I gave you a list of 15 of the years best books because to be honest, I read others that I didn’t love. Next year I’ll try to give you more but it gets tougher and tougher to give you a complete list equal to the albums/songs. Unless my boss is willing to pay me to just read books and review them for everyone. I doubt it though. But anyway, here are my favorites. Every single one of them worth reading. Immediately.
1) Running the Rift- Naomi Benaron
Naomi Benaron’s beautiful depiction of a Rwanda runner who literally is running for his life and his country. This novel had me entranced, in love and in awe of those who overcome every obstacle to be great. The novel of the year!
2) Beautiful Ruins- Jess Walter
Jess Walter’s beautiful novel of being lost in a world unlike your own. Amazingly takes place in 1960’s Italy (with some of the most famous actors in Hollywood as characters) as well as the present. I can visualize every word on every page. Beautifully done.
3) The Lifespan of a Fact- John D’Agata and Jim Fingal
I don’t read a lot of non-fiction and I say I want to every year. This I just could not put down. John D’Agata wrote a short story piece that was rejected due to factual inaccuracies. Jim Fingal was that fact checker. The piece was eventually accepted by ‘The Believer’ but after much chaos. The author/fact checker decided to put this book together and show us non-insiders what it takes to write and edit a piece of writing. I swear to you, if you are interested in words and books, pick it up. You won’t be able to put it down.
4) Hologram For the King- Dave Eggers
Aside from Philip Roth and William Faulkner, Dave Eggers is my favorite writer. So this synopsis may seem biased. Eggers just may have created his American classic. I recently told a friend that I would compare it to the likes of Fitzgerald in it’s true Americanism. Eggers has always brought the best out in his characters. Whether it’s in his non-fiction or his novels. He can write about that singular character, flawed and desperate and make us believe in him. You know who can do that? Great writers. Thanks Dave!
5) Flatscreen: A Novel- Adam Wilson
The first novel of what will surely be a voice of the future. Tragicomedy is at its best here. Loserdom, parents, lost souls.
6) What Happened to Sophie Wilder- Christopher R. Behar
Tin House is probably my favorite of the Indie publishers. This is Behar’s novel of Charlie Blakeman whose lost love, Sophie Wilder returns to his life. Great story about missing someone, growing old and of New York City.
7) This Is How You Lose Her- Junot Diaz
I honestly don’t know how Junot Diaz does it. How do you follow up one of the best novels of the decade (the Pulitzer Prize winning, ‘The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao’)? One way is to take characters from that book and include them in this short story collection. The other is to be one of the best writers alive. No, it’s not that easy.
8) The Fallback Plan- Leigh Stein
This novel came out in January of this year and after re-reading it after watching the TV show ‘Girls’, I realized what a great companion piece it would make. Leigh Stein depicts the “just out of college and I have no future plans as of yet” rantings of her lead character’s voice. And it works.
9) Telegraph Avenue- Michael Chabon
Another Pulitzer Prize winning author on this list. Chabon continues to write great american novels (yes, that expression is used often) whether it’s about Jewish comic book artists, college life in Pennsylvania or this one, Berkley, music and friends. Even his secondary characters are written with such depth that only the great writers can carry something like this off. Or successfully write a multi-page chapter strictly from the voice of a parrot. Yes, a parrot.
10) The Age of Miracles- Karen Thompson Walker
I’m just finishing this beautiful piece of writing by début novelist Walker. A beautiful story of Julia and her family and friends as they go through some weird changes in the world. There are a lot of the young novelists in the world that never seem to live up to their first novel. I don’t think I’ll be saying the same thing about Karen Thompson Walker.
11) Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures- Emma Straub
12) The novels of Donald Westlake
13) An Available Man- Hilma Wolitzer
14) What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank- Nathan Englander
15) You & Me- Padgett Powell