Book Roundup 2016
January 04, 2017
My Kindle has recently become an extension of my arm. I’m currently on winter holiday in China, which gives me ample opportunity to get lost in a good book— at the moment, it’s The Man Who Knew by Sebastian Mallaby, a riveting biography of Alan Greenspan. Seriously, the man is fascinating (e.g. he’s a Juilliard dropout who played for a year in a jazz band, and an Ayn Rand libertarian acolyte who later became head of the Federal Reserve). The book also goes deep into post-war U.S. economic history, which is fun. (Sidenote: Mallaby’s More Money Than God, about hedge funds, is also a very good read.)
This Greenspan biography is a frontrunner for my favorite book of the year, but there were a bunch of others that I read and loved. I made a list last year, so I’ll continue the tradition with an updated version here.
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay - I once ran into Roxane Gay in a bathroom on the 6th floor of the Media Lab. I tried to play it cool so we talked about faucets, but was low-key d-y-i-n-g with excitement. She’s absolutely brilliant. Her latest book, Difficult Women, is next on my list.
Tribe by Sebastian Junger - Junger asserts that the major cause of PTSD among veterans is not violence, but loss of tight-knit community. The book examines the reality of civic life in America today, and inspired me to be intentional about building strong communities in my own life.
Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari - A perspective-shifting account of the history of the human species. It’s quite broad and lengthy, but reads like a good story.
Peace of Mind: Becoming Fully Present by Thich Nhat Hanh - I read a lot of Thich Nhat Hanh but only stumbled across this book’s existence a few months ago. It focuses more on the mind-body connection, and was especially inspiring for my yoga teaching.
Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi - This book dives deep into the optimal experience of ”flow,” that state of consciousness where we are completely absorbed and often the most happy. Csikszentmihalyi uses that to explore what it means to live a fulfilling life, which was really insightful.
The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo - True to its title, this was actually pretty life-changing for me— especially her folding technique. :p It’s also easing me into a manageable kind of minimalism.
Deep Work by Cal Newport - Newport’s latest book gave me a lot of food for thought in thinking about how I spend my time, particularly shallow vs. deep work modes.
Originals by Adam Grant - I’m a huge fan of Adam Grant and found this to be a fun read, with interesting research and insights on innovative trailblazers.
Feminist Fight Club by Jessica Bennett - Fun, hilarious, and seriously useful read. I’ll be referring back to this, especially when out in the ~real world~.
Fun Home by Allison Bechdel - Such a beautiful book, particularly in the way it explores family and sexuality. I’m not huge on graphic novels, but this one has a special place in my heart.
Godel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter - Okay, so I didn’t finish it but am around halfway through. It’s delightful.
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng - This book resonated with me deeply, especially as it touches on aspects of the Asian-American experience in a very raw, real way. The writing is poetic but sharp. One of my favorite books ever.
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - I can’t believe it took me so long to read this— it’s spectacular.
The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar - I stayed up until 2am during finals period reading this beautiful novel. It vividly and powerfully explores the close, fraught relationship between two women of different classes in India.
The Girls by Emma Cline - The prose in this book is stunning, and the hype (at least I believe) well-deserved.
The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin - I hadn’t read science fiction in a while, but was completely engrossed by this one, partially set in China during the Cultural Revolution.
Private Citizens by Tony Tulathimutte - This book kind of evoked DFW for me, a satire filled with droll observations about the anxieties of post-grad life. In the words of VICE, it’s “highbrow yet unwholesome-gourmet junk food, like the cereal-milk-flavored soft-serve at Momofuku Milk Bar.”
Thomas and Beulah by Rita Dove - Dove is the second African-American woman to win poet laureate of the United States, and this book explains why. A poetry collection of quiet beauty.
Ariel by Sylvia Plath - Plath’s life often overshadows her work, which is a shame. Witty and stark, these poems contain a sort of subtle rage and beauty that has greatly inspired by own poetry writing.
Looking back, this year’s reading has particularly been centered around authors who aren’t straight white men. This wasn’t exactly intentional, but I’m pleased it’s the case.