Year End Lists

My 2019 Bookshelf

Last year I started a new tradition of keeping track of my favorite reads from the year. It led to great conversations with friends who read some of the books and recommended some to me in turn. Besides reading, I really love to talk about reading, so please drop me a line if you want to discuss these or anything else you read.

30. Jenny Hval — Paradise Rot

I read this in one sitting, but have thought about it all year. Gets under the skin.

29. Valeria Luiselli — Faces in the Crowd

Couldn’t put it down. Will revisit.

28. Alex Lemon — Another Last Day

The last poem was one of my favorite endings to any book this year.

27. Jericho Brown — The Tradition

Read the title poem, then read the rest.

26. Morgan Parker — Magical Negro

Morgan Parker’s second collection is just as brilliant as her first.

25. Paul Beatty — The Sellout

A modern day take on Invisible Man. Irreverent, complex, and dazzling.

24. Christian Wiman — My Bright Abyss

These essays on spirituality mended a part of my heart that needed healing.

23. Min Jin Lee — Pachinko

I typically make space for one lengthier novel a year. I’m glad I chose this one.

22. Meghan O’Gieblyn — Interior States

The best writing about religion in our current spiritual and political crisis.

21. Czeslaw Milosz — Collected Poems

This collection took me so long to read, and I wish it had taken even longer.

20. Lindy West — Shrill

I don’t usually laugh out loud while reading. I don’t usually reflect really deeply while laughing either. Lindy West made me do both.

19. Marie Howe — What the Living Do

For awhile now, I have honored a tradition of reading a book about death before a year ends as a reminder to start the next year as if it would be my last. The title poem in this collection will be framed on my wall.

18. Ada Limón — Bright Dead Things

My favorite poetry collection this year. This one says it all.

17. Mona Awad — Bunny

WHAT. I haven’t really read horror lit before, but this wonderfully weird book had me dead.

16. Kiese Laymon — Heavy: A Memoir

From the first page on, just wow.

15. Karen Tongson — Why Karen Carpenter Matters

I never thought I would think about Karen Carpenter so much, but Karen Tongson proved me wrong.

14. Durga Chew-Bose — Too Much and Not the Mood

The first essay in this collection is nearly 100 pages and for three hours I did not move until I finished it. Sat me down in the best way. Can’t wait to do it again.

13. James Baldwin — Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone

I read one new Baldwin work a year to extend the time it takes me to read all of his work. I think this novel will end up being one of my favorites.

12. Sally Rooney — Normal People

I read this in a day, handed it to Meg, and she read it in a day. Love.

11. Michelle Tea — Against Memoir

The title essay and “The Pigeon Manifesto” are now two of my all-time favorite essays.

10. Rita Bullwinkel — Belly Up

I love every story in this odd little book.

9. Matthew Zapruder — Why Poetry

Essential reading for lovers of all literature. I found myself reflecting on Zapruder’s comments in my reading and my own writing.

8. Maggie Nelson — The Red Parts

Cultural criticism and personal writing at its very best.

7.  Tommy Orange — There There

This novel haunts me.

6. Miriam Toews — Women Talking

5. Miriam Toews — All My Puny Sorrows

My new favorite author is Miriam Toews. I read both of these novels this summer. I love the emotional depth she puts into humor, and I can’t wait to read more of her work in the new year.

4. Maria Popova — Figuring

Maria Popova writes with a deep and probing and loving wonder about life and people. I remembered how it feels to love learning while reading this book.

3. Hanif Abdurraqib — Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to a Tribe Called Quest

Nobody writes about music quite like Hanif Abdurraqib. Poetic, piercing, and personal.

2. Bryan Washington — Lot: Stories

My favorite stories of the year.

1. Claudia Rankine — The White Card: A Play

This book challenged me more than any other this year, and I think about it often. A necessary examination of whiteness that speaks to the current moment without bending to it.

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