2016 was a tough year, but I managed to read a lot of good books in the meantime. Here is part II of my annual book list, this time in the fiction category. Read my nonfiction picks here.
Note: this is a list of the best books that I read this year, not the best books published this year.
5. Loner, Teddy Wayne, 2016
David Federman is a freshman at Harvard and just trying to fit in with his classmates–at least, that’s what you think–until he becomes infatuated with a mysterious, upper-class girl. And then it gets creepy. Really creepy. Loner explores many big issues plaguing campuses today–hookup culture, social media–and in the process is a shocking, page-turning thriller.
4. Slade House, David Mitchell, 2015
Slade House reveals once again Mitchell’s mastery of genre as he spins a quick companion novel to his bigger, more perplexing, fantasy-satire The Bone Clocks. With five movements, this book is entertaining and showcases Mitchell’s capacity to channel different voices. The book’s main flaw is that the ending requires a reading of The Bone Clocks to fully understand. It’s not Cloud Atlas, but it is definitely up there in the Mitchell canon as a literary thriller like no other storyteller could tell.
3. Logicomix, Apostolos Doxiadis, Christos Papadimitriou, Alecos Papadatos, Annie Di Donna, 2009
What is Logicomix? That’s not an easy answer. Logicomix is a graphic novel / biography of the famous logician Bertrand Russell. That being said, it’s an unusual format for biography. What’s more unusual is that its principal author is Apostolos Doxiadis, the son of famous architect-planner Constantinos Doxiadis, who pioneered his own planning-geographical theory of Ekistics in the 1950s and 60s. Much like his father’s declarative power to unveil ‘universal truth,’ Apostolos Doxiadis casts himself as the grand narrator of Russell’s story. But this meta-narrative is self-aware and exciting, and Logicomix is a unique take on Russell’s life and work–like watching a Hollywood biopic. The graphic novel format works well to make Russell and his theories accessible to a popular audience, and is a fun, fast read. Not too mention that the husband-and-wife team of Papadatos and Di Donna give their illustrations playful energy. Logicomix expands the scope of what a graphic novel can be.
2. Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, Haruki Murakami, 1993
Murakami weaves together two parallel tales–one about a corporate cryptographer who gets involved in a job that proves to be more than meets the eye–and another about a man who enters a mysterious town and is assigned the task of being a ‘dreamreader,’ in the process becoming severed from his sentient shadow (kind of like how shadows work in Peter Pan). In the former, Murakami channels his best Raymond Chandler impression and plays with noir conventions, and in the latter, Murakami builds a dystopic parable. Did I mention there’s a subplot about unicorns? Truly a marvel of postmodern fiction.
1. House of Leaves, Mark Z. Danielewski, 2000
House of Leaves is the rare kind of book that is so many things at once. Ostensibly, it purports to be an academic critique of a documentary film about a man who discovers that his house is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. That book is discovered, edited and added to by a Los Angeles drifter. Simultaneously a parody of found-footage documentary horror films, academic writing, and unreliable narrators, House of Leaves explores the outer reaches of the definition of a novel using a variety of interesting typesetting formats. While twisted and dark, House of Leaves is layered and rewarding. Enter the house once, and it’s hard to find your way back.