It’s time to celebrate the beginning of a new reading year. That celebration requires a toast to all the pages turned over the past 12 months.
2015 was a year of books that were BREATHTAKINGLY SAD and BACK-BREAKINGLY LONG. My reading aspirations for 2016 include finding books that have fewer than 500 pages and that don’t crush my soul.
I also tried to read more diversely, incorporating a wider variety of voices and experiences through The Leaning Stack of Books Diversity Bingo Challenge. My update on that challenge is forthcoming.
It's hard for me to rank books, because I look for different things at different moments. But here are the five books that made the biggest impression on me this past year:
#5 A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
I know. This doesn’t make sense. This book wrecked me, and I spent the rest of the year getting over it. It was devastating to read, and I am still haunted. However, its lasting impact on me earns it a place on this list.
#4 A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
This book restored my faith in humanity after finishing A Little Life. It was funny and charming and had fewer than 500 pages. Win!
#3 Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
This multi-form (poetry, prose, photography) exploration of race and citizenship was gripping.
#2 All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
This book hardly needs more discussion after the year it has had. It is a beautiful fairy tale and a horror novel, all in one. I was riveted.
1) The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob
I was captivated by this debut novel about immigration, dislocation, and belonging. It was an easy-to-read family saga AND a book filled with weighty ideas. I couldn't put it down.
Of course, there were so many other books worth mentioning. I enjoyed (but was deeply depressed by) Dale Russakoff’s education reporting in The Prize. Erin Malone’s new collection of poetry, Hover, made me think about motherhood in new ways. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel surprised me and pushed me to consider what kinds of things might endure if the world as we know it ceased to exist. And The Turner House by Angela Flournoy was a terrific debut about family, community, and urban change.
Happy New Year to all of you! Thank you so much for being a part of my reading life.