what I read in 2016

I began the year by blazing through my library list, reading 2-3 books a month for the first half of 2016 (and for me, 2-3 books a month is a heckuva lotta books). Then Stevie arrived in August and I found myself holding him more often than I was holding a book. The nerve, right? Ha. Without further ado, my literary summation from last year:

Elin Hilderbrand
Sure. Read it in 24 hrs. Beaches, romance, affairs, gossip, expensive deck chairs, ladies who lunch. That's kind of her formula, right?

2. Ready Player One
Ernest Cline
Never thought I'd read it in 3 days, let alone read it at all. Fast moving, mostly absurdly charming, but loses points for nihilistic worldview.

3. The Battle of the Villa Fiorita
Rumer Godden
I wanted to read a second Godden novel after loving In This House of Brede. Can't remember why I picked this little novella over something else, but man, she sure can write women. This tale of how and why an English wife and mother abandons her family for a Hollywood-esque producer has stuck with me.

4. The Hobbit
J.R.R. Tolkein
How I missed escaped reading The Hobbit in either grade school, high school or college, I know not. But! Quite glad I finally read it; wasn't at all like I anticipated! Would be happy to re-read the trilogy now. Surprised at how much I loved Bilbo.

5. The Time Traveler's Wife
Audrey Niffenegger
Le sigh. So much angst. All rather trippy and downright gloomy by the end.

6. The Royal We
Heather Cocks
Twenty-something romantic fluff. I'm amazed at the casual treatment of years upon years of commitment-free shacking up.

The Age of Innocence
Edith Wharton
I'll admit: painful to get through in many parts, owing to the cultural and art references 100 years past. But glad I made it. Critique of hypocritical ruling social class, and maybe of unfulfilled love due to marital obligations. I didn't enjoy it, but am glad I finished it.

8. Crossing to Safety (reread)
Wallace Stegner
Heartbreaking beauty, and one of my very favorites. Stegner's classic novel about the friendship between two couples forged in academia and weathered by life's trials feels as poignant and nostalgic as ever. I feel some distance from characters who have no ties to the middle class (Charity is "so glad we're all rich now"), and no understanding of how hard it is to raise many small children without live-in help (she has a nanny, and a hired girl in summers, etc.) But these couples lay deep layers of friendship, built upon decades of life lived in close proximity to each other. And the reflections on marriage! Ah! "I rather like my cane... But no one is making me carry it."

9. Big Little Lies
Liane Moriarty
Reminded me why I don't read suspense novels--I cannot stand the wait to see "whodoneit." Satisfying to see the villain done in, but... Didn't find the female characters very deep.

10. My Cooking Year
Ruth Reichel
Wealthy empty nester finds herself out of a job but with an obnoxiously robust food budget. I cackled at her description of taking over an hour to make some kind of browned butter oatmeal for breakfast. WHO LIVES LIKE THAT?!?!?!? Answer: Ruth Reichel does. If nothing else, it inspired me to make a gluten free pound cake.

11. Bread and Wine
Shauna Niequist
Sappy food memoirs are evidently not my thing. She says to make from-scratch risotto "when you have an empty house and a rainy night." I rarely have either. Probably shouldn't have picked it up (purely based on my own tolerance for authors waxing poetic about scratch-made salad dressings), but wanted to see what the fuss was about. (But seriously. It's just oil, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Come on.)

12. The Nesting Place
Myquillen Smith
Not bad! Enjoyed it. I liked her list of things you should/can spend on: lamps. Rugs. Sofas. The rest you can thrift or find in your house. I like her approach to contentment and not perfection.

13. 7: an experimental mutiny against excess
Jen Hatmaker
Best line: "There is something liberating about unplugging the machine to discover the heartbeat of life still thumping." I appreciated her approach to paring down her consumption, her family waste, her spending. What jigs me is how authors (Niequist and Hatmaker) teeter on the edge of Catholicism without knowing it (or without acknowledging it, perhaps). She spent a month praying the Divine Office, for heaven's sake! She quotes Church Fathers and has a Sabbath meal with her family. I'd be curious to learn if she has considered crossing the Tiber.

14. Landline
Rainbow Rowell
Read in two days. She writes an excellent romance. But not as sweet a read as Attachments, nor as funny. At times even I wasn't sure that the two main characters were fighting about. I wouldn't recommend it to family, but I enjoyed how quickly and intelligently it pulled me in.

15. Morningside Heights
Cheryl Mendelson
Intelligent and affluent New Yorkers in the early 2000 debate their relationship psychosis, neighborhood snobbery and the merits of early abortion. It did however have two great lines on the right to life (for the elderly, though--not those pesky ill-conceived children in utero). Failed to enjoy one character; irritated by them all. At least finishing it made me put The Nest down before getting past the acknowledgements. Life's too short to read tomes about New Yorkers who think the rent is too damn high.

16. A Gentleman in Moscow
Amor Towles
His second best seller. I found the first 200 pages charming yet a bit of a mire to get through--where is this going, why does it matter, does it have a plot or climax? The second 200 passed much more quickly as the plot circles. Towles' writing could not be smoother or more delightful. Laughed out loud in places. Enjoyed learning about pre and post Stalin Russia.

17. Where'd You Go, Bernadette?
Maria Semple
Hmm! These modern books, fast-paced with emails as dialogue. Much like rainbow Rowell. Characters created through bold action and statements, very little visual description. I see why it was popular.

And, that's a wrap! Currently I'm eight pages into Orthodoxy for a book club selection. Need to finish it in a couple weeks. Considering I pick it up once a day and read about 1.5 pages, the prognosis is grim, and I feel like that makes me a horrible person. It's Chesterton! Come on girl!

Other books on the list for this year: A Hundred Summers, The Collapse of Parenting, Talking As Fast As I Can, Commonwealth. Any I should add? Or subtract?


  1. Read more Rumer Godden! Also, if you like reading about food, but don't like the self important tones of Ruth and that other one, I highly recommend Laurie Colwin's books of cooking essays: Home Cooking and More Home Cooking. She may wax poetical about (not salad dressing but) gingerbread; but it's because she knows a good table is part of the good life — that is, caring for those you love.

    1. Ooooh! Thanks for that. I'll go add her to my hold list. :)

  2. Uhhh, I feel like you're not going to listen to me about books anymore.... yikes!

    1. Oh stop it! Did you love some of the my lesser-liked above? I don't remember. What I do know is that I'd listen to you about just about anything :)

  3. Haha, I enjoyed amdreally liked about 5 of the ones you mentioned...not liking so much....I'm dying of shame.