Slavery. Racism. Urbanism. Disease. While 2016 may not have been a banner year for liberal democracy in the world at large, it should definitely go down as a woke time in book publishing.
For dedicated bibliophiles, the low thrum of literary FOMO that bubbles up around May has by mid-December evolved into a full-fledged panic. Every week brings a new “best books of the year” list, each one littered with titles you haven’t even heard of, let alone read. Any nascent new-year confidence is supplanted by fears of intellectual inadequacy or—unthinkable in this age of success micro-steps and wellness lifehacks—unproductiveness.
Take a breath; I’ve got you covered. By combining 36 different qualitative “best books” lists by everyone from the New York Times to The Telegraph to a smattering of celebrities (full list of lists here), I’ve created the Ultimate Authoritative Unimpeachable Top 20 Books of 2016. Here they are:
It’s that time of year again! Gift wrap, eggnog, awkward family arguments over honey-baked hams. And most important: cookies! No just kidding—books! With another 12 months of publishing under our collective belts (which are currently loosened due to the aforementioned cookies) it’s time for the annual rundown of those books that made our hearts sing and our eyes tear up, books that made us laugh or sob or laugh while sobbing while also taking the train to work.
Per tradition, and ever-aided by an abundance of coffee and a few spreadsheets, I’ve combined 20 year-end book lists into one master file, which features the 10 must-reads of 2015 (i.e. any book that showed up on six or more lists). This year’s list includes some obvious ringers—I don’t think anyone will be surprised to find Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me near the top. But there are also some sleeper hits: Lucia Berlin’s A Manual for Cleaning Women, a compendium of short stories, showed up on seven lists, while Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer, set in 1970s Saigon, also appeared a half-dozen times. Then there are the ones I’ve actually read: Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life (I still can’t even find the words to express how much I loved this novel) appeared on 11 lists, and Jonathan Franzen’s Purity and Paul Beatty’s The Sellout also had strong showings. Even Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant (which, ehhhhh) made the Top 10.
It’s that time of year again, when you try to buy a cute little Christmas tree-like plant for your apartment—to be festive-like—and the cat knocks it over within like 0.3 seconds, so you spend the evening vacuuming up dirt and the bits of Christmas-tree-like-plant tendrils instead of basking in the feeling of accomplishment slash self-pity that comes with buying Christmas decorations probably only you yourself will see, but so you go out and buy a new mini Christmas tree plant anyway, decorate it, and Instagram it to feel better.
Also known as the holidays.
Cat lady moments notwithstanding, the end of the year brings with it a flurry of “Best of 2012” lists, designed to inform you of all the great writing produced over the last 12 months, and guilt trip you for not having read enough of it. How I’ve gotten through a book every week, and yet somehow managed to avoid reading even one of the NYT’s’ 100 Notable Books, is beyond me. In a related query, how could they have snubbed Sookie Stackhouse No. 12??