When I was younger, I used to keep meticulous lists of the books I read, but then I fell out of that habit for a few years. Those “lost years” still haunt me. How many great books did I read that I may have forgotten about?! Now, in addition to just recording what I read, I try to reflect on each book, and what it meant to me.
I’m a huge GONE GIRL fan, so I knew I had to read LUCKIEST GIRL ALIVE when it was compared to Gillian Flynn’s phenomenon. While thematically quite different than GONE GIRL’s Amy Dunne, Ani FaNelli is a heroine just as fierce, caustic, and memorable. This book tackles some of today’s most pressing hot-button issues, and is as thought-provoking as it is addictive.
Ani FaNelli is the epitome of young, modern women. And that’s not a good thing. Image-obsessed, cruel, and deceptive, Ani isn’t crazy so much as extraordinarily damaged from two traumatic high school events that are expertly revealed, piece by piece, in this masterful debut. I loved the anger in this political, well-observed novel, made more powerful by the reveal that Knoll’s own sexual assault contributed to its creation. Contemporary and timely: believe the hype.
Crazy like: Carrie Bradshaw with a cleaver.
Best crazy moment: Ani’s choice of porn. (Ouch.)
Melissa Broder’s collection of essays feels firmly rooted in the zeitgeist, with texting, smartphones, and social media featured prominently in nearly every essay. But her achingly sincere and painfully resonant insights on anxiety and mental illness, various forms of addiction, and how we construct our identities and sense of self transcend the current moment into something that feels primal and universally human. Put simply, this book makes me feel better about being a person.
If Mary Gaitskill and Raymond Carver were to have a literary daughter, she would probably write something like Antonya Nelson has. This short story collection focuses on the day-to-day lives of women—both exterior and interior—and casts a light on the discrepancies between the two. If, like me, your favorite books consist of intimate, lushly drawn character-driven stories, this is right up your alley.
LONER is a small book that escalates very quickly from what seems like your typical campus novel to something more disturbing. Despite the fact that you probably won’t fall in love with any of the characters, you won’t be able to put it down either, and will be left thinking about it long after the last page.
I’ve been reading Jenny Zhang’s stories online since my freshman year of college, which I told her when I met her at a book signing for SOUR HEART, her first published collection. She inscribed my copy with the note “Nikki, we go waaaay back, don’t we?” It made my day, to say the least. This collection exceeded all of my high expectations. Zhang’s voice is so lyrical and strong and incredibly her own. Her stories sweep you in, hold you tightly throughout, and then leave you spinning, her words and their rhythmic momentum echoing around you.