Sergio Y. by Alexandre Vidal Porto

Alex Ladd renders in aggressively plainspoken English Alexandre Vidal Porto's short but powerful novel about a renowned therapist from São Paulo named Armando. Despite the fact that Armando is so renowned, he failed to recognize that his patient, Sergio, was trans, and suffered from depression as a result of not knowing that. Armando discovered Sergio was trans only after he came across the news that a person named Sandra, who matched Sergio's description in all but name, died in a freak accident. While trying to learn more about Sandra, Armando hears that Sandra cited her therapist's treatment as the most important and beneficial intervention on her path to understanding herself and living a more fulfilled life. Armando's reflections on what it means for an expert to fail but in that failing still succeed are moving, and it's refreshing to see a representation of a trans character whose coming out was only one part of the many-faceted aspects of that character's life. RS

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan

In a style that manages to be both laconic and gripping, longtime New Yorker staff writer William Finnegan details the lifelong obsession that led him all over the world on a quest for great surfing. Whether or not you have the remotest interest in or experience of surfing, antisentimental prose that reveals the inner life through fastidious description of outward behavior is rare and edifying. Finnegan writes that to call surfing a sport is "wrong at every level." To him it's "a path," but he resists the florid, catchpenny spiritualism that usually attends the subject. His vigilance as a stylist (and, one gleans, as a person) against easy words that can cheapen the genuine awe the wave inspires in him, is contagious. His journey down the path is an austere one, made fascinating by his incredibly fine-grain memory about seemingly every swell he ever rode or didn't ride. SN

"The Sacred Androgen: The Transgender Debate" by Daniel Harris in The Antioch Review

Back in early May, Daniel Harris wrote this dreadful piece of transphobia, published in the winter 2016 issue of one of the oldest literary magazines in the country. He uses inflammatory rhetoric to demean trans activists for using inflammatory rhetoric and cites weak pop-culture references to call out trans women for basing their gender identity on pop-culture figures. It's poorly supported, vindictive, ignorant of any queer theory, evidence only of his bad experience in an AOL chat room, and wrong. Shortly after the piece was published, a petition went around calling for no more transphobia in the literary community. As of this writing, people are still adding their names. A petition isn't going to stop transphobia, but it might indicate to trans folks that they're not alone in trying to fight it. RS

Joe Gould's Teeth by Jill Lepore

Into this moment, when the discussion about accountability and privilege has never been louder, comes this slim book by one of the New Yorker's finest reporters aimed at interrogating two pieces that form the foundational of the magazine's reputation. Joseph Mitchell's two profiles of Greenwich Village proto-bohemian Joe Gould are, rightfully, still taught in journalism schools and are exemplary exponents of the profile form. What Jill Lepore discovers is that in addition to being a charlatan with fancy intellectual friends like E.E. Cummings, Ezra Pound, and John Dos Passos, Gould was clearly mentally ill, disturbingly obsessed with sex and race, and a stalker and harasser of a black woman named Augusta Savage. His obsession with her, blatantly abetted by the bona fides afforded him by the New Yorker's validation, drove her away from her work as a figure in the Harlem Renaissance and more or less into exile. All forms of romance are subject to historical revision. SN

Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness by William Styron

This 1990 book is often cited as the first articulation of depression as we now understand it: a serious psychological condition with crippling physical effects, and one that can lead to suicide. Later writers such as David Foster Wallace and Adam Haslett take up in their own work the exact imagery William Styron uses to describe the condition, and so carry on the important message of this book: Depression physically hurts. It's a shadow that's somehow more alive than the being who casts it. Having been dimly aware of the work's influence, I finally actually read it in the course of researching a story I was writing, and was only sorry I hadn't gotten to it sooner. RS