1. The Ask, by Sam Lipsyte
[Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $25]
One of the greatest black-humorists alive, Lipsyte has gone unnoticed for far too long. With his third novel, about the painfully hilarious adventures of a failed painter in a dead-end job, he should finally get the acclaim he deserves.
2. Horns, by Joe Hill
[William Morrow, $26]
Hill may have once tried to escape the literary shadow of his famous father (cough—Stephen King), but in this twisted supernatural thriller, which opens with a young New Englander who wakes up to find horns growing out of his head, he mines his dad's territory without shame—and with great success.
3. The History of White People, by Nell Irvin Painter
[W.W. Norton & Co., $28]
A pop-academic study of "whiteness" as a cultural notion, this book from the biographer of Sojourner Truth charts the concept's evolution back to the days when Europeans were barbarians living in caves. Never preachy (and rarely dry), it will blow your racist uncle's mind if you can just persuade him to read it.
4. The House of Tomorrow, by Peter Bognanni
[Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam, $25]
In this winningly (as opposed to annoyingly) precocious debut novel, a teenager raised in a geodesic dome by an R. Buckminster Fuller-obsessed grandmother escapes from captivity, discovers the Misfits, and explores the mystical outside world of adolescent rebellion and crap punk rock.