Inspired in part by Obama's reflections on reading, and how it gives him the ability to "slow down and get perspective" and "get in somebody else's shoes," I present here some of the books I most enjoyed reading in 2016, in no particular order:
1. Joan Didion: The Year of Magical Thinking
A haunting exploration of grief and bereavement from one of my favourite writers. When I was in a writing slump, reading this memoir made me start writing again. (Amazon)
Read it if: You like writing that gets to the heart of the human condition.
2. Jane Smiley: A Thousand Acres
Loosely based on King Lear, Smiley explores small-town American life and the nature of family. The novel won a Pulitzer and it's no wonder. (Amazon)
Read it if: You like a slow burn that leads you somewhere you didn't expect.
3. Ta-Nehisi Coates: Between the World and Me
Coates writes a letter to his son on the history of the United States and its relationship with black bodies. It's angry and it's touching and it's impossible to read without feeling something. (Amazon)
Read it if: You've been wondering what Black Lives Matter is about.
4. Stephen King: On Writing
Not being a horror fan, I have never read a single one of King's novels, and I never may. It doesn't matter: his memoir about his life as a writer and the craft and experience of writing is as entertaining and as useful a guide to writing as I've ever read. (Amazon)
Read it if: You want to write better.
I have a tradition of taking myself out for brunch and reading a good book on my birthday. This year: eggs florentine with Stephen King's excellent, excellent writing memoir. Happy Birthday to me! 🎂 . . . . . . #torontofood #brunch #thegoodlife #birthdays #celebration #bliss #stephenking #reading #bookworm #bookstagram #book
5. Karen Armstrong: The Spiral Staircase
A raw, deeply personal memoir of a woman who spent seven unhappy years as a nun before leaving the convent and pursuing a different path as a theologian and religious historian. (Amazon)
Read it if: Your own attempts to connect with the transcendent have sometimes fallen short of the mark.
6. Brigid Schulte: Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time
Schulte weaves together personal anecdotes and data from neuroscientists, sociologists, and economists in this thoughtful and entertaining exploration of where all our leisure time disappeared to. (Author's website)
Read it if: You feel like you don't have the time to read it.
7. Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba: Daytripper
This graphic novel is a dreamy, gorgeous, and poignant look at one man's life, but it's also a meditation on the meaning of hope and mortality. (Amazon)
Read it if: You want to read something utterly unlike anything else you've ever read before.
I've set some reading goals for 2017. This year, I want to read more:
- non-fiction on politics, philosophy, and culture. Joseph Heath's Enlightenment 2.0 is currently at the top of my list.
- books from small Canadian publishers. I have Jacob Wren's Rich and Poor, published by BookThug, sitting on my bookshelf waiting for me to open it.
- books on style and writing. I received a wonderfully illustrated version of Strunk and White's The Elements of Style for Christmas present and have Steven Pinker's The Sense of Style begging for me to open them.
I'm always looking for more to read: what books stuck with you in 2016? What should be on my reading list for 2017?
PS- If you liked this post, you may also enjoy my thoughts on how to make 2017 happier and healthier.