Thursday, December 26, 2019

Best Books I Read in 2019

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Of the 85 books I read this year, these are the ones that made me sigh, seethe, weep, laugh, and think:
  1. Improvement, Joan Silber, 2017. Like the interwoven strands of a Turkish rug, the characters and cross-cultural relationships are intertwined in this beautifully written, intricately rendered novel. 
  2. The Great Believers, Rebecca Makkai, 2018. A fictional recreation of the AIDS crisis in Chicago in the 1980s, this book is an affecting meditation on friendship, grief, loss, memory, death, and art. 
  3. A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara, 2015. This is a harrowing, infuriating, and disturbing novel that seems to say that everything is hopeless and life is meaningless and not worth living. 
  4. The People in the Trees, Hanya Yanagihara, 2013. Centered on a Nobel Prize winner convicted of sexual abuse of his adopted sons, the novel provides a critique of Western imperialism and scientific hubris while raising questions such as: Is morality culturally relative? Is suffering and the destruction of a whole culture, an entire society justifiable in the name of science? 
  5. The Only Story, Julian Barnes, 2018. Such a bleak, heartbreaking novel about the love between a young man and a woman old enough to be his mother. 
  6. Conversations With Friends, Sally Rooney, 2017. This is a novel I devoured in one sitting. 
  7. Normal People, Sally Rooney, 2018. On the surface, this book tells the story of two people connecting, falling in love, and struggling to make their relationship work, but is much, much more than that. 
  8. Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-delusion, Jia Tolentino, 2019. What I love about this collection if essays is the author's intense self-awareness. 
  9. The Chosen, Chaim Potom, 1967. This novel is about the friendship between two Jewish boys and the contrasts between two  aspects of Jewish faith: hasidic vs orthodox, tradition vs modernity.
  10. How to Survive a Plague: The Inside Story on How Citizens and Science Tamed AIDS, David France, 2016. This nonfiction book, a well-researched account of the AIDS crisis, focuses on the medical, political, and social struggle to fight the disease. 

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