TJ is a writer living in Portland, OR.

10 Books I read in 2016

10 Books I read in 2016

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I set out to read 12 books in 2016 and I ended up reading 28 (nice job Acena). Here are 10 that really loved. Very few of these books were published in 2016 because I do not have time nor funds to read every new book that comes out. If you want to keep track of the books I read you can follow me on Goodreads. These books are listed in the order I read them.

Caliban’s War (The Expanse #2) - James S.A. Corey

2016 was the year I really got into science fiction. The Expanse series follows the crew of the Rocinante as they attempt to navigate the political factions of a humanity spread out across the solar system and a newly arrived alien presence that threatens to throw these factions into chaos. I read through book five in 2016 but this one is my favorites. The television adaptation of The Expanse is good as well, the show creators actually attempt to capture the diversity of the characters in the book.

Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel

I heard an interview with Emily St. John Mandel on Livewire and picked up a copy of the book shortly after. The story follows the several interconnected characters throughout the history of an America ravaged by a deadly flu. I enjoy post-apocalyptic stories, and the observations by the narrator really added a sad softness to the story:

No more diving into pools of chlorinated water lit green from below. No more ball games played out under floodlights. No more porch lights with moths fluttering on summer nights. No more trains running under the surface of cities on the dazzling power of the electric third rail. No more cities.

I ended the novel wanting more, like there was something missing from it, though I can’t put my finger on what.

Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier

Every so often I’ll pick up a classic out of a sense of obligation (to no one in particular). It’s usually hit and miss for me, but I couldn’t put Rebecca down. It’s a delicious mystery that filled with tension, unease, and great twists. I spent a lot of this novel thinking: GIRL, STOP IGNORING ALL THESE RED FLAGS AND GET OUT OF THERE!

The Narrow Door: A Memoir of Friendship – Paul Lisciky

A friend sent me to Lisciky’s reading at Powell’s this year. I knew nothing about him or his work before, but I liked the reading so bought a copy of the book (I try to always buy the book if I go to an author's reading). It’s interesting seeing a friendship as the subject of a memoir, Lisciky is tender but not sentimental in looking back on the life of his friend, which I appreciate. He often pulls in world events as markers of their friendship, capturing the way we see signs and portents everywhere in the grief of losing someone.

Marvel Comics: The Untold Story – Sean Howe

X-men was my first introduction into comics and I’ve maintained a light interest in the series throughout the years (enough to follow the comic series on Wikipedia). I picked this up out of curiosity, I didn’t know much about company that made my favorite comic. Also, it was on sale. The number of people involved in the decades of Marvel’s lifetime is hard to keep track of, but it’s a great insider’s view into the company. Probably not for everyone.

The North China Lover – Marguerite Duras

Something about the story was a little unseemly to me (it's a relationship between a grown man and a teenage girl), and I found the characters hard to relate to, but the way Duras tells a story is incredible.

A God in Ruins – Kate Atkinson

I loved Life after Life, the companion book to A God in Ruins, examining how the choices Ursula made changed the outcome of her life every time she started over. A God in Ruins does the same thing in a different way. Teddy’s life is set and we see how a lifetime of choices and chance shape a person and the people around them.

In the Country: Stories – Mia Alvar

This was the first book I’ve read by a Filipino author, which I feel strangely guilty about. It really captures the disparate lives of Filipino people both in country and abroad, but how their lives are shaped by their culture regardless of geography.

The End of my Career – Martha Grover

Admission: I’m a friend of Martha. And some of my writing appears in this book. That said, I love how she can craft essays that are funny and sad at the same time. The End of my Career really pushes outwards, despite how personal her work is Martha really gets at the heart of some big topics (class, gentrification, misogyny).

Between the World and Me - Ta-Nehisi Coates

After the election I started to wonder if literature mattered, Between the World and Me matters. It’s a beautiful exploration of the black experience in America right now. The personal made political. Please read this.

One cannot, at once, claim to be superhuman and then plead mortal error. I propose to take our countrymen’s claims of American exceptionalism seriously, which is to say I propose subjecting our country to an exceptional moral standard.


Oregon Book Awards

Oregon Book Awards

Favorite Songs from 2016

Favorite Songs from 2016