At the end of every year, I like to look back on my year in books – what I read, where I grew, what my goals are for the year ahead.
2016 was a weird one. I spent the beginning of the year battling morning sickness, and as such, got a slow start on my goal to read twenty books. Indeed, a friend asked me in February whether it was true that I had only read two books thus far. In years past, I had worked for Book Riot, reading had been an integral part of my writing life, and I had time. I also wasn’t curled up in the fetal position, waiting to throw up. (That does put a damper on your reading life.)
But as the year progressed, I found my way. The nausea abated, and I found I was trying to capitalize on my remaining time before Gus made his grand arrival. I knew reading would be a challenge after that. I was right – I’m finally over the initial post-baby reading hurdle, but it’s still a challenge.
While there are three more days to the year, it’s unlikely I’ll have more books to add, so here’s the highlight reel, my favorite bookish moments for 2016, along with some recommendations.
Best Reading Memory
The week before my baby was due, I sat on my exercise ball, bouncing and rocking and working my sweet boy down in hopes that he would arrive sooner than later. (He didn’t. Oh well.) And as I worked on coaxing him along, I read Mary Oliver’s collection Blue Horses.
This collection was everything I needed in those final days before Gus got here. It was a quiet walk with Oliver, beautiful and natural and full of life. I was really disappointed to have to return it to the library. I haven’t read many collections by Mary Oliver, but this has been my favorite.
And because I spent my reading time taking photos of great lines, here’s one:
This is a hard category, and I’m inclined to cheat and try to break up into sub-categories so that I can assign more books to a similar superlative, but alas, I’ll walk the straight and narrow. The most fun book I read this year is The Regional Office is Under Attack by Manuel Gonzales.
This book is straight up bonkers. Teenage girls are identified as assassins and are recruited to take down a secret organization, known as The Regional Office, from the inside. We join the action on the day of the attack, and this book is full of action, intrigue, revenge, badass girls, and superhuman powers. I had a hard time putting it down, and every time I did, I had to tell Amanda how completely crazy it was. Crazy good.
(Close runners up were Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld and Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh.)
My most challenging read was Lab Girl by Hope Jahren. I don’t want to give the impression that this book was insanely difficult – Jahren’s prose is accessible, at times even lyrical, and the way she can talk about plant life, and the way she can make it matter in our human lives on so many different levels… it’s fantastic.
My challenge was that this was the first “serious,” non-baby-related book I had read since Gus was born. I doubted whether my brain could stretch the way I needed it to. And it turns out, it could, but Jahren’s book was the perfect way to try. It was a surprise to me, how much I loved this book, and I’ve recommended it to so many people already. Here’s just one of the quotable lovelies in these pages:
While Lab Girl would certainly be a contender for this category, I have to say that Great With Child: Letters to a Young Mother by Beth Ann Fennelly was my biggest surprise. A friend sent me this book as a gift after the baby came, and I was deep in my “ack! I can’t read! I can’t do anything! aaaaaaaack!” phase. But Amanda handed me the book as she unpacked the care package, and I opened it up to page one, and I was in and hooked and not letting this book go.
Beth Ann Fennelly promises to write a friend – who has found out she’s pregnant and is moving to Alaska with her husband, where they know no one – all about pregnancy and babies and this new life she’s entering into. The resulting collection of letters is a meditation, and a celebration, and a witness to this singular time in her life, and it rang so many bells with me, it was like church in my brain. A beautiful book.
(Close runners up were Lab Girl, yes, and also Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein.)
So that’s my year! For the full list of 2016’s reading, check out this year’s list under My Reading Years. Here’s to a new year full of good words and good food.