lives move in different directions, leading back to their roots in Africa.