The best books I read in 2016 + 2017 Resolutions

Top 11 of 2016
(in the order I read them)

1. Saga Vol. 2-5 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Saga is a comic series about a family caught between an intergalactic space war. It’s fun, sexy-in-a-weird-way, and feminist. What more could you want?!

2. Mothers, Tell Your Daughters by Bonnie Jo Campbell
If I had to pick a favorite of the year…it might just be Mothers, Tell Your Daughters. Read my review here.

3. Killing and Dying: Stories by Adrian Tomine
This turned out to be a year of graphic novels for me, starting with Killing and Dying, which I read last January. I wrote about it here.

4. You by Caroline Kepnes
This got a lot of buzz, and it was well deserved – this was a seriously fun, fast-paced read. Read my review here.

5. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Oh, Jude. You poor thing. Reading A Little Life was an engrossing experience. Read my review here.

6. Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
Thanks, Obama, for the book rec. Basically, Fates and Furies is the story of a marriage; first told by the husband and then the wife. The first half, Fates (the husband’s side), was good. The second half, Furies, was truly phenomenal. I guess because women have to do everything around here.

7. This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz
Junot Diaz is my favorite contemporary short story writer. His stories are quick, simple on the surface but complex underneath, and deliciously unpretentious.

8. Rosalie Lightning by Tom Hart
This is a graphic memoir written about Tom Hart’s experience after the death of his toddler daughter, Rosalie. It was really sad and really beautiful, and I think graphic memoir is a perfect medium for such a story.

9. March Books 1-2 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell
I haven’t gotten a chance to read Book 3 yet, but I already know that this series is very important, and should be required reading in schools. It’s about John Lewis’s experience in the Civil Rights Movement, including sit-ins, the Freedom Rides, and the 1963 March on Washington. This is an important historical testament to the men and women who bravely fought for civil rights, and I encourage everyone to read it.

10. Alex + Ada, Vol. 1 by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn
Another comic – this time, one about a guy who falls in love with a robot. It’s a fun read, but raises a lot of questions about artificial intelligence, the way technology has invaded our personal lives, and the fear and uncertainty that comes with all that.

11. This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett
I was only going to make this a list of 10 books, but I listened to This is the Story of a Happy Marriage on audiobook and loved Ann Patchett’s voice in my ear with a fierceness, so I had to include it. She is a very smart, warm-hearted writer and I really enjoyed listening to this collection of essays about her life and writing.


2017 Reading Resolutions

Last year I chose to set my goal at 40 books. I know for some people it’s hard to find the time to read 40 books, but I read every day on my commute to work, so I usually can read about 50 books a year without effort – I probably could read 40 books even if I stopped reading everywhere except on the train. My reasoning for setting my goal low was that I wanted to simply enjoy reading without pressure. I wanted to read long books that take a whole month to read without worrying about falling off pace on my reading goal. I think this was helpful, because I had a lot of stressful things going on this year, and my Goodreads reading challenge was not something I wanted to be stressed out about as well.

In 2017 my goal is to read good books, so I will probably be DNF’ing a lot more books. I plan to be a bit more discerning about galleys and ARCs, too, although I want to keep up with new titles as much as possible. And I plan to set my goal a little bit higher at 60 books. I desperately want to be the kind of reader that can read 100+ books every year, simply because I’m getting older and my bookshelf isn’t getting any smaller. It’s just that I don’t think it’s something that’s really possible for me at the moment, unless I quit my job to be a professional reader. 60 is a good compromise.

Last year I also wanted to read books I already own, but I failed pretty badly on that. I just can’t resist the library. I did stop buying new books – I think I bought less than 5 books this entire year, which is bad for book sales but good for me because I have no space on my shelf. I donated a good amount of my book collection as well, but I’m afraid I still won’t have space for new books anytime soon.

2016 was a good year for me, despite the various disasters. I think we are all entering 2017 with a sense of trepidation, but I think it’s a good thing to not be sure all the time. It’s okay to be uncertain about the future. When we’re uncertain, we pay better attention. I do know that compared to this time last year, I have a clearer vision of myself and what I want out of life. I started the year with a lot of questions that I spent the whole year answering. I have a better plan now, and I hope to achieve a lot in 2017 –  and even if I don’t, I’m grateful for what 2016 has given me. Thank you all for reading, and have a happy new year!

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Year in Review: 2015

2015 was a big year for me: I had a semi-nervous breakdown, I learned how to recover from a semi-nervous breakdown, I realized that being a working adult means you have to smile and nod while everyone around you acts like a crazy idiot and for this they pay you, I got my driver’s license after much anxiety and strife, I trained for a 20k and finished when just the year before I couldn’t run a mile without stopping, I cut out some negative relationships and behaviors, I fell in love, and I read Game of Thrones.

Amongst all the ruckus, I read 64 books (at the time of this writing I am still in the middle of the 64th: The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer). My original goal was to read 80 books, but I adjusted that to 60 because I hate failing and love winning.

My list of favorite books in 2015 tilts heavily towards the beginning of the year. My life got busier in the spring, but in the winter I mostly just sat around crying all the time–which I guess means that conditions were perfect for being hit in the feels by a good book.

15 FAVES OF 2015

#1: YES PLEASE by Amy Poehler (read in January)
This is the first book I read in 2015. It helped me a lot by forcing me to think about personal growth in a new way. Reading this book was like reading a pep talk from a very sweet and funny friend.

#2: THE FIRST BAD MAN by Miranda July (read in January)
I love Miranda July. She is perfect for me. I love her voice, I love the slightly off-kilter worlds and characters she creates. I think I like her because I always feel like such a weirdo, and her stories make the weirdo the normal point of reference. Her first novel didn’t disappoint in this regard.

#3: WILD: FROM LOST TO FOUND ON THE PACIFIC CREST TRAIL by Cheryl Strayed (read in February)
This is one of those books that found its way into my hands at just the right time. Strayed’s story of perseverance in the face of pain gave me a lot of hope and comfort.

#4: 10% HAPPIER: HOW I TAMED THE VOICE IN MY HEAD, REDUCED STRESS WITHOUT LOSING MY EDGE, AND FOUND SELF-HELP THAT ACTUALLY WORKS by Dan Harris (read in February)
I like self-help books sometimes, not gonna lie, but this book actually isn’t as big of a self-help book as it appears. It’s the story of the author’s experiences with mindfulness, from the point of view of a ‘normal’ guy. I started a meditation practice this year, and it was very helpful to me in recovering from my aforementioned semi-nervous breakdown. This is the first book I’d recommend to anyone interested in meditation and mindfulness but who is turned off by the spiritual aspects of other books on the subject.

#5: JANE EYRE by Charlette Bronte (read in February)
This became my favorite classic. I love Jane for being the spunkiest heroine I have read in a piece of gothic fiction. She is smart, she is driven, and she’s not there to look pretty and meek. I even love Rochester, the grumpy weirdo. I felt an actual ache reading this novel, I wanted those crazy kids to smooch so bad. Let’s just say I shipped it.

#6: STATION ELEVEN by Emily St. John Mandel (read in March)
Of all the books I read in 2015, I think I would recommend Station Eleven the most. It was beautifully written, but not too dense, and I flew through it. It’s a dystopian/speculative novel that is uniquely empathetic and hopeful. On the surface it’s about a future apocalyptic flu pandemic, but mostly it’s about the human spirit and the need to create and survive. I loved this novel because it took something I am comfy with (literary fiction) and mixed it with something I often feel unable to connect with (science fiction). If you like literary fiction and would like to branch out to adult sci-fi/dystopian, this is a must-read.

#7: SHARP OBJECTS by Gillian Flynn, (read in March)
#8: DARK PLACES by Gillian Flynn (read in April)
I read both of Gillian Flynn’s non-Gone Girl novels this year, which only confirmed the fact that I cannot put down anything she writes. I love her insane, unapologetically bitter, in-your-face female characters. Flynn has an exceptional flair for plotting and pace.

#9: THE BRIEF WONDROUS LIFE OF OSCAR WAO by Junot Diaz (read in April)
I just remembered I planned to read more Junot Diaz this year, but I guess I never got around to it. That’s a shame, because this novel was amazing. Diaz’s characters are excellent, and he writes about race and family and heritage in such an accessible yet irreverent way.

#10: WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE by Shirley Jackson (read in April)
This novel is so deliciously, wonderfully creepy that it is now my go-to Halloween recommendation. It’s about two little girls who live alone with their disabled uncle after a mysterious “incident” killed their family, and it is one of those short novels that are perfect in every way.

#11: SELF-HELP by Lorrie Moore (read in May)
Lorrie Moore’s first short story collection was a real treat to read. She is like Raymond Carver if Raymond Carver had a lighter, less masculine, less whiskey-stained point of view. She is better than Raymond Carver is what I am telling you! Her stories are simple, realistic, funny and heartbreaking.

#12: TENTH OF DECEMBER by George Saunders (read in May)
I liked this short story collection for the same reason I liked Lorrie Moore’s. These stories have a great mix of heartbreak and empathy, with an extra distaste for consumerism and the corporatization of America.

#13: OLIVE KITTERIDGE by Elizabeth Strout (read in June)
Reading over this list, it is clear the way to my heart is a headstrong, kind of weird female main character, which is exactly what Olive Kitteridge was. Not exactly likable, but not exactly unsympathetic either. Still, kind of an asshole. I love when writers give the women in their stories full permission to be an asshole.

#14: MODERN ROMANCE by Aziz Ansari (read in September)
I listened to this on audiobook, which was the right choice. Aziz Ansari is hilarious and I loved hearing his voice in my ears every morning while I made my way to work. This is a great book for anyone trying to navigate dating in the online world, if only because it will make you laugh and realize you’re not alone, with bonus Aziz Ansari.

#15: MISSOULA: RAPE AND THE JUSTICE SYSTEM IN A COLLEGE TOWN by Jon Krakauer (read in October)
As much as I hate ending this list on such a bummer note, here’s a really great book about date rape I read in 2015.

Check out my Year in Books on Goodreads for the full list of what I read this year!


Now onto the resolutions.

I have decided to not set a goal for myself this year re: the Goodreads Reading Challenge. I would like to read longer books this year without feeling rushed–I want to continue the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin, and I also have my eye on A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. Basically, I want to sink my teeth into books that are more of an experience.

Suggested reading from another book blogger abstaining from the challenge in 2016: 5 Reasons Not to Do the Goodreads Reading Challenge in 2016 on brokebybooks.com. It convinced me. I will still be on Goodreads, of course, because I don’t think anything can convince me to not obsessively log what I read. I just don’t need to challenge myself this year to a specific number of books. I’d rather just focus on having a good overall reading experience, one that informs my life and my work in positive ways.

I also have about 300 unread articles saved on Instapaper at the moment. So, I’d like to make time for that, as well as the unread literary journals I have lying around.

That all being said, I signed up for the #readmyowndamnbooks challenge, which is kind of loosey-goosey, but I’d like to read at least 30 books off of my shelf by the end of the year. I want to read books I own and then donate them, because I don’t have the space and do I really need that copy of The Art of Fielding? Who knows–not I, as I haven’t ever read it.

Let me know what your favorite book of 2015 was, what your resolutions for 2016 are, and what you think of the books I listed above. Happy new year, everybody–I hope the coming year is full up with good books and no new Harper Lee novels.

Bye Bye 2013: A Wrap of Last Year’s Failed Resolutions, This Year’s Soon-To-Be Failed Resolution, and a Review of My Boyfriend Who Happens to Be A Kindle

At the end of 2012, I started this blog. I made a post about organizing my book shelves, making a commitment to reading, and I announced my ‘Goodreads challenge’ for the year, which was substantially bigger than year’s previous. Usually I read about 45-60 books a year, and in 2012 I wanted to read 70. It wasn’t completely crazy; back when I was younger I’m sure I read about 100 books a year, but books were lighter then, I was less addicted to the internet, and I just had more passion for it. I guess a lot of that goal had to do with the fact that I really wanted to get that passion for reading back. That’s why although I failed pretty badly at the Goodreads challenge in 2013, and I didn’t update this blog very much, I don’t feel disappointed in myself. (Well, not too much.)

I read 49 books in 2013. Towards Autumn, I changed my goal from 70 books to my standard 50 books, because I was in a great big slump, and I didn’t want my non-achievable goal to drive me away from reading any further. I started reading a bit more towards the end of the year, but it was such a weird time in my life, filled with a lot of business and exhaustion, so I ended up a book short of 50. And that’s okay. I read a lot of good books in 2013. I read Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, and The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Euginides, Persepolis, The Casual Vacancy, and, probably the best book I read in 2013: Cat Daddy by Jackson Galaxy. Seriously.

I read a lot of great stuff, and most importantly, I overcame a reading slump and started 2014 with a new lease on reading! And a Kindle. Mostly I have the Kindle to thank. I got a mine for Christmas from my awesome mother, who is also a Kindle devotee. On one hand, I feel bad, because I think Amazon does a lot of harm to the book community of the world, and also I think the Goodreads app on the Kindle is pretty useless and I still resent Amazon for taking over my favorite book website; on the other had, I fucking love my Kindle. I’ve read three books so far on it: Fifty Shades of Grey, an embarrassing self-help book about finding love, and Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris, which I loved. (Expect a review soon.) I love the great range of books I can read with a Kindle, without leaving the house or even buying an ebook (something I still feel is not quite worth the money)–most libraries have e-books now, which is the main factor that made me decide it was time to get an ereader. I also love that I can read articles more comfortably than on my computer screen. I use the app Instapaper, which is great. I can save an article at any time and it’ll download on the app so I can read it later. So not only am I reading more books, I’m reading more articles, so it’s awesome! (My new favorite thing is to read a think piece or two before bed. Shh.)

I have some resolutions for this blog in 2014. I set my Goodreads challenge number this year to 70 books, again, and I think I can do it. Mostly I just want to be reviewing the books I read more often. I think I should be reviewing each book I read, either on Goodreads or on this blog. I’d like to write longer, more thought out reviews on this blog, whereas books I only have a few thoughts about (such as the frustrating Fifty Shades of Grey), I can review on Goodreads. Even now as I type this resolution out, I am behind on this, but here’s to overwhelmingly hard to achieve goals.

As always, you can follow me on tumblr and goodreads. See you there!

Books I read in 2012!

In 2012, I read (*** denotes books I recommend):

1. Stephen King, Everything’s Eventual
2. Paul Hornschemeier, Life With Mr. Dangerous
3. Louise Welsh, The Cutting Room
4. Tennessee Williams, Not About Nightingales
5. John Green, The Fault in Our Stars
***6. Miranda July & Harrell Fletcher, Learning to Love You More
7. Lemony Snicket, The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #1)
8. Lemony Snicket, The Reptile Room (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #2)
***9. Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire
10. Susan Griffin, A Chorus of Stones
***11. Aryn Kyle, Boys and Girls Like You And Me
12. Tennessee Williams, Eccentricities of A Nightingale
13. Michael Kimmel, Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men
14. Suzan-Lori Parks, In the Blood
15. Suzan-Lori Parks, Topdog/Underdog
16. Tennessee Williams, Camino Real
17. Tennessee Williams, Orpheus Descending
18. Tennessee Williams, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
19. Michael Auping, Jenny Holzer
***20. Tennessee Williams, Suddenly Last Summer
21. Diane Waldman, Jenny Holzer
22. Tennessee Williams, The Night of the Iguana
23. Audre Lorde, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name
24. Arvind Sharma, Women in World Religions
***25. Daniel Handler, Adverbs
***26. Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray: The Original Lippencott Edition
27. Tennessee Williams, Kingdom of Earth
28. Lemony Snicket, The Wide Window (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #3)
***29. Tennessee Williams, Vieux Carre
30. Jessica Valenti, The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession With Virginity is Hurting Young Women
31. Shira Tarrant, Men and Feminism
***32. Tennessee Williams, The Two Character Play
33. Haruki Murakami, After the Quake
***34. John Green & David Levithan, Will Grayson, Will Grayson
***35. Joey Comeau, The Complete Lockpick Pornography
36. Claire Zulkey, An Off Year
37. Jincey Willett, The Writing Class
38. Ned Vizzini, It’s Kind of A Funny Story
39. Dave Eggers, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
40. David Levithan, Love is the Higher Law
***41. Tom Perrotta, Little Children
42. Chris Colfer, The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell
43. Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
44. Jack Hirshman, The Last American Valentine: Illustrated Poems to Seduce and Destroy
***45. William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure
46. Thomas Middleton, The Changeling
47. Samuel R. Williamson Jr., Soldiers, Statesmen, and July 1914
***48. Zadie Smith, White Teeth
49. Anaïs Nin, Delta of Venus
50. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on her Diary, 1785-1812
51. George Lillo, The London Merchant
52. Paul Schmidt, The Stray Dog Cabaret: A Book of Russian Poems
53. Rainer Maria Rilke, Duino Elegies
54. Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
55. John Cleland, Fanny Hill, or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure
56. Ian Fleming, Casino Royal
***57. Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz, Rereading Sex: Battles Over Sexual Knowledge and Suppression in Nineteenth-Century America
58. Robert W. Strayer, Why Did the Soviet Union Collapse?
59. Alina Reyes, Behind Closed Doors
***60. Mary Oliver, Dream Work
61. Chris Colfer, Struck By Lightning: The Carson Phillips Journal
62. Kat Rosenfield, Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone
***63. Junot Díaz, Drown

and I reread:
***64. Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie (my favorite play of all times)

(I took a class on Tennessee Williams which is why I read a buttload of Tennessee Williams this year.)

Every single year I am constantly thinking that I need to read more, but looking at this list, I realize that I actually read a ridiculously great amount, and I’m proud of that. When I was a kid, I read even more. Ever since I started high school I’ve been reading less than I used to. I always have a book I currently have a bookmark in, but it takes me longer on average to finish a book, and I don’t read every single day by any means. But, since I started logging my books on goodreads, I have been reading more. In 2009 I read 44 books. In 2010 I was a depressed college freshman and I read only 30 books, barely any of which were the books I was supposed to be reading for class. In 2011 picked it up a little bit and read 59. This year my goal was to read 60. I read 64, and even though many of them were plays and books of poetry and thus only a day’s worth of reading, I’m still very proud of that and I look forward to reading even more in 2013. My goal is 70 books, and I’d also like to make an effort to have more conversations about what I’m reading — hence, this blog. I’m very excited!~

If you want to know my opinion on any of the books on this list, go ahead and ask me! Also, if you have any suggestions of books for me to read this year, please leave them here–books you love and think I’d love, or even books you want to read and would like to see a review of first! 70 books is a lot of books, holy hell! See you in the new year, all!

Catherine