Finally, 2016 is coming to a close. Many of us are frightened of what 2017 may hold. What better intellectual life-raft to hold onto than a great book? Here are some of my recommendations for year-end gift giving—for friends, or for yourself!
1. “The Mothers,” Brit Bennett: Fiction. An extremely well-written and piercing look into a group of church “mothers” in California and their perspective on the intertwining and/or unraveling lives of young people in the community.
2. “Swing Time,” Zadie Smith: Fiction. Smith brings her brilliant writing to bear on a friendship between two girls in London and the ways their growing up tears them apart. Not such a great gift for an old friend, FYI.
3. “A Field Guide to Awkward Silences,” Alexandra Petri: Memoir. If you have read political satire that made you laugh out loud this past election cycle, chances are good that they were the whipsmart humor of Washington Post columnist Petri. She’ll make you laugh again with this one. Lord knows we could use it.
4. “How To Be A Person In The World: Ask Polly’s Guide Through The Paradoxes Of Modern Life,” Heather Havrilesky: Advice. If you desperately wish you had a crazy smart and caring friend who could answer all the problems in your millennial lifestyle, this book is for you. Or your cousin or niece or kid’s tutor who is actually a millennial.
5. “The Hating Game,” Sally Thorne: Fiction. This book is for when you are going to a beach (um, LUCKY YOU!) and lying back draining your pina colada with half an eye on your offspring building a sandcastle. A fun light read that is actually surprisingly sexy.
6. “The Underground Railroad,” Colson Whitehead: Fiction. This book will grab you by the throat and keep you there, gasping for breath. It is an impossibly well-written fiction based in the realities of slavery and the escape from it.
7. “Mamaleh Knows Best: What Jewish Mothers Do to Raise Successful, Creative, Empathetic, Independent Children,” Marjorie Ingall: Advice. This book rocks, as does its author. It is everything great about being a Jewish mother. No jokes here—only real approaches to real parenting.
8. “How to Party With an Infant,” Kaui Hart Hemmings: Fiction. Don’t let the title deter you. This book by the author of “The Descendants” (you remember, awesome movie with George Clooney) is written from the viewpoint of a single mother in the Bay Area who is trying to get through the battlegrounds of parenting by writing recipes that describe her parent friends and her parent life. I loved it.
9. “Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal,” Amy Krouse Rosenthal: Not Sure What It Is. Kind of a memoir, kind of the musings of someone else you wish was your best friend. Just fabulous.
10. “You’ll Grow Out Of It,” Jessi Klein: Memoir. Jessi Klein rounds out my trio of Three Women Writers In This List I Want To Drink With. Actually, let’s throw in Petri for four. So if anyone can hook us up for drinks, we’ll have a reading/signing/wine tasting on Kveller. (If they printed this, it must be true!)
11. “The Mandibles, 2029-2047,” Lionel Shriver: Fiction. This book will haunt your dreams. It is perfectly written, and the plot hits maybe a little too close to some of your nightmares. But it is a must-read.
12. “Lily and the Octopus,” Steven Rowley: Fiction. I was a doubter. I hate animals. I LOVED this book and ended up crying, tears down my face, as I sat in the carpool line. Mortifying.
13. “Sex Object,” Jessica Valenti: Memoir. Another one that will make you weep; these days, it should be mandatory reading.
14. “Underground Airlines,” Ben H. Winters: Fiction. What if slavery DIDN’T end in the US? This imaginary world is frighteningly real and gripping. Do not read back to back with either Whitehead or Shriver. Trust me.
15. “The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo,” Amy Schumer: Memoir. So at first, I thought, OK, this woman is funny. But this book does a slow reveal of her deep, thoughtful core and heart. Loved.
16. “Nutshell: A Novel,” Ian McEwan: Fiction. A mystery told from the vantage point of a fetus. Seriously.
17. “Moonglow,” Michael Chabon: Memoir/Fiction. Hard to say what is real and what is embellished in this tale of Chabon’s grandfather’s life. You will find that it doesn’t matter, as it is a beautiful, page-turning read told with love.