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My top five.

One highlighted passage from every book I read in 2016

Only 24 of them

I did this in 2014…but didn’t do it last year. Here’s the chronological list of the books I read in 2016 (24, nowhere near my recurring annual target), with one highlighted passage from each (thanks, Kindle!). My top five: The Underground Railroad, Moonglow, The Sellout, The Sport of Kings and Time Travel.

  1. Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante. “The day will come when I reduce myself to diagrams, I’ll become a perforated tape and you won’t find me anymore.”
  2. The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante. “On the evenings of greatest depression I went so far as to imagine that she had lost her daughter in order not to see herself reproduced, in all her antipathy, in all her malicious reactivity, in all her intelligence without purpose. She wanted to eliminate herself, cancel all the traces, because she couldn’t tolerate herself.”
  3. The Clasp by Sloane Crosley. “The real necklace is fake. Unless you’re talking about the Henry James story, in which case the fake necklace is real. Actually, all of the necklaces are fake all of the time because all of the stories are fiction.”
  4. The Distance by Helen Giltrow. “The lights dim. The final act begins. Wagner’s tale of assumed identities, broken promises, betrayal, and murder storms toward its end. I barely register it.”
  5. Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed. “The most fascinating thing to me about your letter is that buried beneath all the anxiety and sorrow and fear and self-loathing, there’s arrogance at its core.”
  6. The Sport of Kings by C.E. Morgan. “The bright silk jocks are cardinals, jays, purple martins, blackbirds. Process, progress, mercenary plumage along the gray brick walk. Firing hearts scatter buckshot beats to delicate wrists, behind emaciated knees, along bony insteps.”
  7. Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danier. “There were people who did whatever the fuck they wanted and their city was terrifying, barbaric, and breathless.”
  8. Magic and Loss by Virginia Heffernan. “The same is true with good technology. Often with digital technology what we sense behind it is a vision of the Internet itself — something so abstract and powerful that we glimpse it through technology the way, Auerbach wrote, we see the face of God in the interstices and lacunae of the Torah.”
  9. How to be a Person in the World by Heather Havrilesky. “Everything is custom-designed to make us drop what we’re doing and drool and feel inadequate and long for more. It’s all crack, I tell you. IT’S 2016 AND THE WHOLE WORLD IS MADE OF CRACK.”
  10. Give and Take by Adam Grant. “Givers are much more comfortable expressing vulnerability: they’re interested in helping others, not gaining power over them, so they’re not afraid of exposing chinks in their armor.”
  11. No One Belongs Here More than You by Miranda July. “Inelegantly and without my consent, time passed.”
  12. Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube by Blair Braverman. “The sled’s brake is a joke. It is a suggestion. When the dogs are together, you have no chance of controlling them, unless they choose to please you.”
  13. Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. “Because New York law dealt severely with dueling, local residents frequently resorted to New Jersey, where the practice was also banned but tended to be treated more leniently.”
  14. Bright, Precious Days by Jay McInerney. “It’s a chapel of make-believe, an intermediate space between the dream world of the screen and the chaotic quotidian tumult of the world, which serves as an endless source of raw material, to be reshaped and interpreted and improved upon. As long as you’re here, daily life can seem subsidiary to its transubstantiated representation.”
  15. The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly. “We cannot expand our self, and our collective self, without making holes in our heart.”
  16. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. “Men start off good and then the world makes them mean. The world is mean from the start and gets meaner every day. It uses you up until you only dream of death.”
  17. Heroes of the Frontier by Dave Eggers. “Josie wanted no more of this. This idea of knowing people. Knowing people meant telling them what to do or not to do, providing advice, encouragement, guidance, wisdom, and all of these things brought misery and lonely death.”
  18. The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra. “You think you narrate your own story, but you’re only the blank page.”
  19. Time Travel: A History by James Gleick. “At some point we have to talk about entropy.”
  20. Commonwealth by Ann Patchett. “All the stories go with you, Franny thought, closing her eyes. All the things I didn’t listen to, won’t remember, never got right, wasn’t around for.”
  21. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. (I highlighted nothing. I didn’t like this book at all.)
  22. The Sellout by Paul Beatty. “You have to ask yourself two questions: Who am I? and How may I become myself?”
  23. Moonglow by Michael Chabon. “No doubt some of these people looking up at the stars sought the lineaments of God’s face. Many saw no more than what was to be seen: the usual spatter of lights, cold and faraway. For some the sky might be a diagram captioned in Arabic and Latin, a dark hide tattooed with everyday implements and legendary beasts.”
  24. The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis. “People did not choose between things. They chose between descriptions of things.”

Here’s to next year. Got recommendations? Let me know.

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