2016: Books I Read

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Here’s how much of my reading has looked in the past few months.

We aren’t much for New Year resolutions in this house, but most Januarys begin with a goal or two for the year ahead. Among a few perhaps more meaningful things (and therefore ones I hope to stick to!), one of my goals is to blog once a week. It might just be a few sentences; or maybe a more thought-out, crafted sort of piece. I want to better document both our family’s life and my own thoughts in the midst of it.

To begin, I thought I would do a few posts looking back on the wild and full year we have had. Starting with the books I read. This list is sadly quite short, but I am reassuring myself about its length by remembering all that 2016 held. However, I am hoping to have a much longer list by the end of 2017.

That being said, here’s what I read in 2016:

Fiction
All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr
This book was grand in both language and story, and I found myself not being able to put it down. The story is engaging and page-turning, but the more I look back on the book, the more disappointed I feel about it. It seems to me that the author is trying very hard to say something meaningful, to make important and profound connections, but I always felt like he never quite got there. (Maybe I’m the only one who feels that way!) The book was good enough, though, that I tried another Doerr book.

About Grace, Anthony Doerr
The thing I appreciate and enjoy about Doerr is his fascination with and love for the natural world. This comes through beautifully in About Grace, but again I found the story to be trying too hard to make a point that it never really makes. I got the feeling that he wanted desperately to be saying something important, but didn’t even know himself what that thing might be.

East of Eden, John Steinbeck
This is the best book I read all year by far, and is now on my list of top three books. Gorgeous, provoking, horrifying, tender, insightful, magnificent, beautiful. I loved it so much that I felt sad moving on to another book. I read the last few chapters of the book over and over and over again and might just read the whole thing again in 2017.

“Ah!” said Lee. “I’ve wanted to tell you this for a long time. I even anticipated your questions and I am well prepared. Any writing which has influenced the thinking and the lives of innumerable people is important. Now, there are many millions in their sects and churches who feel the order, ‘Do thou,’ and throw their weight into obedience. And there are millions more who feel predestination in ‘Thou shalt.’ Nothing they may do can interfere with what will be. But ‘Thou mayest’! Why, that makes a man great, that gives him stature with the gods, for in his weakness and his filth and his murder of his brother he has still the great choice. He can choose his course and fight it through and win.” Lee’s voice was a chant of triumph…

“And I feel that a man is a very important thing—maybe more important than a star. This is not theology. I have no bent toward gods. But I have a new love for that glittering instrument, the human soul. It is a lovely and unique thing in the universe. It is always attacked and never destroyed— because ‘Thou mayest.’”

Crossing to Safety, Wallace Stegner
I don’t have much to say about this little book. It is lovely, but my reading of it directly followed East of Eden and most of the time I found myself wishing I was reading about Cal and Lee and Adam.

Beloved, Toni Morrison
Morrison is the winner of numerous prizes, and she is clearly a skilled writer. Her words are lyrical and beautiful, but I did not enjoy this book. I disliked it in the process of reading it but kept holding out hope that something would prove me wrong, or that my mind would be changed as I know that many speak highly of it. While Beloved brings to light important questions and reminds us of the horrors of American slavery, it seemed that she dismisses evil because it was caused, or provoked, by evil. The book left a bad taste in my mouth, but I would be very curious to discuss it with anyone who has read it, especially anyone who might feel differently about it. I am hardly a literary critic and can easily miss important moments in a story.

Nonfiction
Life Under Compulsion: Ten Ways to Ruin the Humanity of Your Children, Anthony Esolen
I liked this book much better than his first in this sort of mini series. His insights not only gave me much to think about as a parent, but also as a person myself in this modern age.

God or Nothing, Robert Cardinal Sarah
This conversation with Cardinal Sarah is absolutely beautiful. The man is unflinching in his faith and conviction, but communicates these truths with mercy and compassion. As an African who grew up in a war-torn country, his perspective and critiques of modernity are especially insightful.

Hillbilly Elegy, J.D. Vance
I closed this book feeling sad. It is engaging, funny at times, profound and insightful, and a fascinating look into a very American culture. Vance’s story is one of profound struggle and success. In many ways, he “beat the odds” and overcame many difficulties to become the sort of person who could even write a memoir looking honestly at the world that he came from. It is sad, however, to consider all of the children in situations such as his, and I found myself again thinking about foster care.

For class/teaching
The Horse and His Boy, C.S. Lewis
Prince Caspian, C.S. Lewis
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C.S. Lewis
The Cricket in Times Square, George Selden
Homer Price, Robert McCloskey
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis
Adam of the Road, Elizabeth Janet Gray
The Door in the Wall, Marguerite D’Angeli

And with there ends my little list. On the list to begin 2017: A Return to Modesty by Wendy Shalit and Elena Farrante’s highly-acclaimed My Brilliant Friend.

2 thoughts on “2016: Books I Read

  1. Pingback: Books of the Month: March | Great is Thy Faithfulness

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