Each year, I look back at the books I’ve read. Here are the five books I read for the first time this year that I most enjoyed (regardless of when they were originally published).
5. Slapstick, or Lonesome no More! (1976) – This is yet another example of what makes Vonnegut so great. “Slapstick” combines sarcasm, humor, an absurd plot, and a critique of society, and each aspect comes together just right. This is no where near his best work and yet it’s still leaps and bounds over most other books.
4. The Zahir (2005) – Combine autobiographical details of Coelho’s life (his mindset before following his dream, his life and mental state before and after writing The Alchemist) with a Romantic’s version of the movie, “The Vanishing” (the original French version, not the terrible U.S. remake) and you have ‘The Zahir.’ Coelho does a great job of writing to a spiritual mystery and providing the type of life-learning story that readers of the author have grown to enjoy. It says a lot about how much I love ‘The Alchemist’ that I give this book 5 stars and yet acknowledge it is no where as good as his best-seller, which I would rank as one of my favorite books of all time.
3. Norwegian Wood (1987) – This was very different from the other books of Murakami’s that I’ve read. Those had fantastic and surreal aspects. This, on the other hand, was very ‘ordinary’ in its story and characters. If that was how this book was described to me I wouldn’t have guessed that I would enjoy it as much as Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World or Dance Dance Dance but shockingly I enjoyed it even more than those. This was a great book, and I can see why it made the author popular.
2. Words from Myths (1969) – I really enjoyed Asimov’s charting of how Greek and Roman myths influence many of today’s words. The book was filled with names and ideas that have evolved over the centuries, many of which I had no idea about. Reading this is a great combination of learning about ancient myths, appreciating today’s language, and a little bit of Asimov’s recounting of epic tales.
01. Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt (2015) – I read this all the way back in February and knew even then that I wasn’t going to read a better book all year. Hedges starts with the premise that revolutions occur when the point between people’s expectations for their government and the actual reality of what they get instead reaches a tipping point. He then goes into detail on all of the areas where the U.S. is rapidly trending in the wrong direction. He concludes by going into detail on all of the ways governments that fear a revolt manage to maintain control. Those chapters in particular read like a nonfiction version of Jack London’s dystopian classic, The Iron Heel. There is nothing pleasurable about reading this book and yet I know I won’t read anything more worthwhile in a long time. Highest possible recommendation for anyone interested in real-life dystopians, sociology, and “the powers that be.”
Between the World and Me (2015) – This was my favorite book read in 2016 so I decided to read it again in 2017. If my list wasn’t only for books that I read for the first time, Coates’ letter to his son would have easily been in the top 2 again this year. It’s impossible to read this and not feel incredibly saddened by the injustices all around us. My highest possible recommendation to everyone.