Enjoy the books!
Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? Roz Chast – Chast, a cartoonist at the New Yorker for years, published this graphic novel in 2014. It is a poignant and brutally honest confrontation with what it means to age, and what it means to care for aging parents. And it is definitely presented through a Jewish lens. 228 pages, and the first time a graphic novel has made the list.
The Handmaid’s Tale Margaret Atwood – This chilling novel from 1986 describes a world where women have been subjected to a secondary role in society, where fundamentalist religion rules, and where the elected United States government has been forcibly removed via a military coup. To read it today is to understand how great fiction both unpacks the past and warns about the future. 300 pages (give or take!)
American War Omar El Akkad – The second dystopian novel on this year’s list. El Akkad’s debut work of fiction explores a near future where a second American civil war between blue and red states takes place. If our partisan political divisions grow even greater, if terrorism becomes a regular occurrence on American soil, if climate change continues to escalate, what will our world look like? El Akkad has created a stunning vision of one possible answer to that question. 333 pages
Hillbilly Elegy J.D. Vance – Part memoir, part sociological analysis, Vance writes movingly about the world he grew up in, the culture that defined it, and the experience of watching that world slowly but surely fade away. This book explores the dynamics of the poor, white, working class world in rural America at a time when its culture is in crisis. 260 pages
All Creatures Great and Small James Herriot – This beloved book from 1972 takes you back to a simpler time. The author chronicles his ‘adventures’ as a veterinarian in the remote Yorkshire Dales, tending to the various animals (and sometimes humans) who need his help. It is a powerful page by page reminder of the great beauty that exists in God’s world that we all too often fail to see. 425 pages
Lincoln in the Bardo George Saunders – In this debut novel a grief stricken Abraham Lincoln visits the grave of his recently deceased 11 year old son Willie. While in the cemetery he encounters the ghosts of others who are buried there, and listens to their life stories told from beyond the grave. The novel is a meditation on national loss and an acknowledgment of the pain and heartbreak that are inevitable components of living a human life. 343 pages
Measure for Measure William Shakespeare – This late comedy explores themes of justice, mortality, and mercy, as well as the fine line that sometimes exists between corruption and purity. The line “some rise by sin, some by virtue fall” (Act ii scene 1) reads as fresh and contemporary commentary given today’s political climate.