Best Books of the Year
December 2017

Time once again for holiday shopping! And “it is a truth universally acknowledged” that holiday shopping means shopping for books. Here, then, are some books to consider, all published within the past year. Well, OK, year and a half.

  • Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny. An uproarious novel (“Both heart-piercing and, crucially, very funny,” NYT) about the challenges of a good marriage, the delight and heartache of raising children, and the irresistible temptation to wonder about the path not taken.
  • The Golden House by Salman Rushdie. Crazy story of a mysterious Indian family who moves to New York City. “Each sentence seems to be composed with pixie dust, fairy dust, angel dust, fennel pollen and gris-gris powder, poached in single-udder butter, fried and refried, encrusted with gold as if it were a Gustav Klimt painting, and then dotted with rhinestones.” (NYT) Even better, see also…..
  • Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner? by Katrine Marçal. Excellent critique and debunking of all economics, from a feminist as well as many other perspectives. Very conversational, breezy, easy to read. Says what many of us have always suspected, but with better arguments and evidence.
  • Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Adrundhati Roy. Sprawling, labyrinthine, and lively, this novel is centered on two heroines: a transgender woman and a rebellious architect in love with a freedom fighter. The violence, killings, and strange relationships in the plot are leavened by Roy’s irony, satire, and humor. Even better, see also…..
  • Commonwealth by Ann Patchett. The lives of two “blended families.” Goes back and forth over five decades, shifts perspectives among family members. “Patchett gives us funny, flawed characters, and the rich reward of Commonwealthis seeing their lives unfold…” (Houston Chronicle). Even better, read Bel Canto, one of my all-time favorite books, the story of the relationship between the captors and the captives in a South American kidnapping.
  • Lab Girl by Hope Jahren. Half of the chapters are the memoir of a woman in geobiology and portrait of a longtime friendship, and the other half are fascinating chapters on leaves, soil, and seeds. “Alternately funny and moving, whether she’s writing about deciduous trees, her marriage, her lab partner or her childhood.” (Time Magazine)
  • Mary Astor’s Purple Diary written and illustrated by Edward Sorel. Short and charming biography of the 1940’s movie star Mary Astor and her many affairs and scandals. Includes over 60 illustrations by caricaturist and cartoonist Edward Sorel.
  • Legacy of Spies by John le Carré. A prequel of sorts for The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, recounting the tale of spies crossed and doubled-crossed. Great plot twists and moral sensibility.
  • Paradise Lodge by Nina Stibbe. A delightful story of growing up and of growing old, about a young teenager who takes a job in an old folks’ home full of eccentric characters.  The book is an “original blend of compassion and dark comedy.” (Irish Times)  Even better, see also….
  • The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney.  Debut novel about four adult siblings and the fate of the shared inheritance that has shaped their choices and their lives. “Humor and delightful irony abound in this lively first novel.” (New York Times Book Review)

Let me know some of your favorite new books from 2017 and I’ll share them in the January posting.