President Obama’s vacation reading list was recently shared, and I was happy to see that I had read four out of the five books he was planning to dive into this summer. Maybe Barack and I could have our own book club? I’ll bring the wine.
From audio books to good old-fashioned paperbacks, and from scientific fiction and award winning literature to memoir and new releases, I am a very eclectic reader. I get suggestions of books to read from my monthly book club and from friends, and I read reviews in The New York Times and The New Yorker for tips. My only requirement is that the book is engaging and well written.
This year, my goal was to read 50 books; I’ve recently crossed number 60 off my list. (I like to meet my goals.) Until Barack and I get that book club underway, I wanted to share some of my favorite 2016 reads (so far that is) with you. Here are 9 books you should read now…
Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan – I adored this book, and have been championing it to friends and family for months, successfully getting my husband to read it (he loved it, too). Finnegan’s memoir, a 2016 Pulitzer Prize winner, is hypnotic in its evocative description of his lifelong love of surfing, which catapulted him around the world and into a life as a writer.
Some Girls: My Life in a Harem by Jillian Lauren – Did the title scare you off? It shouldn’t. Lauren’s tale of her stint as a member of harem in Brunei is light on sex but deep on the struggle to find a place in the world. It’s an excellent coming of age story of a woman who has struggled but, fortunately, come out on the other side.
Seveneves by Neal Stephenson – Every once in a while, I dabble in sci fi, and it’s worth it when it’s a book like Seveneves. What happens to humanity when the moon explodes? Do we survive? If so, how, and who do we become? This book left me with so many questions—which I loved.
A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories by Lucia Berlin – I’m not typically a fan of short stories—I love the embrace of a great, long book—but Berlin’s collection, published after her death, pulled me in. Her stories reflect a life of hardship but also beauty. There’s a lyrical quality in her words that make reading her work well worth the time.
The Ramblers by Aidan Donnelly Rowley – This novel is set against the backdrop of a tantalizing New York City, reading almost as a love letter from the author. The three main characters are each at a crossroads, with decisions about career and relationships both beckoning and challenging them. I found myself wishing for a weekend in the Big Apple after I finished it.
Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – A friend passed this book to me as a get-well gift, and I was captivated by the story of a family’s life in Nigeria—the good and bad, the joyful and painful.
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara – When I found my teenage babysitter reading this instead of watching television after a night of watching my kids, I knew (a) this book is making the rounds and (b) I wanted to read it again. Deeply heartfelt and beautifully written, A Little Life traces the lives of four college friends through professional success and deep personal problems. This book has incredibly dark moments, but is ultimately driven by love.
Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf – Such a quiet, moving book, Our Souls at Night is the story of love that comes to two people late in life. Faced with judgment and small-town pressures, they must choose whether to be together.
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer – Like A Little Life and The Ramblers, The Interestings follows a group of friends throughout their lives. Meeting in summer camp, the friends—the self-proclaimed “The Interestings”—form a bond that carries them through tragedy and success into middle age. This topic of friends connecting over decades has been of interest to me this year! There’s something about the disconnection of our lives that makes me want to read more about long-term relationships and how they change over time.
What else should be on my to read list? What books did you read this year that you’d like to recommend? Tell me in the comments!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links; learn more.