2016: A Year in Reading

year-in-reading

The Stars

First thing–guys, I read the whole Tournament of Books shortlist this year except for A Little Life because now is not the time. The two standouts I can’t stop recommending are The Tsar of Love and Techno and The SelloutThe Sellout is funnier and more important, but Tsar made me cry and was also a little funny.

After Tenth of December, I get why people are so over the moon about George Saunders (I am too).

Evicted will break your heart.

Madame Bovary was wonderful. One of the most perfect metaphors I’ve ever read was when Emma’s father looks back at the celebration he’s leaving, recounts his losses, and Flaubert writes: “He felt as sad as an empty house.” The Mothers stands out as an inheritor re: precision of language in metaphor–the figurative language in the book is not flowery, and it’s never too much. I loved all three of the major characters and am excited to read what Bennett writes next.

Swing Time was a delight–the type of book you read slowly, to savor. Smith defines sharp, flawed, and compelling characters, and she though she critiques them, it’s in a way that allows you to both know them and love them.

I wish I could take Lumberjanes back in time and read it at 14.

The Disappointments

The Nest had good pacing but was mostly about rich white people losing their money, but without the charm and humor of Arrested Development. D’Aprix-Sweeney clearly has a lot of talent and, after her book deal for The Nest, a giant financial cushion. I hope she uses both of those things to write something more daring and interesting.

Lots of books I read this year were about adolescent women and twenty-somethings who things mostly happen to, or who are concerned with their bodies. You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine, 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl, The Girls (to a lesser extent, but still had the happening to element). In 2016 I’m really ready to read stories about young women who are actors in their own lives–who want things and make real choices with actions and consequences.

With that aim, you’d think I’d love The Queen of The Night, but the foreshadowing was too aggressive and it didn’t seem to have any heart.

One of my most satisfying Facebook arguments was about J.D. Vance, who I’m increasingly convinced is a charlatan–Sarah Jones took down the book and called him the false prophet of blue America–I won’t repeat her work, but you should read it. Don’t read Hillbilly Elegy. Read Sarah Smarsh and Sarah Jones and Dorothy Allison.

& Others

Jon called Moonglow aggressively middlebrow, and, well, he’s not wrong. The footnotes were neither essential nor especially effective.

Today Will Be Different is fun and should be on your hold list, but it’s not as captivating as Where’d You Go Bernadette.

I hope Jess Walter doesn’t write any more books with struggling writers as major characters (Beautiful Ruins).

 

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