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Here are my favorite books of 2016:
5. Callings by Dave Isay
Isay is the founder of StoryCorps, an ongoing oral history project. The mission of StoryCorps "is to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world." To that end, they provide booths throughout the country where people can share & record their histories. Amongst other things, Isay has published several books of these stories. Usually these books are themed. I've read most of them & find them incredibly moving. I wasn't expecting Callings, which is about peoples' careers, to be as moving. I was a fool. It brought me to tears more than once. Truly touching and inspiring.
4. This Love is Not for Cowards by Robert Andrew Powell
Journalist Powell spent a year living in Ciudad Juarez, one of Mexico's most dangerous cities, in order to follow the trajectory of the city's beloved soccer team, the Indios. Mexico's soccer federation runs on a promotion/relegation system. The Indios, newly promoted to the top tier, were fighting to stay there. At the same time, the city was experiencing a surge in drug cartel-related violence. This book is about so much more than soccer. It's about the history of Mexico and of Juarez. It's about drugs and gangs and violence. And it's about love, love for club and city and country. So interesting that it made me want to learn more about Mexico.
3. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Young Adult Fiction
Well-to-do teenager Cadence spends each summer with her extended family on a private island off Cape Cod. One summer, tragedy occurs, but it is a tragedy that Cadence cannot remember. Fragile and unstable, Cadence returns to the island to piece her past together, but the truth may be too much for her to bear. Before reading this book, I'd heard that I would never see the ending coming. They were right about that. This one was a gut punch. It broke my heart. I was depressed for days after finishing it. Maybe that makes it sound unappealing, but you have to believe me that this book is really lovely.
2. Dead Presidents by Brady Carlson
What happens to presidents after they die? Do their bodies lie in state or do they take a trip around the country? Where are they buried? How are they remembered? And how are those legacies formed? Carlson covers all of those questions and more in this immensely entertaining and informative book about the U.S. Presidents. I particularly appreciated that Carlson traveled around the country to visit each president's gravesite. Visiting a president's grave is literally something I'd never considered before. I enjoyed his descriptions of all of those places I will likely never see. This book inspired me; I've added a bunch of presidential biographies to my reading list.
1. Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
Young Adult Fiction
Ostensibly this book is about two boys, former boyfriends, trying to break the world record for longest kiss. In reality, it's about much more. Levithan intertwines several connecting stories to build a beautiful tapestry about love and acceptance, fear and bravery, longing and connection. Initially, I found the "Greek chorus" of HIV victims off-putting, but as I kept reading, I began to recognize how beautiful it was. This book touched me deeply.