Perhaps you need a recommendation to help you figure out what book to buy for a friend or loved one with holiday season. The following list is made up of books I’ve read this year, but I have long lists of great books I can recommend from years past. Here are my top 5 for this year:
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. This is a short, gorgeous memoir. Kalanithi was both a medical doctor and a PhD in literature, an odd combination that means he is uniquely capable of telling the story of his own illness. It’s a heart-breaker and an inspiration, and unlike many medical books, it’s written beautifully.
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. This book was on just about every list of must-reads, so I got it, read it, and was haunted by it. Gyasi tells the story of many generations of a black African family as it lives through slavery, and freedom in America. It is unsentimental (in the best sense), and while it is sweeping over many generations, Gyasi manages to keep the tension high. It’s a remarkable book, lush, haunting, upsetting, and as with much of good literature, makes you feel you’ve lived a life you otherwise would not have had access to.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. This is a YA book, but I don’t care. I’m an adult and I loved it. LOVED IT. People have been recommending this book to me for years, and I regret not reading it sooner, and I already plan to read it again. The narrator is a young man who is ostracized, but manages to have the most endearing, hilarious, charm-filled, honest, unusual voices I can remember.
Ginny Moon: A Novel by Benjamin Ludwig. Written by a teacher who, in his own life, took in and later adopted a foster child with autism. The novel is told from the point of view of a 14-year old girl with autism, and I was transported into her mind and her world. It is masterful the way this author lets us see an entire world and a heart-breaking, lovable character even though she has limited language. I was going to just read a page or two, but couldn’t put it down. I read it into the night, and finished it at 1am, weeping with happiness.