Tag Archives: a little life

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?

A Little Life Book Event at NeueHouse

hanya1A couple of weeks ago, I attended a book conversation about A Little Life hosted by the CFDA at NeueHouse. The conversation was between Steven Kolb, the president of the CFDA, and author Hanya Yanagihara. The event was a little odd in that the conversation felt like an awkward pairing and the venue felt a little snobbish (though probably very aligned with the taste of the members of the CFDA). While I felt like the conversation was a bit strange at times (mostly because it seemed like this event was simply a passion project for Kolb who loved the book and because the CFDA is mentioned briefly within the book), I’m very thankful that I got to attend to see the amazing Hanya Yanagihara in the flesh.

A Little Life has hands down been my favorite read of 2016 and I’ll be posting my own book conversation about the book to this blog soon. While the content of the book is emotionally brutal (see GoodReads for the marketing synopsis), it’s beautifully written and each member of my book club awarded the book five stars! I read this book with four friends and most of us attended the event together, which felt pretty perfect because this book centers on four friends who are navigating adulthood and their past in New York City (just like us!).


Steven Kolb, left, and author Hanya Yanagihara, right, at A Little Life book conversation.

Here are some loose (i.e. not direct, verbatim) quotes from the author about the book that hopefully intrigue you into adding A Little Life to your to read list! Do it, do it, do it!

When Yanagihara was questioned about why the book doesn’t denote any historical markers, she said the setting is the “interior and internal New York so that you’re trapped in the universe of these characters’ lives. It’s intimate and claustrophobic. It ignores historical, political, and world events so everything that happens can’t be alluded to being influenced by these things.” She added, “It’s a psychological, not physical, book of New York […] and maturing in a society you must engage in even when you don’t want to.” 

On writing her characters, Yanagihara stated that Jude was the easiest to write and is “a character who never gets better and ends up in more or less the same place despite trying to change […] I think we all have someone like that in our lives who inspire so much love, but can’t accept it.” When asked who she relates to the most of her characters, Yanagihara seemed to shock moderator Kolb by selecting JB because he’s the most like her and she “gave him the best lines and he’s the one who changes the most.” After witnessing her wit in person, I can confirm this statement!

New York is almost like a character in the book, even though the author strives to eliminate any specific indicators of exact time. When describing New York, Yanagihara stated, “New York is a sanctuary for those who wanted to find and make families of their own either because they left or were rejected from their families. You form a tribe of families where you find people who get you.” On work culture and motivation of those who reside in New York, “Everyone comes to New York to be successful and we fetishize success in a way that’s unique to the city […] There’s a sense of ‘I’ve made it and I’m not going back.’ It’s a constant treadmill quality and I wanted these characters to have that material success as well.” And finally when connecting the title of the work to the shared New York experience, “In New York, we identify lives as big or little, but ultimately even the big lives are little.” 


Yanagihara is sassy and quick witted. This event left me desperately wanting to drink a bloody mary with her and bask in her amazingness. Despite the general lack of laugh out loud moments within the novel because of the heartbreaking storylines, Yanagihara is hilarious and brilliant and I excitedly anticipate whatever new creative project will be released by her next. Pick up this book, read it, hold it close to your chest, and try to see Yanagihara at an event near you! The paperback version of the book was recently released and I can confirm it’s much easier to read on the subway than the hardcover!