Still looking for the perfect Christmas present? There are few better gifts than a well-chosen book.
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata is a beautifully deadpan account of an oddball shop assistant, equally comical and eerie, whilst Lisa Halliday’s “strange and startlingly smart” debut novel Asymmetry is both a dizzying romance and a political roman à clef.
The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai is already heralded as a classic Chicago novel, examining the carnage of the AIDs epidemic in an emotional, devastating and poignantly funny narrative. In a lighter tone, the pulpy thriller My Sister, the Serial Killer is Oyinkan Braithwaite’s debut; a darkly funny examination of sibling rivalry in Nigeria’s patriarchal society.
Woman World, Aminder Dhaliwal’s creation of Instagram fame, is a hilarious graphic novel about a world with no men. Angela Chadwick’s XX is an altogether more sinister dystopia of two women who discover a ground-breaking clinical trial that allows two women to have a female baby, and the political chaos that ensues. Severance by Ling Ma continues the year’s apocalyptic trend. The protagonist is one of the last survivors in New York of a zombie-creating pandemic; she muses about capitalism and her cultural inheritance as she roams her dying city.
Everyone is talking about Tara Westover’s Educated, a coming-of-age memoir about a young woman who decides to leave her survivalist home in Idaho and get an education, tracking all the ways that rural America forbids people from leaving their roots. Another memoir of a disjointed childhood, Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs tells the story of growing up between two extraordinary homes, as the daughter of artist Chrisann Brennan and Apple founder Steve Jobs.
The Bright Hour tells Nina Riggs’ approach to living with terminal cancer, as she gently explores with humour and honesty how we prepare to greet the spectre of death. Finally, perhaps no memoir list would be complete without Michelle Obama’s record-breaking memoir, Becoming.
This year has been a year of fractious politics. In America, it is Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury and Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward that have drawn the most attention for their analysis of the current US administration. Meanwhile, in Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging, Afua Hirsch explores the British cultural identity crisis, the historical suppression of racist beliefs and the impact of identity in the wake of Brexit and the rise in neo-fascism. In Nervous States, William Davies tries to make sense of this new reality, where feeling rules over fact.
In the medical realm, Rose George tells the narrative of the Nine Pints of blood in our bodies through nine different stories across the globe, but Adam Kay gives the gorier details in his best-selling book This Is Going to Hurt about life as a junior doctor in the NHS.
After the success of Sapiens and Homo Deus, Yuval Noah Hariri is now tackling the present’s most urgent issues with 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, whose ideas sit alongside Stephen Hawking’s final thoughts in Brief Answers to the Big Questions. However, in our present day, perhaps the most essential book of all How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan.