Laura’s 10 Best Titles of the Year
Laura Fraser, Shebooks cofounder and editorial director, admits she’s a compulsive reader. In fact, she’s kept a list of all the books she’s read since she was 12! Meanwhile, here’s her list of her favorite print books from the past 12 months—all by women, in honor of the Shebooks launch.
1. My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante
This author writes under a pseudonym—perhaps because her depictions of life in Southern Italy are so raw and honest. This novel is the first in a trio about two smart, ambitious young women from a poor Naples neighborhood and the twists their friendship undergoes as they confront jealousy, resentment, changes in circumstance, and new opportunities.
2. Stuck in the Middle with You: Parenthood in Three Genders, by Jennifer Finney Boylan
Finney Boylan—whose original novella for Shebooks, I’ll Give You Something to Cry About, to be released in May—writes a moving book about her gender change with characteristic good humor: “I was a father for six years, a mother for ten, and for a while in between I was neither, or both–the parental equivalent of the schnoodle, or the cockapoo.”
3. The Panopticon, by Jenni Fagan
This novel is about a young Scottish woman who survives a series of foster homes and abuse to land in a facility for troubled adolescents—beautifully written.
4. The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt
A young boy survives an explosion in an art gallery that kills his mother and takes a priceless painting with him out the door. The sprawling novel follows his progress to adulthood as he lives with various memorable characters. I couldn’t put it down!
5. The Flamethrowers, by Rachel Kushner
Set in the 1970s, this is the story of a young motorcycle racer who is (briefly) the fastest woman on earth. The book careens from the New York art world to political turmoil in Italy—a heady read concerned with art, love, politics, and class but still full of heart.
6. Bring Up the Bodies, by Hilary Mantel
The story of Anne Boleyn never gets old (just watch “The Tudors” or any of the movies made about Henry VIII). But Mantel takes the story to an entirely new psychological depth, with vivid historic detail.
7. The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer
This novel follows teenagers at art camp into middle age, as their connections are strained by changes in fortune, ambition, degrees of satisfaction, and the realization (or not) of their early talents.
8. The Woman Upstairs, by Claire Messud.
The main character, Nora, is a humdrum teacher who builds little dollhouses—a direct nod to Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House—and imagines a more interesting life of glamour, travel, and intrigue. She is the opposite of the “woman upstairs,” the madwoman in the attic, but as this novel proceeds, her equilibrium and creativity are challenged, as is her sense of reality.
9. Knocking on Heaven’s Door, by Katy Butler.
A beautifully written and meticulously researched tale of Butler’s years taking care of her elderly parents, exposing the flaws in the American medical system and our costly avoidance of death. An important read for anyone who will ever have to care for an elder.
10. The Round House, by Louise Erdrich.
A coming-of-age story of an American Indian boy, layered with a dawning understanding of human evil, cultural conflicts on and off the reservation, and a wavering sense of justice.
Laura Fraser is author of the Shebook, The Risotto Guru