So it’s that time of year when everyone is doing lists of best books, movies, etc. So I’m jumping on the bandwagon with respect to the best books of the year. This list is a mix of fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels, recently published, and not so recently published. Many of the books hit me at the right time of life. But I think that is true with the best books in our lives. In order counting down to number 1.
10. Mr. Penumbras’ 24 Hour Bookstore, Robin Sloan
This book is about a young man who takes a night job in a strange bookstore. Patrons come to the bookstore at strange hours and take special books from its shelves. He endeavors to unravel the mystery of the bookstore. Data visualization and data analysis is a huge delightful component of the book.
9. Ulysses, James Joyce
Yes, I had to put this on here. I pledged that I would finish this book after putting it down in college FOR NO GOOD REASON. I will admit that it’s not an easy read but it’s worth it if you like experimental language. Each chapter is written differently whether it is a chapter of questions and answers or a play. It follows Homer’s Odyssey in a way. It follows the day in the life of Leopold Bloom in Dublin and charts his progress through the city. At times, my heart stopped for the sheer brilliance of the work.
8. Saga, Brian K. Vaughan
This is another comic book series that takes place in a Star Wars-like universe. Two lovers come from opposing species who are at war. They bring a daughter in the world and try to find a place where they can live. However, they are beset by bounty hunters and governments that cannot abide by their forbidden love. You also get the perspectives of the bounty hunters and officials set to find them. The art is crisp, clean, and pitch perfect.
7. Unwritten, Mike Carey
This is a comic book series that is still being written. I say this because I didn’t know and it’s driving me mad that I have to wait for the next issue. It’s about the son of an author who has gone missing who ends up fighting a war in literature against a mysterious ancient society. It’s got magic, fabulous animals, and the greats of literature.
6. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi
This autobiographical graphic novel is about the life of the young girl living Iran in the years leading up to the Revolution and beyond. It goes over her trials living in the oppressive regime in Iran and her plights as an exile in Europe. The art is breath-taking and the story is riveting.
5. Daytripper, Gabriel Ba, Fabio Moon
It follows the life of a Brazilian man throughout his life. Each chapter is a pivotal point in his life and ends with his unexpected death. It asks the question: when does life really begin? A first kiss, first love, first child? It’s beautiful, heartbreaking and really was the most prefect thing to read at a monumental birthday in my life.
4. The Children of Days, Eduardo Galeano
This is the new book by famous Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano who has written a little story or snippet for every single day of the year. Some are historical, many are biographies of women lost to history; other stories are satire (the saddest day of all: McDonalds closed in Bolivia).
3. Relish, Lucy Knisley
This graphic novel is a series of nonfiction short stories about a woman, food and her memories. It hits the proverbial nail on the head about the relationship between food and memory like the chapter about the most perfect croissants in Venice. Some of the book deals with Chicago.Each chapter also ends with a little recipe too.
2. Wild Ones, Jon Mooallem
The only nonfiction book on the list, Wild Ones is a look at conservation in the US and how Americans have thought about animals. Recommended by 99% Invisible, it’s funny, sad, and full of amazing stories in our past. The author focuses on three animals: polar bears, a moth in California, and the whooping crane.
1. Where’d You Go Bernadette? Marla Stemple
This humorous book is about a young girl piecing together what happened to her missing mother. It involves Antarctica, architecture and uses shopping lists, emails, hospital bills and so much more to tell the story of this precocious tween and her mother.
Bonus: Blackout/All Clear, Connie Willis
So these are two extra additions to the list. They are basically one book, split in half. It’s about a future where time travel has been perfected so that historians can travel back in time to actually study the events that we historians now can only piece together from documents, buildings, and artwork. In these books, historians travel back to the London Blitz and find themselves stuck there. It’s a wonderful look at civilian life during the Blitz. And if you like it, there are two more books with this framework (though you don’t need to have read them to get this) called To Say Nothing of the Dog and the Doomsday Book.