This collection of personal essays illustrates the fragility of the human body through stories about an impossible long-distance race held organized by an eccentric, the one-two punch of the author’s heart surgery and abortion, and actors posing as medical patients in order to evaluate future doctors for their ability to model empathy. While the subjects of each piece are inherently fascinating, Jamison’s deliberation on the ethics of interpersonal interactions is the backbone of her writing. The concluding essay, Grand Unified Theory on Female Pain, is an incredibly balanced argument for writing about and thinking about emotional and physical wounds despite our culture’s allergy to talking about suffering, and the suffering of women in particular.
Translated from the Norwegian, this soon-to-be six-volume, semi-autobiographical novel is a sensation in its home country. The novel is an intense meditation on death, parenthood, love, masculinity, money, art, and the mundane inconveniences that loom over it all. In the first volume, the narrator juxtaposes his sullen adolescence and his ineffectual middle age in relation to his father’s death. While Knausgaard’s descriptions of walking to the corner store for cigarettes or scrubbing his grandmother’s bathroom are obsessively detailed, they perfectly recreate the lived experiences that make life feel like a struggle.
Hilarious and moving, this is one of the best coming-of-age stories ever written. After making a spectacle of herself on local television, teenage Johanna decides to reinvent herself as a fully-formed woman, capable of having wild adventures and saving her large family from poverty and obscurity. Now “Dolly Wilde,” she dons a bold chapeau and takes a job as a music journalist in London. Live music, drinking, cigarettes, and men make life infinitely more exciting, but also more complicated. This book is for anyone who struggled to grow up (everyone) and still wonders if they’ve managed it (everyone again).
When you look at yourself before going out, and you are trying to see yourself from the outside, what is this “other person” like? Do you think you have taste or style? Is there a meaningful difference? This book began with a survey of more than 600 women from all walks of life, each of them answering more than 50 questions, including these, about their sartorial choices. This is not a style handbook. It’s a conversation about what women wear and what it means to them—their mother’s scarf, nursing scrubs, 15 identical skirts. Thoughtful and fun, this book is a pleasure to flip through.
McBride’s debut novel is the story of a rebellious girl and her beloved brother brought up in a pious Irish-Catholic household. Written in dense, fragmented, visceral language, it recalls Joyce and Beckett while being entirely its own book. Girl is a difficult read, both in style and in content, but you’ll have the reward of one of the most important books published this year.
Weird, funny, and genuinely experimental in structure, this novel follows a woman on a trip to Athens to teach a writing course. Through a series of conversations with her seatmate on a plane, a fellow writing teacher, and several dinner companions, the narrator offers up oblique observations on relationships, self-presentation, and whether it means to know another person.
This collection of stories, set in anonymous, small town Ireland, chronicles the problems of petty criminals and sentimental slackers. They're common problems--work, money, relationships--but Barrett anchors them with an indelible sense of place. The collection coalesces around a novella about a boxer turned drug-dealer muscle who struggles to connect with his autistic son. Although the characters are hamfisted with their emotions, Barrett has a poet's sensibility and genuine respect for the lives of his countrymen.
A meditation on grief and wildness, this book is by a woman who deals with the sudden death of her father by training a goshawk. Goshawks are unpredictable birds, and Macdonald struggles to tame both the animal and her emotions. She alternates between her story and that of an early-20th-century falconer, making the book an elegant example of literary criticism as well as a poignant memoir.
This book—about teenage cannibals on a road trip—is both a spooky horror novel and a sweet coming-of-age story. Sixteen-year-old Maren is unable to overcome an inborn desire to eat anyone who desires her too much, and she has spent much of her life avoiding the consequences of this curse. Abandoned by her mother, she goes on the road in search of her father and her future. A lovely, thoughtful exmaination of taboo and compulsion, desire and repulsion, Bones & All is also a well-told and entertaining novel.