New years, good intentions, and reading lists

Recently, I was talking with a friend of mine about books, as we often do, and he asked me how many I'd read in 2016. I probably went blank; I don't usually track my reading. I deflected, and asked him how many he'd read. I forget his answer; I want to say it was thirty-seven books. Which is wonderful. And humiliating for me, a bit, because I suspect my number is significantly lower than that. I made an excuse—"I always have a hard time reading when I'm actively writing a book," I might have said—but the damage was done. Our conversation moved on, but I couldn't shake the idea that I'd somehow managed to read fewer books in 2016 than possibly any year in my conscious life. 

So I decided to do two things: I'd scour my social media feeds, looking for any posts I might have made about books I'd read, in order to put my poor book-deprived soul at ease; and I'd make a reading list for 2017, and track everything I put into my brain. 

Now, after poring over my Instagram and Twitter and Facebook posts for the year, here are at least a few of the books I know I read in 2016:

  1. Marrow Island, Alexis M. Smith
  2. My Documents, Alejandro Zambra
  3. Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates
  4. Wait for Signs, Craig Johnson
  5. A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L'Engle (re-read)
  6. The Tsar of Love and Techno, Anthony Marra
  7. Every Anxious Wave, Mo Daviau
  8. Escape Clause, John Sandford
  9. Extreme Prey, John Sandford
  10. Night School, Lee Child
  11. A Burglar's Guide to the City, Geoff Manaugh
  12. To the Bright Edge of the World, Eowyn Ivey
  13. Kevin Kramer Starts on Monday, Debbie Graber
  14. The Hours Count, Jillian Cantor
  15. The Flood Girls, Richard Fifield
  16. Playing Dead, Elizabeth Greenwood
  17. Suspicion, Joseph Finder
  18. Life Among the Savages, Shirley Jackson
  19. Fire Season, Philip Connors
  20. A Place of My Own, Michael Pollan
  21. The Charm School, Nelson DeMille
  22. In Progress, Jessica Hische
  23. Two Kisses for Maddy, Matt Logelin
  24. Contact, Carl Sagan (re-read)
  25. The Buried Giant, Kazuo Ishiguro
  26. The Art of Slow Writing, Louise DeSalvo
  27. Still Writing, Dani Shapiro
  28. All the Old Knives, Olen Steinhauer
  29. Get in Trouble, Kelly Link
  30. Iron Lake, William Kent Krueger

Okay, that's way more than I thought. And now I'm half-convinced that I'm missing a hell of a lot of other books, too. Also, this list doesn't include the books I've read to Squish throughout the year, among them Peter Brown's The Wild Robot, Neil Gaiman's Fortunately, the Milk, Vera Brosgol's Leave Me Alone!, and E.B. White's Charlotte's Web, and—well, countless others. (The kiddo loves to read, which makes me happy.)

In any case, I aim to do better in the coming year. So I've put together a list of thirty books I intend to read before the year is out, to match my possibly-incomplete 2016 total—and here's hoping I'll cram a few more onto the list, if my writing projects don't distract too much. (Edit, January 26: I've added ten books to the list. I've also begun to keep a reading list on the site, where I'll track my reading year-by-year, assuming I remember to do so.)

Here's the 2017 reading list, alpha by author:

  1. The Tetris Effect: The Game That Hypnotized the World, Dan Ackerman
  2. Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  3. Modern Romance, Aziz Ansari
  4. The Fountain, Darren Aronofsky
  5. The Girl in the Road, Monica Byrne
  6. Moonglow, Michael Chabon
  7. The Wangs vs. the World, Jade Chang
  8. The Queen of the Night, Alexander Chee
  9. Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before You Waste 3 Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere), Lisa Cron
  10. Leaving Orbit: Notes From the Last Days of American Spaceflight, Margaret Lazarus Dean
  11. The Turner House, Angela Flournoy
  12. In the Woods, Tana French
  13. Hide, Matthew Griffin
  14. Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi
  15. Monterey Bay, Lindsay Hatton
  16. The Nix, Nathan Hill
  17. The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro
  18. Fortune Smiles, Adam Johnson
  19. In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin, Erik Larson
  20. The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories From My Life, John Le Carre
  21. The Russia House, John Le Carre
  22. Live By Night, Dennis Lehane
  23. The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories, Ken Liu
  24. The Storyteller, Mario Vargas Llosa
  25. The Singer's Gun, Emily St. John Mandel
  26. Why We Write About Ourselves: Twenty Memoirists on Why They Expose Themselves (and Others) in the Name of Literature, Meredith Maran
  27. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, Anthony Marra
  28. The Good Lord Bird, James McBride
  29. Red Fortress: History and Illusion in the Kremlin, Catherine Merridale
  30. The Unseen World, Liz Moore
  31. Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng
  32. The Tiger's Wife, Tea Obreht
  33. Boy, Snow, Bird, Helen Oyeyemi
  34. A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki
  35. Thrill Me: Essays on Fiction, Benjamin Percy
  36. A Hundred Thousand Worlds, Bob Proehl
  37. Everybody's Fool, Richard Russo
  38. Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson's Lost Pacific Empire, Peter Stark
  39. The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead
  40. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration, Isabel Wilkerson

We'll see, of course, how well I manage to keep up with this list of good intentions. At least two or three of those books are legitimately large books. But maybe I'll do okay. So let's wrap up 2016 with the book I loved most, and kick off 2017 with the first book I'm attacking on that list:

Anthony Marra's second book has stuck with me all year. Hands-down, this was my favorite read of 2016. 

Anthony Marra's second book has stuck with me all year. Hands-down, this was my favorite read of 2016. 

I'm kicking off 2017 with Emily St. John Mandel's second book, the only title of hers I haven't yet read. 

I'm kicking off 2017 with Emily St. John Mandel's second book, the only title of hers I haven't yet read. 

May your own 2017 bring many great books as well!