Pachinko by Min Jin Lee and Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney

These two books really stood out for me (though both were published in 2017, I read them this year). On the surface they couldn’t be more different: The sweeping Pachinko follows four generations of a Korean family beginning in the early 20th century, illuminating Korean history and its relationship to Japan in particular. Conversations is the story of a contemporary young woman in Dublin, rich with provocative dialogue and psychological and intellectual insights. But both reveal the personal impact of broad social developments. Both are incredibly compelling reads. And both are particularly smart about women’s lives and how the political becomes personal. Normal People, the second novel by Rooney, a literary wunderkind, comes out in the U.S. in April. I can’t wait to read it.

Pachinko: Hachette Book Group, $16, 496 pages

Conversations: Hogarth, $17, 320 pages

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