Let's continue exploring the best, or what the Los Angeles Times calls the most important, books of the past year. 2016 was a majestic year for fiction and non-fiction; take a look at some of the novels chosen by NY Times, Washington Post, Wall St. Journal, and LA Times critics.
A debut novel on the best of list always fascinates. Nathan Hill’s The Nix is a witty and observant social satire that takes on academia, mother love, video games and even 1960’s radical politics. Samuel Andersen-Anderson is an adjunct professor who whiles away his time gaming trying not to think about his life that went south when his mother abandoned him. When she re-emerges, on a viral video, he flirts with the idea of success by writing a tell-all about the woman he thought he knew.
So many recent books have been devoted to the disappearing landscape of rural America. Heat and Light by Jennifer Haigh is about a depleted and poor Pennsylvania mining town that is offered the opportunity to exploit the natural gas on which it sits. Fracking brings income, but also destroys the environment and leaves the powerless townspeople in the quandary of what to do in a world they did not create.
Historical fiction readers will be entranced by Paulette Jiles’ News of the World. A man who travels through 1870’s Texas giving talks about current events is asked to return a young white girl who was kidnapped by the Kiowa Indians to some distant relatives who live hundreds of miles away. The surly girl, who has forgotten English and has no desire to be rescued, and the former Army captain develop a kindred relationship that tests the veteran’s ethics when the relatives reject the girl.
|Paulette Jiles' News of the World|
Readers may think about about Alex Haley’s Roots when they pick up Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing. Two 18th century half-sisters from Ghana are separated and about to live startlingly different lives, one as the wife of an Englishman and the other as a slave. Their stories span 250 years and generations of descendants who live the African and African-American experience. This is a book for those who love multi-character sagas.
|Yaa Gyasi's Homegoing|