While fun, best lists are by nature random, subjective and even arbitrary. This year, a few books – fiction and non-fiction -- have stood out from the others. Here in no particular order are some of the best.
TRUTH IN ADVERTISING
Truth be told, this is a terrifically touching, yet funny, coming of age story about Fin, a lovable but essentially clueless, self-deluding, emotionally damaged 39-year-old ad man. Kenney – himself a copywriter – pens descriptions of how commercials get put together that are pure comic genius. He’s made Fin the perfect guide for the world of today’s “mad men.” But in the end, Fin speaks for everyone who wants more from life. How can Fin find his own happiness? Simple: with truth in advertising.
THE WOMAN UPSTAIRS
Nora Eldridge, the narrator of Claire Messud’s audacious tour de force of a novel is angry. She’s living a predictable, dull life as the somewhat invisible woman upstairs. But it is her anger that rekindles her spirit and makes her determined to emerge from her upstairs world and live an authentic, felt, and even ruthless life as the artist she has been afraid to be. This is an unflinching look at one woman’s desire to be seen by herself – and others – for who she really is.
My Life On and Off the Canvas
By Eric Fischl with Michael Stone
Leading American figurative painter Erick Fischl has written a terrific account of what it means – and takes – to be an artist in today’s commodities-drive art world. Not surprisingly, “Bad Boy,” which takes its titles from one of his best-known paintings, is as remarkably perceptive, honest and entertaining as the artist’s most celebrated works.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR A HEATWAVE
Here is a psychological drama of the first order. Patriarch Robert Riordan’s disappearance during the midst of an epic British heat wave impels his wife and three adult children to come together – and uncover the secrets that have come to define and complicate all of their lives.
THE PEOPLE IN THE TREES
A novel by Hanya Yanagihara
This shockingly original and richly imagined debut novel asks the question: Is a great man still great even if he is a monster? Part mystery, part confessional, and part exotic adventure story, this is a beautifully written examination of one man’s expulsion from paradise.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that sequels and prequels seldom do justice to the sources of their inspiration. There are, happily, exceptions to this rule. “Longbourn,” a vivid imagining of the downstairs world of the Bennet household of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” is a triumph of the imagination.
MEMORIES OF A MARRIAGE
Begley, the accomplished author of “About Schmidt,” has an unerring eye and finally tuned ear for the particular nuanced foibles of the elite. Here, he paints an unvarnished portrait of a marriage that was, by all accounts, irrevocably doomed.
THE SILENT WIFE
Fans of Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl” will be gripped by the finely tuned psychological suspense of “The Silent Wife.” This page-turner is a razor-edged dissection of a crumbling relationship set on an unavoidable collision course with disaster.
THE LIGHT IN THE RUINS
This story of one Italian family spans World War II and the 1950s. As an author, Bohjalian is fascinated by moral paradoxes. “The Light in the Ruins” asks readers what they would do under circumstances when everything is stacked against you. This is an atmospheric, thoughtful novel of love, revenge and the aftermath of wartime.
This is a big novel that succeeds on so many levels: it is a suspenseful, beautifully written, story about love, loss, obsession and art. In short, all the things that define great fiction.