“The best books of the year” articles are useful but annoying: useful because there are often interesting books I missed but annoying because a book isn’t worth reading simply because it was published in a given year. So I’m doing a list not of books published this year but that I read this year and think deserve attention.
* Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel: Almost nothing in pop culture prepared anyone for long-term relationships, and Perel’s book is about many, many things, among them what happens after most novels, movies, and TV shows end. When it came out Tyler Cowen called it “the most dangerous book I read this year,” and that was in 2006. It is not a good book to admit to liking publicly.
* Arts & Entertainments by Christopher Beha, about a failed actor who becomes an inadvertent teacher who becomes an inadvertent amateur pornographer who becomes an inadvertent reality TV personage. I laughed, and the book’s final dialogues are still funny but also offer unexpected, powerful commentary on our time. Why isn’t this book more popular and getting more attention?
* The Power of Glamour by Virginia Postrel, about a latent yet pervasive phenomenon that was until recently underrated and even ignored by me.
* Related to The Power of Glamour, The Rosie Project, as recommended by Bill Gates. It starts promisingly and ends brilliantly, with me laughing at almost every page; if you know any geek, nerds, or programmers, you need to both read this and give it to them.
* The Great Man, by Kate Christensen, also very funny and with sentences that delight from start to finish.
* Love Me Back by Merritt Tierce, another book that should be better known and hits many valences simultaneously.
* Zero to One by Thiel and Masters, which is notionally about startups but is really about the world.
* Echopraxia by Peter Watts, but do read Blindsight first. So good it’s hard to write about.
* Trust Me, I’m Lying, which I didn’t read when I first heard about it because I thought, “Meh, I already know.” I didn’t, and the prose is delightful. Note too the comments at the link.
* Bess adds Dear Leader: Poet, Spy, Escapee–A Look Inside North Korea, about a defector’s astonishing story. The sentences are strong, yet I feel like I already knew enough about North Korea prior to reading.
What have I missed?