That’s how many books I’ve read so far this year. That may sound impressive — especially when the average American reads 12 books per year and 27% of Americans don’t finish a single book — but in the book blogger world, 19 books in six months is verging on pathetic.
(I know, I’m too hard on myself. This is true.)
At the midpoint of this current trip around the sun, I like to reflect on the reading year to date by sharing my favorite books of 2016 thus far. Sometimes there’s a standout book that is a clear front-runner and sometimes there isn’t. This happens to be a year when there is — and it’s a book that has landed among my all-time favorites.
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
Paul Kalanithi, a brilliant and compassionate neurosurgeon who, at 38, was diagnosed with lung cancer just as he was on the verge of completing a 10 year residency program, has much to teach us in his posthumously published memoir. When Breath Becomes Air is more than the journey towards one’s own lightbulb, a-ha, now-I-know-what-life-is-all-about moment of revelation that often accompanies a serious illness or tragic event. It’s about what it means when everything you have worked toward and planned vanishes at the precise moment when you are on the cusp of realizing all those dreams and aspirations.
Scorpion Tongues: The Irresistible History of Gossip in American Politics by Gail Collins
This presidential election campaign is like nothing we’ve seen before … at least in our lifetimes. History tells a different story — and many of them — of political scandals that rival what we’re seeing today.
The Art of Description by Mark Doty
Written by a true master of the craft, this is a fantastic book exploring how we use words to place the reader in the heart of our work. Reading this is like taking a class with Mark Doty himself (something that is on my literary bucket list). Until then, we have this gem.
Shades of Blue: Writers on Depression, Suicide, and Feeling Blue, edited by Amy Ferris
An astonishing anthology edited by Amy Ferris (her Facebook posts are gorgeously written and full of inspiring kick-assery), the emotions in these essays are raw and real. These are personal, true accounts of people who have struggled with depression, suicide (either their own attempt or that of a loved one) and mental illness. As a society, we need to do a better job of telling our stories in order to help break the stigma that fosters shame and secrecy. Shades of Blue is a damn good place to start listening. Don’t be surprised if you find shades of yourself between these pages.
The Best American Essays 2015, edited by Ariel Levy
A fantastic collection of essays by some of our best writers, including Hilton Als, Roger Angell, Justin Cronin, Meghan Daum, Anthony Doerr, Margo Jefferson, David Sedaris, Zadie Smith, Rebecca Solnit and several others.
Boys in the Trees: A Memoir by Carly Simon
Carly Simon’s songs are ones that make her fans — of which I am one, very much so — feel as if we know her. Here, we learn for the first time the stories behind the lyrics that we’ve been singing for years. It’s an eye-opening, often surprising, sometimes heartbreaking look at family dynamics, coming of age, betrayal, sexuality, motherhood and the publishing and entertainment businesses.
So there you have it. The best books I’ve read this year (so far). It’s interesting that there isn’t any fiction on this list. This seems to be shaping up as a year dominated by nonfiction, especially essays and memoir.
How is your reading year going? Is there a standout book (or books) that will be among your favorites this year?
This is post #33 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project.