I’ve had a bit of a slow reading year, but I still managed to find many treasures in the stacks. Some I read, others I listened to – through them I journeyed all over the world and went on a few adventures. Here’s a list of my favorites in no particular order:
The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai: The AIDS crisis in Chicago during the 80s, a difficult mother-daughter relationship, a job at a Northwestern art gallery – all of these elements spoke to me – I loved this book.
The Polish Boxer by Eduardo Halfon: After seeing his newest book, Mourning, on a few critic’s list, I decided to read this earlier one. Lyrical, contemplative, autobiographical fiction about displacement and identity.
Severance by Ling Ma: A satire set in a dystopian world where a virus turns people into zombies who continue to perform routine actions – it’s told through the eyes of millennial worker bee Candace Chen, who is strangely nonplussed by this epic plague.
A Terrible Country by Keith Gessen: Andrei is not doing too well in New York City so when his brother Dima enlists him to return to Russia to help care for his ailing grandmother, he jumps at the chance. A fascinating look at Russia and funny to boot!
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: I can’t believe it took me so long to read this – what a great book about Nigeria, immigration, race, love and expectations.
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee: Hands down, the best book I read this year. It’s the story of four generations of a Korean family in Japan. Beautifully written, insightful, detailed, matter of fact but loving, just great.
The Greenhouse by Audur Ava Olafsdottir and The Atom Station by Haldor Laxness: I travelled to Iceland in September, so I read The Greenhouse Before I left. Though it wasn’t really set in Iceland, it was a lovely book about a young man’s coming of age. In Iceland, I visited the house of Nobel prize winning author Haldor Laxness (do visit if you go there – so cool) and bought The Atom Station there. Laxness has an interesting style and I learned a lot about Iceland in the early 20th century, the government, the the social classes, and of course about drinking The Black Death (Brennevin – quite delicious)!
The Friend by Sigrid Nunez: Winner of the National Book Award, this is a meditation on writing, suicide, grief, and the pleasure of dogs, amongst others.
Belonging: a German Reckons with History and Home by Nora Krug: a wonderful autobiographical graphic novel about a German woman who digs into her past to discover more about her family’s role during the Nazi era and the silences afterwards. It’s packed with letters, photos and remembrances from her childhood.
BONUS BOOKS: November Road by Lou Berney and Sunburn by Laura Lippman are both really well-written crime/thrillers with great characters. There There by Tommy Orange is an eye-opening look at multiple Native Americans who converge at a powwow in Oakland. The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner takes you inside a woman’s prison and the circumstances that can bring you there. Oh and I forgot An American Marriage by Tayari Jones – such an amazing book about a marriage and an innocent man accused of a crime.
Wow – I came up with more than I originally thought – I guess it’s always a good year for reading!