I set out to rank all the books I read in 2016, but that was a bit like trying to pick my favorite Lemonade from Lemonade. (Have you attempted this? It’s impossible. I’m currently stuck in a terrible dilemma between Blood Orange and Cucumber Mint.)
Instead I bring you a mere ten reviews of some of my favorites. Do text me about them later. I have much more than ten words to say.
1. The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank
So good I almost quit writing. Mandatory for all females.
“Finally, I asked how you got a boy to like you back. She said, ‘Just be yourself,’ as though I had any idea who that might be.”
“Robert and I can only talk during the intermissions in hurried exchanges: I learn that he’s a cartoonist, and I have to tell him that I work in advertising.”
2. The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston
First-generation Chinese immigrant paints the plight of Chinese women.
“Not many women got to live out the daydream of women—to have a room, even a section of a room, that only gets messed up when she messes it up herself.”
“The immigrants I know have loud voices, unmodulated to American tones even after years away from the village where they called their friendships out across the fields. I have not been able to stop my mother’s screams in public libraries or over telephones.”
3. When Breath Becomes Air
Dying words from a brilliant mind. Have tissues ready.
“Only later would I realize that our trip had added a new dimension to my understanding of the fact that brains give rise to our ability to form relationships and make life meaningful. Sometimes, they break.”
4. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
Hapless, self-absorbed Brit searches for meaning among vinyl.
“It’s easier to have parents if you’ve got a girlfriend.”
5. Open by Andre Agassi
Boy who hates tennis becomes Number 1 in the world.
“I think older people make this mistake all the time with younger people, treating them as finished products when in fact they’re in process. It’s like judging a match before it’s over, and I’ve come from behind tooo often, and had too many opponents come roaring back against me, to think that’s a good idea.
What people see now, for better or worse, is my first formation, my first incarnation. I didn’t alter my image, I discovered it. I didn’t change my mind. I opened it. J.P. helps me work through this idea, to explain it to myself. He says people have been fooled by my changing looks, my clothes and hair, into thinking that I know who I am. People see my self-exploration as self-expression. He says that, for a man with so many fleeting identities, it’s shocking, and symbolic, that my initials are A.K.A.”
6. Fates & Furies by Lauren Groff
Charismatic he & conniving she share two sides of their marriage.
“Perhaps it was always there; perhaps it was made in explanation, but all along she had held within her a second story underneath the first, waging a terrible and silent battle with her certainty. She had to believe of herself that the better story was the true one, even if the worse was insistent.”
7. On Writing by Stephen King
Stephen King inspires you to write until you write Carrie.
“The scariest moment is always just before you start.”
8. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
McSweeney orphaned at 23. Must raise 7-year-old brother.
“We are disadvantaged but young and virile. We walk the halls and the playground, and we are taller, we radiate. We are orphans. As orphans, we are celebrities. We are foreign exchange people, from a place where there are still orphans. Russia? Romania? Somewhere raw and exotic. We are the bright new stars born of a screaming black hole, the nascent suns burst from the darkness, from the grasping void of space that folds and swallows — a darkness that would devour anyone not as strong as we. We are oddities, sideshows, talk show subjects. We capture everyone’s imagination.”
9. Lit by Mary Karr
Mary Karr finds God; I lament not majoring in poetry.
“In the end, no white light shines out from the wounds of Christ to bathe me in His glory. Faith is a choice like any other. If you’re picking a career or a husband — or deciding whether to have a baby — there are feelings and reasons pro and con out the wazoo. But thinking it through is — at the final hour — horse dookey. You can only try it out. Not choosing baptism would make me feel half-assed somehow, like a dilettante — scared to commit to praising a force I do feel is divine — a reluctance grown from pride or because the mysteries are too unfathomable.”
10. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Timeless female coming-of-age. Must read every 5 years.
“Buddy Willard was a hypocrite.
Of course, I didn’t know he was a hypocrite at first. I thought he was the most wonderful boy I’d ever seen. I’d adored him from a distance for five years before he even looked at me, and then there was a beautiful time when I still adored him and he started looking at me, and then just as he was looking at me more and more I discovered quite by accident what an awful hypocrite he was, and now he wanted me to marry him and I hated his guts.
The worst part of it was I couldn’t come straight out and tell him what I thought of him, because he caught TB before I could do that, and now I had to humor him along till he got well again and could take the unvarnished truth.”
What should I read in 2017? Share your favorites please.