This is a surprisingly easy list for me. I just scrolled through my year of blog posts and of the books I read that came out this year or at the end of last year (so, Moby Dick doesn’t count, Sweet Talk by Stephanie Vaughn or Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It by Maile Meloy don’t count…), there were five that I loved. Here they are:
1. We the Animals by Justin Torres. I literally wrote him a fan letter after reading this. It took him so long to respond that I was afraid he was really weirded out by it, but in the end, I think he probably just gets a lot of fan mail. As he should. The fact that the Pulitzer for fiction wasn’t awarded in a year that this book was eligible is a disgrace.
2. The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka. I just saw Julie Otsuka and Junot Diaz read at the 92nd St Y and, although I know much of the audience was there to see Junot, I hope that they all left Julie Otsuka fans. Her style is truly her own–incantatory yet raw, poetic yet economical. Another book that easily could have won the Pulitzer in my opinion.
3. This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz. He has achieved true rock star status–standing room only auditoriums, women shouting out “Anything for you!” at his readings, intense fawning and adulation lavished on him wherever he goes. None of this diminishes the fact that his book is absolutely fucking killer (man does he curse). The writing is so sharp, colloquial at the same time that it is intensely literary. You can take his work on the surface or ten levels deeper. So brutally real on the subject of its protagonist’s, and his brother’s, and their father’s mistreatment of women that it crosses over into feminism. Get Junot talking about it and you’ll know it’s true (seriously, read some of his interviews).
4. Dear Life by Alice Munro. Need I say more? An Alice Munro collection came out this year.
5. How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough. I just finished this book and wrote the blog post today, but I know I’ll be obsessed with it and the ideas it presented for a long, long time. If you know me, get ready to talk about them. A lot.
I know no one ever does this, but if you are so inclined, post your favorites below!