What we need to know about the ‘better world’ books of 2018
What better world books are there?
It’s hard to say.
We’ve read some great classics like “Barry Lyndon,” “The Color Purple,” “A Beautiful Mind,” and “The Book of Love,” and others that we just can’t get enough of.
We’ll be back next year with more picks, including “A Room of One’s Own,” “I Am a Boy,” “Dogs,” “Cave of Forgotten Dreams,” “My Father, the Red One,” and more.
But for now, let’s talk about what we’re reading and why we’re so excited to be reading it.
We’re looking at five of the best books of the year that could only have been written by people who know a lot about the world and its people, a group that includes author, illustrator, critic, and author-editor Amy Cuddy.
(Note: Cuddy is not the author of these books.)1.
“The Better World” by Elizabeth Bear by Amy Cuddys “The first thing to know is that no matter how good your book is, if you can’t put words on it, it’s not going to be good.”
—Amy Cuddy, author of “A Better World,” in an interview with The New York Times 2.
“I am a Boy” by James Baldwin “The world can be a wonderful place, but I am a boy.
And you are my enemy.
You are the one who will never forgive me.
If you were my enemy, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself.
I would be dead.”
—James Baldwin, in “I Hate You, Daddy,” published in the October, 1940 issue of The New Yorker 3.
“Penguin’s new biography of Baldwin,” in “The New Yorker,” March, 2018 4.
“A Lonely Place” by Mark Twain “I hate the world because I am so lonely.”
—Mark Twain, in his book “A New Day” (1899) 5.
“Birdsong” by Jonathan Franzen “There is something so simple and beautiful about the voice of the birds in the air that I never knew I was missing until I read Birdsong.
It is an extraordinary achievement.”
—Jonathan Franzen, author, “The Bell Jar,” in a podcast interview with BuzzFeed News 6.
“Love in the Time of Cholera” by David Foster Wallace “When the government started to close down schools in the mid-nineteen-sixties, I remember walking through a school in Boston and thinking, This is not a good idea.”
—David Foster Wallace, author and co-editor of “The Great Gatsby,” in the February, 2017 issue of Vanity Fair 7.
“My Beautiful Laundrette” by Susan Sontag “I was just a child.
I had no idea what it meant to be poor.
I was just an ordinary boy.
I got my first real job, I made my own clothes, I bought my own books, and then I realized I could make a little money by doing other people’s work.”
—Susan Sontak, author “My Own Story,” in The New Inquiry 8.
“Tales of the Heartland” by John Steinbeck “When I look at the country as a whole, the only place where it doesn’t have a monopoly on evil is in the heartland.”
—John Steinbeck, in a letter to the editor in The Times 9.
“Black Skin, White Masks” by Maya Angelou “I have had so many times as a young child, in my imagination, in the back of my mind, this feeling of being watched, that the world seems to be watching me.
I feel that somehow, maybe it is something I am not allowed to do.
I am always afraid to be alone.
I always feel the presence of a presence.
I have this feeling, in part because I was always scared to be black.
But I’m not scared anymore.”
—Maya Angelou, in an essay for the Atlantic 10.
“Fiction in the Age of Trump” by Philip Roth “If I had to choose between Trump and a great writer who had been a very important influence on me, I’d choose Roth.
Roth is a brilliant writer who was a very strong voice in the 1960s.
He’s a great artist who had an extraordinary ability to convey emotion.”
—Philip Roth, in The Atlantic 11.
“We Are Not Alone” by Jane Austen “I don’t think there’s anyone alive today who’s as close to being alone as I am.”
—Jane Austen, in her autobiography, “A Man for All Seasons” 12.
“Garden of Bones” by George Orwell “I know that the man who knows the future, the man that knows what is to come, knows what lies ahead.”
—George Orwell, in interview with Time magazine, 1949 13.