It’s tough to narrow down my yearly reads into favorites! Some novels are bursting with eloquence and artistry, but something about them just didn’t sit right with me emotionally. With other novels, I’m aware of some imperfections, but I just don’t care because the rest of the book was that good.
In any case, here are 8 books I read this year that most resonated with me:
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
A combination of three things I love: historical fiction, fantasy, and immigration stories! Set in late nineteenth-century New York, this novel ruminates on friendship, faith, and identity. Chava and Ahmed – the titular Golem and Jinni – are believable characters, with a romance I rooted for the whole time.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
A human-centered post-apocalyptic story. Lots of different story threads converging in different places, tied together with a sense of fateful retrospect. Much is made of the importance of finding meaning and beauty in daily life, the ways in which people navigate (and are shaped by) trauma, and the changes in relationships over years/decades. The ending definitely felt rushed, but I love the rest of the book so much that it still manages to find a place on my top 8.
The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber
When Peter, a minister, accepts an offer from an enigmatic corporation to evangelize to the natives of a newly colonized planet, he must leave behind his beloved wife. Themes include faith (and a lack thereof), the frailties of the body, the necessity of emotion/attachment, and the psychological workings of a long-distance marital relationship. The sentence of each chapter is its title, granting the narrative a pre-ordained sense of coming full circle. I had the nerdiest thrill at the author turning a bunch of Heart of Darkness references on their heads.
Perla by Carolina de Robertis
Magical realism based on Argentina’s desaparecidos: a privileged young woman named Perla begins to question her origins when a wet, naked man appears suddenly in her home.
Short Story Collections
Memory Wall by Anthony Doerr
Six stories revolving around memory, featuring characters old and young living all over the world. Anthony Doerr’s stories brim with sincerity and revel in the beauty of the world.
St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell
Beautiful prose. Intriguing vocabulary. Striking, surprising imagery. Most stories are set on the same imaginary island off the coast of Florida. Each touches on a relationship between children and the adults in their lives. Karen Russell has a real knack for finding the humanity in bizarre situations.
Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino
Each city is chronicled as if in a dream by Marco Polo to Kublai Khan: lands he has supposedly seen on his travels described in wild miniature ethnographies (and sometimes, obtuse Gnostic-sounding parables). Each is impossible, fantastical, irrational, paradoxical; hopeful or horrifying. They’re about the psyche of a city’s inhabitants, playing with the boundaries of self, language, perception, and/or reality.
Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
Ah, nostalgia for a time before I was born. Cannery Row describes a town as a bustling ecosystem of sympathies, longings, tacit alliances, petty slights, all of which run parallel to the ocean’s ecosystem.
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature created by The Broke and the Bookish, where bloggers share their top ten responses to a given theme.