The essence of “A Ladder to the Sky,” the new novel for adults from Irish author John Boyne, is an old proverb. Late in the novel, Maurice Swift, the amoral writer at the novel’s center, tells a much younger writer: “And you’ve heard the old proverb about ambition, haven’t you? … That it’s l…

The “Winters” in this new work from Tom Barbash are the members of the Winters family who live in the Dakota, the famous residence in the heart of New York City. “The Dakota Winters” is a novel populated by characters both fictional and actual, and it is a novel that is very much about the l…

First of all, there’s the cover art. Against a bright, red-orange background are Joe Biden at the wheel of a Dodge Charger, safety belt harnessing him in, while Barack Obama stands through the car’s sunroof with an absolute sense of urgency, pointing ahead while his tie flaps over his should…

There’s an intense, austere moment at the end of Elliot Ackerman’s “Dark at the Crossing,” a finalist for last year’s National Book Award. It occurs as two people journey to their “crossing” in the Middle East. We experience it through the eyes of someone peering through a seam in the tarpau…

In “A Spool of Blue Thread,” her splendid 2015 novel about a family and their house, Anne Tyler writes about the human inclination to set a home — both edifice and family — in order. The night before they move into their house, a husband tells his wife: “I’m just trying to pass muster.”

Christopher Buckley has treated readers to satirical looks at Washington politics in novels such as “Thank You for Smoking” and “No Way to Treat a First Lady.” Now he has delved into colonial history to produce “The Judge Hunter,” an eventful and often funny tale depicting the clash of compe…

The title of this shattering and original first book from Tommy Orange references a phrase found in a couple of places. Gertrude Stein said famously, and with a kind of “painful nostalgia” about her hometown of Oakland, Calif., “There is no there there.”

Stephen McCauley is still as incisive as he’s always been. From “The Object of My Affection” on, he has commented on our middle-class foibles with an acuity that in some hands might have become caustic, but in his remains affecting and compassionate.

Early in “The Opposite of Writing,” the introduction to this winning collection of occasional pieces, Michael Chabon recounts a conversation he had with an author “at a literary party the summer before my first novel was published.” That author tells Chabon the key to being a successful writ…

Richard Russo is one of our American treasures. His books come as close to the truths of modern living as any contemporary writer gets. His writing is vivid, graceful and wise. He quickly invites us in, making us as comfortable as he can, while he shows us the worst and the best of modern life.

Richard Flanagan’s “The Narrow Road to the Deep North” won the Man Booker Prize in 2014. This new novel, his first since that time, appeared in Australia last year and has just recently been published in this country.