2016: Books

The best books I read this year:

1.  John Williams- Stoner

Quiet perfection.  It seems this book has enjoyed a revival of sorts in recent years, and I’m sure it will continue to endure as a bona fide American classic.  

2. Donna Tartt- The Secret History

This book pulsed with dark, tense energy cover to cover.  It’s a great story with rich character development and a meticulously constructed plot to create an irresistible, intellectually satisfying page turner.

3. Karl Ove Knaussgard- My Struggle 2

Knaussgaard, in all of his unflinching navel gazing, can be an utterly consuming voice to spend so much time with.  I love the description of how he “breaks the sound barrier of the autobiographical novel”.  Sometimes that’s how it feels- bearing witness to a 15 page digression on his yearning for fulfillment and self actualization during the middle of an awkward dinner party, you can almost hear the sonic boom.  

4. Cormac McCarthy- The Road

After sitting on my shelf for years, this book was honestly better than I had hoped.  I’d be lying if I said I slept soundly the night I finished this one.  Can’t wait for my next McCarthy.

5.  Chuck Palahniuk- Rant

A truly bizarre, disorienting story that comes this close to not tripping over itself by the end.  I would often stare at this book wondering how the hell a person came up with this story, and what compelled them to share it with the world (though I later learned that’s pretty much the author’s MO).

6.  George Saunders- Pastoralia

There is something so wonderful in how subtly off these stories feel, yet the warmth and humanity of the characters shine through no matter how absurd their circumstances.

7. George Orwell- Down and Out in Paris and London

Despite the destitute poverty depicted here, this series of mostly humorous episodes delightfully recounted by Orwell seems aimed more to amuse than induce pity.  

8.  Jennifer Egan- Visit From Goon Squad

Emotionally resonant post-modern vignettes with the whole greater than the sum.

9. Jeff VanderMeer- Annihilation

An often maddening book that compensates for its utter lack of compelling characters and satisfying plot development by its sheer atmospherics.  

10.  Nick Hornby- High Fidelity

Hilarious, endearing story of an aimless 90’s guy and his doofus buddies navigating a series of romantic mishaps.  Feels like a precursor to the late 2000s mumblecore boom.   Classic guylit.

 

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