Continuing my annual round-up of some of the books I’ve loved this year. I present them in the order I read them. You can read about the first five by clicking here.
Without further ado:
MOCKINGBIRD by Walter Tevis.
A sci-fi masterpiece: “A moral tale that has elements of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Superman, and Star Wars” (Los Angeles Times Book Review).
In a world where the human population has suffered devastating losses, a handful of survivors cling to what passes for life in a post-apocalyptic, dying landscape. People wander, drugged and lulled by electronic bliss, through a barren landscape with no children, no art, where reading is forbidden. From this bleak existence, a tragic love triangle springs forth. Spofforth, the most perfect machine ever created, runs the world, but his only wish is to die. Paul and Mary Lou are a man and a woman whose passion for each other sparks a jealousy in Spofforth—and provides the only hope for the future of human beings on earth.
Walter Tevis, author of The Hustler, The Man Who Fell to Earth, and The Color of Money, delivers an elegiac dystopia of mankind coming to terms with its own imminent extinction.
“Because of its affirmation of such persistent human values as curiosity, courage, compassion, along with its undeniable narrative power, Mockingbird will become one of those books that coming generations will periodically rediscover with wonder and delight.” —The Washington Post
DYING OF WHITENESS by Johnathan M. Metzl.
An excellent book that explores how and why people vote for politicians and policies that are obviously against their own best interests. Gun control. Health care. Education…
I wish the people who make such dubious, racially-motivated, ill-informed decisions would read the book, rather than showing up and protesting at Metzl’s book readings (as white-supremacy nuts recently did), but I fear they won’t. So let’s read it, talk about, publicize it. The information may leak out to those who need it. We can hope, can’t we?
From the back of the book: “In the era of Donald Trump, many lower- and middle-class white Americans are drawn to politicians who pledge to make their lives great again. But as Dying of Whiteness shows, the policies that result actually place white Americans at ever-greater risk of sickness and death.
Physician Jonathan M. Metzl’s quest to understand the health implications of “backlash governance” leads him across America’s heartland. Interviewing a range of everyday Americans, he examines how racial resentment has fueled progun laws in Missouri, resistance to the Affordable Care Act in Tennessee, and cuts to schools and social services in Kansas. And he shows these policies’ costs: increasing deaths by gun suicide, falling life expectancies, and rising dropout rates. White Americans, Metzl argues, must reject the racial hierarchies that promise to aid them but in fact lead our nation to demise.”
WHEN THE WORLD WAS STEADY by Claire Messud
A PEN/Faulkner Award finalist about two sisters’ divergent paths, from the author of The Burning Girl and The Emperor’s Children.
In this highly acclaimed novel, life isn’t all Emmy and Virginia Simpson anticipated. When Emmy’s marriage to an Australian man ends, she flees her home in Sydney to “find herself” on the island of Bali—only to become embroiled with a crew of international misfits and smugglers. Her prim and pious sister, Virginia, meanwhile, has never wandered far outside of London. Struggling to find meaning, she follows her aging mother’s advice to vacation on the Isle of Skye. On these two islands halfway around the world, the middle-aged sisters confront the costs of self-knowledge and their destinies with unexpected consequences.
BORN A CRIME by Trevor Noah
The compelling, inspiring, and comically sublime story of a young man’s coming-of-age, set during the twilight of apartheid and the tumultuous days of freedom that followed
Trevor Noah is one of the comedy world’s brightest new voices, a light-footed but sharp-minded observer of the absurdities of politics, race, and identity, sharing jokes and insights drawn from the wealth of experience acquired in his relatively young life. As host of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, he provides viewers in America and around the globe with their nightly dose of biting satire, but here Noah turns his focus inward, giving readers a deeply personal, heartfelt, and humorous look at the world that shaped him.
Noah was born a crime, the son of a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother, at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the first years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, take him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.
A collection of eighteen personal essays, Born a Crime tells the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. Born a Crime is equally the story of that young man’s fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that ultimately threatens her own life.
Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Noah illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and an unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a lovable delinquent making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, armed with only a keen sense of humor and a mother’s unconventional, unconditional love.
WILD MERCY by Mirabai Starr
From the book cover: We live in a world that has suffered the abuses of an unbalanced masculine rule for thousands of years—but the feminine is rising. “Seeds of feminine wisdom that have been quietly germinating underground are now breaking through the surface,” writes Mirabai Starr. “Women everywhere are rising to the collective call to step up and repair our broken Earth.
And we are activating a paradigm shift such as the world has never seen.”
With “Wild Mercy”, Mirabai shares the subversive wisdom and fierce compassion of the feminine mystic across cultural boundaries and throughout history. From saints and sages, to goddesses and archetypal energies, to contemporary teachers and seekers—you’ll meet women who blazed a path that will illuminate your own.
Each chapter explores a different facet of feminine mysticism through a tapestry of teachings, reflections, and stories, along with a practice for integrating the chapter’s themes into your own life. As you journey through these pages, you’ll explore: Taking refuge in contemplative practice with St. Teresa of Avila and the Shekinah
• Longing, embodiment, and union as the heart of feminine spiritual practice with the Hindu poet Mirabai and Mary Magdalene
• Your relationship with the Earth, motherhood in all its forms, and a loving call to action alongside Gaia and Ix Chel
• Community and the web of life with Indra, the Beguines, and female prophets throughout history
• Wild, playful, and compassionate mercy with Tara and Kuan Yin
• Finding joy in creativity and the arts with Saraswati and Chiyo-ni
• More inspiration from archetypal goddesses and amazing women past and present—Julian of Norwich, the Sufi saint Rabia, Pachamama, Sophia, Old Spider Woman, Hildegard of Bingen, Demeter, Kali, and more
“Wild Mercy” provides a much-needed alternative to the models of religion and spirituality that have dominated history. Here, Mirabai invites you to welcome the wisdom of women back into the collective field where it may transform the human family, heal the ravaged Earth, and awaken the divine love in our hearts.