At the end of the first section of Native: Dispatches from an Israeli-Palestinian Life, Sayed Kashua recounts a telephone call he received from a stranger in 2007. As a Palestinian writer living in Jerusalem, Kashua had a platform that not many Palestinians in Israel are afforded: he had a weekly column in Haaretz, Israel’s oldest daily newspaper.
The man on the other end of the line inquired whether Kashua was being censored from writing about politics and current affairs concerning Arabs. Kashua replied that he had the freedom to write anything he pleased. Surprised, the man on the other end replied, “All you write about is how drunk you got, about your wife and all sorts of nonsense…Don’t we have other problems right now, other than your hangovers and your conversation with your wife?”
At this point in the book — about a quarter of the way into the collection — I was wondering the same thing.
With its eye-catching cover, Helen Ellis’s latest book had me at first sight: I am such a sucker for book covers, and this one was impossible for me to ignore. Add in the fact that I’m also a sucker for weird characters, short stories, and bizarre scenarios, and it becomes pretty clear that this book and I were meant to be. I wasn’t familiar with Ellis’s work before this, but I’d say her work is in the same vein as Aimee Bender and Ramona Ausubel’s…if one were to replace the magical realism with deadpan humor.
The twelve stories in the collection are all about women who are OVER. IT. in one way or another.
In “The Wainscoting War,” two neighbors battle it out via email over the decor of their shared hallway. It’s new money vs. old money, and the facade of tolerant politeness quickly gives way to all out war. Refined people throwing shade are present throughout the book, parceled out in thinly veiled insults and acerbic witticisms.
I listened to more audiobooks this year than any other year of my life, and I suspect the trend will continue. The first three titles below are my top three favorites of 2015; everything else is in alphabetical order.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, read by Rosamund Pike (1813)
Someone get Rosamund Pike an Audie (or all the Audies). I’ve long loved her velvety voice, and I think that’s what finally pushed me to “read” Pride and Prejudice after all these years; I pre-ordered this audiobook as soon as I saw she was the narrator. It’s a story Pike has a history with; she played Jane in the 2005 film adaptation. She does an amazing job with all the voices in this production; all of her characterizations are spot on.
The Martian by Andrew Weir, read by R. C. Bray (2013)
I don’t know if I would have loved The Martian as much as if I had read a print version of the book, but I’m head-over-heels in love with R. C. Bray’s narration. He does a great job of channeling Mark Watney’s smartass attitude, and he makes all the science jargon-filled sections fly by. When Watney says he’ll “science the shit” out of something and proceeds to describe how, Bray makes it all very entertaining.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, read by the author (2015)
I’m sure I would have loved this book anyway had I read it in print, but I think there was an added poignancy in listening to Coates speak to his son. I’m sure a narrator would have done a wonderful job with the book, but it felt more meaningful with Coates reading his own words; there’s a special wistfulness when he talks about France, and added gravity when he’s recounting some of his past traumas.
I read about half as much nonfiction as I did fiction in 2015, yet narrowing down this list was hard, much harder than the fiction list was; it could easily have been twice as long. The first three titles were my favorites of 2015; everything after the jump is listed in alphabetical order.
Asking for It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture and What We Can Do about It by Kate Harding
Analyzing things like rape myths, sports culture, and law enforcement’s mishandling of various high-profile rape cases, Kate Harding takes a hard look at different components of contemporary rape culture and what we can do about it. It’s an important book that couldn’t come at a better time.
Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor by Lynda Barry
Barry teaches a class called Writing the Unthinkable, and this book is mostly a collection of her syllabi, lesson plans, and student work. Never has a book sparked so many creative ideas in me. I would give anything to take this class with her!
The Tastemakers: Why We’re Crazy for Cupcakes but Fed Up with Fondue by David Sax
There’s a reason why cupcake shops started popping up all over the place and bacon is king. There’s a reason why words like “superfoods” are probably in your vocabulary. David Sax explains the rise and fall of various food trends, going behind the scenes to talk to the tastemakers themselves. It’s really interesting!
Erm, well this is awkward. I was supposed to post my fave nonfiction reads of 2015 today, but…I forgot to finish that post and I’m about to spend the next 6 hours driving to Austin. I’ll post that list tomorrow. In the meantime, chew on this! I’m bumping it up the schedule just for you!
So. I completed Book Riot’s Read Harder challenge in 2015, and, being a total nerd, figured out my list for 2016 within hours of the categories being posted. This year, feminism is on the list. YAY, right? But as I was figuring out my own list, I kept seeing how many of the books I was considering overlapped with the feminist category. And then I started seeing, via the Goodreads boards and hashtags, what other people were choosing. That’s all part of the fun.
But is it me, or is everyone stuck in a feminist rut? The main titles being bandied about are:
- We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (good book!)
- Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay (good book!)
- Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit (good book!)
- How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran (PLEASE GOD NO WHYYYYY)
That’s cool (Moran’s book notwithstanding). In the world of feminist publications, those do seem to be the heavy hitters of the past few years, and it’s great that people are seeking them out (Moran’s book notwithstanding). It’s just that there’s a huuuuuuuge world of feminist literature out there. So huge, in fact, that a feminist analysis can be applied to every single category.
Every. Single. Category.