Instead of saving my big recap of the year for December, I thought it might be nice to check in on the ranking so far, now that June's winding down. This has been a great year full of fantastic novels, many of which I'm sure will fight for the top spot on critics' year-end lists.
Zero K by Don DeLillo
I'm surprised at how many negative reviews I've read of Zero K, a book I found chillingly relevant to today's digital era. The novel is about how the fact that we all die is the last thing that separates the top 1% with the rest of the world, and how an experimental cryogenics facility may relieve the wealthy of that plebeian burden. There's no need to weigh Zero K against the rest of DeLillo's body of work: taken alone it's still miles better than a lot of books out there. My review of Zero K can be read here.
Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett
I just finished a review of Imagine Me Gone (here) and am still floored by its deeply affecting prose. The book is about a family of five coping with the loss of their patriarch to suicide. This is one of the best family-dramas I've read and is hugely successful due to Haslett abstaining from trying to make his book more than just about his characters. No agenda, no cultural mirror. Folks like Franzen could learn something here.
What Belongs To You by Garth Greenwell
A short novella of an American teacher in Bulgaria and his love affair with a local gigolo named Mitko, What Belongs To You may be the best love story I've ever read. It finds a relatable center in what should be a difficult, foreign story, and absolutely soars. My review can be found here.
Beverly by Nick Drnaso
Beverly is a masterful debut by cartoonist Nick Drnaso, composed of six interlocking stories about repressed suburban sexuality. It's devastating, disgusting, absolutely icky and ridiculously compelling. His artistic style is equally unsettling. I have a review of Beverly in the Summer issue of Rain Taxi and described his characters as looking "as if they came straight from the casting call for a medical pamphlet: in another life, they could have advised us how to react when someone is choking or how to get through puberty without feeling so clueless and alone." If you like comics, I insist you check out Beverly.
The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota
This inclusion is cheating a little bit, as The Year of the Runaways came out in the UK last year, where it was a shortlisted contender for the 2015 Man Booker Prize. Sahota's novel is a packed story that traces the lives of three Indian men living illegally in London. The Year of the Runaways is a transportive masterwork and one to get absolutely lost in; my review can be read here.
So far so good. What's on your top 5?
A Bouquet by Karel Jaromir Erben