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Best Books of 2016

What Belongs to You, by Garth Greenwell | Soul Machine, by George Makari | Modern Families, by Joshua Gamson

covers of books reviewed

Garth Greenwell’s What Belongs to You (Picador) is a lyrical contemplation of desire, love and identity, a chronicle of the relationship between the protagonist, a gay American teacher, and a Bulgarian hustler. Written in meditative, generous prose, it is at once formally accomplished and intimate, high-minded but personal, witty but substantive. It’s the best first novel I’ve read in a generation. Soul Machine (Norton) is George Makari’s examination of the way we moved from conceptualising our core humanity in terms of a soul to conceptualising in terms of a mind. It’s a history not of psychiatry but of consciousness, magisterial and pellucid and often wise. Joshua Gamson’s Modern Families (NYU) is a gleeful romp through the changing notions of what constitutes family: single mothers by choice, gay families, complex adoption narratives. It finds the point of contact between emotional and legal strictures, and points towards an encouraging new liberalism.

(To read the year’s top picks by a parliament of authors, please visit The Guardian.)