Happy New Year! I took a holiday blog break while spending time with my dad who was visiting from Ohio, enjoying visiting with friends and family, and of course trying to read as much as possible. I also went to my first Celtics game, spent lots of time in cozy coffee shops, and went to a wonderful bookstore called Jabberwocky in Newburyport.
As I reflect back on the almost 50 (just short!) books I read in 2017, these are the five that stand out – books that gave me a new perspective or that resonated in some way.
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng
The Return by Hisham Matar
The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
I would also add Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, but since I finished reading it this morning, it doesn’t count. It’s a beautiful novel and one I need to think more about. I feel like a lot of what I’m reading has to do with borders – borders between places, real and imaginary. Bardo (from the title of George Saunders’s book) is a Buddhist term for a transitional place between death and the next life. In The Return, Hisham Matar returns to Libya, his homeland, to learn the truth about his father’s disappearance. Exit West asks the reader to consider what a border really is, an especially timely question. As we read the stories of people who are forced to leave their homes and confront risk and uncertainty, these books made me think about the nature of home and how we are defined by time and geography.
One of my favorite lists of the year is Barack Obama’s list of books he enjoyed reading during the year. Here is President Obama’s 2017 list:
The Power by Naomi Alderman
Grant by Ron Chernow
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond
Janesville: An American Story by Amy Goldstein (I bought this book for my dad and just ordered a copy for myself!)
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
Five-Carat Soul by James McBride
Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
Dying: A Memoir by Cory Taylor
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
I saw a promising sign yesterday at a bookstore in Brookline. We walked in, took a few minutes to shake off the bitter cold, and looked up to see this – so many people buying books. It warmed by heart, if not my body:
Wishing you Good Books in 2018…