According to Goodreads I read 62 books this year. These are the ten I loved the most and wish all of you would read and send me your thoughts on.
I should have read The Color Purple by Alice Walker years ago. It was suggested to me many times, but it seemed so sad I just couldn’t bring myself to read it. I’m so glad I finally did. I think often about intersectional feminism, and this book completely embodies those concepts, as it is a discussion of race, economic status, gender and sexuality all in one. I read a quote recently somewhere that said reading is important because it teaches empathy, and this book definitely fulfills that concept.
I read quite a few graphic novels and comic books this year, including Joss Whedon’s Serenity Series, but none stuck with me like The Sandman by Neil Gaiman. I can’t even quite pinpoint what it is about this series, it’s haunting and contemplative and completely sucks you into the world he’s building. Like everything else Gaiman writes, I suppose...
If I were to name one single book I read this year that everyone should read, and not nearly enough people have heard about, it’s Kindred by Octavia E. Butler. When a black woman is sent back in time she becomes the protector of a white slaveholder who also happens to be her ancestor. If she can’t keep him alive long enough to produce a child, even as he treats her like a slave, then she will never have lived.
Read this book. Today.
I read quite a few plays this year, including Bertolt Brect’s Mother Courage and Her Children, which is just as incredible as its years of notoriety suggest, but August: Osage County by Tracy Letts stands out as one of my favorites plays to read versus watch. This Pulitzer Prize-winning play embodies a huge examination of family dynamics surrounding addiction, death and how we become ourselves while remaining part of a dysfunctional family.
I read Ireland by Frank Delaney early on this year, and haven’t put it down since. I keep picking it up to reread small sections, to visit this world again. My full review of this book says more than I can here. It changed the way I look at my own writing.
Drama: An Actor’s Education is John Lithgow’s autobiography, which I listened to as an audiobook also read by the actor. This fascinating account of his life prompted quite a bit of reflection into my own writing career, what I want from the world and what I can expect. Like Lithgow, I grew up with parents who are creative as well, which had a huge influence on my own creativity.
You may remember that early on this year I was gifted a huge collection of books on women’s history, among them a complete set of Gloria Steinem’s publications. I read her latest book, My Life on the Road, this summer. I wrote a very short review of this book, and feel as though I should have said more. There are quotes from this book littering the outside of my notebooks, and thoughts of certain moments float in and out of my mind daily. I’m currently reading Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions, and I have read a few others. I almost feel as though I can’t write a full assessment of Steinem’s work until I have read them all. Each one seems to build upon the other, the collection an intense look at her own path through the world and feminism. My Life on the Road is the map, the outline of the rest of her work, and career and her life.
I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai. Long title for a girl who, by the age of eighteen, has already had a long career. There is so much I didn’t know about Malala Yousafzai, her father and her fight for education. As we look at the acceptance of refugees in our country, as we think about the value we put on education and the lessons we teach our children about schoolwork, we need to all remember the lessons of Malala Yousafzai. This young girl has much to teach us. Every child should know her name.
My friend Fire Lyte over at Inciting a Riot suggested Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart to me, and I’m so glad he did. This book is about Constance Kopp and her sisters who find themselves on the wrong side of a spoiled and powerful bully. The year is 1914 and the world is changing, and with it so must the Kopp sisters. However, what struck me most about this book was the reactions I got to the title. I had a few friends and a couple of guests at the hotel I work at comment, each time negatively. One gentleman said, “Oh yuck, that sounds horrible,” based just on those four words. Girl Waits With Gun. There is so much power in a book title, isn’t there?
Is there anyone left who hasn’t read Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee? It seems almost cliche to include it in this list since it was, by far, the most talked about book of 2015. I already wrote a pretty extensive review of this book, if you’re interested in learning more. I do not believe in coincidence, and this book came out in a year ripe with discussion of racial tension and outspoken politics because America needed this book this year.
That being said, don’t read Go Set a Watchman without also reading Kindred. Seriously, everyone should read Kindred by Octavia E. Butler.