8 More Great Books from 2016
Having been asked to write a list of some of my favorite books of the year, I initially compiled one consisting entirely of male authors. Today, I offer a second list of favorite titles, this time consisting of books written exclusively by female authors. All are highly recommended — for readers of either gender.
Pull Me Under by Kelly Luce
Luce’s first book, Three Scenarios in Which Hana Sasaki Grows a Tail, was an independent publishing sensation and earned her comparisons to Haruki Murakami. This, her first novel, shows a progression to even more fascinating and complicated work. It tells the story of a Japanese-American woman who returns to Japan after 20 years to confront her past, which includes the killing of a school bully in her youth.
Blackacre by Monica Youn
Youn is an experimental poet you should know. The Korean-American Princeton professor’s third collection explores the myriad of meaning behind the term “Blackacre,” a legal term coined in 1628 for a hypothetical tract of land, much in the same way John Doe is used for a person whose name is now known. The book is an exploration of various concepts of inheritance — from family, society, our bodies, our language — all in full dialogue with the poetic past.
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
This epic family saga and a powerful debut is about an unfamiliar country that is key to a subject that is all too familiar — slavery — but is reanimated by Gyasi’s masterful writing. It tells the story of two African sisters, separated during childhood and how dramatically their paths diverge over the course of several generations.
Seeing Red by Lina Meruane, translated by Megan McDowell
A devastating and moving novel by one of Chile’s literary stars describes what it’s like to suffer a stroke, go blind and become increasingly dependent on those you love as you navigate the labyrinthine American medical establishment. It’s a raw, often unsettling, depiction of the challenges a devastating ailment poses to physical love and the suffering that ensues.
Closer by Sarah Barmak
Why can’t women get what they want in bed? A Canadian journalist travels to “the orgasmic frontier of female sexuality,” where she undertakes a first-person approach to investigating “the orgasm gap” between women and men. Ever wonder what goes on at a five-hour orgasm workshop at a sex shop? Barmak tells all. But this is not merely a “how-to” — rather, it is an socio-anthropological exploration that challenges presumptions about what is normal or right.
A Bestiary by Lily Hoang
Lily Hoang's collection of autobiographical essays documents her abusive first marriage, the death of her sibling from a drug overdose, a worried love affair, and other deeply personal experiences through the lens of myth and fairy tales. It’s a fascinating literary hybrid of confessional memoir and confrontational tirade.
Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War by Mary Roach
What appears on the surface to be a lighthearted reportage about the military industrial complex (as Dwight Eisenhower called it) and its impact on the human body, is ultimately a smart, penetrating, and revealing examination of a topic that is often glamorized or glorified. While the physical and mental toll of war on soldiers is drastic, little of the deep long-term impact has been understood until now.
Magic and Loss by Virginia Heffernan
The subtitle of this book, “The Internet as Art”, looks at the manner in which the digital age has transformed the approach taken by creators and the relationship with consumers — from the way the iPod transformed how we listen to music to how the Kindle altered the definition of a “book.” A deft and relevant work of criticism, it is an essential book that connects our present day world of bit-and-bytes to the ancients.