Since we're coming on 1 year since the global lockdown, I thought I'd hold an awards show for the books that helped get me through it. This can also serve as a recommendation list for anyone looking for new reads.
Best Historical Fiction
The General of the Dead Army by Ismail Kadare.
Tells the story of an Italian general and a priest, both unnamed, sent to Albania sometime in the '60s to retrieve the bodies of soldiers who died there during WWII. A lot of the book deals with uniquely Albanian topics, but "young men dying uselessly in pointless wars" is a damn-near universal theme.
Lithium Jesus by Charles Monroe-Kane.
Primarily chronicles the author's struggle with mental illness, faith, and purpose. Most of it stays in the "look at all these unhealthy coping mechanisms I used to have" territory. Sometimes it veers into " weren't some of those unhealthy coping mechanisms cool as hell?" humblebrag territory.
Imperial Life in the Emerald City by Rajiv Chandrasekaran.
The author is journalist for the Washington Post who was in Iraq during the American occupation, and published shortly after he left in 2006. Recounts how America absolutely bungled the rebuilding of Iraq in 2003-2004. Chandrasekaran shows the equal mixture of ignorance, greed, incompetence, and arrogance, all the while without coming across as overly polemic.
Best Historical Non-Fiction
Kristallnacht: Prelude to Destruction by Martin Gilbert.
I anxiety-binged up due to certain global events. Goes almost hour-by-hour from the build-up to until the rebuilding from the events of Kristallnacht across Germany. Most of Gilbert's work is fantastic.
Best novel I couldn’t finish due to real life circumstances
Station Eleven by John Mandel.
I tried reading it in May, but the story revolving around societal collapse brought on by a plague hit too close to home. I only managed to get two chapters in. It’s being adapted by HBO and is by all accounts fantastic.