Books on GIF #29 — The 6 Best Things I Read This Year


Books on GIF is a weekly review and discussion of random books told with the help of GIFs. We'll cover fiction, nonfiction and the occasional graphic novel.

No new review this week, as I'm about to go on a holiday hiatus until Jan. 7. But I wanted to leave you with some of the best books I read this year.

6) 'The Right Stuff' by Tom Wolfe
This is a classic by a legendary/notorious writer at the top of his game. Wolfe makes this story about young men brimming with derring-do come alive. The origin of the U.S. space program was as fraught as it is fascinating, and is all the more relevant now, given the recent passing of John Glenn, a major character in the book. From my review: "I thought this book was great. It's deeply reported, you connect with the men it follows, and it's well written."

5) 'Men Explain Things to Me' by Rebecca Solnit
This book is less literature and more of a call to action. The injustices discussed in this collection of essays — from mansplaining to sexual assault — were a wake-up call for me, and made me question my own actions and behaviors and want to be a better person. From my review: '[M]en, even the helpful ones, need to listen more (remember how important that is?) on ... issues affecting women, and Solnit's book is a good place to start.' Read this book, bros.

4) 'Our Spoons Came From Woolworths' by Barbara Comyns
I was pleasantly surprised at how good this book, put back into print by the New York Review of Books, was. As I wrote, it's a story about 'young love and disaster' — a harrowing tale of a young mother's struggles to keep a roof overhead and advance a career. From my review: 'I imagine women would be interested in this book, but I think it's important for men to read it, too. Particularly men who are confused about abortion and women's health issues and who might not be familiar with concepts like the "Second Shift."'

3) 'The Door' by Magda Szabo
I'm bending the rules a bit here because technically I read this book in 2015. But as I said in my review: '"The Door" is one of the best books I've read within the last year or so, and Emerence is one of the few literary characters that I have really connected to and empathized with.' The relationship between protagonists Emerence and Magda is rich and engaging. It's a complex story of tragedy, secret pain and friendship.

2) 'Behind the Beautiful Forevers' by Katherine Boo
All that needs to be said here is what I wrote in my review: 'This is an amazing book, and anyone who cares about the world and excellent journalism should read it immediately.'

1) The Neapolitan Novels, by Elena Ferrante
So much has been said about how amazing this series is, and I completely agree. This year, I reviewed 'My Brilliant Friend' and 'The Story of a New Name' (yes, these are two books, but since their stories are connected, I'm counting them as one). Both are extremely powerful books about the intertwined lives of two women in post-war Naples. From my review of 'The Story of a New Name': "Unlike other writers who rely on oh-so-clever gimmicks or fussy turns of phrase, Ferrante's narrative is tight and yet still breathes like a memoir."

What's next? As mentioned, I'll be taking a few weeks off during the holidays to recharge and get ahead on some reviews. You can expect 'The Blind Assassin' by Margaret Atwood, 'The Vegetarian' by Han Kang, 'White Teeth' by Zadie Smith and 'A Little Life' by Hanya Yanagihara when we resume.

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Thanks for reading* and for supporting Books on GIF in 2016. It means a lot.

See you guys in 2017!


* Thanks especially to Donna for copy editing this review!