Oh my god, would you believe that we didn’t die this year? I know that, technically, many people did die this year, but you reading this and me writing this — we did not die. It’s an achievement. You really did your best in the hellfire of 2017. Treat yourself! Get a big juice.
I spent most of the year on a book tour talking about my own stupid thoughts and feelings and sensitivities, examining the very real things that were happening in my life. The result was that I did a lot of reading, largely to pull me out of my narrow little universe and into someone else’s. These are some of my favorites in books and Internet, things that made me forget for a brief moment, that I am dying, and you are dying, and everything hurts all the time. I know I’m supposed to have a joke to finish this paragraph off with, but just be grateful you made it to December without getting shingles, okay?
American War by Omar El Akkad
I hate books about war! People (MEN) get so mad at me when I say that but they activate a part of my brain too dark and too painful to deal with so I rarely read them. But Omar’s writing is so gentle, and he has such compassion for his (FEMALE) characters that his book ends up feeling like three perfectly fused stories: One about growing up, another about family, and a third about politics.
“My Family’s Slave” by Alex Tizon
“It would have blown up my family in an instant. Instead, my siblings and I kept everything to ourselves, and rather than blowing up in an instant, my family broke apart slowly.”
We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby
At every book event I did this year, someone would ask me what they should read next, and I always suggested Sam’s book. I did this so often and with such enthusiasm, that in this passage I’m likely repeating myself 20 times over, but here goes anyway: This was the funniest, most charming, poopiest book I’ve read in recent memory. (It might be the poopiest ever but please don’t take me to court.) Nothing in this piss year gave me delight quite like this collection, so read it tomorrow, read it twice.
“The Land of the Large Adult Son” by Jia Tolentino
“It’s memes all the way down with this Administration: Trump, the father of the large adult son of the summer, is himself, clearly, a large adult son.”
The Wangs vs. the World by Jade Chang
Everyone should read this book, but if you have immigrant parents, do so in private so that a lady on the subway doesn’t put her hand on your shaking shoulder and ask that if you must cry, you do so without blocking the doors.
“The Myth of the Male Bumbler” by Lili Loofbourow
“Allow me to make a controversial proposition: Men are every bit as sneaky and calculating and venomous as women are widely suspected to be. And the bumbler—the very figure that shelters them from this ugly truth—is the best and hardest proof.”
The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall
I know that reading yet another thing about sexual assault or harassment can feel daunting, but I loved this book so much because it tackled it from so many different perspectives: A wife whose husband is accused of something nefarious, his daughter, her boyfriend, his family. The ending made me fucking nuts but only because it was so realistic and inevitable.
“The First White President” by Ta-Nehisi Coates
“To Trump, whiteness is neither notional nor symbolic but is the very core of his power. In this, Trump is not singular. But whereas his forebears carried whiteness like an ancestral talisman, Trump cracked the glowing amulet open, releasing its eldritch energies.”
The Invaders by Karolina Waclawiak
Karolina is my boss at BuzzFeed which is definitely not the reason I put her book on my list. I love a book about the secrets suburban families are desperate to keep and The Invaders delivers in a big, creepy way. It’s a great book written by someone who is either completely nuts or a really great manager. Boss Of The Year! Please don’t fire me!!! I’ll be good!!!!!!!!!
“A Restaurant Ruined My Life” by Robert Maxwell
This article—wherein a man in Toronto opens a restaurant without a) any experience and b) without enough money and c) by cutting many necessary corners—is a tragicomedy about how easily men delude themselves into thinking they can do anything just because they want to. I have read this piece 100 times. Should I have any of my own, I will read this to my large adult sons as a warning.
Do you love Year in Reading and the amazing books and arts content that The Millions produces year round? We are asking readers for support to ensure that The Millions can stay vibrant for years to come. Please click here to learn about several simple ways you can support The Millions now.