I read so many wonderful books this year, including new-for-me authors like Cao Xue, Tan Twan Eng, and Vanessa Onwuemezi as well as old favorites like Italo Calvino (The Castle of Crossed Destinies). I read books that I enjoyed and others that showed me something new, and some that did both. This list includes those that did both, but I understand that other readers might find some of my entries hard to love.
The Book of Goose by Yiyun Li: Something about Li’s voice tends to grab me and not let go. This book has smart things to say about the harrowing intimacies of girls’ friendships and the absurdities of fame.
This Other Eden by Paul Harding: Harding writes gorgeous prose, including a boatload of muscular, one-syllable verbs: birl, shim, reeve. While some readers may not appreciate the perspective shift in the middle section nor the sense of glimpsing history down a long, dark tunnel, I loved it.
Time Shelter by Georgi Gospodinov: Except for one tedious scene featuring the re-enactment of a pivotal event in Bulgarian history, this novel is a delight, wry and tricky and rife with commentary on nostalgia, nationalism, and dementia.
Mild Vertigo by Mieko Kanai: Experimental fiction set in a suburban Japanese housewife’s seemingly small world. I was inspired.
The Vegetarian by Han Kang: I first read The White Book by Kang, which was lovely but didn’t prepare me for this berserk and brilliant novel about bodily autonomy.
The Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispector: Finally, my first Lispector novel. It won’t be the last. So much God.
Voyager by Nona Fernandez: A haunting memoir about astrology and the ghosts of Pinochet.
Once Upon a Time in the West by Jan Zwicky: So many passages of this essay collection are beautiful. I don’t like all of the essays, but I love the risks she takes.
Fashion at the Edge by Carolyn Evans: A serious, Benjaminian analysis of 90s high fashion, including many of the images that made me fall for clothes.
A Matter of Appearance by Emily Wells: A memoir about an autoimmune disease and a critical analysis of 19th-century images of female hysterics written by a former ballet dancer and model. I was initially pissed off that someone with similar interests and experiences had written a book I might have written until I realized that because Wells wrote it and wrote it so well, I didn’t have to.