We’ve got you if you feel like you didn’t read enough at the end of the year. According to notable authors, artists, image-makers, and other cultural tastemakers, these are some of the best books of the year.
Model Emily Ratajkowski: Lover of Ghosts
“One of my creative heroes has always been Leonard Cohen. When I first heard his music as a teenager in the 1990s, I found that his deep, gravelly voice still exemplifies for me the wisdom and soulfulness that come from years of hard work. His voice is so real that it almost feels like an artifact—something massive and immovable made of stone. As a result, it came as a complete surprise to read fiction that he had written when he was very young, prior to any of the music that I am so familiar with. Cohen wrote a novel and a collection of short stories from 1956 to 1961 in ‘A Ballet of Lepers.’ Even in his early twenties, he was delving into the themes that made him uniquely Cohen: romance, sadness, loss, sexuality, and grace The writing captures all of his music’s beautiful poeticism, as well as a youthful naivete, playfulness, and rawness that I hadn’t anticipated. Seeing where this all began is so entertaining.
Actress and author Jennette McCurdy: What My Bones Understand
“The memoir “What My Bones Know” is striking. The voice of Stephanie Foo is unique—sometimes poetic, other times sharp. A must-read for anyone going through a complex trauma recovery.”
Artist Theaster Gates: to Realizing Complete Helplessness’
“Robin Coste Lewis has created a photographic and linguistic archive based on the pre-diasporic truth of family, family before Blackness and before the various misperceptions of “us” by others. Her poems never cease to provide me with new ways to comprehend the intricate ways of being beautiful, migratory, and optimistic in a time of gross inequality. Through the words and images hidden beneath our grandmother’s bed, Lewis creates light and portals that reveal our truth.”
The Serpentine Galleries’ curator and artistic director, Hans Ulrich Obrist: I’ve always known”
“The letters that Barbara Chase-Riboud wrote to her mother, Vivian Mae, between the years 1957 and 1991 serve as the basis for this portrait of the artist and writer. In this remarkable book, Barbara Chase-Riboud tells her mother about how she became an artist, about her love stories, and about her trips to China, Africa, and other countries. In these diaries, Pursue Riboud authentically and energetically portrays her goals, her desires and imaginative motivation, while additionally displaying adoration and delicacy to her mom. One of the pioneers, Chase-Riboud’s multifaceted practice investigates timely issues such as identity, power, and memory. Her career spans more than seven decades as a poet, novelist, and sculptor, and she has also been a great source of inspiration for other artists around the world. We couldn’t be happier to present Chase-Riboud’s first UK exhibition, which aligns with Serpentine’s goal of highlighting groundbreaking innovators whose work deserves more attention.”
Author Douglas Stewart: Trespasses’
“Trespasses by Louise Kennedy was one of my favorite books. The story of Cushla, a young Catholic school teacher who falls for a charismatic older man, is set during the troubles in Northern Ireland. Cushla is torn between taking care of her alcoholic mother, working as a teacher at the local parochial school, and running the family bar. Until she meets Michael, when her world slowly starts to open up, she feels stifled. However, Michael is not only married, but he is also a well-known Protestant and a barrister who is known for representing IRA members.
Trespasses is an uncommon book. It provides an intimate perspective on life during the Troubles by making the political so personal. You will truly worry for Cushla as she finds new freedom with Michael because her inner life and world are so vividly depicted. As Cushla transgresses and crosses religious, racial, and geographical boundaries, you can feel the pressure growing. Her story has you hooked from the start.”
Artist and photographer Nadia Lee Cohen: Best Selling”
‘Best Seller’ is a meta-fiction novel. It begins ‘If I wrote a book it would be a bestseller, and that is what I will call it… BEST SELLER.’ I was first drawn to the book after I was invited to create the portrait of the ‘author,’ June Newton. Plus it’s bright pink. The book made me feel like I was June Newton, and I think others should read it so they can feel like her too.”
Composer Max Richter wrote: “Sonic within Sonic”
“I loved Molleson’s insightful account of some of the eccentric people who spent their lives expanding the boundaries of musical languages over the last hundred years, which is this alternative history of music from the 20th century. We discover numerous gems that the Canonical Version of Music History has either ignored or forgotten along the way. The book’s unique quality is its powerful portrayal of the passion that inspires these individuals to pursue their goals; the difficulties they face, the sacrifices they make in order to finish the job, and the costs of putting a single creative endeavor at the center of their lives, both to themselves and to those around them. John Cage stated, “Our business as artists is curiosity.” The book by Molleson gives us a wonderful chance to see that curiosity in action and thus hear the world for the first time.”