Today, I’m giving myself a pat on the back after reviewing the list of 32 books I read during 2016. That was 23 works of fiction and 9 works of nonfiction. Notably, there were 28 authors, 7 collections of short stories, 6 books published in 2014, 4 books including a map, and one book with a character who falsely claims to be Anne Frank. There was a love triangle in Papua New Guinea, a love triangle in the midst of a global bio-catastrophe, and a love triangle at a McDonalds ad reunion in the middle of a postmodern American cornfield.
35% of my reading was by women.
28% was by non-US authors.
37.5% of these titles were written after the year 2000.
15.6% of my reading included some kind of supernatural element.
Here are some superlatives:
Most Challenging Read – The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen
Matthiessen’s patient attention to the details of his surroundings is a lesson to me. This book compelled me to slow the pace of my mind for a few hours a day.
The “Page Turner” Award – Euphoria by Lily King
Euphoria is the swift paced tale of three anthropologists racing to unlock the secrets of a native tribe in Papua New Guinea while falling into a complicated love triangle! The story takes inspiration from the early travels of famed anthropologist Margaret Mead. I intend to try Coming of Age in Somoa for further reading.
The Zac Swann “Absurdity” Prize – The Ghost Writer by Philip Roth
Roth does not disappoint. Expect self-pity, self-aggrandizing, lust, comical behavior, and at least some outright absurdity. Philip Roth is one of a few authors I try to read annually.
The Zac Swann Award for Edifying Fiction – The Wild Birds by Wendell Berry
Edifying, yes, and soul-lifting, wisdom-imparting, and thoughtful. Each of Berry’s characters seeks to live rightly in their community. Their failures are humbling; their victories inspire.
An Unexpected Pleasure – Girl With Curious Hair by David Foster Wallace
Lyndon B. Johnson and Winston Churchill: two 20th century political powerhouses for whom I could not have cared less until 2016. Netflix’s beautiful royal drama The Crown showed me Churchill, and “Lyndon,” a fictional short story from this collection by David Foster Wallace, showed me Johnson. I admit my pleasant surprise.
A New Perspective – Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
“Many stories matter” may be Adichie’s most succinct thesis. This novel was refreshing simply by being about people who are different from me. So I was refreshed, but I was also moved to seek out more stories that will challenge my beliefs about how the world works.
Zac’s Complete 2016 Book List
|Kafka on the Shore||Haruki Murakami|
|The Breast||Philip Roth|
|How About Never…||Robert Mankoff|
|Oryx and Crake||Margaret Atwood|
|Magician’s Land||Lev Grossman|
|The Circle||Dave Eggers|
|Both Flesh and Not||David Foster Wallace|
|The Way of the Pilgrim||Anoymous|
|Revolutionary Road||Richard Yates|
|11 Kinds of Loneliness||Richard Yates|
|The Snow Leopard||Peter Matthiesen|
|Blood Meridian||Cormac McCarthy|
|Interpreter of Maladies||Jhumpa Lahiri|
|Poetry: a handbook||Mary Oliver|
|Stormy Weather||Carl Hiaasen|
|Station Eleven||Emily St. John Mandel|
|The Bell Jar||Sylvia Plath|
|Comedy of Errors||Shakespeare|
|H is for Hawk||Helen Macdonald|
|The Heart of a Goof||PG Wodehouse|
|Girl With Curious Hair||David Foster Wallace|
|The Wild Birds||Wendell Berry|
|A Wizard of Earthsea||Ursula K LeGuin|
|Discovering the Enneagram||Richard Rohr|
|The Lynching||Laurence Leamer|
|The Secret History||Donna Tartt|
|The Ghost Writer||Philip Roth|
|Americanah||Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie|
|Absolutely on Music||Haruki Murakami/Seiji Ozawa|