Bookish Hall of Fame, Fourth Floor (Nos. 13-28)

This Spring I’m working through my ‘Bookish Hall of Fame’ pyramid — what are for me, the ‘best’ one hundred books I’ve read through the end of 2022:

Today I’ll unveil the fourth — next to highest — tier of the pyramid, covering numbers 13-28. These are all books I absolutely adore and could easily have made the my top tier. I will list them in reverse numerical order with some basic information and a very brief setup.

My Bookish Hall of Fame, Fourth Floor

28. Oh, William! (Lucy Barton 2), Elizabeth Strout (2021, Shortlist: Booker Prize)

In this rich, quiet novel, an aging writer is asked by her ex-husband to accompany him on a trip to Maine to unpack a shocking family revelation. (It’s a sequel to My Name is Lucy Barton, but I don’t it’s critical to have read the first one in this case.)

27. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley (1932)

A classic dystopian science-fiction story about what it means to be human and the price of ‘progress’.

26. Till We Have Faces, C.S. Lewis (1956)

In what is to my mind unquestionably Lewis’s best novel, he tells an original story that builds off of the myth of Cupid and Psyche, through the eyes of Psyche’s sister, Orual. It’s a tale of love, jealousy, and the power of what is, or ought to remain, in mystery.

26. Children of God (The Sparrow 2), Mary Doria Russell (1998)

This is my favorite kind of sequel — the kind that blows up the world created by the first while also being completely true to its spirit. Here we see the profound ripple effects human contact has on the alien cultures met in The Sparrow (which you should definitely read first and which will appear in the next post).

24. The Stone Carvers, Jane Urquhart (2001, Shortlist: Giller Prize, Governor General’s Award) 🇨🇦

The Canadian descendants of German immigrants deal with the realities and memory of the First World War. (The First World War is definitely an over-served trope in Canadian literature, but trust me when I say this strikes very different notes from the usual fare.)

23. Binti (Binti 1), Nnedi Okorafor (2015, Winner: Hugo Award, Nebula Award)

When her transport ship is attacked by an alien species, a young African mathematician discovers her traditional wisdom contains the tools she needs to not only survive, but to build connections thought to be impossible. This is a short novella but it packs a fantastic punch, both narratively and philosophically. (The two sequels in the series are also excellent.)

22. Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides (2002, Winner: Pulitzer Prize, Shortlist: National Book Critics Circle Award)

This book does a lot of things: It’s a book about the desperate choices of desperate people; it’s a book about immigration and race in the United States; it’s a book about silk; it’s a book about Detroit; and, it’s a book about the experiences of an intersex individual in mid-century America. That it completely works on all of these levels is testament to just how good it is.

21. City of Brass (Daevabad Trilogy 1), S.A. Chakraborty (2017)

All three books in this series made it into my Hall of Fame Pyramid, but the one that starts it all off reaches the highest. It introduces our protagonist Nahri, a thief in Cairo and her  protector Dara as they travel to the magical djinn city of Daevabad, where Nahri has an unexpected and inescapable family legacy.

20. The Brothers Karamazov,  Fyodor Dostoevsky (1879)

The classic story of a family of brothers, each of a different temperament, in the late Russian Empire, it offers rich perspectives on philosophy, theology, politics, and revolution. It’s far from an easy read, but it’s well worth the effort!

19. The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro (1989, Winner: Booker Prize; Author received Nobel Prize for Literature)

After decades of service in an English manor house, a butler begins to reflect on the quality of the life he’s lived and his increasing discomfort with the actions of the man he had served for so long.

18. Home (Gilead 2), Marilynne Robinson (2008, Winner: Orange Prize; Shortlist: National Book Award)

While this is a sequel to Gilead, which appeared at 29 on this list, the plot of Home actually runs parallel to it, taking place alongside the events of the first book. It tells the story of the strained relationship between a dutiful daughter and the prodigal son whose return is the major source of conflict in the first book.

17.  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Schaffer (2008)

A delightful epistolary novel about a writer in post-war England who develops a relationship with the people of Guernsey and learns of their experiences of German occupation during the War.

16. The Incandescent Threads, Richard Zimler (2022)

In this gorgeous novel, the two lone survivors of a large Jewish family rebuild their lives after the Holocaust in very different ways, but each wonders if it is the other who has found the righteous path.

15. Sea of Tranquility, Emily St. John Mandel (2022) 🇨🇦

Spanning hundreds of years, and locations from the forests of Vancouver Island to lunar colonies, this is a powerful, playful, and profound exploration of time, hope, and the human experience.

13-14. A Psalm for the Wild-Build (2021) and A Prayer for the Crown-Shy (2022) (Monk and Robot 1-2), Becky Chambers

In a distant future, where humanity has tentatively rebuilt itself after a climate apocalypse and robots have gained sentience and fled into the wilderness, a young monk is confronted by an emissary from the robots who is trying to answer one deceptively simple question: What do humans need? This duology is so hopeful, so charming, so profound — I’m glad they found a place this high in my rankings.


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