I can’t believe we are halfway through the year!!
Time to reflect on all the wonderful books I’ve read this year, and decide which ones have risen to the top. Most of the books are new releases from this year, with two from last year.
1 American War – Omar El Akkad
Dystopian literature has been wearing thin for me, so I went into American War hesitant. I was surprised by how emotional this book got me, probably because even though it’s fiction, it feels so real.
Everyone knows how rocky things are politically in America, and so how the second civil war came to be in the book seemed very real to me. What really punched me in the gut was the transformation of Sarat Chestnut, and how war just takes and takes and takes.
As an older millennial my knowledge of the Vietnam War is limited, only that it went badly for the USA. I had no clue what the war was about, why the Vietnamese people were even fighting, and that there was a refugee crisis.
Not only is The Best We Could Do a beautiful graphic novel, but it is both informative and personal. Bui illustrates the story of her parents’ lives in turbulent Vietnam, and her family’s escape to America. The graphic novel is also a great novel about the refugee experience, and is this day of age, that understanding is important.
I haven’t read many memoirs, as non-fiction is not my jam. I love Trevor Noah from The Daily Show and had high hopes for this book. The memoir not only met those expectations but exceeded them.
Noah painted a complete picture of the South Africa of his youth, and did a great job conveying how complex the racial landscape was in his home country.
4 Exit West – Mohsin Hamid
The emotional in Exit West just snuck up on me, and all of a sudden I was crying by the end. Very moving and timely. Also has a dash of the supernatural that I loved.
I secretly love horror movies, especially on the thriller end, so Final Girls was right up my alley. It’s been awhile since I read a book that made me upset that I had to go to bed!
This book wrecked me.
Angie Thomas did a magnificent job conveying a young black woman’s experience with institutional racism and injustice. The reader follows Starr Carter as she witnesses the murder of her friend by a police officer. The book slowly unfolds the horror of not only dealing with PTSD after such a tragic event, but all the racist bullsh*t that Starr has to deal with.
Homegoing is probably one of the best debuts I’ve read, definitely the most ambitious. An epic following two different family lines over two centuries that start with two half-sisters, fated never to meet, in Ghana.
I thought Gyasi covered a multitude of topics with an elegant hand, but the ending and how everything came together really showed the author to be a true talent. Can’t wait for more!
After The Vegetarian, I was very excited about Human Acts, which is about the Gwangju Massacre in 1980 South Korea. Along with the subject matter, I thought that it was interesting that the book was a singular story, yet the chapters were set up as a short story collection.
I love how Kang can get under my skin, and I thought she did a great job showing the lasting effects that this uprising had on the individuals involved.
9 Things We Lost in the Fire – Mariana Enriquez
I’ve read some dark books in my time, but this short story collection from Enriquez is probably one of most disturbing books I’ve ever read. I felt like I looked into the deep, dark conflicted soul of Argentina.
Things We Lost in the Fire is part of a new wave of Gothic tales that I hope takes off. Classic creepy ghost stories to disturbing body horror. Every major trigger warning you can think of is in this book.
The shock of it isn’t what makes this a top book of the year for me, it’s that through each story I could see the theme that Enriquez was trying to get across. A few decades prior, tens of thousands of people ‘disappeared’ (by the hand of the government), and that massacre has crept into the cracks of the culture.
I was genuinely surprised by We Are Okay, a soulful quiet story. A type of book that you just let wash over you, and this cold heart cried multiple times.
For some, this book is going to be too slow, but I thought the pace was perfect and that everything came forth at the right time. I really want to buy this book and reread in the near future.
Most disappointing reads so far….
***If I reviewed the book over the past few months, then I linked up the title.