I have read a lot of books this year (124 as of today), some of them amazing, some of them egregiously bad. These are my top five favorite novels I read this year.

vegetarian-coverOn its surface, The Vegetarian by Han Kang is a deeply disturbing story of a woman’s descent into madness. But don’t let the surface fool you. At its core, this novel is about the rules for femininity that confine Korean society. I highly recommend The Vegetarian by Han Kang. It’s astonishing (but tight!) prose and highly significant subject matter would make it the perfect book for readers of literary fiction and maybe even for book clubs that want to push the envelope and spark discussion. Read the rest of my review.

Full of tudownloadrmoil, love, loss, and pain, Lindsey Lee Johnson’s The Most Dangerous Place on Earth is a complex meditation on privilege and the crucible that is adolescence. Set in Mill Valley, California, at the real life Tamalpais High School, the story centers on a fledgling teacher, Molly Nicoll, as she discovers and comes to terms with the complex lives of her students and her role (or absence) in their evolution as people. Read the rest of my review here.

26114135All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood is a love story, but I wouldn’t call it a romance novel. It revolves around a girl named Wavonna Quinn, Wavy for short, and her love for Jesse Joe Kellen. The wrench in the works here is that Jesse Joe Kellen is more than ten years Wavy’s senior. Jessie Joe fell in love with Wavy when she was eight years old. But don’t worry (I certainly did). It doesn’t get lewd. Greenwood uses her powerful gift with words to give nuance to the narrative, making All the Ugly and Wonderful Things neither a tragedy nor a romance, but a portrayal of life’s hardness and softness that broke my heart and then tried to gather up the pieces. Read the rest of my review here.

underground-railroadIn Colson Whitehead‘s brilliant novel, The Underground Railroad, the “Railroad is no mere metaphor – engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven – but the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. Even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom” (copypasta from Goodreads description). This novel is seriously brilliant. After I read it, I thought: this thing has to win either the Pulitzer or the NBA this year. And guess what. Well call me psychic. IMO this book is required reading. Add it to your list for 2017.

Last but by no means least is Amor Towles‘s A Gentleman in Moscow. “A Gentleman in a-gentleman-in-moscowMoscow immerses us in another elegantly drawn era with the story of Count Alexander Rostov. When, in 1922, he is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the count is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him a doorway into a much larger world of emotional discovery” (Goodreads). This book brims with nostalgia and reminds us that the measure of a life is not its great achievements but by the living of day to day. It made my heart ache in such a good way. Definitely put it on your TBR if you haven’t already.

Tell me: what were your favorite reads of 2016?

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