Best Books of the Half-Year

I’ve written posts like this for the last several years, and I really enjoy pausing at the year’s midpoint to reflect on what I’ve loved (2015, 2016, 2017, 2018).  I am always interested in books you’ve really enjoyed lately, so please share!


All the Lives We Ever Lived: Seeking Solace in Virginia Woolf, Katherine Smyth – This memoir, about a giant of a father, his death, and the echoing importance of Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse, took my breath away.  I shared a few thoughts about it here.  This is among the most gorgeously written books I’ve read in years.

Running Home, Katie Arnold – Another memoir about the loss of a father, but couldn’t be more different.  Katie’s story, interweaving her childhood with her adult discovery of endurance running, is both moving and inspirational.  I loved it.


The Great Believers, Rebecca Makkai – This book immersed me in a world I knew nothing about (the AIDS crisis in Chicago in the 1980s) and I fell deeply into it.  Makkai’s characters are nuanced and sympathetic, and this was a story I was very sad to see end.  Beautiful.

Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi – This novel captures time, and the often-unseen ways in which the past animates the present, in an intensely lovely way.  The book is haunting and gorgeous, and I am so glad I read it.  This is Grace’s all-school read this summer, and I’m looking forward to talking to her about it.

Gone So Long, Andre Dubus III – I loved this book, which is bleak in many ways but profoundly humane at the same time.  Dubus writes some of the most thoughtful female characters of all, in my opinion.

Late in the Day, Tessa Hadley – There’s something about this quiet book, one of the first I read this year, that has stayed with me.  The characters, the complexity, the echoing absence of the beloved father.  It’s just lovely.


Mostly Plants: 101 Delicious Flexitarian Recipes from the Pollan Family, the Pollan family – I rarely buy cookbooks these days (oh, internet, how you have spoiled me) but this one spoke so directly to how I want to eat these days that I did.  It’s also beautiful. Plant-forward, but with a little bit of meat here and there, recipes that are both inspiring and flexible.  I love this cookbook and have already used it several times.

The Atlas Obscura Explorer’s Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid, Dylan Thuras – I love this book and gave it to all of my godchildren.  It’s not a surprise that I love maps and atlases, and this book is a fun, adventure-centric play on traditional books of maps.  It is a reminder that the world is large, and beguiling, and full of challenges and joys.


Disclosure: these are Amazon affilitate links.

2 thoughts on “Best Books of the Half-Year”

  1. Run … don’t walk to buy And Once Again We Saw Stars. I read it in one day and it was breathtaking. Memoir is one of my favorite forms right now … but this one goes beyond anything I have read in a long time. The author’s voice and use of language is extraordinary.

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