Books I’m Excited About: ‘Harlem Shuffle’

Fall 2021’s a distant dream, but Uriel’s still looking forward to all the wonderful book’s we’ll be getting when we finally get there. In a year when so many standout authors are making a splash, there’s one title he’s most stoked for. Read on for more!

Colson Whitehead’s done it all. He’s penned historical novels, a zombie thriller, even a literary romp about elevator inspectors, (winning a few Pulitzer Prizes in the process) and this September he’s back at it again with something new—a heist novel! Set in 1960s Harlem! I haven’t had a chance to dive into this one just yet (or else I’d say more), but if you’ve read Whitehead, then you know he has a penchant for taking a literary form, turning it on its head, and making it all his own. Even in a year where Richard Powers, Sally Rooney, and Kazuo Ishiguro have new books out, this one certainly takes the cake as one of the more exciting titles coming at us very soon. Enjoy the cover art, then read an early write-up of what awaits you in Harlem Shuffle.


To his customers and neighbors on 125th street, Carney is an upstanding salesman of reasonably priced furniture, making a decent life for himself and his family. He and his wife Elizabeth are expecting their second child, and if her parents on Striver’s Row don’t approve of him or their cramped apartment across from the subway tracks, it’s still home.

Few people know he descends from a line of uptown hoods and crooks, and that his façade of normalcy has more than a few cracks in it. Cracks that are getting bigger all the time.

Cash is tight, especially with all those installment-plan sofas, so if his cousin Freddie occasionally drops off the odd ring or necklace, Ray doesn’t ask where it comes from. He knows a discreet jeweler downtown who doesn’t ask questions, either.

Then Freddie falls in with a crew who plan to rob the Hotel Theresa—the “Waldorf of Harlem”—and volunteers Ray’s services as the fence. The heist doesn’t go as planned; they rarely do. Now Ray has a new clientele, one made up of shady cops, vicious local gangsters, two-bit pornographers, and other assorted Harlem lowlifes.

Thus begins the internal tussle between Ray the striver and Ray the crook. As Ray navigates this double life, he begins to see who actually pulls the strings in Harlem. Can Ray avoid getting killed, save his cousin, and grab his share of the big score, all while maintaining his reputation as the go-to source for all your quality home furniture needs?

Harlem Shuffles ingenious story plays out in a beautifully recreated New York City of the early 1960s. It’s a family saga masquerading as a crime novel, a hilarious morality play, a social novel about race and power, and ultimately a love letter to Harlem.

But mostly, it’s a joy to read, another dazzling novel from the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning Colson Whitehead.

You can pre-order Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead from BookPeople today and listen to Bob & Earl’s “Harlem Shuffle” while you wait.

You can follow the #BooksImExcitedAbout tag on this blog to find more posts like this. And be sure to explore BookPeople’s “Books We’re Anticipating” lists for more of the titles booksellers can’t wait to get their hands on.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s