I’ve been laid up for a few days, so I’ve been perusing lots of “Year in Review”articles, including several lists of best or favorite books of the year. I devour those with interest, often thinking “Aw, I love that one too,” or “I intend to read that one soon.” Then I started thinking back on the books I read this year, and I couldn’t remember very many. What has happened to me? Reading is and has been one of the great pleasures of my life, and my ability to recall plots, characters, and entire paragraphs has been one of my geeky talents since second grade. Now I’m not sure what I read as recently as October. Stress?
Anyway, I just finished Don Wallace’s charming memoir, The French House, a book that makes me wish that I could hang out with the author and his wife and go surfing and have picnics and drink wine. Thinking of that memoir reminds me of the other memoir that I do recall reading this year: Consider the Oyster by M.F.K Fisher. I feel the same way about Fisher that I do about Wallace in that I would have loved to have dinner and lively conversation with her. Before Wallace, I finally read The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles simply because it had been on my shelf for years. I could not put it down once I began, butI’m not sure that I will ever forgive those characters for frustrating me so. Speaking of frustrating characters, I did read one of the “it” books of the year. I inhaled Fates and Furies but neither loved nor hated it. The characters, much like the characters in The Goldfinch, intrigued me because their lives are so antithetical to mine. While I’m glad to have read the book, I doubt that I will reread it.
Rereading Toni Morrison’s Beloved was a difficult pleasure this year. The endurance and suffering of the characters seem more painful to me now than when I was younger, while the magical qualities of the book seem suffused yet still enchanting. Suffering and Endurance are popular themes for the novels that my French Book Group selects, and the last two of the year were no exception. We read Rien Ne S’oppose å la Nuit by Delphine de Vigan and Le Rapport de Brodeck by Philippe Claudel. Both books engendered lively discussion, and we all enjoyed them, but Brodeck is the one that will stay with me. Its cautionary tone and sense of otherness were particularly apropos for our dinner meeting just after the election. The language was also simple and beautiful and strangely appropriate to some of the ugly events described.
So maybe I do remember some of what I read, but I know there’s more. I read Lucy by Jamaica Kinkaid and The Painter by Peter Heller and The Education of Little Tree of by Forrest Carter (for my students). Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline was a book that I enjoyed. Oh my goodness, how could I have forgotten The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen! That is a memoir that I will return to again and again. Funny that I consider myself a fiction girl, but my memorable reads of 2016 were memoirs.
I know that there are more since these are all from the latter part of the year. I’ll let you know when and if I remember! For 2017, I’m going to mark my calendar with the books I finish! What were your favorite reads of the year? Lord knows I’ll need a distraction.