2016: What I Read This Year (Boring post for bookkeeping purposes) and the 2017 Poetry Reading Challenge


  • Haiku Level: read 1 book of poetry or 20 poems
  • Cinquain Level: Read 2 books of poetry, 40 poems
  • Sonnet Level: Read 3 books of poetry, 60 poems
  • Rondeau Level: Read 4 books of poetry, 80 poems
  • Villanelle Level: Read 5-10 books of poetry, 100 poems

I never thought I would make a tally of books read this year until close to the end of the year.  I am going to try to reconstruct it as best as I can.   I have read a lot of poetry in various places.  A lot.  And for the purpose of this post, on the antepenultimate day of the year, I will not go into it.JMW-2

My reading errors:   I joined my first challenge–I just leapt into it—but it required reading a convoluted series of books set in different countries of various lengths and genres.  I read 20 of them, and it took up almost two months of the year.  Some of the books were interesting, but the assignments were such:  “Read a book that’s over 600 pages long about Iran” or read a Steampunk book by a New Zealand author.  I will never sign up for a challenge unless I see in advance that I might enjoy it.  It was a team challenge, or I would have dropped out.

I have 55 books listed, but I know I read a few more.  They were not memorable nor worthy of listing.

My top 5 books of the year were by Trollope, Sinclair Lewis, Nabokov, Ford Madox Ford, and John P. Marquand.

My top 5 new books were Ian McEwan’s Nutshell, Zadie Smith’s Swing Time,  Anne Tyler’s Vinegar Girl, Brown’s The Boys in the Boat and the really delightful The Secret Lives of Bats by Merlin Tuttle (and he has a delightful name).

A couple of disappointments:  The Girls, Outline, Pal Joey, All the Light We Cannot See, and We Are Completely Beside Ourselves.

The books I most recommend to those who are in an all-fiction rut:

$2.00 a Day, Between the World and Me, Listen Liberal, White-Trash, Evicted, and you need to read lots of poetry to make this world tolerable.  Also if you want your news to come in a novel, please do read It Can’t Happen Here.  So far all of it is chillingly accurate except that Buzz Windrip, the Trumpian figure, can manage to string a whole sentence together–bigly!

My resolve for 2017 is to read fewer new books and to not believe the hype.  The New York Times will give a rave review to rank puerile nonsense; most adults will not stray from YA reading, and last Sunday’s book review allowed the comment that Jane Austen’s language in Pride and Prejudice is “archaic.”  I will participate in challenges that are carefully selected.

I’ve also read:

Anthony Trollope:  The Last Chronicle of Barset, The Autobiography, Sir Harry Hotspur of Humblethwaite, An Eye for an Eye

Charles Dickens:  Martin Chuzzlewit, The Chimes

Sinclair Lewis:  Main Street, It Can’t Happen Here

John P. Marquand:  The Late George Apley

Nabokov:  Pnin

Louis Auchincloss:  The Rector of Justin

Ian McEwan:  Nutshell

Zadie Smith:  Swing Time

Ta-Nehesi Coates:  Between the World and Me

Merlin Tuttle:  The Secret Lives of Bats

Paul Kalnithi:  When Breath Becomes Air

Edin and Shaefer:  $2.00 a Day:  Living on Almost Nothing in America

Rachel Cusk:  Outline

Julia D’Aprix Sweeney:  The Nest

Emma Cline:  The Girls

Nancy Isenberg:  White Trash:  The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America

Matthew Desmond:  Evicted:  Poverty and Profit in the American City

Anthony Doerr:  All the Light We Cannot See

Simon Sebag-Montefiore:  The Romanovs

Grace Metalious:  Peyton Place (60th anniversary tribute read)

Louise Penny:  A Trick of the Light, How the Light Gets In

Donna Leon:  Suffer the Little Children

Ford Madox Ford:  The Good Soldier

Jane Gardam:  Old Filth, Bilgewater 

Anne Tyler:  Vinegar Girl

Agatha Christie:  The Mysterious Affair at Styles

Katherine Burkman:  April Cruel

Alex Ross:  The Rest is Noise

Daniel James Brown:  The Boys in the Boat

Deborah Cadbury:  Princes at War

Matthew Kneale:  English Passengers

Melville:  Typee

John O’Hara:  Pal Joey

Lucia Berlin:  A Manual for Cleaning Women

Thomas Frank:  Listen Liberal

Karen Joy Fowler;  We Are Completely Beside Ourselves


Jie Li:  Shanghai Homes:  Palimpsests of Private Life

Patrick Synnes:  The Boys from Dolores:  Fidel Castro’s Classmates from Revolution to Exile

Isaac Babel:  Red Cavalry

Caroline De Robertis:  Perla

Mark Bowden:  Guests of the Ayatollah

James Herriot:  All Creatures Great and Small

Ira Levin:  The Boys from Brazil

Quin Monzo:  Guadalajara

Zsuzsu Gartner:  Better Living Through Plastic Explosives

************Total Trash

Susan Fales-Hill:  Imperfect Bliss

Caroline De Robertis:  Perla

Nina Stibbe:  Love, Nina

something by Lisa Scottoline