And now my long-awaited(?) 2016 reading wrap-up. Most of it was spent listening to the superb (but lengthy) Lyndon Johnson biography by Robert Caro, a book I didn't expect to be in my roster but feels like one of most important works I’ve read in awhile. Other than that, it was a typical eclectic reading year. I read a classic I should've read in high school, a book that made me want to punch the writer in the face, abandoned a book that everyone else seemed to like but me, and gleefully devoured the latest Harry Potter play adaptation despite reviews like this. And I reread a few favorites for good measure.
Best and Most Important
Master of the Senate (The Years of Lyndon Johnson, #3) by Robert A. Caro
So we all know the United States Senate is a mess, but did you ever wonder how or why, exactly it was a mess other than something-something corrupt politicians? I sure didn’t. This book is not only a superb biography of Lyndon Johnson, but a fascinating (and infuriating) illustration of how the senate works, and how LBJ was the first man to come along to figure out how to exploit it to his advantage. It’s also a harsh reminder of how being on the right side of history isn’t enough if you can’t wield power effectively.
Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley
by Antonio Garcia Martinez
There’s a lot of interesting content in this book, mostly about how start ups are born, and gossipy tales of the office culture at Facebook and Twitter. Unfortunately, it was all overshadowed by an author hell-bent on making sure you know that he is Smarter Than You with every sentence. Not to mention casual misogyny (the women he's fucking don't even get proper pseudonyms and the mother of his children is obnoxiously referred to as "British Trader" the whole time) and cringe-inducing sex scenes. If you want a more palatable account of start-up culture, I'd recommend Dan Lyon's book, Disrupted.
Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble by Dan Lyons
This was a fun, if slightly terrifying, romp through a certain brand of youth-driven, peppy start-up culture I read this in one sitting.
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Unconvincing torture porn. And became impossible to take seriously the moment one of the protagonists, an artist, manages to get a show at the Met at the ripe old age of 27.
Book that Did Not Disappoint, Even Though Every Review Said It Would
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 & 2 (Harry Potter #8)
by John Tiffany (Adaptation), Jack Thorne (Adaptation), J.K. Rowling
I'm going to come out and say it: I love Harry Potter. I love J.K. Rowling, who seems like more and more of a brilliant class act every day. I love the adult novels she's written since the series ended. (I have no love whatsoever for any Harry Potter movies except the fourth one, but that is a whole other blog post.) Anyhow, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was everything I wanted it to be. I am eagerly awaiting an audio version.
Book that Did Disappoint, But I'm Glad I Read Anyway
The Mandibles by Lionel Shriver
I'm sure I'm on record somewhere as a huge Lionel Shriver fangirl. Her books We Need to Talk About Kevin and The Post Birthday World are some of my all-time-re-read-every-few-years-and-try-to-foist-on-all-my-friends favorites, and she is better at articulating human motivation than any writer I know. That said, The Mandibles—a dystopian novel that traces a family during an American financial collapse—isn't one of her better novels. She didn't figure out how to make her characters talk constantly about interest rates and currency valuation without them sound like walking Economist articles rather than people, and the whole second part of the book should probably have been cut in half. Nonetheless, it was well worth the read for its insight about our complex relationship with money.
Revolutionary Road, by Richard Yates.
This one is on my 're-read every five years or so' shelf and sends shivers down my spine every time. It's also one of the few books to truly dissect the question: so how do you have a meaningful life, anyway?
Book I'd Should've Already Read By Now, but Am Also Glad I Read in Adulthood Instead of in High School
Lolita, by Vladmir Nabokov. A masterpiece that would have been completely wasted on me at 16.
Other Books I Read And Enjoyed
The Martian, by Anthony Weir. Better than the movie!
How to Be a Person in the World, by Heather Havrilesky.
The Interrogative Mood, by Padgett Powell. A book composed entirely of wonderfully weird and thoughtful questions. (Examples: "When you see an abandoned toilet, do you have any impulse to salvage it or right it or in any way restore to it some lost dignity?" and "Would you like to have been a conquistador—perhaps a benign one?”)
Rolling Blackouts: Dispatches from Turkey, Syria, and Iraq by Sarah Glidden.
Amazing. Everyone who cares about journalism should read this.
Hot Dog Taste Test by Lisa Hanawalt
Lisa Hanawalt teaches us all that not only is your weird, pervy stuff in your brain not only worth sharing, it is what people will love you for.
Mooncop, by Tom Gauld.
Pure poetry. Anything else I say about it will ruin it.
Happy New Year, everyone! As always, I welcome friendship on Goodreads if any fellow readers want to compare notes or recommend titles.