I read (or re-read) 100 books this year. Making 100 has been my goal for the last several years and this is the first time I’ve actually gotten there. Instead of giving out an itemized list of all the books I read (which I did last year), I’ve written just a few words on the books I read that had the greatest impact. I should also mention (regarding poetry) that I dived into the works of Dana Gioia, W.S. Merwin, and continued my love of Billy Collins, but no specific book of theirs made the list. Rather, I was impressed by poem after poem. I wish I had smarter, more tasteful (?) taste, but these are the books that stood out to me and that I know I can recommend in the last year. Enjoy!
Turtles All the Way Down - John Green
Sometimes you read a book that gives you a way into yourself. Green explores OCD and anxiety through the teenage Aza Holmes, who, along with her best friend Daisy, is trying to solve the mystery of a billionaire’s disappearance. The thing is, her mental illness doesn’t make her a better detective, daughter, friend, or student. There’s no upside to her illness. Reading this book was one of the reasons I pursued a diagnosis for my own mental stuff — it turns out, I also have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Anxiety — and also prepped me for taking medication. Plus, John Green’s always a genius with sentences. It’s a delight to read his work.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up - Marie Kondo
I read a lot of non-fiction works this year that were by turns insightful, helpful, entertaining, and mind-opening. Frankly, this is the one that actually stuck with me and that I gained actual, real-life change from. While I could write more about the book, suffice it to say the method actually works and I recommend it without reservations.
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing - Hank Green
This novel is a hysterically funny (and also deadly serious) take on fame in the internet age, while also being a wild sci-fi read with a narrator who I want to be best friends with and also kind of want to slap in the face. As a writer who’s at the very start of my career, I think this is an important book for me to have read now (instead of in three to five years) and was also ridiculously good.
The Chronicles of Narnia - C.S. Lewis
I’ve loved the Chronicles for (quite literally) as long as I can remember, but I re-read them before I got my Narnia tattoo, just to be 100% sure that this is what I wanted.Well, it was, and now I have a permanent reminder of one of my favorite stories on my arm forever. I’d say that’s an impact.
The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
I didn’t know much about Sylvia Plath before I read The Bell Jar — I’d read a couple poems of hers in college, but I wasn’t really rooted in her work, and we had read them in a poetry unit (rather than a Plath unit) and so I didn’t know what to expect going into the novel. What I got was a book that told me my experience isn’t the only one like it. It served a similar function to Turtles All the Way Down, and was also immensely funny in the dark, masochistic kind of way that so brilliantly serves illness narratives.
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