The best books I’ve read this year:
Dandelion Wine, Ray Bradbury. First time I’ve read this an adult. It’s not quite cohesive as a novel, but wallops a double-dose of nostalgia: Bradbury’s for his childhood, and mine, for reconnecting with an old beloved book.
Brooklyn, by Colm Toibin. Love this simple, rich story of a young woman’s maturation-through-immigration. Caution: there is one section that will make you cry buckets of salty, sad tears.
Underworld by Don DeLillo. Epic monster of a story that seems to presuppose the horrors of the 2000s by looking at the less-but-still horrific 1950s through the 1990s.
True Grit by Charles Portis. A close relation has insisted for many years that I should read this Western. I refused until this year, when of course I had to admit that she was right. Funny, scary, and dare I say gritty story of vengeance, guns, horses, and a courageous but somewhat obnoxious teenage girl as protagonist.
When I Came West by Laurie Wagner Buyer. Memoir about a shy and naive woman who drops out of college to live with a Vietnam vet in Montana. He’s paranoid, controlling, and completely self-reliant. She’s eager to learn and finds her own capacity for surviving the harsh environment, inside the house and out.
If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This, stories by Robin Black AND Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower. These titles are powerful and spare and gripping, collections I will give to other people and return to for my own pleasure. Even if you’re one those people who say they don’t like short stories, I urge you to try these on for size.
Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro. Ishiguro is gifted and has complete control of his narratives. This dystopian novel about the ethics of cloning is a psychological and emotional minefield. It’s going to be a movie. It won’t make as much sense as a movie. Just read it.
The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch. This is one of the weirdest and most compelling novels I’ve read in years, with lots of twists, gorgeous narrative, and outlandish behavior on behalf of its arrogant, selfish narrator, Charles Arrowby. I couldn’t put it down. Fun fact: It was not reviewed in the New Yorker, even though several of her earlier novels were, with varying degrees of insults.