Sunday, January 4, 2015

Book Awards, 2014

  1. Funniest (Because Truest) Book of the Year: How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran. Should be required reading for all young people. Also old people who were lost as young people and searching the map for the you-are-here-but-you-will-get-out-of-here arrow.
  2. How Have I Not Read This Writer Before Prize: Edna O’Brien for her memoir Country Girl, followed by Edna O’Brien for her novel Country Girls. Utterly beautiful sentences. (Plus, second half of memoir has some juicy literary-celebrity tales.)
  3. This year's Gary Shteyngart, Will You Marry Me, Oh Wait, I Forgot, You’re Already Married Award goes to Little Failure by Gary Shteyngart. 
  4. Best Novel About What It Means to Be a Member of the Human RaceStation 11 by Emily St. John Mandel. A novel about the end of the world, and more importantly, what happens after.
  5. Most Beautiful and Heartbreaking Book of the Year: All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews.
  6. Small and Perfect: Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill. A novel that takes you into its confidence. The fragmentary (but never confusing) form means you don’t have to read sentences like “In the fall we discussed the possibility of moving to the country. I called a real estate agent and began studying listings.”
  7. Novel I Hated: The Circle by Dave Eggers. Not very convincing thesis disguised, not very well, as novel. (Last year the award went to The Dinner by Herman Koch for the exact same reason.) 
  8. Novel I Loved: Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? by Dave Eggers. A strange, surprising, funny, tragic, provocative novel with yes, a thesis, but also, a compelling voice. Also: Best Title of the Year.
  9. Novel I Wanted to Love But Couldn't, Quite: The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. I couldn't get over the wizards decloaking. Normally I don’t have a problem with cloaking devices or wizards or oceans at the end of the lane. Too much supernatural technology, maybe, made the fiction feel unworkable here.
  10. Read It and Get Schooled Award: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, by Frederick Douglass. I read this so that I could teach it. It teaches itself.