“The almanac had a strange, soapy smell and made a cracking noise like fire as she turned the pages. She’d never been the first person to open a book.”
― Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad
The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood: This was one of those books that left me feeling incredibly icky and uncomfortable while reading because it was so immersive and so darn scary. Set in a dystopian society in which women have no rights to own property, read or even reproduce without state control, it was classic Margaret Atwood in every way. (#10 of 101 in 1001 #70...)
Bring Up The Bodies, Hilary Mantel: Told from the perspective of Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII's secretary and general show-runner, the sequel to Wolf Hall chronicles the fall of Anne Boleyn with stunning and evocative prose and incisive commentary on the nature of power and gender in the 1500s.
Still Star-Crossed, Melinda Taub: A sequel of sorts to "Romeo and Juliet," set in Verona in the month immediately following their double suicide. This one kept me interested solely because I've never really gotten over R&J since reading it for the first time in sixth grade...plus, every chapter starts with a few lines that look like prose but are really in iambic pentameter, and that made me happy.
When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi: I can't believe it took me this long to read this smash hit of 2016. Kalanithi's impassioned, gorgeously-written saga of being a neurosurgeon dying of lung cancer with brain metastases was easily one of my top five of the year. The story, though heart-rending, is searingly honest and handles life, death, and everything in between with grace and humility. A true, honest-to-God must-read.
King's Fool, Margaret Campbell Barnes: Another Tudor novel, this time from the perspective of Will Somers, Henry VIII's official jester/fool. Written in the 1940s or 50s, the novel was a refreshing change of pace from the currently-trendy "sexy sex and lying lies in the Tudor court" thing.
The Traveler's Gift, Andy Andrews: A good, light reminder this season to stay focused on what's important...this novel tells the story of a man in despair and how a car crash/mysterious encounters with major historical personages teach him to live his life with grace and intention. A bit cheesy, but a warm-ish fuzzy-ish general feel-gooder.
You'll Never Blue Ball in This Town Again, Heather McDonald: Eh. It's by a writer on Chelsea Handler's show, and maybe that's why I didn't find this memoir of a 27-year-old virgin's sexcapades to be particularly funny. That said, it was a super-fast read, and for those of you with better-developed senses of humor than me, it'd probably be great...
The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead: This was an absolutely incredible book. Let me just say that. I only tolerated it because I read it at absolutely 100% the wrong time...wine country is not the setting for a brutal story of slavery and escape. Plus the iBooks download was missing SEVERAL pages and that irrationally bothered me. I highly recommend this - but only if you're in the mood for something seriously heavy.
Eligible, Curtis Sittenfeld: A modern re-telling of "Pride and Prejudice" set in Cincinnati. Jane is a yoga instructor, Liz writes for a magazine, Darcy is a neurosurgeon, and it's all very Millennial and magical and I love it so much. Super long, too - perfect for an hours-long plane ride!
The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P, Adelle Waldman: I love this because every time I read it it makes me feel a little less shitty about my love life. Nathaniel - Nate - is a self-centered prick of a thirtysomething in Brooklyn who just can't treat a girl right...but the story is so much more than that. About how two people who seem to have it all just can't seem to make it work, and there's something in that which resonates deeply with me.