I’m still reminiscing 2016. Puuhahahaha… uhm, anyhow. One of the things that totally made 2016 rock was READING! And here’s my personal recommendations to you!
So, here goes my top 10 books read in 2016, in alphabetical order by the Author’s first name.
N.P. by Banana Yoshimoto (Translated from Japanese by Ann Sherif)
I’m a sucker for melancholia, and moral ambiguity when it comes to literature. This book has them both, and yet, pulls off one of the most feel-good endings I’ve read this past year. Don’t ask me how. The story is about a dysfunctional family, the weird attachment of it’s members to one girl — our narrator, and vice versa. Great book!
The Vegetarian by Han Kang (Translated from Korean by Deborah Smith)
Creepy! And awesome! And the winner of last year’s Man Booker International prize. Need I say more? It is a story about a schizophrenic, anorexic girl, told by three different people — her husband, her brother in law, and finally, her sister. Three people tell her story from three very different perspectives, that show three very different sides to her. It’s a really, really smart book, and a haunting one on top of that!
The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara
Boy oh boy. Where do I even begin with this one?! This is one damn good book if you ask me! And the smartest one of the bunch. You see, our not so reliable narrator here is a Nobel prize winner. He has the temperament of one, and the brains. He tells the story so well, that he manages to even confuse his readers into looking at things from his skewed perspective, albeit for only a minute or two. But tell me now, how many narrators have done that to you, eh? Unreliable narrator, moral ambiguity, damn smart narrator, multilayered characters, an unusual plot and setting, and damn good writing. What else do you need?
Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami (Translated from Japanese by Philip Gabriel)
Love at first book? This is indeed the very first Haruki Murakami book for me, and I fell in love! It’s funny how Murakami spins reality with the elements of magic realism. It is more real than its magical elements, and his characters speak to my heart unlike any others. May be that is why I love his books so much. And this particular book is just especially great, you know! A damn wise talking cat (well, of course! It’s Murakami!), a villain who actually makes you feel bad for him, two main characters who are polar opposites to one another in every whichever way you look at it, and just some really amazing side characters who make you wish you were friends with them. A must read for lovers of all things weird.
White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi
What I like about Oyeyemi’s books are the way they are written. Her books seem much more character driven than by plot itself. But that’s totally fine with me. In fact, I think White is for Witching is one of her books that has the strongest plot! Which isn’t all that strong, but that’s irrelevant. I just love reading about the characters in her books. This book was no different, and by far, my favorite of the few I have read of Oyeyemi so far. It’s a story about a brother and a sister, and their slightly unusual relationship. It’s a story about a family trying to cope with life and all that’s in it, after a tragedy. It’s a story about an excessively possessive house. Yup, you read that right! Now, go read it!
A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro
It’s Ishiguro’s debut novel, and because of that, I think, it doesn’t get as much rep as some of his other books. But for me though, this was one heck of a book. I had no clue which direction it was headed until the very end of the book… like, until the very last few pages! And suddenly the story became something completely different. And Ishiguro did all of that with just one word! One single use of a pronoun, to be more specific. I love when authors do not belittle their readers, or think of them as stupid. Ishiguro doesn’t. And I love that!
The Face of Another by Kobo Abe (Translated from Japanese by E. Dale Saunders)
This one was one sad one. Like, really, really sad. The narrator was so pained, so frustrated, and so damn pitiful that I felt heart-broken myself! He is an intelligent and accomplished man, who has had an accident that left his face scarred for life. His attempts to find some form of normalcy takes him down a somewhat bizarre path, but all along, we, as readers, see how futile his attempts are. But how do you say that to the face of a man who has lost all hope? All you can really do is watch from the sidelines, and wish for things to not end too badly… one can always hope at least.
Out by Natsuo Kirino (Translated from Japanese by Stephen Snyder)
My first book by Natsuo Kirino, and I found it thoroughly enjoyable. The book focuses on four ladies who all have very different circumstances, but are connected by their late night job making bento boxes, until something a little more sinister makes their connection a bit stronger. And weirder. And in all of this, somehow, someone else gets tangled up, someone unexpected. Out is a really good thriller/mystery/crime novel with a really strong female protagonist, albeit a bit different. There is a deep psychological undertone to this book, that you may or may not like. As for me, I loved it!
Coin Locker Babies by Ryu Murakami (Translated from Japanese by Stephen Snyder)
This book! THIS BOOK! Was sooo goood! My very first Ryu Murakami book was In the Miso Soup, and I thought that was a-ok. And then after some time, I read an interview of the other Murakami, my favorite Haruki Murakami, on The Paris Review, and there he mentioned this book and how much he loved it. So I figured, well, if Haruki Murakami says he wished he could write a book like this, then I definitely have to check it out! And man, so glad I did. It was one heck of a book that one second made me laugh, next made me angry, then the next minute it made me disgusted, and then it made me sad, and then totally weirded me out, and repeat. But in a strange way, it was not overly done. It was just the right amount of emotional roller coaster that left me wanting for more.
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
I know, I know, I’m too late in the game, but hey, better late than never, eh? Two things I love when it comes to literary fiction. Unreliable narrator, and moral ambiguity. And as you may (or may not) know, Lolita has ’em both. Better books have been written with similar subject matter, but considering the time and place, I think Nabokov did a great job with Lolita!
Well, that’s that for 2016. I hope 2017 is just as awesome if not better in terms of literature! Wish me luck!
All book cover photos are courtesy of Goodreads.