Rosalind Faires' Top Reads of 2016

Top Books to Make You Cry on Your Lunch Break

These three novels drew a discreet tear or two with their beautiful, brave, and bittersweet humanity

Rosalind Faires' Top Reads of 2016

Now, when I say cry, I don't mean bawl. I'm talking the elegant tear or two that ever so slyly escapes your eye when your heart is full to bursting. To the people who find themselves crying over the overwhelming beauty of a certain piece of music or videos of animals of different species befriending each other or sudden confrontations with minor acts of completely non-obligatory kindness – these are for you.

1) A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (Viking) It's a Russian novel for American audiences – littered with exquisite insights into human behavior but moving at a slightly brisker pace than can be found in Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. It follows the Count Alexander Rostov's life under house arrest in the elegant Moscow hotel, the Metropol. Beginning with his sentencing in 1922, we chart the arc of history through the way it affects the running of a hotel and the life of one deeply kind, erudite gentleman.

Cry about the beautiful minute contradictions that live in people and how fearsome and tender it is to grow old with people you love.

2) The Last Painting of Sara De Vos by Dominic Smith (Sarah Crichton Books) Smith has us criss-crossing through time to track the work of the title artist, a Dutch painter of the Golden Age, who paints her most enduring work in the wake of her daughter's death.

Cry about the mysterious way in which art inspires and eludes us, about the compromises we make and how they haunt us, about life lived in the bittersweet.

3) Arcadia by Iain Pears (Alfred A. Knopf) A grand spiderweb that rewards you the more you explore it, Pears' fantasy tracts the intersection of three seemingly disparate realities: 1960s Oxford, England; a pastoral fantasy world in the tradition of J.R.R. Tolkien's the Shire; and a dystopian tech-heavy future.

Cry about the simple bravery of human beings living their lives in spite of futures they know they must face, and the sheer wonder of watching threads knit together so elegantly.

More Top 10s
Top 10 Movies of 2016
Top 10 Movies of 2016
The Chronicle film staff's overall winners of the year

Josh Kupecki, Dec. 30, 2016

Josh Kupecki's Top 10 Films of 2015
Josh Kupecki's Top 10 Films of 2015

Josh Kupecki, Jan. 1, 2016

More Fiction
<i>I’ll Take You There</i>
I’ll Take You There
Wally Lamb's novel spotlights a spirit of early Hollywood, but its Metabook edition gives her a 21st century showcase

Robert Faires, Dec. 2, 2016

Review: Emma Cline's <i>The Girls</i>
Review: Emma Cline's The Girls
This seismic literary debut tracks a California girl drawn to a dark cult in 1969

Tim Stegall, Aug. 12, 2016

More Arts Reviews
The Vortex Repertory Company's <i>Underground</i>
The Vortex Repertory Company's Underground
Driven by Lisa B. Thompson's powerful text and masterful acting, this new drama drops a truth bomb

T. Lynn Mikeska, March 31, 2017

"ART for All + ALL for Art" at Art for the People Gallery
Truth is one of the rewards of this showing of work by artists who have lived on the streets

Sam Anderson-Ramos, March 31, 2017

More by Rosalind Faires
The Bookstore Cat Is Alive and Well
The Bookstore Cat Is Alive and Well
Sprawled across the book you want to read at Dragon’s Lair

Feb. 10, 2017

<i>Who Killed These Girls?</i>
Who Killed These Girls?
by Beverly Lowry

Nov. 4, 2016


Top 10s, Fiction, A Gentleman in Moscow, Amor Towles, The Last Painting of Sara de Vos, Dominic Smith, Arcadia, Iain Pears

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