Wednesday, May 1, 2024

2024 is One-Third Over, Here Are My Favorite Books So Far

Four months into 2024, and I already have what will be my favorite novel the year, the novel I've already been an annoying evangelist for, and the non-fiction book I recommend with no hesitation to anyone "just looking for a good read." With new novels from Claire Lombardo, Haruki Murakami, Garth Risk Hallberg, and many other huge names scheduled for the remaining months, 2024 promises to only get better. But let's take a second and review where we are at the one-third mark. 

Three Favorite 2024 Books...So Far

3. Martyr!, by Kaveh Akhbar -- Immense. An absolutely brilliant debut novel. This story is about an Iranian immigrant searching for meaning in art, drugs, booze, love, and his past. I can't do this book justice in a few pithy sentences. It's my favorite of the year so far, and unless the next eight months produces something cataclysmically good, this will be No. 1 in December, too. 

2. There's Always This Year, by Hanif Abdurraqib -- Reading Abdurraqib is a wholly singular experience, and this is my favorite of all of his fantastic books. You don't have to know anything about LeBron or the Fab Five to enjoy this book about basketball, his life, social justice, police brutality, racism, and about a million other topics -- wherever his mind wanders. And it's so much fun to follow him. 

1. Perris, California, by Rachel Stark -- Deeply moving, deeply disturbing, and immensely readable. This is about a salt-of-the-earth family just trying to get by in a small California town, all the while dealing with past trauma. It's a really heavy read, but really accomplished. This is the 2024 book I'll spend the rest foisting upon readers. I loved it a lot! 

Three Favorite Non-2024 Books I Read in 2024...So Far

3. Appleseed, by Matt Bell -- Three separate timelines thousands of years apart converge and complement each other in this hugely imaginative cli-fi novel. 

2. Music For Wartime, by Rebecca Makkai -- One of the better short story collections I've read in a long time, Makkai really showcases the power of being concise -- how a FULL and complete and ENGAGING story can be created in just a few (or few dozen) pages. 

1. Biography of X, by Catherine Lacey -- Making art is about making choices. A life dedicated to art means making MILLIONS of choices. Not every choice will be successful. Not even MOST choices will be successful. Catherine Lacey definitely made enough successful choices though to create a truly unique piece of art with this novel. It's novel that explores the nature of art, the purpose of art, how art is made, the effects of making art, and how art is judged. This was a best book of 2023 just about everywhere, and it's worthy of all its accolades -- if, like all good art, it has its flaws, as well. Still, you likely haven't read anything quite like this. Quite a ride.

Three New Articles for Chicago Review of Books

1. How I Found My Way Back to Writing -- This essay published in January is about how I returned to writing fiction. 

2. Developing Connections in Paul Yamazaki's Reading the Room -- A review of a really special little book distilling 50 years of bookselling knowledge from one of the absolute titans of the bookselling world.

3. 5 Books by Booksellers about Bookselling -- A listicle that is pretty much exactly what the headline says. 

One Last Thing to Note:

For the first time in 15 years, I changed my Twitter handle. It's @GRZimmerman, if for some reason, you're still over on that dumpster fire train wreck hellscape that is Twitter. Here's the thing about Twitter, though: I still love it, lumps and all. If you don't stray too far from your carefully curated literary bubble, Twitter can still be fun. Find me there, if you're still there, too. 

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