2016 was a year I won’t soon forget. While the world seemingly crumbled around me, my reading life soared to new heights. Spurred at the end of 2015 to embark on a personal reading quest, I felt the absence of women’s voices in our world and even in my inner world. I decided to dedicate one calendar year to reading only women. I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew that this would be an exciting and rewarding undertaking. And so 12 months, 366 days later – my year of reading women is complete.
Since January 1, 2016 I have read 117 books – 34,919 pages – authored by 136 different women. I have fully submerged myself in the voices of strong women from 6 continents, from nearly 40 countries. The journey has been eye-opening, empowering, and truly life changing. This project has ignited, no, amplified my feminism. I am more keenly, consciously aware of feminist speech, of antifeminist sentiment, and of pervasive inequality.
There has been great beauty and strength in the words I have read this past year. These women’s works have carried an astonishing variety of voices and breadth of subjects. Love and loss have been laced throughout these works, as have the intertwined themes of motherhood, pregnancy, and miscarriage. But women’s writing isn’t limited to stories of the heart, and the works I have explored this year have delved into historically “masculine” topics with inspiring power and grace. In addition to the works about interpersonal relationships and heartbreak, I have read books about war, professional success, mental illness, physics, hard-core rock, racism, migration, and devastation.
My Year of Reading Women has been one of the most rewarding challenges I have ever set for myself. I believe that this project has changed not just what I read, but how I read and how I think. I am even more ambitious and optimistic for the worlds I will explore in years to come.
Below are a few standouts from this glorious project, with links to each book’s review.
Some of the Bests of 2016
- Eyes into the world (books built on current events and political commentary): “Moranifesto” by Caitlin Moran and “Breach” by Olumide Popoola and Annie Holmes
- Beautiful agony (fictional works of breath-taking devastation): “A Little Life” by Hanya Yanagihara , “Salvage the Bones” by Jesmyn Ward, “Difficult Women” by Roxanne Gay
- Joyful reading (works that were good for my soul): “The Essex Serpent” by Sarah Perry, “The Tidal Zone” by Sarah Moss, and “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” by Mary Ann Shaffer
- The ravages of war: “Girl at War” by Sara Novic and “The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah
- Hope for the future (Young Adult books): “Brown Girl Dreaming” by Jacqueline Woodson and “Eleanor and Park” by Rainbow Rowell
- Under-sung heroine (works which deserved more press and praise): “Sugar” by Bernice L. McFadden
- Excoriating wit (works which wrung a wry smile and a sardonic tear): Complete Stories of Dorothy Parker and “Furiously Happy” by Jenny Lawson