Viet Thanh Nguyen’s two favorite reads of 2017

Critic at Large

I was late to reading Paul Beatty’s “The Sellout” but loved it as I knew I would, having been a fan since his 2001 novel “The White Boy Shuffle.” He wrote so many lines and deployed so many ideas I wished I had, beginning with the legal case that begins the novel: Me vs. America.

Less well known than “The Sellout” is Kao Kalia Yang’s “The Song Poet.” Her second memoir is a deeply moving account of her Hmong father, a working-class machinist in English-speaking America but a world-class song poet in the Hmong language. If you have a choice between spending 18 hours on a Vietnam War documentary or reading Yang’s book — read Yang’s book. You’ll learn something new, including how the Vietnam War was also fought in Laos and devastated the Hmong people.