I hadn’t set specific reading goals for 2016, though I did meet my Goodreads challenge of reaching over twenty-seven books (re-reads weren’t counted). Looking back at the titles I’ve read this year, I’m glad to say I did challenge myself to venture out of my comfort zone and into genres I rarely spend time with, like sci-fi, Buddhism and Wicca texts, and YA fiction. I’m also grateful that this year’s significant reads have triggered not just strong and positive reactions, but also manifested actions.
For 2017, I’m aiming to read more books published locally – more Southeast Asian and South Asian literature – and continue on with my long-term goals of searching for books that can add to my artistic practices, like poetry, criticism and memoirs/essays.
Top 5 Reads of 2016 (chronologically)
- Reborn: Journals and Notebooks, 1947-1963 by Susan Sontag
- Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
- The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone by Olivia Lang
- Extracting the Stone of Madness by Alejandra Pizarnik
- The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
Significant reading moments and special mentions
- Sontag’s ‘Reborn’ moved me to write more in my journal, not just as a way to document things or play around with language, but also as a way to have conversations with myself. This has had a tremendous impact on my writing habits and well-being.
- Alejandra Pizarnik and Sandra Cisneros were epic literary discoveries for me this year. I wrote a review/personal response piece to ‘Extracting the Stone of Madness,’ and ‘The House on Mango Street’ inspired me to write drafts of fictional pieces – I haven’t sat down and thought seriously about fiction in years!
- I finally completed reading ‘The Butterfly’s Burden’ by Mahmoud Darwish! This is an extremely important book for me and I purposely took my time with it so that the discovering experience would last long – Darwish is a major favorite of mine and Fady Joudah’s translations are wonderfully inviting. The only reason this title isn’t on that Top 5 list is because I wanted to keep that to books I started and finished reading in 2016.
- A personal goal I had in 2016 was to start reviewing books. Due to time constraints, I managed to review two books for this blog – on Pizarnik’s poetry collection and also the novel, ‘The Vegetarian‘ by Han Kang.
- I finally read ‘The God of Small Things’ by Arundhati Roy – it’s brilliant! Achingly good. I couldn’t put it down.
- I met a poet, Manal Yousuf, at George Town Literary Festival and felt connected and inspired by her words. I bought her book, ‘Reap,’ and I highly recommend looking up her spoken word videos on YouTube and keep an eye on her. She’s got magic!
Cover image is a photo of my zine, ‘Moments of Cat’
on display at Run Amok Gallery.