According to Goodreads, I read 65 books this year. According to me I finished 60 books and quite five for various reasons most of them having to do with boredom. After about 88 seconds of thought here are the books that would win awards this year if I were in charge of creating and awarding awards.
Most Surprising Book I Loved: Everyone Who Knows Me Category
Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney
I can’t even describe the skeleton plot of this one without wanting to roll my eyes and make barf faces — college-senior bisexual spoken word poet struggling with love, life, money, etc. Come on! And yet. And yet. And yet. It was one of the smartest, most-thoughtful and thought-provoking novels I read this year. I loved and loathed all the characters in equal measure and it ends so wonderfully that I kinda want to read it all over again.
Most Surprising Book I Loved: Me Category
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Frankly, I’m still kind of surprised I picked up this one to begin with. I really, really did not like Ng’s first novel Everything I Never Told You. In my ever so humble opinion it was over-written, over-rated dreck. Fires, however, is the goods. Artsy-fartsies fall into well-off, staid family and cause all kinds of delicious emotional mayhem. There’s a little bit of mystery, a lot of talk of art, and genuine characters who all feel real. Plus, unlike her first novel, people do things. It’s great!
Most Damning Reason Men Should Not Write Female POV
Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perotta
This is a hot, steaming pile of garbage written by a man who thinks he knows women, but writes female characters that feel like paperdolls enacting the way a man thinks women would act. It tried really hard to be ripped from the headlines and very on topic, but comes across as pointless trying too hard tripe. Really, you’d get more insight on human behavior and what it’s like to live in the now by taking 18 Buzzfeed Quizzes (and that’d be way more entertaining).
Most Memorable Lines (tie)
“I looked like a promise fulfilled.” From Lesley Nneka Arimah’s fan-fucking-tastic you should read it right right right now story collection What it Means When a Man Falls From the Sky
“His rib cage is a haunted house built around his heart.” From Sherman Alexie’s devastating memoir You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me.
Most Loved Book I Kept Forgetting About
The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti
I loved this one about a father with 12 bullet wounds and his teenage daughter. It felt like an old-timey western (said the person who has never read an old-timey western). It was smart and sweet and kept me engaged throughout. And yet. . . I kept forgetting how much I loved this one or that I even read it, but every time I’d stumble across the book cover of the title in my online adventures I’d stop, sigh, and say “God, I loved that book.”
Most Like a Memoir I’d Write If I Ever Wrote a Memoir
Hunger by Roxane Gay
This was probably the hardest book I read all year. Gay’s body is a lot like mine. Her’s is black and mine is a little taller, but for the most part we’re physically quite the similar. Though I come upon my fatness by nature & nurture and not as a self-defense against gang rape. And yet a lot of our experiences are eerily similar. I have so much I need to say about this book, but can’t quite find the intellectual way to it. Reading this book hurt. Just typing about it brings tears to my eyes. It made me feel less alone and at the same time makes me wonder what my life would have been like had I been fat and wealthy instead of fat and poor.
Most Disappointing: Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
Most Mind-Blowing: Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
Most Tear-Inducing: They Both Die at the End Adam Silvera
Most Reassuring: What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton