It’s that time of year again! Gift wrap, eggnog, awkward family arguments over honey-baked hams. And most important: cookies! No just kidding—books! With another 12 months of publishing under our collective belts (which are currently loosened due to the aforementioned cookies) it’s time for the annual rundown of those books that made our hearts sing and our eyes tear up, books that made us laugh or sob or laugh while sobbing while also taking the train to work.
Per tradition, and ever-aided by an abundance of coffee and a few spreadsheets, I’ve combined 20 year-end book lists into one master file, which features the 10 must-reads of 2015 (i.e. any book that showed up on six or more lists). This year’s list includes some obvious ringers—I don’t think anyone will be surprised to find Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me near the top. But there are also some sleeper hits: Lucia Berlin’s A Manual for Cleaning Women, a compendium of short stories, showed up on seven lists, while Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer, set in 1970s Saigon, also appeared a half-dozen times. Then there are the ones I’ve actually read: Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life (I still can’t even find the words to express how much I loved this novel) appeared on 11 lists, and Jonathan Franzen’s Purity and Paul Beatty’s The Sellout also had strong showings. Even Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant (which, ehhhhh) made the Top 10. Continue reading
Good times were had.
A mere six months into my 30s, I find myself already looking back on college with the same abstract nostalgia one might apply to say…fax machines. Like, wasn’t that so neat at the time? How you could totally put a sheet of paper with stuff on it into a machine and then a machine somewhere else would, moments later, spit out an identical sheet of paper with identical stuff on it? That was cool. Good times were had. Documents were faxed. But now is better: We have email now. Cell phones. AirDrop. Dropbox. The cloud. And if all else fails, the NSA.
I loved college; I made some of my best friends there. College was the last time one could wear pajama pants in public, or don costumes for spontaneously invented themed drinking nights, or go for second helpings of frozen yogurt at no additional charge. But I also enjoy being an adult, and I know—in whatever corner of my brain isn’t penetrated by models and actresses and the implications of every movie and television show ever—that being young is for the birds. Being young is like fax machines: Wasn’t it neat when you could say “I’m going to hit up three different parties tonight” and then you would actually do it? That was cool. Good times were had. But now is better: Now it’s happy hour and then a good night’s sleep. Continue reading
The Amazon reviews on Hanya Yanagihara’s The People in the Trees are a mixed bag, and fairly so: It’s a beautiful, fascinating and imaginative book—that can at times be highly unpleasant to read.
TPITT is, most immediately, an imagined memoir from doctor Norton Perina—the story is loosely based on IRL doctor D. Carleton Gajdusek—who in his 20’s stumbles upon a lost tribe on a remote Micronesian island. A portion of this tribe, who come to be known as “the dreamers,” suffer from a unique affliction that allows their bodies to stop aging while their minds continue to. Centuries old, while physically middle-aged and mentally childlike, the dreamers prove a career-making discovery for Perina, who goes on to become hugely famous and to adopt dozens of the tribe’s offspring. And yet Perina’s memoir is filtered through a second party, Ronald Kuboderia, a former lab assistant (the NYT review, perfectly, describes him as “Smithers to Perina’s Mr. Burns”) who we discover has asked Perina to write said memoir from prison, where Perina is serving time for pedophilia charges. Like I said: unpleasant. Continue reading