2016 has been a very long year. How will the world remember it? Through books, of course. Short of bottling its scent, our best bet for recreating the feeling of being alive in 2016 will be to read the stories, both fiction and nonfiction, that survived it. Below are a handful of titles to keep in mind for later reading—say, on a rainy day in 2066—and see what happens.
The Association of Small Bombs, by Karen Mahajan
This novel tells the story of a small bombing (see: title) in a Dehli marketplace. The detonation kills two young brothers and devastates their parents, but is written off by the world as “just another bomb.” It speaks of the desensitization of violence (especially in the Middle East and East) and puts emotional weight back into small-scale terrorism.
End of Watch, by Stephen King
End of Watch concludes the Mr. Mercedes trilogy, which follows a man who drove his car into a crowd of people at a job fair. This installment explores hypnotism via electronics and human susceptibility to suicidal ideation.
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, by Matthew Desmond
This sociological work shows how the eviction of low-income renters (especially single mothers) has become commonplace, forcing hardworking people into shelters, slums, and violent neighborhoods. This is smart reporting on one of the most important (and overlooked) issues of our time.
Girls & Sex, by Peggy Orenstein
Imagine the problems that would be solved if every generation published a readable study on the sexual habits of its young people. We could track evolution, and conduct open, cross-generational discussions about the realities of intercourse. Are girls today truly more promiscuous than they were 50 years ago? Thanks to Orenstein, the readers of 2066 won’t have to wonder.
Heat & Light, by Jennifer Haigh
Haigh’s novel puts faces and names on the highly controversial business of fracking. She gives a voice to Pennsylvania residents spurned by the end of the coal era and seduced by the fallacy of sustained wealth. It fairly represents the narratives of struggling oil executives looking to save the fuel industry and destroying the American idyll in the process. In so doing, it paints a vivid picture of the realities of fracking: loud, dirty, and bathed in flammable tap water.
Here I Am, by Jonathan Safran Foer
This novel serves a layered, honest account of domestic life in our century. The book hypothesizes a fate for Israel that is not out of the realm of possibility, but would drastically change the course of history. What will Israel and the Middle East be in 50 years? Readers in 2066 will marvel at Foer’s bold predictions, and either laugh at or mourn them.
Underground Airlines, by Ben H. Winters
This story navigates a 21st century America where the Civil War never took place, one with smart phones and legal slavery. The title alludes to a popular route out of slave states. . . an Underground Railroad revamped with the invention of the Boeing 747.