In August, out of nostalgia for a 2013 visit to Italy, I picked up My Brilliant Friend, the first of Italian novelist Elena Ferrante's "Neapolitan Novels" about a lifelong friendship between two exceptional girls determined to overcome the circumstances of their tough Naples neighborhood. By the time I'd devoured Book 2, The Story of a New Name, the third novel, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, had just been released in English. (All three are translated from Italian by Ann Goldstein.) In this book, the girls are grown and leading markedly different lives with families of their own. If you're looking for a cozy, soothing read, forget it: This sharp, perceptive chronicle of a fraught female friendship reads like a thriller. My only comfort in reluctantly turning the last page was learning that a fourth book will be published next fall.
— recommended by Hannah Bloch, digital reporter, Science Desk