Best Books of the Half Year

A few years ago I copied my friend Nina Badzin in writing a post about the best books of the half year, and I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to reflect on what I’ve read at the year’s halfway mark (my 2015 post is here).  I wouldn’t say it’s a been the best six months of reading (I need more fiction), but I have nonetheless read some excellent books.

The good books I’ve read this year so far have fallen almost entirely into the non-fiction category.  I need good novel suggestions, clearly!

Grace Without God: The Search for Meaning, Purpose, and Belonging in a Secular Age – I adored my friend Katherine Ozment’s book, which I reviewed here for Great New Books.  So, so, so wonderful.

Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of LivingKrista Tippett.  This book, which elucidates the richness of this life while holding its essential paradoxes – in listening we are heard, in grief there is gladness, and, my favorite, the interrelationship of light and dark – moved me tremendously.  Dense and beautiful.

It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and WarLynsey Addario’s powerful book was transporting and riveting and made me think of Whit’s godmother, my dear friend Gloria.

Between the World and Me – There’s not much I can say to add to the extraordinary chorus of voices celebrating Ta-Nehisi Coates’ beautiful book.  I’ll just say this line, which encapsulates how I think about parenting, still runs through my head on a daily basis: “My work is to give you what I know of my particular path while allowing you to walk your own.”

The Narrow Door: A Memoir of Friendship – I flat-out loved Paul Lisicky’s gorgeous memoir of friendship, love, loss, and life itself.  I reviewed it for Great New Books here.

Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood – I have been recommending Untangled to everybody with a daughter, teen or not.  Damour’s book is thoughtful, well-researched, and I found it profoundly reassuring.

A few novels that I’ve really enjoyed:

Georgia: A Novel of Georgia O’Keeffe – I loved Dawn Tripp’s story, inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe.  I wrote more about the book and how it touched me here.

The Course of Love – I’m about 3/4 of the way through Alain de Botton’s novel and I love it.  This book’s steadfast determination to honor married life, and the many joys and challenges that make up Adult Life remind me of another book I loved years ago, Carol Edgarian’s lovely Three Stages of Amazement.  “We seem to know far too much about how love starts, and recklessly little about how it might continue,” says de Botton early on, and the book unpacks this question beautifully.

Age of Consent – I devoured Marti Leimbach’s new novel last weekend, and closed the cover feeling uneasy and informed at the same time.  About mothers and daughters and the nature of desire and obsession, this book combines a courtroom drama with an intimate emotional story about wounds and recover.  Really good.

And a wonderful children’s book that we recently discovered:

Feynman – Jim Ottaviani and Leland Myrick have created, in Whit’s view, the perfect book.  It’s a comic about science.  I plan to give this to everyone that I’ve already gifted with Randall Munroe’s fantastic Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words.

What have you been reading that you loved?  I am very interested!

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34 thoughts on “Best Books of the Half Year”

  1. I’m not sure this has ever happened but I have not read any of the books on your list! I too am struggling with finding novels this year but instead of turning to non-fiction, I have just been reading a lot of novels that I haven’t really loved- lol! I am excited to try many of the books listed here. And a recent fiction read that was really good… The One in a Million Boy. I think you would like it! I will definitely be checking back here during the day to see if others suggest good fiction!

  2. I have been doing a lot of reading including many of the wonderful books you recommend and I highly recommend The One-in-a-Million Boy. I am also loving When We Were the Kennedy’s, a memoir by the same author, Monica Wood. My other Spring reads are up on my blog. Georgia is on my to be read list. I will definitely check out your review. Thanks for these reading posts! I look forward to them. Julie

  3. Some great ideas here, thank you! You know how I felt about Katherine’s book, and I’ve had UNTANGLED on my bookshelf for a few months (I decided I’ll wait to read that when she turns nine in Sept., an avoidance tactic to her getting older for sure). I have read some really great fiction this year so far, my two favorites being CHALLENGER DEEP by Neal Shusterman (it’s YA and phenomenal) and FORTY ROOMS by Olga Grushin (the premise and storytelling were fascinating to me). Right now I’m reading and loving SONS AND DAUGHTERS OF EASE AND PLENTY by Ramona Ausubel; I think it’s the perfect summer read. I’ve also read quite a few really good short story collections–too many name!

  4. Lindsey, PSA for you and your readers. One in a million boy is a $2.99 kindle deal today. Do you get Anne Bogel (modern mrs darcy)’s kindle deal emails? Definitely worth subscribing. Enjoy! I know you will love it.

  5. Conversely, I’ve read almost entirely fiction so far this year. Favorites have been A Tale of Two Cities, Fates and Furies, Everything I Never Told You, and For Whom the Bell Tolls. The Coates book is on my list for July. And I’m looking forward to Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life during vacation in August. I also have your beloved Crossing to Safety on tap for the fall.

  6. wow, that’s some high praise – I’m off to look at Year of the Runaways!! And I have Eligible on my list for sure. xox

  7. Crossing to Safety is one of my top 10. Another is Light Years, by James Salter. I think you might just love it.

  8. Psychic, Babette – Light Years is in my top three or five books of all time (with Crossing to Safety).

  9. Reading is always a primary enterprise around our home. Here are a few standouts, according to us. The Last Painting of Sara De Vos by Dominic Smith(one of my favorite novels of all time), The Summer Before The War by Helen Simonson, Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly, The Version of Us by Laura Bennett, A Certain Age by Beatriz Williams, Radio Girls by Sarah-Jane Stratford and a couple of oldies, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Schaeffer and Annie Burrows and Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson. The communal to be read stack includes, Lynsey Addario’s It’s What I Do, Dawn Tripp’s Georgia, Stephanie Danler’s Sweetbitter, Anne Tyler’s Vinegar Girl and Kate Murphy’s Behind The Wireless: A History of Early Women At The BBC. Happy Summer Reading.

  10. I am loving The Summer Before the War on audio-great narrator-and the Guernsey Society is a top favorite that I have read and re-read. I read mostly on old school books from the library but I love having a book on my phone on the kindle app. It has really given me a lot more time to fit reading into my life.

  11. This makes me want to read The Narrow Door. I’ve seen it on people’s to-read lists, but you’re the first to really sing its praises.

    I loved Krista Tippett’s Becoming Wise. It was not what I expected it to be–I was expecting something a little more personal–but I ended up loving it even more. So many wonderful and new ways of looking at the world in there. I ended up writing down so many quotes and putting them into Word document. And I really do believe reading that book made me love the On Being podcast even more. I used to listen to it once in awhile if an episode caught my interest, but lately I find that it’s become my favorite podcast and that I don’t miss an episode. That book, those episodes really stay with me. They feel so nourishing and thought-provoking.

  12. I LOVE this list!!!! I am definitely going to check out the friendship memoir. I didn’t finish “Hold Still,” although I thought it was great writing and I loved Sally Mann’s perspective. I also didn’t finish Padma Lakshmi’s memoir after the Top Chef part because I got bored with the paternity drama. I loved Augusten Burroughs’ “Dry” which I had never read before and am excited to start Ann Leary’s “The Children.”

  13. That is the one thing that would push me over to an e-reader, having a book on my phone all the time. Sadly I usually travel with a hard back to suit that need! xox

  14. It’s also been a more nonfiction first half of the year for me too, but some great novels I’ve read so far this year have been:

    Ways to Disappear, Idra Novey (2016)
    Someone Knows My Name, Lawrence Hill (2008)
    LaRose, Louise Erdrich (2016)

    You can’t go wrong with any of them! The first is some of the best fiction writing I’ve read in terms of just luminous prose (and a quick read). Thanks for all of your suggestions!

  15. The best part about these posts is not just your recommendations, but those in all the comments, too. You basically get double the goods! 😉
    Probably my most interesting fiction find this year has been Frederik Backman’s “My grandmother asked me to tell you she’s sorry”. It’s quirky, a bit surreal at first, but I love how he tied everything together towards the end.
    I’m also looking forward to picking up Neil Gaiman’s essay collection View from the Cheap Seats, ever since I heard an NPR segment that I found intriguing.
    Oh, and now I want to read LaRose since I’m in the Erdrich groove!

  16. I love your half-year book list and recommendations (and also those shared by your blog readers)! I tend to gravitate towards non-fiction, too, but made an effort to add some fiction to the mix this year. A few that I’ve enjoyed reading recently:

    Everyman by Philip Roth
    A Mouthful of Air by Amy Koppelman
    The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty
    The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

    Currently reading: (back to non-fiction)
    Blue Highways: A Journey into America by William Least Heat-Moon
    The View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman

    Happy Summer Reading!

  17. I loved Coates book. He is such a thoughtful, powerful writer. And I will definitely pick up Untangled. Thanks for the recommendations.

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