Best Books of 2016 – Alex’s Picks
Teddy Wayne’s Loner, my favorite of this year’s bunch, is a precise snapshot of a college freshman seeking to climb the social ladder by attaining the elusive target of his lust. As protagonist David’s schemes and pretexts grow more elaborate, you’ll laugh uncomfortably as you are forced to confront an often-silenced but very prevalent problem across college campuses nationwide. By inserting the reader into the perspective a sexual assailant, this novel provides interesting insight into a character archetype that is elsewhere often portrayed only two-dimensionally.
Michel Houellebecq’s novel Submission imagines a 2022 in which the Muslim Brotherhood sweeps to power in France. Terrorist tactics are absent, in favor of democratically sound alliances. The regime seeks to perpetuate their hold by imposing Sharia law, particularly in the field of education, and the story is narrated by a professor navigating this rapidly shifting landscape. Like Loner, this book forces you to confront realities often pushed behind closed doors, yet in a way that is darkly hilarious.
For some lighthearted relief after the two heavy works above, my last pick is Alexander Masters’ A Life Discarded. It’s a nonfiction account of a biographer who gradually pieces together an anonymous life, spread throughout nearly 150 diaries of a single diarist (which were all left as trash in a dumpster). This book’s initial sections contain their share of tedium, as the diarist’s entries are often utterly unremarkable. But as Masters inches closer to discovering the essence of the elusive diarist, the eventual revelations prove surprising, funny, and memorable.