Category Archives: end of year list

My 5 Favorite Books I’ve Read in 2017 (so far)

At the end of 2016, I made a post about my 5 favorite reads of the year that was a hit. Since I’m on track to read more books this year than last, I’ve decided to round up a list of my five favorite books that I read during the first half of 2017 (January through June). The books aren’t ranked in any sort of way, but they were all fantastic to me in different ways. I’ve given my favorite reads mini reviews here, along with linking to their fuller reviews too. Let me know the title of your favorite book you’ve read this year in the comments! I’m already nearly done with some new reads that I feel like will make this list in December (like Mandy Len Catron’s How to Fall in Love with Anyone and the widely adored The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas)!!

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5 Favorite Reads from 2016

After a seven month hiatus, I am FINALLY back!! My personal life was a bit of a whirlwind last year (i.e. 2016 the year that magically destroyed everyone in little ways) which led me to de-prioritize this blog. I fled to Europe for a month, leaving my home country for the first time ever (!!!), and visited Paris, London, Edinburgh, and Amsterdam. I moved across the country from Brooklyn to Chicago and I became a PhD student! Lots of changes happened and now that I feel more settled in Chicago, I’ve decided to try to pick up some of the things that I allowed myself to drop in 2016.

Instead of trying to add reviews for all of the books I gobbled down in 2016, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite reads from 2016. These are not ranked in any order except for the first book being my absolute 2016 favorite! Of the 32 books I read in 2016, here are my favorite five.

alittlelifeA Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara.

While I didn’t post a full review of this book on the blog, I did blog about attending a book event with the fantastic author here. I made my book club read and love this book. It was my read during a magical winter trip to Austin, TX where I escaped the winter blues in 2016. This book deserves a longer review than this, but it’s tied to too many emotions for me. I’ll leave you with the bite that I shared with people who messaged me on Tinder in 2016: it’s emotionally brutal, but beautifully written.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coatesbetweentheworldandme

This is the only book in the list that received a full review! My university is doing an event with the author at the end of January and I hope I’m able to secure a ticket to see him speak in person. Here’s a snippet from my longer review: The book is part memoir, part current American history and is written as a letter directly to the author’s son. Coates detailed the lessons that he was forced to learn as a black man growing up in America and contrasted them from the lessons his father had to learn and the lessons his son has already learned or will have to learn in an incredibly moving way.

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayedtinybeautifulthings

I will come back to this book again & again. I will recommend this to friends again & again. When I am hurting, I will return to this again & again. Each piece of this book made me think of different people I know who would benefit from reading each individual excerpt. All of the excerpts are deeply particular, yet universal. I’m not really a “self help” type and haven’t read something like this in ages, but this was perfect and helped me examine all of my jagged shards and choose to hold them with my bare hands anyway.

illgiveyouthesunI’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson.

This was my favorite YA read of 2016 and I love it even more because I procured it from a magical book shop in Paris. I have never read a book quite like this — there are paint splatters on pages that add depth to the stories and emphasize certain points and it’s so DAMN BEAUTIFUL. As is the story which features siblings and first loves and first mistakes and struggling with the love (or lack thereof) of a parent. It’s perfect. I loved it. Read it.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandelstationeleven

I wish someone had made me read this sooner! This is a perfect dystopian novel that feels the most realistic of any I’ve read. Reading this will make you reflect on mortality, morality, and the potential unspooling of civilization. There were quite a few excerpts that were so well worded that I came back to them again and again because of the self reflection they encouraged. This novel could have easily been much longer, but it’s a tight, well constructed story. Read it! But probably not while flying on a plane…

& that’s all, folks! In the future, you can expect slightly more condensed reviews of the books I pursue in 2017. I’m reading and writing for fun less since so much of my daily life is reading and writing for graduate school which will be reflected in the reviews I post here. What were your favorite reads of 2016?

‘Tis the season of traveling: Podcast Edition

I’m taking a momentary detour of posting book reviews to share some podcast recommendations from myself and two of my groovy friends. I spend a lot of the holiday season traveling and I subsequently spend a lot of time with my earbuds firmly in place to accompany me on my travels in planes, trains, and automobiles. I either spend my time listening to audiobooks (I’ll have a post with my end of year recommendations soon!) or podcasts.

fridaynightlivespreviewRecently, my neighbor and I were bitten by the podcast bug and decided to add our voices to the massive content hole by spending our weekend mornings recording a podcast about the TV show Friday Night Lights. So first and foremost, I request that you check out our brand new podcast Friday Night Lives, which can now be downloaded via iTunes or streamed directly from Soundcloud. In each episode of the podcast, we talk about a single episode of the show. My neighbor Jeff is a huge fan of the show and I am watching each episode for the first time and discussing how accurately they portray high school life in Texas. Once the holidays pass, we’re aiming to release an episode every Friday. We’re definitely amateurs and would really appreciate your feedback! Feel free to rate the show and leave reviews or comments!

In conjunction with the release of my very own podcast, I reached out to two of my favorite people, Mariah and Yvonne, who frequently share podcast recommendations with me and wish my monthly book club meetings about Infinite Jest were about the podcasts they listened to while they were in transit to book club instead. We each recommend three podcasts below. Feel free to download them and listen as you travel this holiday season.

Yvonne’s recommendations:

An oldie but goodie: oldie because your parents have been listening to it for years, goodie because it’s consistent in it’s charm and humor. Our dear announcer Carl Kasell retired last year, but Bill Kurtis is fitting in just right. If you like dad humor, being a know-it-all, and celebrity guests (Kim Kardashian famously split NPR devotees with her June 13, 2015 appearance)… subscribe!
wtfpodI admit that I only download the episodes of people I’m a fan of/have an interest in, but every time I’m grateful for Maron’s vulnerability and knack for getting his famous subjects to open up about the things in life that aren’t so pleasant, that don’t make for fun, gif-able moments on a late show. There’s a reason why Slate called his interview with Louis C.K. the best podcast episode of all time.
A favorite because it’s a podcast about everything and anything–and it’s done with care: Philip Glass’s life as a taxi driver, the elections in Myanmar from the perspective of the emerging youth population, Minecraft, the Detroit Institute of Arts and bankruptcy, etc.
Mariah’s recommendations:

youmustrememberthisKarina Longworth’s weekly storytelling corner documents the sordid tales of the Old Hollywood elite. Each meticulously researched episode dives deep into subjects ranging from Judy Garland to Hollywood’s first openly gay marriage. I’m in love with this podcast in spite of my indifference to most classic Old Hollywood films, but Longworth’s own brand of “creative nonfiction” keeps pulling me back in.

Try: “Carole Lombard and Clark Gable,” “Lena Horne

A podcast for the murder mystery enthusiast. Host Phoebe Judge isn’t necessarily interested in solving the crimes she covers so much as she is in giving each crime a platform beyond a blotter line. It’s a podcast that’s received glowing comparisons to Serial without being remotely like it. That’s probably a good thing.

Try: “No Place Like Home,” “The Portrait

altlatinoMusic podcasts are a favorite of mine, and NPR’s Jasmine Garsd and Felix Contreras team up to make one of the best. Alt.Latino delivers a weekly mix of tunes consisting of everything from Argentinian hip hop to back catalog Celia Cruz. But what distinguishes Alt.Latino from other music podcasts is the sharp cultural insight that accompanies it. Come for the music, stay for the conversation.

Try: “Starting 2015 on the Right Foot: An Alt.Latino Dance Mix,” “De Pelicula:The Best Latin Film Soundtracks Ever

Bri’s (my) recommendations:

This lovely creation described as a “podcast about the internet” ends up being a podcast about, yes, the internet, but also about all of the EMOTIONS. So far, my favorite episode they’ve done actually isn’t about the Internet at all, but is about skipping a day off of work to explore New York City — something I should really do before I leave the city.

Try: aforementioned favorite “Today’s the Day,” “Exit & Return,” “The Rainbow Pug

nottoodeepBefore podcasts, I was completely unfamiliar with YouTube star Grace Helbig. I was exposed to Grace’s charm in a guest episode of Dear Hank & John and instantly felt like I was immersed in a perfect best friendship… albeit a one-sided friendship where I listen to one person talk and she has no idea that her hypothetical best friend exists. Grace is definitely someone that I would love to hang out with and each time I see a new episode of her podcast pop up in my feed, it feels me with the same warm feeling when I see my best friend’s name pop across my caller ID.

Try: “Ep. 36 Troye Sivan

This is a new podcast that is quickly becoming my favorite. The show centers around three friends talking about different pop culture topics. While I quite enjoy perennial favorite Pop Culture Happy Hour, I gravitate more towards The Cooler because it feels less structured, is thoroughly infused with fun, and somehow made me sympathize with Taylor Swift.

Try: “Taylor vs. Mansplainers, Taking Back Snobbery, and the Downfall of American Apparel

That’s it for this year’s podcast recommendations! Tune it soon for a year-end post about the audiobooks I’ve listened to this year!