Books to Read in 2016

Happy New Year! Although I’m a slacker when it comes to making or keeping New Year’s Resolutions, I love making reading lists. And a new year means a fresh stack of books waiting to be read!

{ My favorite reads in 2015 }

– My favorite reads in 2015 –

Every year I set a reading goal for myself. Rarely, if ever, do I hit that number, but still… a girl can dream!

2015 was my slowest reading year in recent memory. (Don Quixote really slowed me down!) My favorite reads last year were History of the Rain by Niall Williams, Artful by Ali Smith, The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin, and King Lear by Shakespeare. Not pictured above but also worth mentioning is The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander. (See my full 2015 book list here.)

My reading goal for 2016 is 36 books. I’m slowly working my way through this 5-year classical reading plan, and I’d love to make a bigger dent this year. Wish me luck, friends. I’ll need it!

Here are some of the books I’m looking forward to reading in 2016…

– Fiction –

Peter Pan Minalima cover
Peter Pan by J. M. BarrieFor Christmas, my husband gave me this gorgeous clothbound edition illustrated by Minalima, the design studio behind the graphics in the Harry Potter movies. I’ve never read this before, and it looks delightful!

East of Eden Steinbeck Penguin Classics cover
East of Eden by John SteinbeckAlthough not his most widely read, this is the highest-rated of Steinbeck’s novels among most readers I know. (Rumor has it there’s a new film adaptation in the works too, which is always incentive to move a book to the top of my reading queue.) I love the recent Penguin Classics editions of Steinbeck, which feature cover designs by illustrator Mick Wiggins. His work is beautiful!

All the Light We Cannot See Anthony Doerr cover
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony DoerrI tend to shy away from current bestsellers or at least wait to read them until some of the hype has died down. (So many books, so little time!) But I also have a secret love for literary historical fiction, so I’m finally pulling the trigger on this recent Pulitzer Prize-winner.

– Poetry & Drama –

Paradise Lost Milton cover
Paradise Lost by John Miltonreading now! It’s a brilliant epic, and all the more impressive when you recall Milton went blind in 1652 and wrote all of Paradise Lost by dictation! This is the final book for Year 2 of my classical reading list; coming up next in the Year 3 list is Moliere’s Tartuffe.

Pitch Poems Todd Boss cover
Pitch by Todd BossOne of my favorite poets working today, Todd Boss has strong Midwest roots and an exceptional ear for internal rhyme. I loved his debut collection Yellowrocket and expect wonderful things from this follow-up.

Henriad Folger Shakespeare cover grid
Richard II
// Henry IV, Part 1 // Henry IV, Part 2 // Henry V by ShakespeareI love Shakespeare! Henry V was an early favorite of mine, but I’ve never read the first three plays of this tetralogy, known collectively as the “Henriad.” Time to remedy that — and then reward myself by watching The Hollow Crown.

– Creativity, Inspiration, Personal Growth –

Better Than Before Gretchen Rubin cover
Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubinreading now! I love Gretchen’s work, and this book is a perfect way to start off the new year on the right foot. It’s full of strategies to help you know yourself better and how best to develop good habits that work for you.

Big Magic Elizabeth Gilbert cover
Big Magic by Elizabeth GilbertI’ve had a kind of love/hate relationship with Gilbert’s earlier books, but I admire her persistence and passion for creativity. I’m currently listening to her Magic Lessons podcast, which is thoughtful and inspiring. Hopefully this book lives up to the hype!

Daring Greatly Rising Strong Brene Brown cover
Daring Greatly and Rising Strong by Brene BrownI’m a long-time fan of Brene Brown’s work on vulnerability, courage, and authenticity, but I have yet to read these two most recent books. I’d love to sign up for her Living Brave online course, which spends 12 weeks working through these two books.

– History & Biography –

In the Heart of the Sea Nathaniel Philbrick cover
In the Heart of the Sea
by Nathaniel PhilbrickTrue story of the shipwreck that inspired Moby Dick. The sinking of the whaleship Essex was as well-known during the 19th Century as the Titanic is to us today. A number of bookish friends have recommended reading this book before trying to tackle Moby Dick, which is coming up later in my classical reading list. Since MD is one of the most abandoned books on Goodreads, I’ll take all the help I can get!

Lincoln at Gettysburg Garry Wills cover
Lincoln at Gettysburg
 by Garry Wills – “The power of words has rarely been given a more compelling demonstration than in the Gettysburg Address. Lincoln was asked to memorialize the gruesome battle. Instead he gave the whole nation ‘a new birth of freedom’ in the space of a mere 272 words.” This 1993 Pulitzer Prize-winner looks at the Gettysburg Address as literature, tracing its historical roots and lasting political impact.

Romantic Outlaws Charlotte Gordon cover
Romantic Outlaws
 by Charlotte Gordon – A dual biography of Mary Wollstonecraft, the 18th-Century feminist philosopher, and her daughter Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein. Wollstonecraft died just days after giving birth to Shelley, but they shared a remarkable legacy as writers and passionate advocates for women’s rights in an era when women were considered incapable of directing their own lives. I started reading at the bookstore and couldn’t put it down!

– Other Nonfiction –

Between the World and Me Ta-Nehisi Coates cover
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates – “Powerful and passionate… profoundly moving… a searing meditation on what it means to be black in America today” (Michiko Kakutani). Written as a letter/essay to Coates’ teenage son, this book won the 2015 National Book Award for nonfiction. I’ve been waiting to read it until I finished James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, as there’s been many comparisons drawn between the two.

At Large and At Small Anne Fadiman cover
At Large and At Small by Anne FadimanI expect this essay collection will be just as charming and erudite as her earlier collection of essays on books and reading, Ex Libris. “Fadiman is utterly delightful, witty and curious, and she’s such a stellar writer that if she wrote about pencil shavings, you’d read it aloud to all your friends.” (Lucia Silva)

Walkable City Jeff Speck cover
Walkable City by Jeff SpeckSpeck, a city planner and urban designer, has spent his career studying what makes cities thrive, and he’s boiled it down to one key factor: walkability. In fact, he argues, many of America’s problems — public health, sustainability, a lagging economy — could be solved by making cities more pedestrian-friendly and less car-centric. As a committed downtown dweller myself, this is an issue near and dear to my heart!

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Do you have any reading goals for 2016? Any favorites from last year? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Wishing you a lovely year ahead… Happy reading!

We Are Each Other


Against the backdrop of terrorist attacks, rancorous politics, and over-opinionated internet hordes, I’m feeling weary and heavy-hearted today. Like all good bookworms, I find solace in reading, and right now I’m holding on to these words for hope and comfort:

“I want to know who you are. I want you to know who I am. I want us to make our own story in the world. I want our grandchildren to say about us that there was a time when many things looked dark, when people felt separated from each other and wars and pestilence and fear were rampant in both rich nations and poor nations. And people were distracted and busy, driven along in the deterioration of many things they held dearly. But then, in the nick of time, something that no one could see, and no one could stop, began to restore hope and instill them with wisdom and action: people began to remember the sweetness of story. People turned away from the behaviors that had ravaged neighbors and nature; people turned away from the machinery of war they had perfected; people turned back to each other, and sat down and talked and listened.

“I want to know who you are. I want you to know who I am. We may not even know why, until I hear your stories, until you hear mine. We may not even know why until something sparks between us that makes us smile or cry with recognition — not out of sentimentality, but out of commonality, waking our remembrance that we are each other.”

– Christina Baldwin, Storycatcher

[ Photo credit: Cyril Caton ]

Night Watch


At three in the morning, I’m drawn from peaceful slumbers to this cold chair. My heavy eyelids stare, unblinking, at the marble lamp, the white circle of light in this midnight corner of the house. A night owl writing morning pages before dawn… What is it that keeps me awake?

Songs and sonnets and maid-of-honor speeches. Friendships and failures and shopping lists. Errands. A mother’s love. A sixtieth anniversary scrapbook. A birthday. A new baby’s christening. A Sunday school rumor. A lost dog and backyard cherry trees. Rhubarb. Strawberry shortcake. Gardening plans. The stack of papers to sort on the corner of the sofa. The dishwasher to unload. The month-end report that’s overdue.

Forward and back, my mind flies through memories and dreams, mundane to-dos, leaps and bounds.

And I think of you, whoever you might be, awake and alone like me, drawn from your bed to a thousand other thoughts, all your own cares, worries, and loves. “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers,” awake before sunrise. Together in shared silence, divided in time and space and distance.

I don’t know you, but are we so different? Me here on the cold tile floor and you in your slippers, each carrying a world inside us of lifelong griefs and joys, reveries, unspoken hopes, and plans for the days ahead.

I won’t recognize you tomorrow, if we happen to pass on the street, at the market, on the freeway. But just for this moment, let me pray a blessing on you. For peace… For joy… I pray you feel loved tomorrow, and I pray that somewhere, during the course of your day, you find someone to show unexpected kindness to.

The world needs more of that, doesn’t it? Strangers taking time to smile, to say thank you… I see you… I remember.