A Year in Books 2016



“Many people, myself among them, feel better at the mere sight of a book.”

~Jane Smiley~

Reading has long been my deepest passion and comfort and escape. Books have led me to my career as a teacher and writer. Books have saved my life more than once. Books have given me empathy, intelligence, adventure, perspective, love, and power. They are everything. It's been this way for me since I was a small child. My love for books was incessant to the point where my mother decided to teach me to read before I started kindergarten so that she could get an occasional break from me and my requests for her to stop everything and read to me. This knowledge I went into school with was a gift--while my classmates learned the alphabet, I was given the indulgent luxury of going to the carpet with a book of my choice from the shelf and tucking quietly in around myself there to read in solitude while they practiced. Even now, not a day goes by where I don't read at least a page or two of whatever book I'm into. Nothing will ever convince me that reading isn't its own kind of symbolic, transformative magic.

All of that said, 2016 wasn't a great reading year for me. I didn't get through as many titles as I normally do. By October, I realized that my time online was having a negative impact on my books and I eventually cut out social media (which I've since returned to in a much more infrequent way). During my two week break from online life, I read eight books, compared to my one or so per week the whole eleven months before. This is all I needed to know. I am going into 2017 with a goal to *double* my reading of last year. My brain felt completely rewired by tapping into the words on the page as opposed to the ones on-screen. And though, yes, I may be retreating just a touch from the stream of content and information flooding my computer screen, I am deepening my connection to life. My goal for 2017 is to read 100 books--this is a crazy high number with all that's going on in my schedule and personal life, but I have little doubt I will reach it, if I continue to replace mindless scrolling for page turning. I want to return to that little girl sitting quietly, lost in the middle of a room full of people, traveling across infinite universes of books. 2017, a year of literary homecoming.

My books of 2016 (in the order in which they were read or re-read, as noted by the *)    

  1.  The End of Alice by A.M. Homes
  2. Witches of America by Alex Mar
  3. Falling in Place by Anne Beattie
  4. The Snow Queen by Michael Cunningham
  5. The Mistress' Daughter by A.M. Homes
  6. The Third Angel by Alice Hoffman*
  7. Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto*
  8. The Red Convertible by Louise Erdrich*
  9. M Train by Patti Smith*
  10. Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver*
  11. A Forest of Souls by Rachel Pollack
  12. What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi
  13. Georgia by Dawn Tripp
  14. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
  15. The First Book of Calamity Leek by Paula Lichtarowicz
  16. LaRose by Louise Erdrich
  17. Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon
  18. It Didn't Start with You by Mark Wolynn
  19. Voyager by Diana Gabaldon
  20. Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi
  21. Dreams of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon
  22. Salt & Honey by Isabel Faith Abbott
  23. Rough Magick by Jessa Marie Mendez & Francesca Lia Block
  24. The Girls by Emma Cline
  25. An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon
  26. Written in My Own Heart's Blood by Diana Gabaldon
  27. Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton
  28. The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney
  29. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
  30. The Folded Clock: A Diary by Heidi Julavitis*
  31. Beauty is Convulsive by Carole Maso
  32. Harmony by Carolyn Parkhurst
  33. Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
  34. Feeding your Demons by Tsultrim Allione
  35. Difficult Animal by Lisa Lutwyche
  36. Writing Begins with the Breath by Larraine Herring*
  37. Hagseed by Margaret Atwood
  38. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
  39. One Hundred Names for Love by Diane Ackerman
  40. What It Is by Lynda Barry
  41. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg*
  42. The First Bad Man by Miranda July
  43. When Mystical Creatures Attack by Kathleen Founds
  44. Mysteries of the Dark Moon by Demetra George
  45. Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung
  46. Memories of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada
  47. The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
  48. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
  49. Rookery by Traci Brimhall*
  50. The Big Girls by Susanna Moore
  51. My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
  52. To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey

There were some others in there that I either abandoned or didn't fully get through, but these listed are the start-to-finish 52. A few of them are by friends of mine, which made those an even more special reading experience (I did disqualify them for my "favorites" though, just to be fair). A few of them I really disliked (Witches of America was completely misleading and Love Warrior was just awful--I'm sorry to all of you out there who loved it); a few I was very disappointed in (always a letdown, especially when it is an author I really love--Ann Patchett, I'm looking at you). My favorite writers for the year were: Helen Oyeyemi, Patti Smith, Louise Erdrich, Yaa Gyasi, Kathleen Founds, Yoko Tawada, and Eowyn Ivey. Please, please, please go read their titles I listed above. I'm serious. I read all of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander books and it was a very fun series--immersive and entertaining--but not my favorites as far as the writing itself goes at all. I read two men, fifty women--a ratio I plan to keep pretty close to, though I am looking to increase the diversity of my authors and book genres overall. Here's to a Happy New Year in Books...may your reading life be rich & varied & wild & out of control in 2017!