I can’t believe 2019 has come to a close! It was a year spent ruminating on culture, identity, and justice. It was also a year spent reading more fiction than usual. Both of these things are reflected in my Books of the Year for 2019, which I present alphabetically by author.
Embassytown by China Miéville
Embassytown is the story of humanity’s outpost on an alien world. The aliens (called Ariekei or “Hosts”) have a tight relationship between language, perception, and cognition – they are unable to lie or use metaphors, and they recruit humans to act out “similes” so that they can then refer to those true events in speech. The heroine of Embassytown is a woman who cannot speak this language, but is forever a part of it as a simile. We follow along as the relationship between Human and Host brings changes to both cultures – some for the better and some for the worse. This is a book about language, culture, truth, and the intersection of all those things.
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
I’m way behind the curve on this one, and there’s not much for me to say that hasn’t been said already. But golly, what a book. Song of Solomon is the coming-of-age tale of Macon “Milkman” Dead as he struggles to find his place in this world. Morrison explores family (biological and chosen), justice, identity, and home in a way that is uniquely resonant.
Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? by Michael Sandel
This is the best survey of ethics and moral philosophy that I’ve read. In Justice, Sandel provides an overview and history of major schools of ethics and applies them to real moral dilemmas and questions. In addition to this, he offers one of the most cogent cases for Virtue Ethics that I’ve seen. I don’t agree with all of Sandel’s conclusions in this book, but it was both thorough and readable. You don’t always get both of those in a philosophy book.
If you’re curious about the other books I read in 2019, you can find them on my Goodreads profile