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.
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.
My year in fiction was at times more meh than I’d like to admit. I did read a lot of good books, but figuring out this list was a lot easier than it has been in years past. The first three titles on the list are my top three favorites, but honestly, A Bollywood Affair, The Martian, and Pride and Prejudice could just as easily have been in that third spot! Everything after the jump is in alphabetical order.
Sweetland by Michael Crummey (2015)
Sweetland is the clear standout this year. It’s the first book I read in 2015, and it’s one that I kept telling people about for a long time after. It’s about an old man on a remote island in Newfoundland who is set in his ways, the future be damned. It’s depressing as hell and to this day I still look at it on my shelf and want to die, but it wins 2015.
Cinder by Marissa Meyer (2012)
Cinder is a retelling of Cinderella that’s set in New Beijing after the fourth World War; Cinder is a teenage cyborg who doesn’t know a thing about her past. I saw the book in stores for years and kept meaning to read it but never did, and now I hate myself for depriving myself of the series for so long because it’s really good!
Night at the Fiestas: Stories by Kirsten Valdez Quade (2015)
This collection is Kirsten Valdez Quade’s literary debut, and it’s amazing. A lot of the stories are set in New Mexico and are infused with Catholic, Mexican-New Mexican culture. From my review: “[It’s] a lovely, haunting, sometimes violent book.” It’s one of those rare collections where all of the stories are strong.
Married off in a mass ceremony at the age of four, Mili Rathod has spent her life waiting for her husband’s return. The two haven’t seen each other since that day twenty years ago, and since then, Mili has lived with her grandmother in a rural Indian village, her future as a wife up in the air. It hasn’t been all bad, though. As a married woman, she’s been able to get away with a lot more than other young women her age; her grandmother even allowed her to attend school in the United States so that she would be a modern, educated wife upon her husband’s return.
Her husband Virat, however, has moved on. How could a marriage his grandfather arranged two decades ago — a marriage between two children, no less — even be legal? Besides, he’s now settled with a baby on the way. His brother, Samir, travels to Michigan to find Mili and get her to sign the papers to formally dissolve the marriage. He’s one of the hottest directors in Bollywood, and he’s used to getting his way. But when he finally encounters Mili, he can’t figure out if she’s extremely naive or an extremely calculating gold-digger who just wants his family’s land in India.
I listened to this book earlier this year in preparation for my summer journey across Central Asia. When I visit another country, I try to read at least one book by an author from that country because it adds to the overall experience once I’m over there. Rather than read Orhan Pamuk — who is arguably the most famous Turkish author at the international level — I ultimately selected one of his peers, O. Z. Livaneli, whose work I had never read before.
Bliss is the story of fifteen-year-old Meryem, a Muslim girl who lives a simple and quiet life in contemporary rural Turkey. Early in the book, her uncle, the sheikh, rapes her. Everyone in the village knows she was attacked, but rather than treat her like the victim of a crime, she is condemned to death by her own family for bringing shame upon them. Meryem is told she is going to Istanbul and is thrilled; she’s always wanted to see what was beyond her village. In reality, “going to Istanbul” is code for the punishment that many other “problem girls” have been dealt in the past: they are simply taken away from the village and killed. In this case, the selected executioner is her older cousin, Cemal, a soldier in the Turkish army who has just returned from war. He doesn’t know what Meryem did to deserve death but agrees to carry out his father’s orders.