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Best Book of the Year

Review: ‘The Underground Railroad’ is the Best Book of the Year — Maybe the Decade

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Decades before the Civil War, a slave woman named Cora risks her life and runs off a cotton plantation in Georgia. Colson Whitehead’s hero in The Underground Railroad is afraid to take a gamble on so much until she realizes she wouldn’t be risking that much to begin with. Being a slave is not a life anyone would want to live; her livelihood is no livelihood at all. In bondage, Cora merely exists. She must take that ultimate risk: liberty or death. In his novel, Whitehead successfully gets to the heart of how slavery reduces a person to a point beyond recoverable humanity with this masterful, weaving tale of America’s nefarious past. Blending history with fictional innovation, Whitehead breathes life…

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Review: The Weird Greatness of Nathan Hill’s “The Nix”

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A lot of people have called Nathan Hill’s debut novel, The Nix (Knopf, August 30, 2016), one of the best of the year. They’re absolutely right. This willfully sprawling, imperfectly ambitious novel contains so many shades of other books that I love that, upon reflection, it’s startling to consider the unique sort of excellence Hill has been able to achieve. To inadequately sum up a massive, 620 page novel, the story follows the relationship between an aloof son and his estranged mother. Samuel Andresen-Anderson, a 30-something college English professor obsessed with “World of Elfscape,” starts researching the life of his mother, Faye, after she gets caught on camera throwing rocks at a horrible politician. She had abandoned him without warning…

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