I read some pretty fantastic books this year. Below, in no particular order, are some of my favourites, in case you’re in the mood to discover a new read:
1. Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
One of the most inspiring books I’ve ever read, this chronicles Shonda Rhimes’ decision to spend a year saying “yes” to invitations and challenges she would have previously turned down due to fear. See my gushing commentary throughout the audiobook on Goodreads, and I highly recommend checking out the title for yourself. I highly recommend this to anyone, particularly women, who may want just that extra nudge to get out there and pursue your dreams.
2. Hag-seed by Margaret Atwood
Margaret Atwood is clearly having the time of her life with Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and I had just as much fun delving into her modern re-telling. This re-telling features a theatre director who seeks revenge twelve years after being fired from a thinly veiled Stratford Festival, a group of prisoners who swear using only Shakespearean insults and who adapt Shakespeare into gems such as the song and dance number “Evil Bro Antonio,” and a play within the play that I personally would love to see on-stage. See my full review.
3. Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer
A thought-provoking exploration on what it means to be Jewish in America, Here I Am is a monster of a book that takes a while to digest. The dissolution of a Jewish American man’s marriage, his eldest son’s decision not to have a Bar Mitzvah, and a geopolitical situation in the Middle East that calls for Jews from around the world to return to Israel, the multiple threads create a complex tangle that compels the reader to tease the strands apart. I’m not sure I completely understand what this book is about, I just know that I’m glad I read it.
4. The Translation of Love by Lynne Kutsukake
This is a beautifully told tale of post-World War II Japan, and the various women and men dealing with the aftermath. I was struck by the heartbreaking irony of Japanese people looking for hope from the American general, Douglas MacArthur, a figure instrumental in their country’s downfall in the first place. I was moved by the futile hope inherent in the love letters Japanese woman asked to be translated for American soldiers they know only as “Joe.” And I absolutely loved the fragility and strength of Kutsukake’s characters, who are, each in their own way trying to rebuild their lives in the aftermath of war.
5. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
A powerful and moving tale that re-imagines the underground railroad as a literal railroad taking escaped slaves to freedom, the story of Cora and Caesar’s escape is a harrowing read and a brilliant piece of writing.
6. Sarong Party Girls by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan
Told in Sing-lish, the story of Jazzy’s search for the perfect rich ang moh (Western expat) husband is much more cutting and emotionally devastating than the narrator’s breezy tone suggests.
7. The Lion in the Living Room by Abigail Tucker
A scientific and historical geekfest into the rise of the common house cat, this book fascinated this particular cat lady to no end. See the full review on my blog and some of my favourite passages highlighted on Goodreads.
8. Laughing All the Way to the Mosque by Zarqa Nawaz
This collection of cross-cultural anecdotes about growing up Muslim in Canada made me laugh throughout and wish that I’d watched the author’s hit TV show Little Mosque on the Prairie. See my longer review.
9. The Hundred Names of Darkness by Nilanjana Roy
I loved the first book in this duology The Wildlings, and enjoyed reading about the further adventures of Mara and the rest of her clan in the Nizamuddin neighbourhood in Delhi, India. Similar to the latter books in the Harry Potter series, Hundred Names deepens the mythology around these cats and takes these characters to a whole other level in their adventure. See my full review.
10. The Parcel by Anosh Irani
A complex, disturbing story of a hijra (neither male nor female, but a third gender) former prostitute in Bombay, India who must prepare a young girl (the “parcel” in the title) for life as a sex worker. Nothing in this story is simply good nor evil; morality is in shades of grey throughout, and the story’s power lies in its ability to make the reader sympathize with a character who is responsible for doing what is, objectively, a despicable act. See my full review.
11. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
I’m cheating with an 11th book, simply because this sprawling epic, set in Korea and Japan, about multiple generations of a Korean family, is a fantastic story to lose oneself in. My review will be posted closer to its release date in February 2017, but I highly recommend you add this title to your TBR pile.
Thanks to Penguin Random House Canada, Simon and Schuster Canada, Hachette Book Group Canada, and all the wonderful publishers who’ve sent me review copies this past year. Thanks as well to the Toronto Public Library, The FOLD Festival for Literary Diversity, and the International Festival of Authors for the non-review titles I discovered, enjoyed and added to this list.
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