But there's nothing I can do about it now, except to set a reminder for myself next October and avoid this non-dilemma in the future. This year's list will be called Books I Read in the First Year of Trump Reality, which covers November and December of 2016 in addition to this entire year.
This year my descriptions are a bit more brief than usual and not very reflective, in part because I'm doing this in a rush. If you want to chat more about any of these, I'd love to do that.
So without further ado, the books I've read since Book Report IV, Book Report III, Book Report II and Book Report I:
1. Becoming Wise by Krista Tippett: I finished reading this book the day before the 2016 presidential election. I am grateful I did. Krista's interviews have provided great insight and solace for my soul. This book was a reminder that there are reasons to be hopeful and to have faith in our fellow humans, and in ourselves.
2. Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple: A quick read that gave me a mental break of sorts. I don't think it was any better or even much different from Where'd You Go Bernadette, so ultimately this one was just "meh" for me, since I felt Bernadette was over-hyped.
3. Great House by Nicole Krauss: I honestly don't remember reading this book, but Goodreads says I did. Am I getting old? Or was I just stressed? I loved Krauss' History of Love years ago, too, and don't really remember much of that, either; but in both cases, I do remember it's a multi-generational plot. So...if you like that sort of thing...
4. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins: A book I read because everyone was reading it and the movie was out. I totally suspected the ending before I got there, but that didn't keep me from enjoying it.
5. The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie: I loved this one. A love story of sorts that didn't take itself too seriously and features a squirrel! I laughed out loud throughout and was sad when it ended.
6. The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman: A compelling WW2 love story, but my biggest beef was that the story started at the end, which in this case kind of took away a bit of the drama and amazement. Still, a beautiful story.
7. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel: I normally don't read books about plagues wiping out civilization, but this one was so fun to read and different from what I expected that I highly recommend it.
8. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier: A classic that is now one of my favorites. I read a copy from the 1930s and I think it helped me appreciate how thrilling it must have been when it was published because it holds up, seven decades later. I read this on the plane to Buenos Aires, and while I normally have a fairly short attention span for books on plans (so much in-flight entertainment temptation!), this was one I had a hard time putting down.
9. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders: One of the most lovely, inventive, strange and poignant things I've read in years. This book is not for everyone, and there are times when you just have to ride it out until you catch on, but it was so rewarding to enter this bardo-universe and consider grief and love and life.
10. High Tide in Tucson by Barbara Kingsolver: I'd eventually like to read all of Kingsolver's books and essays. This is the furthest back I've gone yet, and she's consistently steadfast in her concern for the environment, thoughtfulness of nature, and appreciation of our own biology.
11. East of Eden by John Steinbeck: I could cry just thinking about the ending of this book. I wish it hadn't taken me so many years to get to it. I hope to read it again at least once before I reach 60.
12. You Don't Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie: People say grief is not linear. Sherman Alexie added this beauty to that idea, in describing what he has experienced in grieving - in a most complicated way - the death of his mother: "Great pain is repetitive. Grief is repetitive. And maybe, this repetition can become a chant inside a healing ceremony."
13. Commonweath by Ann Patchett: I tried out the audiobook version for this, and I learned more about myself in the process than I retained about the plot of this novel. Throughout the listening experience I felt really disappointed and bored by the plot but somehow listened to the entire thing. Then I went to Goodreads to see what others thought. While many of them said it was not Patchett's best, I began reading passages some had posted as favorites from the book. I couldn't remember hearing a single one of them. My listening comprehension is bad, but I didn't think it was that bad. I got the plot but missed the beauty on this one. Either the audiobook reader was less-than-great (and I think that was true) or I simply need to read words on a page to let the words really sit with me and sink in. So I'm not sure what to say about this one.
14. I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron: After feeling bad about my listening comprehension, I tried once more to listen to an audiobook, this time read by the author herself, and it was much, much better. Nora Ephron was one of the best. I laughed out loud, cried a little, and am determined to one day try cabbage strudel. Loved it.
15. Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver: I want to live in the woods. The end. ...Okay, not really, but boy did I crave some time in nature after reading this book. I feel so out of touch for not knowing about birds, trees, bugs, and the life cycles and food chains that surround me. This is probably one of my favorite Kingsolver books to date. It's a little sexy, which, depending on your taste, may scare you away. But I found each storyline compelling if a little preachy (it's Kingsolver, what do you expect?).
16. Bored and Brilliant by Manoush Zomorodi: It's not a year in books without a little self-help. In this case, I was convicted to read this to help tame my phone habits and reclaim time to do absolutely nothing and spur on a bit of creativity. Zomorodi is the host of a program called "Note to Self" and I found her writing style to be a bit like reading a radio transcript, which is to say a little tedious. But the main points of the book were good. I have never been all that addicted to my phone, but I think part of that is because I'm on the computer so much of my day that I don't feel as much of a need to constantly check updates. But I did end up deleting the Facebook app from my phone after feeling inspired by what I read. Instagram is still where I spend the majority of my phone time, but I've weaned myself off of that a bit, too. It's hard! But probably worth it for my sanity and creativity.
17. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance: This was hard and it was good. This was just one perspective, of course, and it was, at times, fairly harsh, but also full of love and pride for family. It made me look around at my own neighbors who may be going through similar issues of drug abuse, lack of social support/capital, and living in destructive cycles. It felt like a good bookend to this list. I can't be in denial about the world I live in. At Thanksgiving this year, we went around the table asking each other some fairly deep questions, and the one that stuck with me was about what each of us feels is our highest obligation to our country. My 17-year-old niece was the first to answer, and in my opinion, her answer trumped them all: Get to know your neighbors. How can we help if we don't understand?