That 2016 To-Read List, by Jenny

My pal, Jenny, is a total rock star: she runs, she reads, she writes (like a fiend), she moms (times two), and she does it all with joy, love, and grace (truly, it’s barf-worthy in the best lady friend sense). She’s inspired me ever since we met at St. Andrews in 2005, two young writers attempting to get creative by the sea when all we really wanted to do was binge-watch Battlestar Galactica. On the days when I don’t think I can chug along any further, she pushes me onward, leading by example. Here she goes.

I love year-end lists.

Favorite books, television shows, movies, etc. I love making my own and reading other people’s. I recently sent the list of books I read in 2015 to Kristin, noting my favorites. It got me thinking, what do I most look forward to reading in 2016? I’m not talking about books scheduled to be published in 2016, but books I’ve simply put off for various reasons. Four frontrunners jump out immediately for me, detailed below. I know the point of this blog is to look back at happy times, but it’s January. Let’s look forward! And there’s little I look forward to more than finding new worlds through reading.

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Moral Disorder by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood is far and away my favorite author, as anyone who knows me remotely well knows. One of my highlights of 2015 was seeing Atwood in Pittsburgh as she promoted The Heart Goes Last (a really great book but nowhere close to Oryx and Crake or Blind Assassin for me). I also saw Atwood at the Hay Festival in Wales a decade ago, a fact I mentioned to her during the book signing line in Pittsburgh. To my delight, she replied, “It was so windy that day!” and proceeded to make a whooshing sound like the wind. I picked up a copy of Moral Disorder at the event and had her sign that in addition to my copy of Oryx and Crake. I think it’s her only book of fiction I haven’t read.

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A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

This book comes up again and again, and seemed to win every prize the past year. My sister-in-law told me about this book soon after it was published and I’ve wanted to read it ever since. These days, I borrow most of my reads from the library, in book form or on audiobook (I can’t get into e-readers). This book sits at 736 pages and has a massive waitlist. At my library, if a book is waitlisted you can’t renew it, and I didn’t have a three-week chunk of time when I knew I could read something so heavy, in length and content, in 2015. I also read a lot of shorter books this year and ended up reading forty books total, which is a pretty high year for me. I’ve resolved to read fewer books in 2016 but return to some longer reads. I love the long-term escape of living in someone else’s world, and I think this will fit the bill.

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The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Another pretty long book. This one’s been on my list since June 2014 when I read The Goldfinch. Goldfinch wasn’t a perfect book, but I really liked it and it’s one I still think about pretty regularly. It was also the book I was reading when my daughter Lily was born, so I’ll always remember it for that. The plot of The Secret History is more up my alley than that of The Goldfinch, so I’m really looking forward to this one. I just checked and there’s no waitlist for The Secret History at my library, so no excuses!

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Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China by Evan Osnos

I have a weird relationship with nonfiction. Of the forty books I read in 2015, eight were nonfiction, which is a pretty typical (low) percentage for me. At least seventy percent of my reading in a given year tends to be novels as it’s what I enjoy reading (and writing) the most. And yet, some of my all-time favorite books are nonfiction. The two most  noteworthy nonfiction books I always come back to are The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann and The Colony: The Harrowing True Story of the Exiles of Molokai by John Tayman. From what I’ve read about Age of Ambition, I’m hoping to add that to this list.

Happy reading in 2016!

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