by Zadie Smith
I read this, and then talked a whole bunch about it, and then listened to this incredible interview with Eleanor Wachtel, and wound up realizing I loved it. In a few words, this is a brilliant piece of fiction. It's flawed and realist, but also experimental and carefully woven. It's far-reaching, but narrow in scope: the lives of four people raised on a council estate in northwest London. It looks at only a few specific people's life experiences, but makes them beautiful and heartbreaking and imperfect, makes us feel their imperfections as our own. Smith affirms and reaffirms her place as one of the most interesting writers around in this novel that makes us reconsider our ideas about female friendships, about identity, about class, about race.
by Chris Ware
Let's be honest: Chris Ware is another of the most interesting writers/ artists/ cartoonists around. His books make me feel for other people, make me believe in other people. He takes out moments of people's lives, and flays down to the utter truth - the loneliness, the love, and the losses. This box of stories is beautifully designed, impeccably thought out, and filled with the all-too-real musings of perfectly imperfect beings like the ones who surround us in real life. [See also: Jade's Staff Picks.]
Rookie Yearbook One
edited by Tavi Gevinson
Rookie produces some of the smartest, most interesting, most on-the-level, non-pretentious content for teenage girls that has ever existed. And the advice, life lessons, and cultural analysis are not just handy for teenagers or teenage girls - Rookie has taught me life lessons and showed me new pop culture heroes. Don't believe me? Read this article about encountering the male gaze. Read this interview with Chris Ware. Read some of the comments on this article about street harassment. Finally, it sure doesn't hurt that the book itself is G-O-R-G-E-O-U-S - tons of Sonja Ahlers's beautiful collage work, textiled backgrounds, a crown, a sticker sheet! [See also: Julien's Staff Picks.]
by Carmen Aguirre
The Making Of
by Brecht Evens
Pippi Moves In
by Astrid Lindgren & Ingrid Vang Nyman
Everybody loves Pippi Longstocking. How can you not? She's the best. When I was a kid, the only thing I loved more than rad books was rad books with a female protagonist. Buy this for all the little girls you know, teach 'em that they too can be the strongest in the whole world. Vang Nyman's illustrations are uncannily prescient - beautiful colours, startling use of perspective, and a world resplendent with thingamajigs and doodads.
The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
by Deb Perelman
How Music Works
by David Byrne
Honourable mention goes to Lilli Carre's Heads or Tails - this is a cartoonist who knows how to do a short story right! Also to Anna & Froga and Jerusalem (which I put on last year's list, so I don't think I can justifiably include the same book two years in a row, even if we did publish awesome translations of them). Let's also throw out an honourable mention to Michael Chabon's Telegraph Avenue and Dave Eggers's Hologram for the King - I'm pretty sure these would be on the list if I had just been able to get my life organized to read them already!