Commentary: Best of 2016

Since I can most easily make a compilation of 9 photos, I will list my top 9 books out of the 144 that I read this year (not counting re-read). I also add a coupleaeccf95a-89aa-422d-a327-8bfa55a5389d highly recommended honorable mentions.

In no particular order:

1. Anchor and Flares by Kate Braestrap: While many other completists of the Braestrap oeuvre didn’t love this book, I was really drawn into the story. *Spoiler alert*: it is a kind of grief memoir, but the reader does not know that going into the narrative. Thus, one is actually exposed to the reality of how grief affects a train of thought- jumping around, looking for meaning, weaving out of disparate yarns, and wrestling with what could have been. Still really love this book.

2. Craving Flight by Tamsen Parker This is the super erotic story (novella?) about a woman who converts into Orthodox Judaism after her divorce and has an arranged marriage with an Orthodox man who is a butcher. Their sex life (with consensual bondage) is very satisfying to them both, but they have to learn to trust each other outside of bed. It is a very intense and emotionally satisfying read and probably one of the best uses of the novella that I’ve ever seen. I think I re-read this four times this year.

3. El Deafo by Cece Bell and David Lasksy This is a graphic novel aimed at upper elementary age kids (or middle schoolers) about the author’s hearing loss as a young girl and what the world was like for her with large hearing aids, people’s confusion about what it means to be deaf, and the ways she learned to cope (and how some things did NOT work out). Even for an adult, this was a compelling story and made me think about how hearing-dependent the world is.

4. Sex with Shakespeare: Here’s Much to do with Pain, but More with Love by Jillian Keenan Part memoir, part literary analysis, part social theory, part psychology, I couldn’t read this quickly enough and I wanted it to last forever. If you are not interested in what draws some people to find BDSM sexually and psychologically pleasurable, this is probably not for you. If you are a little curious, even if you know it is not for you (or it might be), I would recommend this book because Keenan has done a lot of thinking about why and how her desires work and where else that kind of desire is revealed in Shakespeare and in life.

5. Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters This book actually spurred me into creating this website. I still think about it all the time. I’m still wrestling with it- its good parts and its bad. I can’t let go of it and I still want to talk about it. Again.

6. I‘m Judging You: The Do-Better Manual by Luvvie Ajayi I read this book twice and I bought the audiobook and listened to the author read it. This book, for me, is more than about getting more woke (alway more, never done). Reading this showed me a world that is outside of mine, not necessarily how someone who is different than me thinks- but more about a whole different way of being and processing the world. Ajayi’s chapter on feminism, especially on the behavior of white feminists, is something that I have reflected on again and again. Additionally, I pay attention to my #hashtag use. Still working on doing better… at everything.

7. A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas I haven’t reviewed this book yet because I haven’t figured out what to say. A book that reimagines Sherlock Holmes as a woman- yes, please! A book that rethinks Watson as a woman- that, too! A complicated plot plus compelling dialogue- I’ll take it. In some ways, I wish I hadn’t read this book yet, so that I could wait until there were 3-4 more and then I could binge them. I want to be able to read it again for the first time.

8. Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance In the past couple weeks, I have read and heard more negative reviews on this book. In particular, some people who criticize Vance’s policy recommendations. The funny thing is, I don’t really remember him making any policy recs, though I am sure he did. I was, instead, grappling with how the book told the story of people that I know intimately and my own story, in a certain light. No book can be all thing, but for many people this book is a glimpse into an American history and reality of which they have no experience and barely believe exists.

9. Threading My Prayer Rug: One Woman’s Journey from Pakistani Muslim to American Muslim by Sabeeha Rehman I reviewed this book for here. This is memoir of arranged marriage, coming into deeper faith, raising children of faith, and struggling with prejudice , racism, and ignorance. It is easy to read and very informative. This is an excellent introduction to Islam if you know very little. In the review cited above, the author commented and said she is glad to be available by Skype for book clubs. Always a plus! 🙂

Honorable mentions:

Ruined by Ruth Everhart (review)

Good Christian Sex: Why Chastity isn’t the only option and other things the Bible says about Sex by Bromleigh McCleneghan (review)

Born Bright: A Young Girl’s Journey from Nothing to Something in America by C. Nicole Mason (review)

Hold Me by Courtney Milan (review)

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