#12 Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit


“It’s important to say what hope is not: it is not the belief that everything was, is, or will be fine. The evidence is all around us of tremendous suffering and tremendous destruction. The hope I’m interested in is about broad perspectives with specific possibilities, ones that invite or demand that we act. It’s also not a sunny everything-is-getting-better narrative, though it may be a counter to the everything-is-getting-worse narrative. You could call it an account of complexities and uncertainties, with openings.” -Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark.

A necessary read for engagement, action, perseverance, and, yes, hope in the current political state.

#11 A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

22055262I discovered this trilogy by V.E. Schwab on Goodreads and loved the cover treatments so decided to give the books a try.

About the series, from V.E. Schwab’s website: “A fantasy series that takes place in a series of parallel Londons—where magic thrives, starves, or lies forgotten, and follows the last of a line of blood mages and a pickpocket from Georgian London as they combine forces to save the worlds—all of them.”

A Darker Shade of Magic (#1 in the series) is a rollicking good time of a book about a blood magician named Kell, and a kick-ass heroine pickpocket named Delilah. They join forces to defeat those out to destroy Kell and the London he inhabits. Time/space travel, political intrigue and evil plots, spells, adventure, and (you guys!) MAGIC.

#10 Ways to Disappear by Idra Novey


I can’t say that I’d put Ways to Disappear into your hand and tell you “you have to read this.” It just wasn’t that book for me.

What it is: a beautifully written book about a Brazilian author who goes missing, last seen climbing into a tree with a suitcase and vanishing, and the American translator who comes to Brazil to search for her. You get the literary meta-ness of a writer (Novey) writing about an author and her translator, the texts that they share and the stories they put out-the author’s in Portuguese, the author/translator’s in English-into the world. When she gets to Rio, the translator begins to question: how well does she really know this author whose work she has lived, breathed, and worked on for years, with whom she has spent much time lingering over exacting words, discussing the fabric of her stories? Where does the author draw the line between herself and the characters she creates? How can the translator “read” the act of the author’s disappearance? When you’ve put a body of writing out into the world, do you ever really disappear?

While I didn’t love this book, I did enjoy it. I appreciated the elegant writing, the story, the characters, and the thoughts it provoked.


#9 We Should All Be Feminists Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

22738563We Should All Be Feminists is the book/essay that grew out of Adichie’s TEDx talk of the same name.

The premise? We should all be feminists. It’s really that simple. Adichie argues a case for feminism with personal stories, using her own experiences as a lens to examine gender inequalities and sexual politics. It’s a breezy 30-minute read.

Oh, and have you read Adichie’s Americanah? Go read it. It’s GREAT.

#8 History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

30183198This debut book of fiction by writer Emily Fridlund is a stunner.

It’s a classic coming-of-age story. High school student Linda doesn’t fit it. Like so many high school kids who feel like they’re the wrong age at the wrong time in the wrong place, she lives the life of an outsider. Her peers keep their distance at school, and she lives a long way from anything with her odd parents. When a family with a young boy, Paul, moves in across the lake, Linda starts to babysit, forging a relationship with the boy and his parents. From page one we know that something devastating has happened to Paul, a knowledge which drives this elegant, sad, austere story to the end.

I really love Fridlund’s writing, there were so many sentences and passages in History of Wolves that made me go “wow.” Some coming-of-age books feel like replicas of stories we’ve all read/heard before, but this one stands out. From the beginning, Fridlund constructs a narrative built on dramatic tension, with the reader constantly questioning “what the fuck happened to that kid?!” The snowy backwoods setting evokes isolation and loneliness, and the characters are unique, complex, totally flawed.

I can’t wait to read what Fridlund comes out with next.

#7 Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera


This book was passed along to me by my husband. It won the 2016 Best Translated Book Award for fiction, and the fact that Francisco Goldman calls Herrera “Mexico’s greatest novelist” would suggest that the book is something quite special, a memorable read. I finished it with a “meh” and a shrug. With all the praise this book received, I was left wondering “did I miss something?!”

If you read it and loved it, I’d love to hear your thoughts…


#6 Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

24453082When looking for creative inspiration or a jump-start to your craft, look here.

Gilbert (yes, author of Eat, Pray, Love… also the author of the excellent The Last American Man) tackles the doubts and fears that stunt the creative impulse, talks about ideas that just want to be brought into the world and made real, champions doing the creative work because you love the work, and divulges the most fascinating story about how a book idea she was working on left her creative sphere and ended up in Ann Patchett’s.

This book continues to fuel interesting  conversations and I find myself talking about the ideas in Big Magic with anyone who will listen.


#5 Ill Will by Dan Chaon


After reading and loving Chaon’s Await Your Reply a few years ago, I was excited to pick up an ARC of Ill Will at my fave local bookstore (where I used to be a bookseller).

Sadly, I didn’t like this book. I found the characters unredeemingly grotesque, and because I disliked the characters so much, I couldn’t invest any emotional energy in actually caring about the plot or the outcome. Blah.

#4 A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman


Looking for a great book to take on vacation? Or just a great read? Here you go.

This is the funny, poignant story of Ove, an old curmudgeon who trolls his neighborhood looking for miscreants, and lives to follow the rules and expects everyone else to as well. He’s unrelenting, grumpy, and inflexible. Much to his chagrin, when a young family moves in next door his life gets turned upside down, his routines are disrupted, his past is brought back to life, lessons are learned.

This is such a page-turner, and Ove is a character you won’t soon forget.