Wow! Until I put together these book reviews, I didn’t realize what a dystopian/post-apocalyptic fiction kick I’ve been on. SO, if you are a fan of that genre, I’ve got LOTS of recommendations for you this month!
My thoughts on each of this month’s reads are below, listed in order of when I finished each book (no spoilers, I promise).
Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel
What if everything you love disappeared without warning? That is the question I found myself asking as I read this enchanting post-apocalyptic tale. The book is set up as a collection of short chapters, almost vignettes, switching back and forth between characters and time periods, with each vignette beginning to connect until the pieces seem to all fit together, forming a (somewhat) complete picture at the end. The premise is based on an apocalyptic concept often covered in pop culture – a disease outbreak that kills most of Earth’s population – but the author keeps the narrative fresh by focusing on the characters’ development and the search for meaning in society. Station Eleven was the well-deserved winner of the National Book Award for Fiction back in 2014. This novel made me feel nostalgic for things I haven’t even lost, and I was sad when it was over.
1Q84 – Haruki Murakami
Oh boy, where do I even begin? This is one of the longest, strangest, and most intricate stories I have ever experienced. 1Q84 is a 47 hour audiobook, and I believe it is over 1000 pages in the physical book format. The setting is Tokyo in the year 1984, and the chapters alternate between two points of view – that of Aomame, a female self-defense instructor, and Tengo, a male aspiring author and math teacher. Aomame enters into a parallel universe that is almost the same as the one she comes from with several noticeable discrepancies. As the story progresses, the characters’ paths become more and more intertwined. This was a very strange book, with some extremely weird and sometimes graphic parts, but the excellent writing and incredible world-building more than make up for it. Listening to this story was a truly unique experience.
The Devil in the White City – Erik Larson
The Devil in the White City is a fascinating nonfiction book covering two concomitant stories, that of the design and development of the Chicago World’s Fair, and that of the serial killer H.H. Holmes, who prayed upon the fair’s attendees. I had never studied the Chicago World’s Fair, so the historical account of its creation and importance were very interesting to me. The sections on Holmes were pretty scary and sometimes quite gruesome, and it was horrifying to me what he was able to get away with for so long. I love a nonfiction story that reads like a novel, and this one kept me on the edge of my seat.
The Deal of a Lifetime – Fredrik Backman
The Deal of a Lifetime, a new Christmastime novella by the bestselling author Fredrik Backman, is a short and poignant story reminiscent of A Christmas Carol. Told from the perspective of a successful businessman with a rare form of cancer looking back on his life and choices, the message I took away from this thought provoking story was that time is the most valuable currency we have. Beautiful color illustrations are sprinkled throughout the pages of this book.
Ready Player One – Ernest Cline
I had heard mixed reviews on this one before I started – some people absolutely love it and some people think the writing isn’t very good and that it leans too heavily on nostalgia. After listening to the audiobook, I find myself somewhere in the middle of the two camps. I have to admit that the writing is not incredible and that it is heavy on the 1980s-nostalgia, but I loved the campy nature of the story and the world that Ernest Cline created.
This dystopian novel is set in 2044 after most humans are living in poverty as a result of global warming, an energy crisis, and overall societal problems. Almost the entire story takes place in the Oasis, the virtual reality where many humans now work, live, and play. The reader follows Wade Watts (username: Parzeval) on his quest to discover an Easter egg, and associated treasure, hidden by Oasis founder and 80s fanatic James Halliday. Fans of video games and/or 80s pop culture will enjoy this one. I am delighted to share that Steven Spielberg is directing a movie version of this story, which will be released in late March of 2018.
Future Home of the Living God – Louise Erdrich
Future Home of the Living God was my November Book of the Month Club selection, partly because I have a weakness for dystopian/post-apocalyptic literature and partly because the guest judge who selected it is Tavi Gevinson, who I’ve been fascinated with ever since she sat front row at New York Fashion Week in a crazy hat at 13 years old.
The premise of this novel is that evolution is starting to go backwards – women are having babies of an earlier human species, often to the detriment of the mother’s life. In order to preserve the human race as they know it, the government is seizing, incarcerating, and impregnating fertile women. Future Home of the Living God is written as a series of diary entries from the main character, Cedar, to her unborn child. Author Louise Erdrich tells an introspective and unexpectedly quiet story about Cedar’s pregnancy and her relationships with her biological and adoptive parents in the tumultuous time in which she lives. This book is often compared to The Handmaid’s Tale (reviewed here), and it is definitely a story that makes you think.
Have you read any of these books? What was the best book you read this month?
Let me know in the comments below!
What have you been reading lately? Check out Modern Mrs. Darcy for more book reviews.
FYI: If you decide to purchase any books from this post, I recommend you buy them from a locally owned bookstore if that is an available option for you. If you decide to purchase from Amazon by clicking on any of the book covers from these book reviews, I get a small commission (at no extra cost to you). Also, if you sign up for the Book of the Month Club (which I highly recommend) by clicking on any of the links in the book reviews, I get a free book. Thank you!