Last year marked my first ever “Year of The Book.“
Entirely made up by myself, it was my way to bring myself back to my love of reading, to allow myself to “waste” time in the lovely, fulfilling, necessary pursuit. The year before I had read a staggering (for me, at the time) 24 books and I felt great. For 2016 I was aiming for 30.
In the end, I fell a bit short of my reading goal. Multiple visits from friends and finding out I was pregnant during my summer downtime severely cut in to my reading focus. And yet I still read a lot. I read 26 books, some incredible, some just so-so, all important. I read magazines, Internet and hundreds of pages of fiction and non-fiction books.
I don’t know if it was the Year of the Book, but I do know that my once-favorite past time has been reinstated and seriously cemented back into my life, and I couldn’t be happier.
Read on to check out what I read, what I added and what I just didn’t get to in 2016. You might find something you like!
Books on my list that I read:
My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem
Feminism and travel, in one book.
H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
Who knew that I’d care so much about a bird, or that I could sustain a book with such detailed descriptions of falconry? Written after her father’s sudden death, I was unsure if I’d be able to read it after my own father’s death, but the one-track obsession, the grieving, the nonsensical emotions hit me in all the write places in this well-written memoir.
The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr
Isn’t everyone’s dream to write a memoir? I’ve already got some titles for my own…
The Girl on The Train by Paula Hawkins
guilty pleasure of the year. Like most fast fiction, I found it pleasant but not great.
Bell Canto by Ann Patchett
99% of the action happens in one luxurious diplomats house, but the love, music and relationships take it much beyond that.
Snow by Orhan Pamuk
As an avid reader and traveler, it only makes sense that I begin to choose specific books about destinations I’m traveling to. In 2015 I read novels about Indonesia before our honeymoon there, in 2016 I picked up Snow to read more about Istanbul and Turkey in general, before our planned trip there. Unfortunately the trip was canceled, but the nuanced messages in the book remained.
Which country is happier? Why? How did they get so happy? And, of course, just what is true happiness? This was a fun and easy read that took me to Thailand, the Netherlands, Bhutan and Canada, among other places. I’ve added his sister book, The Geography of Genius, to my must-read list.
The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante
The Neapolitan Novels is a 4-part series by the Italian novelist Elena Ferrante. I read the first of the four novels, My Brilliant Friend, in Italian and the unique style of storytelling completely captivated me. The story is raw and a bit mysterious. Now I’ve finished the first three Neopolitan Novels by the secret author, My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay. Up next in 2017: The Story of the Lost Child.
White Teeth by Zadie Smith
Smith’s writing is incredible. Her characters are full and flawed and complicated. White Teeth is an inside look into the explosion of classes and races in London, done with style and, seemingly, ease. That said, I didn’t love the story. I appreciated the writing, but just couldn’t fall in love with the characters, with the storytelling. I’ll definitely try another Zadie Smith book in the future to see if it’s truly just the story or also the style.
Heat: An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany by Bill Buford
Heat is about an American chef Bill Buford’s year studying under celebrity chef Mario Batali in Italy. It was a fun, easy read great for anyone remotely interested in food, memoir or Italy. Though a bit odd and definitely too detailed during his time as a butcher in Tuscany, I enjoyed it and even gleaned a cooking tip or two.
Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
I read this weird, eerie novel while super miserable with chicken pox, and thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s tough and difficult. Though it seems surreal with its off-the-mainland characters and improbable encounters with ghosts, it’s a reminder that America has a vast variety of people and ways of life. This book focuses on some of the more out-there ways of life.
Books I read that were not on my list:
Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
A mother and her four daughters follow their headstrong, Evangelical preacher father deep into the Congo. We follow three decades of their story as the Congo fights for its independence and the girls do as well. The family is undone and shakily built back up again in post-Colonial Africa. It’s deep and brilliant.
The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
Praise of Folly by Erasmus
I wanted a souvenir from Paris’ infamous Shakespeare & Company bookstore. Not just any old novel, but one with weight, one that made sense to get. Earlier that week Marco explained to me all he had studied of Erasmus, as we stared at a marvelous painting of the genius humanist, theologian, critic and scholar. He spoke of the Praise of Folly and how relevant the satire seemed to him, even at a young age. When I saw it in the bookstore, I knew it was the perfect buy.
Written in the 16th century, Erasmus gives life to Folly, a sort of demi-god personalized by the author who argues from Folly’s point-of-view about love, loss, war, religion, social castes and more. For what else but folly brings man to war, or sex, or love?
Yeah, I read a book on punctuation and thoroughly enjoyed it. What about it?
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
My second book by Adichie, this book on the Biafran War in Nigeria was breathtaking and heartbreaking.
The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous & Broke by Suze Orman
Because why should men be the only financially literate ones?
Modern Lovers by Emma Straub
Love, Loss, and What We Ate by Padma Lakshmi
In Morocco by Edith Wharton
In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri
Jhumpa Lahiri’s most recent novel, titled In Other Words, is about the author’s own love affair with the Italian language. For no obvious reason, Lahiri developed an overwhelming desire to learn the language, and spent years doing just that. As she studied, she marveled at her own transformation. It was as if she found a different self in the language. I can relate.
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
After finding Lahiri’s novel In Other Words, I just had to explore more of her writing. I started with this multi-cultural novel, but I doubt it will be my last.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Books on my list that I didn’t get to:
Because sometimes, it happens.
The Story of Rome by Indro Montanelli
A Passage to India by E.M. Forrester
What is the What by Dave Eggers
The Table Comes First by Adam Gopnik
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Any book written by Haruki Murakami
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino
Paula by Isabel Allende
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
The Odyssey by Homer
Now, two months in to 2017 and I’m two books in, halfway through a third: the behemoth 941 pages of Fall of Giants, my first ever Ken Follett novel. Follow my progress on Goodreads or connect with me there so we can share together!
My list is long and ever-growing, so tell me, what’s on your list?