Dear 2016, see ya later.
Like so many of us, I’m sort of ready for this year to be over. While in my personal and professional life I’ve met a number of invaluable people, and had more adventures than I can count, in general I think it’s fair to say that on a global level 2016 was a bit of a dud. As such, I find myself looking forward to 2017 with anxious trepidation… With all these feeeeeeelings it’s been a great year to escape into the beautiful, fantastical world of fiction.
2016 was a great year for books,therefore allow me to present my top five reads of the past year. I noticed a few patterns in my reading this year (apparently I’ve read A LOT of depressing literary fiction) so in an effort to be a little less insular, I’ve broken my list down into five of my go-to’s.
Hope you enjoy, and good luck out there.
Best Series: Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels
I am halfway through this four-part coming-of-age series which spans the life-long friendship of two intelligent and perceptive girls growing up in the Naples region of Italy. Although the premise may seem simple, this character-driven series is all about the complexities and nuances of both female friendship, and more generally of women’s lives. As such, it felt like one of the more fully developed explorations of a women’s experience I’ve ever read, with feminist themes throughout. Don’t let the awful cover art fool you: I can’t recommend this one enough and have already bought copies of My Brilliant Child for a few of my favorite women this Christmas.
*Still haven’t convinced you? Read this blog post about the author’s mysterious identity!
Best Short Story Collection: B.J. Novak’s One More Thing
If I were ever to decide to track down a celebrity and woo them with every ounce of wit and charm I posses, I’m pretty sure it would be for The Office’s B.J. Novak. While he didn’t do much for me as TV star, as an author? Oh boy.
He first came into the literary spotlight with the genius children’s story The Book With No Pictures , however with his latest collection of short stories Mr. Novak has proven himself capable of captivating audiences of all ages. In short, One More Thing is hilarious and charming. I listened to the audiobook, and found myself giggling like a lunatic on the seabus listening to a fictionalized John Grisham come to grips with a monumental typo, then later tearing up over the title story of a Willy Wonka-esque golden ticket draw which threatens to unravel a family. Although I am not normally a huge short story fan, this book captivated me.
Best Dystopic Why-Bother-With-Life Fiction: The Mandibles by Lionel Shriver
Word of advice: this is not an appropriate read when feeling down or financially pinched, during election time, or when travelling long distances on public transit. Set in the not-too-distant future, The Mandibles is the story of one upper middle class Brooklyn family as they struggle for survival following the crash of the US dollar in favor of an international currency called the Bancor. Shriver’s story is less fantastical and more of an examination of how delicate our economic system really is, and thus is not only plausible but illuminating. Like a modern day Grapes of Wrath, this book takes its readers down a seemingly endless hole of hopeless despair, and doesn’t offer a breath of air until ( thankfully unlike Grapes) the end. What I liked most about this book was how much I learned about economic theory. What I disliked? Well, it wasn’t the right choice of reading material during the US election…..
Best Quirky and Compelling: The Vegetarian by Han Kang
The Vegetarian is an experience. This three-part South Korean novella is about a “previously unremarkable” young woman who decides to quit eating meat after a violent, bloody dream; a decision that sets in motion a series of events which eventually tears apart her family and social circle. Reading this book reminded me of a more guttural Murakami, with imagery so startlingly visceral and bizarre that I wish there was an accompanying graphic novel. Many of my coworkers didn’t get into this one, but the fact that I’m still thinking about this book six months later tells me it deserves to be on this list.
Overall Favourite: The Course of Love by Alain de Botton
too much a lot of time thinking about the nature of relationships and the concept of romanticism. As such, this book hit me right in the gut by combining both a well-written story, and the theoretical examination of a marriage. I’ve already talked about this book so often both on this blog and to my friends that I’ll keep it short, and rather point you to this. Since first reading my library copy, I’ve purchased two copies to give out to friends, and have a few more to handout as Christmas presents.