17 Must-Read Books for the New Year
An unlikely debut, a posthumous masterpiece, and more titles to pick up now.
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Banana Yoshimoto’s 1988 debut novel, Kitchen, was so popular in her native Japan that it gave rise to a new word: Bananamania. Her latest, Moshi Moshi , opens with an account of a bizarre “love murder-suicide” involving charcoal briquettes and carbon monoxide. The murder victim is a married musician who dies by his lover’s hand. His survivors—daughter Yoshie and her mom—grapple with not only grief and scandal, but also relating to each other in death’s wake. As a writer, Yoshimoto is part abstract painter, part philosopher, fashioning spare, haunting stories that wrestle with existential questions in ways everyone can grasp. Reflecting on how mired in sadness she remained two years after her father’s death, Yoshie acknowledges her pain but allows a ray of sunshine: “Even so, come tomorrow morning, I’d be kneading bread dough, boiling water, shredding salad vegetables, mopping the floor. My body would know what to do.... That was all I could do.”
— Leigh Haber