Hi. This week I want to share ten favorite novels I read this year. Most are newish, but not all. As we enter 2019 I'd say choose two: the one that interests you the most, and the one that interests you the least. —Lonny Pugh
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
A man wrongly incarcerated, a new wife left behind, an old friend that reenters her life—nobody does anything wrong, but everything falls apart anyway.
Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday
Almost half my life ago but not quite, in a college writing workshop, a fellow student submitted a short story called “Symmetry,” which involved an origami bird tossed into a trashcan. I don’t know what happened to the author, but her lucid storytelling showed me how much I had to learn about being a real writer. Lisa Halliday's novel reminded me of that. (Previously featured here.)
Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
As of last week, I was burdened with the shame of living as a gay man who had not read Giovanni's Room. On Tuesday it was under the tree, and after two Thursday planes back to Los Angeles I began my new life as a man preparing to reread Giovanni's Room.
History of Violence by Édouard Louis
It’s a dark, cold Christmas Eve in Paris, and the author of this nonfiction novel has just met his rapist in the street. The book is a corner of leaning mirrors, refracting and reflecting the long night and its aftermath. (Previously featured here.)
The Idiot by Elif Batuman
First, listen to Elif Batuman's interview on the Longform podcast. Then read her New Yorker story on Japanese people who rent fake family members. Now you’ll have her wry, astute voice in your head as you read her story of a young brilliant woman bumbling through Harvard in the '90s.
MacArthur Park by Andrew Durbin
It’s about weather and escalation, starting with a lonely man riding out Hurricane Sandy in his boss’s Manhattan apartment. It’s also about cruising and longing and a certain kind of extinct Brooklyn nightclub I didn't get to experience but I’m nostalgic for it anyway.
Outline by Rachel Cusk
One swampy Brooklyn night this summer, I was pinned behind a table in Greenlight Bookstore, where rattling air conditioners could not summon the strength the wall-to-wall crowd required. We were there to see Rachel Cusk, and surprised to find there were so many like us. I couldn’t see her, or hear her, or move. Someone passed out. I ran home to my sublet in a furious rainstorm and began to read. There she was. Kudos, the finale of Cusk’s trilogy, was published this year, but you have to start with Outline.
Severance by Ling Ma
Unless you found some other recent novel that’s a zombie-apocalypse zinger, a satire of capitalist complacency, and a moving story of immigrant parents working hard for their Chinese-American daughter, you’ll need to read this one. (Previously featured here.)
There There by Tommy Orange
A modern epic about urban Native Americans hurtling toward their fates at an Oakland Coliseum powwow. Keywords: Gertrude Stein, Radiohead, and 3D-printed guns. (Previously featured here.)