Let me start by saying that my picks below were not necessarily published this year, rather they are the books I got around to read in 2016 and I loved them so much that I wanted to make a record of it.
I have to put two (or five, depends on how you count) books that are very different from each other, but left equally significant mark in my memory at the first place. These two books are the Neapolitan novels of Elena Ferrante and A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara.
Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels is a series of four books published in english (translation by Ann Goldstein) between 2012 and 2015. The incredibly honest portrait of lifelong friendship has been a sensation in the literary world and I am forever grateful that I finally decided to read it. It is the sort of book(s) that can be immediately recognised as a masterpiece that will be obligatory to read at schools in, say, 20 years from now. And students will complain about the jungle of characters and length like they do about Dostoyevski. On one hand, the books have this heavy perfection of classic literary mastery (speaking of Fjodor, not unlike Brothers Karamazov); on the other it is modern writing with the unusual breath-taking honesty as a staple. Female friendship is such a complicated and fragile thing to describe and yet Elena Ferrante did just that with a shocking precision.
And if you are the kind of person, who is on this blog for the quantum stuff, you should still read Ferrante. One of the main characters becomes a leading person in the computerisation of a manufacturing process in Italy. My inner geek was enjoying every letter of the super entertaining description of how the first IBM machines were being used.
The second book I would like to talk about it Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life. Admittedly, it completely destroyed me to read it and even though it was causing me so much pain, I just couldn’t put it down. It is a story of a boy who survived a most insufferable childhood full of violence and abuse, who became a high powered NY lawyer and who is trying not to let his past affect the relationships he managed to form after he left his former life behind. It is so dark, so intensive, and yet it feels like the true huge life and love story of our century.
Honorable mentions: Zadie Smith’s White Teeth (this is one of the most impressive debut novels I have ever read), Aquarium by David Vann (really unique book about fish and family trauma), Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (amazing sci-fi book to start with if you not a sci-fi fan yet).