I’ve read 55 books this year; over 20 of them were released this year. Here are the 10 I loved the most. (Note: I’m going to have a more in depth post about my year of reading coming in early January.)
Here we go:
10. The First Bad Man by Miranda July
What it’s about: a vulnerable woman takes in her boss’s domineering 21-year-old daughter as a favor.
Why you should read it: It’s different than anything you’ve read. It’s very straightforward, but there are so many layers to peel back that it will leave you thinking for days.
9. The Mare by Mary Gaitskill
What it’s about: an inner city girl heads to the country where she falls in love with horses and learns about life
Why you should read it: It’s a typical coming of age story mixed with a mid-life crisis. It’s strongly written and Gaitskill does her best to mimic a Dominican girl from the Bronx’s voice.
8. Girl at War by Sarah Novic
What it’s about: a girl’s experiences in war-torn Croatia in the 1990s and her life in America in the 2000s.
Why you should read it: It blends a war story with a love story so eloquently that you don’t think that is what it is about. The scenes in Croatia are raw and haunting; as are the scenes in NYC.
7. Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal
What it’s about: a young girl’s journey from a naive girl to one of the greatest chefs on the planet.
Why you should read it: Disjointed chapters following different characters tell the life story of a person. It’s unique, but not overly so. It’s simple, but beautifully written.
6. The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra
What it’s about: interconnected short stories about the Soviet Union and Russia through the years.
Why you should read it: There are a wide variety of stories that are exquisitely written. You’ll find yourself flipping back to different stories once something is revealed later. Unlike Kitchens, these are meant as stories and not chapters. Slightly different and with a greater effect.
5. Mislaid by Nell Zink
What it’s about: a white lesbian leaves her husband and raises her white daughter as a black girl in the south. You read that right.
Why you should read it: Absurdly funny and thought provoking. It deals heavily with identity, but not in a typical way.
4. The Turner House by Angela Flournoy
What it’s about: a family’s turmoil in the housing crisis of Detroit. Plus flashbacks to their patriarch in the 1940s first arriving to the city.
Why you should read it: Flournoy took an interesting topic and added such rich characters to it that it really brought the struggle to life.
3. Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
What it’s about: the fantastically successful marriage of two people, and the cracks that deepen through the years.
Why you should read it: Fantastical characters in the midst of a marriage with terrific plotting. It’s important to let the two stories fold out as rapidly and slowly as they do before making any decisions about these characters.
2. Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg
What it’s about: a tragedy the night before a wedding, but also what happens after and what happens prior.
Why you should read it: The structure adds a lot to this tragic story. Clegg offers such detailed memories from these lively characters that it nearly made me cry. This novel, in a word, was heartbreaking.
1. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
What it’s about: four friends navigate their lives in NYC, while one keeps his dark past hidden from his comrades, but not to readers.
Why you should read it: It’s long and epic every step of the way. There’s mystery rolled into a familial saga of close friends. I never read something that left me winded. I didn’t know where we were going half of the time, but loved where we ended up.