Jennifer’s Best Books

These are not in any particular order:

  1. Best Worst HandsDept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill: I could quote the whole book for you. (This is how Joni Mitchell must feel when she sings to that guy, “I could drink a case of you.”) Slim and fragmented, it all adds up.
  1. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: Lavish in its loveliness. Here’s Snotty Literati’s review.
  1. Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? By Roz Chast: This is the first time I’ve put a graphic novel or memoir on my “Best Of” list! I really don’t read them often, and I still vacillate on just how to consider them: literary art form or a visual art form? But perhaps the point is moot.
  1. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel: The thing about this book is that it’s so very compelling. Fun, apocalyptic, literary, zombie-free, gripping. (Oh, and I love zombies—but I’m thankful that Emily keeps it real.)
  1. Revolution by Russell Brand: The first few pages led me to think he was the most brilliant writer ever. But, by the end, I thought it was pretty repetitive, and in need of a good editor. I also think many of his John Lennon-esque, anarchic/utopian ideas are utterly unworkable. The thing is that I ended up bringing this book up in conversation more than any other book I read this year—and, usually, I was recommending it because the writing was so good. Go figure.
  1. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: This novel is what good reading is all about. I loved it. Here’s our Snotty Literati review.
  1. Plot Against America by Philip Roth: Every time I read Philip Roth, I’m blown away. I end up saying things like, “He’s the best living American writer today.”
  1. The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison: Not every essay is a win, but many are. Really, I sometimes felt dumb reading this smart book. But the gems, the gems, the gems!
  1. Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart: Published in 2010, this book is so future-savvy, so ahead of its time! It’s funny, original, vital. Apocalyptic, too—but in a less-crazy way than we’re used to talking about it. This is an author I hope to read again and again.
  1. I can’t say that I really have ten books I totally adored this year!! But, if you’re thinking of other fabulous books to read, check out Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, Strength to Love by Martin Luther King, Jr., Sounder by William H. Armstrong, and Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. All of these really are Top-Ten-Worthy, seriously.

Worst Books Of The Year: Definitely Harper Lee’s Go Set A Watchman and Andy Weir’s The Martian. I wrote about the Harper Lee Debacle here. I am clearly in the minority on Weir, but ugh. Here’s the Snotty Literati review.

Best Movies of the Year: A little non-expert opinion for you here. My personal favorite from 2015 was The End of the Tour, in which I thought Jason Segel did an AMAZING job playing David Foster Wallace. I liked all of it, all it had to say. Writer stuff. Gen X stuff. Sad stuff. I like Jesse Eisenberg too. Excellent screenplay with a lot of talking, which doesn’t always work unless it really works.

My other, lesser favorite was Noah Baumbach’s While We’re Young. Baumbach, a fine writer, doesn’t always work for me—but I had a visceral, almost panicky-response to this one with its hit-home commentary on aging, which is one of my favorite themes. Ben Stiller does some magic too. (I also loved two older films a lot: Whiplash and Birdman.)

Worst Movies of the Year: Let’s not dwell. They were San Andreas, Interstellar, Jurassic World, and Rikki and the Flash. Why did I see so many bad movies?

The TV We Went Nuts Over: “Mad Men” (I think Matthew Weiner is a genius),” “The Sopranos” (I know! We just watched the whole thing, and the late James Gandolfini outshined every one of my favorite actors!), “The Walking Dead” (which is totally awesome—don’t get me started!), “Orphan Black” (Low-brow/high-brow brilliance!). We liked “Fear the Walking Dead.” Our children made us watch “Once Upon a Time” and it’s the world’s most contrived show, but Hook is adorable. I could be done with it right now, if they’d let me. We turned off the new Tina Fey sitcom (needs more Tina?) and “House of Cards” (Too much hyperbole? Caricatures not characters?). We started “Six Feet Under,” and I think I really like it. I like it more and more as we keep watching.