It's hard to find much about 2017 that feels incontrovertibly good; not only does every week seem to bring some catastrophic news story or another, but every day we get collectively reminded, via the insane tweets of one Donald Trump, of the collective doom toward which we're all rushing. (Happy Sunday, everyone; I do hope you're all enjoying your summer.)
But so, if you want something to distract yourself from everything going on around you (and probably inside you; shit just feels real everywhere), there's no better place to escape than in a book. Here, then, are my 21 favorite books of the year so far. I've written about them all before in one capacity or another, so will just recommend them to you all below based upon who will love them the most and why. Read one, read them all, just be grateful, I guess, that no matter what else is happening, there's at least lots of good stuff to read.
The Gift by Barbara Browning
For the person who thinks the concept of "alternative facts" is a fascinating one, but loathes the way it has manifested itself in Trump's America. For the person who can get lost in watching the way another's hands move—particularly when those hands are attached to someone they love. For the person who could spend hours watching birds flying in ever-shifting formation. For the artist.
Read more about Barbara Browning's The Gift here.
The Answers by Catherine Lacey
For the person who has been told she asks too many questions. For the person who has been told she is a question to be answered. For the person who embraces all things wellness. For the person who is skeptical about all things wellness. For the person who travels not to go to a destination, but to escape their origin.
Read more about The Answers here.
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
For the person who wants to believe in love. For the person who wants to believe in redemption. For the person who wants to believe in peace as a possibility. For the person who wants to believe that belief matters, that someone is paying attention.
Read more about Exit West here.
Hunger by Roxane Gay
For the person who has been told their body is wrong. For the person who has been shamed for taking up too much space. For the person who has been made to feel like their existence makes others uncomfortable. For the person who refuses to be silenced and shamed. For the person who shuns marginalization and put themselves at the center of the story—their own and everyone else's.
Read more about Hunger here.
There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé by Morgan Parker
For the person who doesn't need their poetry to be "pretty." For the person who needs their poetry to be powerful in its beauty, in its ability to eviscerate them, in its willingness to go places they never knew existed before. For the person who drinks words like others drink water.
Read more about There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé here.
The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy
For the person who once thought they could have it all. For the person who is in on the joke now. For the person who can still laugh anyway. For the person whose laughter will be forever tinged by despair. For the person who refuses to live in aphorisms. For the person whose story is open-ended.
Read more about The Rules Do Not Apply here.
The Idiot by Elif Batuman
For the person who remembers life before the internet. For the person who wishes they could remember life before the internet. For the person who thinks there was no better time than college. For the person who is so glad they never have to step foot on a college campus again. For the person for whom the phrase "first love" induces the briefest of panic attacks. For the person for whom the phrase "first love" induces peals of laughter. For the person who likes their love stories full of dark humor and to center around a teenager, "the world’s least interesting and dignified kind of person."
Read more about The Idiot here.
Startup by Doree Shafrir
For the person who works in tech. For the person who works in media. For the person who needs more proof that most white men are the worst. For the person who already knew that most white men are the worst. For the person who has gone to or even considered going to a morning rave.
Read more about Startup here.
A Separation by Katie Kitamura
For the person who likes their narrators nameless. For the person who likes their narrators unreliable. For the person who likes these things because they know the world and that's contained within it is essentially un-categorizable and impossible to depend on. For the person who is okay with all that.
Read more about A Separation here.
Imagine Wanting Only This by Kristen Radtke
For the person who realizes all too well that everything around us, including everything we love, is ultimately ephemeral. For the person who, instead of running from this knowledge, runs closer to it, all the better to examine its truth from all sides. For the person who sees beauty in an abandoned town, an abandoned room, an abandoned heart.
Read more about Imagine Wanting Only This here.
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
For the person who doesn't mind reading dialect, and always skips overly long narration in novels anyway. For the person who is a history buff and always seeks the utmost verisimilitude in all their fiction. For the person who has lost a loved one and been compelled to rend their garments, beat at their breasts, and, yes, carry off that lifeless body and run with it till it starts moving again. For the person who carries on anyway.
Read more about Lincoln in the Bardo here.
Too Much and Not the Mood by Durga Chew-Bose
For the person who doesn't think reviews should be recaps. For the person who has a favorite color, even if they also have a hard time with the idea of "favorites." For the person who was told they were an old soul when they were a child. For the person who is happy sitting on the floor. For the person who finds the space beneath the noise.
Read more about Too Much and Not the Mood here.
Sunshine State by Sarah Gerard
For the person who has squinted when looking at the person they love as if that person were the sun itself. For the person who is afraid to jump into freshwater late at night, but not afraid of much else. For the person who thinks about the wild's encroachment onto manicured lawns and smiles the widest smile. For the person who loves animals.
Read more about Sunshine State here.
Oola by Brittany Newell
For the person who loves words which contain the letter L. For the person who loves words. For the person who has always felt, not outside exactly, but adjacent. For the person who knows this is okay, because it means you can still touch everything, still leave your mark.
Read more about Oola here.
Stephen Florida by Gabe Habash
For the person who doesn't understand why almost every book written by young authors these days is set either in New York of California. For the person who wants sentences tight as rope, as tendons, as muscles, and just as sinuous. For the person who wants to spit whatever it is their drinking onto the page they're reading because they can't help themselves. For the person who is deciding to rethink Arnold Schwarzenegger, whatever he might mean to them. For the person who was once pretty sure that the pimple on their head (or neck or back) was a tumor.
Read more about Stephen Florida here.
Salt Houses by Hala Alyan
For the person who is tired of only hearing about one side of things. For the person who hates when the term "humanize" is applied to humans. For the person who has long been looking for a home. For the person who knows that family can be complicated and messy and impossible, but that it is still what makes us who we are. For the person who knows that family is their home.
Read more about Salt Houses here.
Marlena by Julie Buntin
For the person who was told they weren't fulfilling their potential in high school. For the person who secretly and sometimes not-so-secretly wished their potential involved nothing more or less than long summer days driving around in cars with their best friend, higher than high, for reasons that did and didn't have to do with the things they'd put in their bodies. For the person who struggles with who they are now, as opposed to who they were then. For the person who keeps going anyway, because the opposite of struggle is surrender, and they want to feel like they've won at least one thing in their life, even if—especially if—it's life itself.
Read more about Marlena here.
Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood
For the person whose love of beautiful sentences is matched by their love of absurdity and their love of this one perfect tweet and their love of stories about being born again while watching The Exorcism hundreds of feet beneath the ocean's surface. For those people, there is no better book and there never will be.
Read more about Priestdaddy here.
We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby
For the person who knows that sometimes books can and should be judged by their covers, and would you look at this cover? For the person who always hated the trope about "saving for a rainy day." For the person who has had lots of rainy days. For the person who is not afraid of getting wet anymore; it's just water after all. For the person who knows they won't melt, they're survivors.
Read more about We Are Never Meeting in Real Life here.
Dear Cyborgs by Eugene Lim
For the person who loves comics more than just about anything. For the person who loves the act of loving the things they love. For the person who loves fantasy, but doesn't confuse it with reality. For the person for whom "resistance" is more than just a word used for marketing purposes.
Read more about Dear Cyborgs here.
The Sarah Book by Scott McClanahan
For the person who likes their love stories to contain fury and desperation, rage and something resembling redemption. For the person who likes, when they're reading, to feel as high as the tops of the purple mountains of West Virginia. For the person who knows those mountains tops are going to be blown off, and they want to feel that too.
Read more about The Sarah Book here.