I know people usually compose “best-of” lists at the end of the year. But here are some early standouts as of March 8th, 2014:
1). One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by B.J. Novak
Yes, that B.J. Novak-former actor/writer/producer of “The Office.” The boy can write. I don’t read much fiction, but I couldn’t resist this book. “The Office” is my all-time favorite show, so it was just a given. This novel is a collection of delightful, sad, clever, hilarious, and sweet short stories. It reminds me of plate of petit-fours: small, sweet, and hits the spot. (That’s what she said.) OH COME ON, IT’S FROM “THE OFFICE.” Like I couldn’t make that joke?
2). The Death Class by Erika Hayasaki (non-fiction)
Nurse Norma Bowe teaches a “death class” at a small college in New Jersey. She never expected it to be so popular-the syllabus includes lessons about last wills and good-bye letters and class trips to mortuaries and cemeteries. Author Hayasaki spent four years following Bowe and her students. While the premise of the book sounds somewhat morbid, I promise you it’s really not. It forces you to ask yourself the “big questions” and what it really means to live, what death can teach us, and the real meaning of life.
3). Little Failure: A Memoir by Gary Shteyngart (non-fiction)
Shteyngart is already an acclaimed fiction author; but this is his first stab at non-fiction. Born in Leningrad, Russia (the Soviet Union back then), he moved to America with his family in the 1970’s. This book tells the familiar story of an immigrant family coming to America. Shteyngart intertwines both Russian and American life, and the two worlds he hopped back and forth from. The title of the book comes from a nickname his mother gave him, “Failurchka.” Roughly translated, it means “Little Failure.” I found this memoir to be funny, raw, emotional, vivid, and original.
4). The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert (non-fiction)
A scientific book that’s surprisingly easy to read, Kolbert tells us that by burning fossil fuels, we are rapidly changing the atmosphere, the oceans, and the climate, forcing potentially millions of species into extinction. You’ll follow her on many adventures: from the rain forest to the Great Barrier Reef to swimming amongst poisonous jellyfish and exploring bat caves, just to name a few. Anyone interested in science, sociology, geology, botany, biology, or zoology will find this book fascinating. Humans need to get their shit together, stat.
5). L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food by Roy Choi
Let me just start off by saying that I can’t cook. At all. No, really. I mess up boiled eggs.
But Anthony Bourdain is one of my favorite authors (who just happens to be a world famous chef), and he highly recommended this book via his Twitter page. It’s part memoir (growing up with Korean immigrants as parents, falling into a bad crowd as a teen, getting himself out of said bad crowd and eventually starting the food-truck craze in LA) and part cookbook, with “cheap eat” recipes like instant ramen with sliced cheese, to more difficult plates like eggplant curry, kimchi jjigae and carne asada.
Let me know what makes your list!