It’s that time of year again, when I unilaterally and authoritatively decide what are the best books of the year so far. And as a bonus, add one book that you should all look out for later on in the year.
6. Seven Brief Lessons On Physics by Carlo Rovelli: I feel I finally understand the Theory Of Relativity. Anyone who can explain all of known physics in fewer than one hundred pages has clearly written a genius book. This one is so easy to get through, it should be added to high school curricula.
5. Tribe by Sebastian Junger: from the author who brought you The Perfect Storm comes an essay-length book on why humans work well in groups. And why we need groups. And group hugs. Inspired by Junger’s own PTSD after years as a war correspondent, Tribe is an important and troubling book about how our society’s individualism is becoming a collective exercise in self harm.
4. Dark Matter by Black Crouch: a novel set in the multiverse inhabited by who-knows-how-many versions of the main character. Who sometimes IMs himself across the void. And that is all you need to know. Read it before someone turns it into a movie.
3. The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney: one of the most anticipated debuts of the year did not disappoint. A family of four backbiting siblings pre-spends their inheritance only to discover it’s not there. What do they do now?
2. Morning Star by Pierce Brown: brings to a close the Red Rising Trilogy. Intergalactic warfare. Intimate betrayals. Some surprising character exits and even more surprising returns. This rounds out a trilogy that is part Hunger Games, part Star Wars, part ancient Rome, and all political intrigue and science fiction adventure.
1. Pumpkinflowers by Matti Friedman: the best memoir of modern warfare, and ranks up there with All Quiet On The Western Front. This isn’t written by a gung-ho volunteer, but by a draftee doing what everyone else his age is doing. Regardless of your thoughts on the the intractable Israel-Palestine conflict, this is a poignant, truthful account of the low-level but long-running conflicts we send our children into today. These wars have the self-perpetuating logic of the Great War, the quagmire of Vietnam, and a lack of great battles and concentrated casualties to focus our attention on ending them. Matti Friedman could be any modern soldier, though one with a gift for remarkable phrases and just the right balance of cynicism and duty to his comrades.
And one to look out for later in the year…Trainwreck by Sady Doyle: I’ve never seen gendered double-standards called out with such vim. A book that will change minds. And how you view Britney Spears and Vincent Van Gogh. Yes, I just put them in the same sentence.
So, what have I got wrong? What would you add? Share your Best Of So Far and what you’re looking forward to this year.