What I’m Reading What I’m Reading Reading Highlights of 2022 I’ve spent 2022 immersed in rewrites on my novel. To keep myself in the right headspace, I’ve only read fiction this year. These are the unputdownable novels that I’ve loved. FICTION Trust Hernan Diaz spins a gorgeous, layered tale that is revelatory to read right now, with so much megalomania drowning our world. Is it about finance? Yes, absolutely. No, not at all. The nested structure draws you in, the final section you are blown away. Our Missing Hearts Yes everyone is reading and recommending Celeste Ng’s latest book, but it’s worth every ounce of attention! She brings a rare gentleness and beauty to her necessary dystopian cautionary tale. The Rabbit Hutch I cheered when I saw that Tess Gunty won a 2022 National Book Award for this sharp, inventive, transcendent novel. It is a portrait of America. It is devastating. It is unputdownable. Infinite Country I was late to the party on Patricia Engel’s remarkable story of one immigrant family. This small book is so big. Matrix Does Lauren Groff take some liberties in creating the medieval world of Matrix? Sure. But in a good way. This is a fascinating story. The School for Good Mothers Jessamine Chan has invented a world that could spring at any moment from our current reality. Even as a non-mom I could see the corrosive power in the expectations of who mothers ‘should be’ and what they ‘should do’. The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing It wasn’t until I read Melissa Bank’s obituary that I read this interconnected story collection, published in 1999. With this book Melissa Bank is credited for creating “chick lit.” Whether you think that’s a good thing or not, these stories are so bright and warm and wonderful. Lessons in Chemistry Bonnie Garmus’s debut is propulsive, like a spy novel. It’s also wry, sharp and real. I loved the story of Elizabeth Zott’s fierce and radiant spirit. This is How You Lose the Time War Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone imagined this extraordinary world and created its incandescent language together. Even though I’m sure I didn’t understand everything that happened, my heart was blown open by this stunning, vital story. Cloud Cuckoo Land How can you not love a book about loving books? Anthony Doerr creates unforgettable characters as he weaves a story arc that’s just, well, satisfying. A Visit from the Goon Squad Super late to the party on this one, but I had to read it before reading Jennifer Egan’s 2022 release. Loved the way she makes us work as readers, layering details in segments of a timeline that moves back and forth. Loved the powerpoint. Loved the redemptive, hard won hope. You Make a Fool of Death With Your Beauty Akwaeke Emezi gifts readers with gorgeous characters, vivid prose and unstinting descriptions of grief. This novel taught me to be grateful for the beauty and hope that can spring from an eviscerated heart. Ravishing. The Old Woman with the Knife Gu Byeong-mo’s Hornclaw sank into my skin. This is a woman of a certain age who brings unsentimental courage to facing her diminishing power, isolation and longing. Reading what happened, and why, and how, and to whom was the most delicious puzzle. Chi-Young Kim’s translation, which came out this year, is magnificent. Intimacies Katie Kitamura writes about the tiniest of perceptions, about quietly discordant feelings, about being untethered. This novel was haunting and masterful. What I’ve loved in 2021 In the spring of 2021 I decided to turn my memoir into a novel, so I’ve been reading a lot more fiction this year, which has been delicious. These are the books that have knocked me out in 2021. FICTION Flesh to Bone, by ire’ne lara silva - Who wouldn’t want to dive into stories written by a poet who intertwines Mexican legends and dreams into each character’s heroic journey to become or unbecome? I found this whole collection shimmering and profound. The Cactus League, by Emily Nemens - I love a point-of-view narrative. A braided story told through the eyes of richly-realized characters is such a powerful way to see a world. Nemens does this to perfection as she takes us into one major league baseball’s spring training season. I relished every chapter. If I Had Your Face, by Frances Cha - I love to find a book that can introduce me into a world I don’t know. Cha chillingly, artfully, and economically describes contemporary Seoul beauty culture in this memorable story. It stays on my mind. The Bloody Chamber , by Angela Carter - When I started reading this year, I was investigating women, power and beauty as themes. In about ten seconds, that takes you to fairytales. It was in reading Marina Warner’s excellent Once Upon a Time that I learned about Angela Carter. The language she uses is breathtaking, the way she reimagines classic fairy tales is mesmerizing. The Other Black Girl, by Zakiya Dalila Harris - The hype is deserved - I devoured this book in one sitting. Harris layers tiny threads of dread into such a shrewd and gripping plot, all the while giving us a master class in what’s wrong with American culture, with publishing, with power. I can’t wait to see what she does next! Mona at Sea, by Elizabeth Gonzalez James - Mona is a vivid and lovable character. Her dislocation feels so contemporary even though the book is set in the Great Recession. It’s hilarious. It’s sharp. It’s also full of hard-won hope. Klara and the Sun, by Kazuo Ishiguro - I know enough about deep learning and computer vision to have loved the way Ishiguro shows Klara’s world to us, but it was really Klara’s heart that won me over. Being in Klara’s world was revelatory. The Startup Wife, by Tahmima Anam - This book is pitch perfect. Anam gets the tech industry, social media, the way power can shift men and women in love exactly right, while tackling what’s strange and dislocating in our culture right now. Delicious. NON-FICTION Ex Libris: 100+ Books to Read and ReRead, by Michiko Kakutani - My ‘to be read’ pile is way too big. I resisted this book because it just adds to the problem, but Kakutani is a masterful, discerning judge. This book is a gift to readers. The Anthropocene Reviewed, by John Green - I mostly know John Green through his great love of soccer, but this set of essays moved me into his monumentally large tribe of happy readers. This book left me feeling lucky to be a human who is alive right now. And that’s a miracle. Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted, by Suleika Jaouad - Sometimes I read a book that’s so beautiful that I think should just stop trying to write at all. Jaouad’s story of her life with cancer is one of those books. She unearths and polishes her moments of pain and transcendence into a narrative of pure light. Reading Highlights of 2020 2020 has afford a lot more reading time than I expected! Although this list doesn’t include poetry, I’ve been dabbling there - Robin Coste Lewis’s Voyage of the Sable Venus is ravishing. I’ve also streamed more TV and movies this year than ever before - HBO Max’s Lovecraft Country stupefied me. Even though I’ve read a ton during lockdown, these are the fiction and non-fiction books that stuck in my head and my heart in 2020. FICTION Girl, Woman, Other: A Novel, by Bernardine Evaristo - This Booker Prize-winning novel is vivid, intricate and captivating - each character’s voice is so clear, each connection augments the story and, at the end, I was in awe of the way Evaristo taught us to see ourselves and each other. It’s rare and wonderful to be hypnotized by a story - after I finished reading I had to stare at the ceiling and think about the power of this narrative! Missionaries, by Phil Klay - The buzz around Phil Klay and this novel is well-deserved. I’ve rarely read anyone who dived deeper into the sensory experiences, the complicated identities and motivations of combatants (and non-combatants) and the immediate, insistent costs of war. I could feel each of his characters in my gut - reading this book was breathtaking. The Everlasting, by Katy Simpson Smith - This remarkable novel spans two thousand years and four stories, all connected by a tiny, mundane artifact. The way Smith’s characters navigate gender, ambition, desire and hope in each century is provocative and poignant. This novel percolated my brain and piqued my heart. Exhalation, by Ted Chiang - His first story collection (Stories of Your Life and Others) knocked me out, so I was delighted to have a new collection to chew on in 2020. The themes of connection and loss in this volume are especially poignant this year. Lavinia, by Ursula K. Le Guin - In The Aeneid, Vergil’s hero Aeneas claims the king’s daughter, Lavinia, with whom he will found an empire, but Lavinia never speaks a word. In this jewel of a novel, Le Guin tells us the story from Lavinia’s point of view. It’s magical, mystical and beautiful. The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi - This book deserves the bandwagon surrounding it - Alka Joshi has written vivid characters that we get to follow through a layered, engagingly complex plot. She weaves details of Indian culture and Ayurvedic medicine beautifully through the whole narrative. I devoured every page! Exit West by Mohsin Hamid - Exit West came out in 2017, but to read it at the outset of the pandemic was mind-blowing. The book took my head and turned it forcibly toward a new perspective that’s as radical as it is hopeful. I’ve loved his books - this one has been my anchor as I prepare myself to face whatever future is on the way. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead - I read 2016’s The Underground Railroad just a couple of weeks before George Floyd’s horrific murder. The book was gut-wrenching, cinematic and enormously imaginative. Zone One made me a Colson Whitehead fan, The Underground Railroad made me an acolyte and powerfully deepened my education. Nickel Boys is up next! City of Thieves by David Benioff - Some of the storytellers and creators I respect the most cite this as one of their favorite books. I bought it and ignored it until one afternoon in lockdown when I read it in one sitting. Because this book has everything. It’s a story about the dark caverns of civilizations in chaos and the resilience of humans. It’s bracing inspiration for where we are right now. Normal People by Sally Rooney - Sure, everyone loves the series on Hulu, but Sally Rooney’s book is well worth the read - it’s a finely wrought portrait of two complex and delicate people and the ways they come together and apart. It’s a masterful character study. NON-FICTION The Moth Presents All These Wonders: True Stories About Facing the Unknown, edited by Catherine Burns - Maybe it was the year we’re having, but these true stories kept reducing me to poignant, grateful tears. Please read them! Let Me Clear My Throat: Essays, by Elena Passarello - I discovered Elena Passarello just this year. Each of these essays is a swan dive into an aspect of voice, crammed with information, incisive perspectives and vivid descriptions. She is a delight to read! Upstream: Selected Essays, by Mary Oliver - Poets write the most beautiful essays. In 2020, as our lives have become smaller, these essays remind me of the extraordinary things that are right outside our doors. Mary Oliver’s voice is essential and precious. The Devil's Highway: A True Story, by Luis Alberto Urrea - The official description of this book says: “In May 2001, a group of men attempted to cross the Mexican border into the desert of southern Arizona, through the deadliest region of the continent, the "Devil's Highway." Three years later, Luis Alberto Urrea wrote about what happened to them.” That’s a factual description, but it only conveys 2% of the power of this book - it’s not just a remarkable achievement in reporting, it’s an immersion in the history, hopes, fears and immediate experience of each participant in this tragedy. The Undocumented Americans, by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio - I have to thank Paul Laffoon, manager at Folio Books on 24th St in San Francisco, for urging me to buy this National Book Award nominated work. Cornejo Villavicencio defies category by merging reporting, personal reflections and advocacy. She weaves her own story through the stories of the people she meets. The observer changes the observed and vice versa. This book is a courageous, vital document. Citizen by Claudia Rankine - I bought this book in 2015. I didn’t read it until June, 2020. The miracle of Citizen is that Claudia Rankine drops you deeply and precisely into what it feels like to be a black person living in America. The vignettes are spare but potent. The message is vital. I am very grateful for this book. I’ve pre-ordered her September release - Just Us. Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino. Tolentino’s essay “Losing Religion and Finding Ecstasy in Houston” in The New Yorker was so deft and beautiful that I instantly bought her essay collection. She is a sharp, comprehensive thinker - another voice that’s essential as we stumble through the rubble in our culture on our way to building something better. In the Dreamhouse by Carmen Maria Machado - Reading this book felt like watching a writer balanced on a tightrope spinning plates, doing backflips and also reading Proust aloud to us. Every page I turned elicited another eyebrow raise of admiration for her swashbuckling ambition to recreate memoir as we know it. Wedding Toasts I'll Never Give by Ada Calhoun - I love reading something that’s fiercely intelligent and laugh out loud funny. Ada Calhoun’s perspective on marriage is exactly what we need right now. Why We Can’t Sleep is in my on deck circle! Untamed by Glennon Doyle Melton - Any woman who encourages wildness, purpose, joy, resilience and fierce bad-assery in other women is someone I relish reading! Reading Highlights of 2019 Check my Goodreads page for the latest on what I'm loving! FICTION All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr - I love reading a novel that succeeds at taking on both massive themes and a traditional setting (WWII) while remaining quietly and intimately beautiful. Zeroville by Steve Erickson - Donald Barthelme taught me to love authors who flout form, it was my parents who taught me to love movies. I stayed up way past my bedtime to read this crazy high wire act of a novel that is all about loving the movies! The Dutch House by Ann Patchett - Not only do we get to follow characters through generations, but we get to contemplate an unmistakable point of view about women and gender roles at the same time. It was delicious. Song of a Captive Bird by Jasmin Darznik - A tour de force novelization of a fascinating woman’s life - a rebellious, brilliant Iranian poetess. Picked it up and didn’t put it down until I finished it. Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman - Purely and utterly delicious, provocative. The first story knocked me out and then the ride got better. And better. Even taking 20 minutes to sneak in one of these stories between meetings reset my brain and transformed my day. Such a pleasure to spend time in the company of a master. NON-FICTION Where the Past Begins by Amy Tan - There’s so much for a writer to learn about how to anchor a non-fiction story in this book. Amy Tan unwraps layers of history and meaning with each memory she holds in her hands. A Mind Unraveled by Kurt Eichenwald - A great reporter blends his memories, interviews with the people around him and documents. Writing this powerful book took as much courage and determination as living this life. Without a Map by Meredith Hall - This was one of those books that knocked me out, not just because it’s gorgeously written, but because she pulled me so deeply into her heart, her mind and her experience of the world. I’m still thinking about it... Know my Name by Chanel Miller - Chanel Miller gave us a huge gift when she pursued her assault case and wrote her remarkable victim impact statement. This book is another exceptional gift. Her tenacity and generosity is world-changing. I’m in awe. Hard to Love: Essays and Confessions by Briallen Hopper - How can I not love a writer who merges literary and movie criticism with theology and meditations on every type of love? I Wrote This Book Because I Love You: Essays by Tim Kreider - Vivid. Hilarious. And underneath it all, pure and beautiful. I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death by Maggie O’Farrell - a ravishing exploration of what it means to be in a body, in a world, told with such specificity and grace. A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle - I read this jewel of a book when it came out 30 years ago, and again this May. Reading it as a writer was a revelation - his sublime details about food and the landscape, his ear for dialogue, the way he brings his characters to life. Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness by Ingrid Fetell Lee - just reading this book makes me giggle, and every chapter helps me notice all of the things that bring me joy and relish them even more! My Life as a Goddess by Guy Branum - delightfully funny and deeply affecting essays/memoir from a writer whose voice is so vivid it feels like he’s in the room! The Messy Middle by Scott Belsky - A great look at what really happens as companies try to grow. And he spends so much time talking about much communication matters - exactly!! Reading highlights of 2018 FICTION To be Sung Underwater by Tom McNeal - big limpid tears plopped from my eyes onto the hotel room pillowcase when I read the end of this beautiful novel! The Power by Naomi Alderman - devoured on one plane ride. Love a fully realized new world. The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert - deliciously complex and satisfying! Circe by Madeline Miller - spellbinding, moving, fascinating - all the adjectives. Really. A Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin - read this nearly 20 years ago, but fell into it again this year and was carried away. NON-FICTION Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed - breathtaking writing, but it’s Cheryl’s clear eyed, unstinting way of seeing real life that was so moving. Dear Mr. You by Mary-Louise Parker - who knew? Not me. Gorgeous. The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer - bracing, inspiring, cheerful, hilarious. Shoe Dog by Phil Knight - a roller-coaster ride, in a good way. The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp - remarkable. Felt dumb that I’d never heard of this book until this year, but so glad to have it now. The Artist’s Journey by Steven Pressfield - he doesn’t know it, but Steven Pressfield is my shaman. The Hard Thing about Hard Things by Ben Horowitz - I read this book for my other life as a communications coach for technology leaders, but it’s here precisely because it’s nothing like your average business book. It is a tour de force of candor and insight.