The fact of the matter is: I don’t read as much as I used to, and I don’t read as much as I’d like to. First world problems. Woe is me. I read 87 of my 100-book goal in 2016, and that’s…a B? B+? Honestly, anything below an A and my palms get sweaty. FAIL.
My shortcomings aside, it was a good year for literature. Even literature NOT about Alexander Hamilton. In fact, I read very little nonfiction last year. It was just the kind of year that demanded an escape from reality, amiright?
Book I Didn’t Enjoy Until Halfway Through
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff. I don’t always agree with President Obama, but when I do, it’s about this book. I slogged through the first half, waiting for delight to hit. Then the second half started, and BAM. Brilliant.
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. I only started-without-finishing one book this year: Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson. You KNOW I love me a good scifi epic, but Red Mars was entirely too tedious for me. I don’t remember how I heard about The Sparrow, but I was sure it would be another failure to fill the Michael Crichton-shaped hole in my soul. But I’ll be damned if it didn’t make me think about aliens, religion, communication, society, and even Puerto Rico in entirely new ways.
Book I Thought I’d Love but Ended Up Hating
Once Upon a Time in Russia: The Rise of the Oligarchs—A True Story of Ambition, Wealth, Betrayal, and Murder by Ben Mezrich. I really dug every other Mezrich work that I’ve read. This, though, was too populated with stern old guys for me to keep them straight in my head.
Book I Should Have Read Long Ago
Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. Now I see how that whole phenomenon got started. A little too neat to be my Best Book, but a solid contender. (Never have I felt so like a Goop subscriber than at this moment.)
Book I Loved from Start to Finish
Room by Emma Donaghue. My Book of the Year. I haven’t seen the movie, but I figured I’d make up for my cowardice by reading the source material. The book was so engrossing, the climax so gripping, and the narrative device so perfect, that I can’t imagine the movie would do it justice. I read it instead of sleeping. I read it instead of eating. I read it even when it made my heart pound and my stomach burble. That's what a great book will do.