The most impactful ten books so far this year are not representative of my overall reading, which was filled with pacey mysteries/thrillers and “deep and meaningful” literary novels. The eclectic list below looks like a magpie’s bookshelf: four nonfiction books, four very different literary tales, and two genre offerings. You can’t go wrong with any of them.
The links below take you to my review.
Bedtime Story (10/10) by Chloe Hooper—a short memoir of illness, children, and literature/stories, told in a pacey yet lyrical style that is wondrous to read on every page. The most impressive book of the year so far. Moving and illuminating.
Journalist Frank Bruni’s “graceful and profound” memoir of eyesight loss, The Beauty of Dusk (9/10). Very different in style and approach to Chloe Hooper’s memoir, it also lingers long after reading.
Simon Mundey’s eyewitness-to-climate-crisis tour de force, Race for Tomorrow: Survival, Innovation and Profit on the Front Lines of the Climate Crisis 9(/10) will lift off any remaining scales on your eyes.
Frank Kennedy is unwinding the longest, most complex, most involving space opera saga in years, and fourth in the series, The Heartless Hinds (9/10), is my favorite so far. Of course, you’ll need to begin at Book 1, but treat yourself, why don’t you?
Forgive me if the roster of excellence so far this year tilts toward the serious, but the times are serious indeed. John Doerr’s Speed & Scale: A Global Action Plan for Solving Our Climate Crisis Now (9/10) is “a timely, brilliantly conceived and superbly written treat.” Has roughly the same ambit as Bill Gates’s similarly targeted book but is so much more germane.
The Books of Jacob (8/10) by Olga Tokarczuk is a thousand-page-plus “avalanche of a book” that requires readerly persistence that more than rewards.
Don Winslow’s City on Fire (8/10) is a bluntly written crime gang thriller, the first in a trilogy, that whooshes from start to end. If you’re looking for raw human plot, look no further.
A History of Dreams (8/10) by Jane Rawson is at once a deep, quirky literary novel that addresses today’s headlines and also a counterfactual modern historical novel. Very different to my normal reading but most memorable.
Lavie Tidhar’s Maror (8/10) reads like a feverish, violent James Ellroy thriller. Pell-mell yet profound, it looks at the hidden history of the modern state of Israel.
Fight Night (8/10) by Miriam Toews is an immersive, brilliantly written coming-of-age story involving three generations of females.