Every month Amazon puts out a list of Best Books of the Month, and every month, I troll that list and select what will go on my reading list. This month’s list has quite a few that look like must reads, including the winner of the 2018 Man Booker Prize, but what I want to get to by the end of this year is …
How Long ‘Til Black Future Month, N.K. Jemisin
I haven’t read any short story collections this year, and N.K. Jemisin is one of my favorite authors.
In these stories, Jemisin sharply examines modern society, infusing magic into the mundane, and drawing deft parallels in the fantasy realms of her imagination. Dragons and hateful spirits haunt the flooded city of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In a parallel universe, a utopian society watches our world, trying to learn from our mistakes. A black mother in the Jim Crow south must figure out how to save her daughter from a fey offering impossible promises. And in the Hugo award-nominated short story “The City Born Great,” a young street kid fights to give birth to an old metropolis’s soul.
And the rest …
Amazon Best Books of December 2018
Once Upon a River, Diane Setterfield. A dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the Thames. The regulars are entertaining themselves by telling stories when the door bursts open on an injured stranger. In his arms is the drowned corpse of a little child. Hours later the dead girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life. Is it a miracle? Is it magic? Or can it be explained by science? [Buy Once Upon a River @ Amazon]
Kingdom of the Blind, Louise Penny. When Armand Gamache receives a letter inviting him to an abandoned farmhouse outside of Three Pines, the former head of the Sûreté du Québec discovers that a complete stranger has named him as an executor of her will. Armand never knew the elderly woman, and the bequests are so wildly unlikely that he suspects the woman must have been delusional – until a body is found, and the terms of the bizarre will suddenly seem far more menacing. [Buy Kingdom of the Blind @ Amazon]
Milkman, Anna Burns. In this unnamed city, to be interesting is dangerous. Middle sister, our protagonist, is busy attempting to keep her mother from discovering her maybe-boyfriend and to keep everyone in the dark about her encounter with Milkman. But when first brother-in-law sniffs out her struggle, and rumours start to swell, middle sister becomes ‘interesting’. The last thing she ever wanted to be. To be interesting is to be noticed and to be noticed is dangerous. [Buy Milkman @ Amazon]
This is Cuba: An American Journalist Under Castro’s Shadow, David Ariosto. This is Cuba is a true story that begins in the summer of 2009 when a young American photo-journalist is offered the chance of a lifetime, a two-year assignment in Havana. In This Is Cuba, Ariosto looks at Cuba from the inside-out over the course of nine years, endeavoring to expose clues for what’s in store for the island as it undergoes its biggest change in more than half a century. [Buy This is Cuba @ Amazon]
The Dakota Winters, Tom Barbash. It’s the fall of 1979 in New York City when twenty-three-year-old Anton Winter, back from the Peace Corps and on the mend from a nasty bout of malaria, returns to his childhood home in the Dakota. Anton’s father, the famous late-night host Buddy Winter, is there to greet him, himself recovering from a breakdown. Before long, Anton is swept up in an effort to reignite Buddy’s stalled career, a mission that takes him from the gritty streets of New York, to the slopes of the Lake Placid Olympics, to the Hollywood Hills, to the blue waters of the Bermuda Triangle, and brings him into close quarters with the likes of Johnny Carson, Ted and Joan Kennedy, and a seagoing John Lennon. [Buy The Dakota Winters @ Amazon]
The Museum of Modern Love, Heather Rose. Arky Levin is a film composer in New York separated from his wife, who has asked him to keep one devastating promise. One day he finds his way to The Atrium at MOMA and sees Marina Abramovic in The Artist is Present. The performance continues for seventy-five days and, as it unfolds, so does Arky. As he watches and meets other people drawn to the exhibit, he slowly starts to understand what might be missing in his life and what he must do. [Buy The Museum of Modern Love @ Amazon]
North of Dawn, Nuruddin Farah. For decades, Gacalo and Mugdi have lived in Oslo, where they’ve led a peaceful, largely assimilated life and raised two children. Their beloved son, Dhaqaneh, however, is driven by feelings of alienation to Jihadism in Somalia, where he kills himself in a suicide attack. The couple reluctantly offers a haven to his family. But on arrival in Oslo, their daughter-in-law cloaks herself even more deeply in religion, while her children hunger for the freedoms of their new homeland, a rift that will have life-altering consequences for the entire family. [Buy North of Dawn @ Amazon]
Watching You, Lisa Jewell. Melville Heights is one of the nicest neighbourhoods in Bristol, England; home to doctors and lawyers and old-money academics. It’s not the sort of place where people are brutally murdered in their own kitchens. But it is the sort of place where everyone has a secret. And everyone is watching you. As the headmaster credited with turning around the local school, Tom Fitzwilliam is beloved by one and all, including Joey Mullen, his new neighbor, who quickly develops an intense infatuation with this thoroughly charming yet unavailable man. Joey thinks her crush is a secret, but Tom’s teenaged son Freddie – a prodigy with aspirations of becoming a spy for MI5 – excels in observing people and has witnessed Joey behaving strangely around his father. One of Tom’s students, Jenna Tripp, also lives on the same street, and she’s not convinced her teacher is as squeaky clean as he seems. For one thing, he has taken a particular liking to her best friend and fellow classmate, and Jenna’s mother, whose mental health has admittedly been deteriorating in recent years, is convinced that Mr. Fitzwilliam is stalking her. Meanwhile, twenty years earlier, a schoolgirl writes in her diary, charting her doomed obsession with a handsome young English teacher named Mr. Fitzwilliam. [Buy Watching You @ Amazon]
The Day the Sun Died, Yan Lianke. One dusk in early June, in a town deep in the Balou mountains, fourteen-year-old Li Niannian notices that something strange is going on. As the residents would usually be settling down for the night, instead they start appearing in the streets and fields. There are people everywhere. Li Niannian watches, mystified. But then he realises the people are dreamwalking, carrying on with their daily business as if the sun hadn’t already gone down. And before too long, as more and more people succumb, in the black of night all hell breaks loose. [Buy The Day the Sun Died @ Amazon]
The books above are the editors top picks, but there are many more choices broken down by categories. Check them all out at Amazon’s Best Books of the Month – are there any you’re looking forward to reading?