Well, Vagabonds. To say it’s been quite the year would be an understatement, but here we are. We re-launched. We’ve been blogging/reviewing/interviewing. We started a newsletter. We keep receiving incredible poetry/nonfiction/art from lovely writers and artists to publish. In the middle of all that, we’re reading, and then reading some more.
Below, you’ll find some of the books we loved reading this year. It’s not your typical year-end list – not all books were published in 2016. These are simply books that moved us most, if we each had to choose just one.
1. Clair Dunlap, Social Media: The Summer Book
The Summer Book was the first book I read in 2016, and each time I opened it I got to steal away to this world so far from the dark cold of Minneapolis in January. The best word I have for Tove Jansson’s writing is cozy. It feels like home. Her books for adults and children alike are all treasures that I try to take my time reading (which never quite works since they’re all so good).
2. Neyat Yohannes, Book Reviewer: Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?
2016 has been a horrible year for the world, but a wonderful year for books. Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? was life-changing for me. It’s a recently unearthed collection of short stories written by Kathleen Collins. She died at 46 leaving behind many unfinished works so this find is both a blessing and a curse because when you get to the last page, you realize that you need more. And unfortunately, besides her equally amazing film “Losing Ground,” there isn’t much else left of hers to sustain your newfound obsession.
3. Amanda Dissinger, Poetry Editor: The Crown Ain’t Worth Much
The Crown Ain’t Worth Much by Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib. I read one book at least per week, so, so many options were running through my head, but, for breathtaking, gorgeous, unique poetry, this book is number one in my mind. I also had the honor and privilege of seeing Willis-Abdurraqib perform his poetry live with a trio of my other favorite poets (Sarah Kaye, Clint Smith and Anis Mojgani) earlier this year and it was one of my favorite nights of 2016. A truly groundbreaking collection of poems.
4. Lesley LeRoux, Book Reviewer: Felicity
The book that outlasted all others on my nightstand this year was Felicity by Mary Oliver. She’s still there, actually. I was drawn to her work for the first time (!) this year after coming across her poem, “The Summer Day,” and was immediately struck by the line that I think strikes most everyone who encounter it (Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?). So, as Oliver’s 81st year rolled around this past fall, I got my hands on my first collection of hers. Felicity is all about love – for others, for the self (The point is, you’re you, and that’s for keeps.) – and couldn’t we always use more of that?
5. Rachel Charlene Lewis, Editor-in-Chief: Salt Fish Girl
My pick is definitely Salt Fish Girl by Larissa Lai. It’s a science fiction/fantasy novel and it explores themes of queerness, capitalism, and tech/robots through the scope of a teenage girl’s experiences with being an outcast and trying to figure out the world around her. It’s totally captivating and bizarre and lovely, and it’s an adventure story, so it talks big issues without just sitting there talking at you. It’s the kind of fiction I’ve been needing a lot lately, and I always go back to random chapters whenever I need to be in another world for a bit.
6. Bethany Mary, Book Reviewer: A Song at Twilight: Of Alzheimer’s and Love
Mine is probably Nancy Paddock’s A Song at Twilight: Of Alzheimer’s and Love. It’s the story of the author’s parents having Alzheimer’s, which puts a personal touch on what I’m learning in gerontology school, and this year was also the first year that my grandmother with Alzheimer’s no longer remembers me, so feelings.
7. Alana King, Social Media: How It Feels to Be Colored Me
Trying to remember everything I have read this year, it turns out that I haven’t really read any books that weren’t assigned to me for a class. I love school and reading for lit journals, but they haven’t left me a lot of time to read or listen to audiobooks for pleasure. However, I did read a short non-fiction piece by Zora Neale Hurston, How It Feels to Be Colored Me, for one of my classes. With so much happening in this country over the past few years, her words really stuck with me in the middle of all this chaos. Her phrasing (“BUT I AM NOT tragically colored. There is no great sorrow dammed up in my soul, nor lurking behind my eyes.”) really stood out, but the entire piece made me think and helped me re-evaluate how I saw myself and America in general.
8. Katie Clark, Interviews Editor: Night Sky With Exit Wounds
I read Ocean Vuong’s Night Sky With Exit Wounds back in July but I haven’t gone more than a few weeks without it haunting back into my life. The way he carries each piece is just astounding. He holds fragility like water in his hands. Constantly reminded.