Whether it’s Sylvia Plath’s economy of language in “The Bell Jar,” or Laura Lippman harnessing her background as a crime reporter to build a mystery, I have a weakness for fiction by people who aren’t (or weren’t always!) fiction writers. This week, Northwest readers shared my fixation, with two entries in this underrated category cracking the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association’s list of hardcover fiction bestsellers at local independent bookstores for the week ending Sunday, Oct. 13: Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “The Water Dancer” (No. 4) and Ben Lerner’s “The Topeka School” (No. 7).

Although it’s not quite fair to say Coates isn’t a fiction writer. Yes, he’s best known for nonfiction works mining issues of racial justice like 2015’s meditation on black manhood, “Between the World and Me,” and the more recent “We Were Eight Years in Power,” examining the rise of white supremacist power in the post-Reconstruction Era South and today’s political resurgence of hate speech and white nationalism.

But while Coates’ writings on society might be your reference point for him, they’re not the whole story. He’s also authored comic books for Marvel featuring Black Panther and Captain America, and in his latest book, “The Water Dancer,” Coates combines the two seemingly disparate areas of his career in a fictional foray into the supernatural and America’s history of racialized violence: The novel is a narrative of slavery, in language both lyrical and plain-spoken. (And if the collision of speculative fiction and racial justice surprises, consider that this practice stretches all the way back to the work of Octavia E. Butler, who lived in Lake Forest Park, and whose work you’re likely to find on Northwest bookshelves, too.)

While Coates is a public intellectual, Ben Lerner is a poet, his name on the bestseller list like a note from an old friend. When I was a creative-writing grad student in Chicago, Lerner was among a cadre of highly visible, niche-famous, youngish writers challenging the traditional confines of fiction, their names thrown around like those of actual celebrities over post-workshop beers and summer writing-conference dinners. I haven’t returned to many of the writers who took up residence in my brain during that time, but Lerner never left. His 2011 novel “Leaving the Atocha Station,” about an expat 20-something poet aimlessly wandering Madrid, encapsulates with precision and unexpected pathos the kind of ennui only possible when you’re young and smart and have too much time on your hands.

Lerner’s “The Topeka School” takes a different version of Lerner, and his relationship with his mother, Oprah-famous feminist psychologist Harriet Lerner, and the sexist, harassing phone calls she received for her work while Ben was a child. Harriet Lerner recently recounted her response to these calls to Molly Fischer of New York Magazine vertical The Cut, saying, “I would say ‘I’m really sorry, I can’t hear you, could you say that again and speak a little louder?’ So they would say it again, already uncomfortable, you know, you could tell and I would say very politely, ‘I’m so sorry, I am a bit hard of hearing, could you say that again with more volume?’ And at that point they would start to say it again and then hang up, because it then sounded so silly to their own ears.”

Lerner’s book examines this treatment of male anger through a quasi-fictional lens that also extends to his own adolescent fury, discharged through more appropriate channels: speech and debate and attempts at rap battles.

At first glance, it might seem that Lerner and Coates have little in common. But both are using the novel as a vehicle to discuss very real societal tensions and ideas of lineage and inheritance, and to challenge commonly held assumptions about what a novel is allowed to contain. It’s no surprise they’ve found a receptive audience in excessively cerebral, pleasantly bookish Seattle.

A previous version of this article misspelled Harriet Lerner’s name.

Hardcover fiction

1. The Dutch House, Ann Patchett

2. Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens

3. The Testaments, Margaret Atwood

4. The Water Dancer, Ta-Nehisi Coates

5. Ninth House, Leigh Bardugo

6. The Institute, Stephen King

7. The Topeka School, Ben Lerner

8. Imaginary Friend, Stephen Chbosky

9. The Giver of Stars, Jojo Moyes

10. Red at the Bone, Jacqueline Woodson

11. Circe, Madeline Miller

12. A Better Man, Louise Penny

13. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, Ocean Vuong

14. The Butterfly Girl, Rene Denfeld

15. Grand Union: Stories, Zadie Smith

Hardcover nonfiction

1. Blowout, Rachel Maddow

2. Talking to Strangers, Malcolm Gladwell

3. Educated, Tara Westover

4. Year of the Monkey, Patti Smith

5. The Book of Gutsy Women, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Chelsea Clinton

6. How To, Randall Munroe

7. Permanent Record, Edward Snowden

8. Know My Name: A Memoir, Chanel Miller

9. The Pioneers, David McCullough

10. The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck, Mark Manson

11. Three Women, Lisa Taddeo

12. How to Be an Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi

13. Movies (And Other Things), Shea Serrano, Arturo Torres (illustrator)

14. Erosion: Essays of Undoing, Terry Tempest Williams

15. On Fire, Naomi Klein

Paperback fiction

1. The Overstory, Richard Powers

2. There There, Tommy Orange

3. The Tattooist of Auschwitz, Heather Morris

4. The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood

5. A Gentleman in Moscow, Amor Towles

6. The Great Alone, Kristin Hannah

7. Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

8. The Witch Elm, Tana French

9. Nine Perfect Strangers, Liane Moriarty

10. Once Upon a River, Diane Setterfield

11. The Best American Short Stories 2019, Anthony Doerr, Heidi Pitlor (editors)

12. Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng

13. My Sister, the Serial Killer, Oyinkan Braithwaite

14. Celestial Bodies, Jokha Alharthi

15. The Winter Soldier, Daniel Mason

Paperback nonfiction

1. All That the Rain Promises and More, David Arora

2. Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer

3. So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo

4. Calypso, David Sedaris

5. Born a Crime, Trevor Noah

6. The Library Book, Susan Orlean

7. White Fragility, Robin DiAngelo

8. The Body Keeps the Score, Bessel van der Kolk

9. The Spy and the Traitor, Ben Macintyre

10. The Best American Food Writing 2019, Samin Nosrat, Sylvia Killingsworth (editors)

11. Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harar

12. On Tyranny, Timothy Snyder

13. The Soul of an Octopus, Sy Montgomery

14. The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz

15. How to Change Your Mind, Michael Pollan