Books from 2015

Where'd you go, Bernadette (Maria Semple).  If you're looking for a fun summer read, this is the one.  It's hilarious, insightful, and moving--ridiculous but in a way that still seems authentic.  Highly recommend.

Our Lady of Alice Bhatti (Mohammed Hanif). An interesting experience of Karachi through the eyes of a Christian woman working at a large public hospital.  Like Hanif's other books, it's a masterful set of interwoven though pathetic stories, that gets into the nitty gritty of everyday life (not what we read in the news).

A Handmaid's tale (Margaret Atwood).  This book reminds me why books are so powerful.  Written in 1986, it still gets to the core issues of personal freedoms, gender, and state control that remain so critical today.  Having seen the movie awhile ago (thanks Ruthie for forcing me to!), I was really impressed by the use of interiority, that is, the introspection of characters with seemingly little autonomy.

Fat Years: a novel (Koonchung Chan).  Only banned books are worth reading, right?  Described as Huxley's "brave new world" equivalent for modern-day China, this fictional account of life following the economic crisis of the Western world, and China's subsequent domination, is a really interesting read.  Early on the main character is asked if he'd prefer a "fake heaven" to a "good hell".....what would you choose?

The Orphan Master's Son (Adam Johnson).  I might as well admit it: I was really skeptical that someone named "Adam Johnson" could write convincingly as an orphan from North Korea.  But having read the book, including Johnson's notes on the detailed research he did interviewing and reading the interviews of American prisoners and North Korean emigrants, I think it's probably as good as it gets. It's certainly a different world, and a window into how one psychologically adapts to the shifting whims of a totalitarian state.  Nothing lasts forever, right?

The Rosie Effect (Graeme Simsion).  I read The Rosie Project over Christmas and couldn't stop laughing.  The sequel is more emotionally intense, but has a story line that achieves the same richness in humor, at times painfully awkward, with insights about human nature. Relationships, science, human nature, and change--what more could you want?  (FYI, Bill Gates gave this book to 50 friends.  No, unfortunately I wasn't one of them!)

The lives of others (Neel Mukherjee). If the book had been about half the actual length, it would have been great.  Set in West Bengal in the 1960s, the characters span from Naxalite activists to the wives of upper-class business owners squabbling over jewelry.  But it's long and anemic at times, so I only recommend it to those who are deeply interested in the period or region.

The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, dictators, and the forgotten rights of the poor (William Easterly)  In the the meantime NY Times review here.