Best Books of 2016

2016 had a great many books that thrilled me, and others that delighted. The rest of the year I could have done without —  so many deaths and a horribly long election and a range of backlash to terrify anyone.

For those interested, these are the best books I read in 2016, though not all were published in 2016.

Best Series:

March by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and artist Nate Powell (March: Book One, March: Book Two, March: Book Three)

Best Photography:

Photographs from the Edge: A Master Photographer’s Insights on Capturing an Extraordinary World by Art Wolfe, Rob Sheppard

Best Memoir:

Bukowski in a Sundress by Kim Addonizio

Best Children’s Book:

Science Verse by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Lane Smith

Best Young Adult Fiction:

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Best Short Story Collection: (I only read 3 and these 2 tied)

Heirlooms: Stories by Rachel Hall (this one has remained on my mind more than expected)

Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War by Jessica Brockmole, Hazel Gaynor, Evangeline Holland, Marci Jefferson, Kate Kerrigan, Jennifer Robson, Heather Webb, Beatriz Williams, and Lauren Willig

Best Jane Austen Fiction: (this is a three-way tie)

A Moment Forever by Cat Gardiner

Darcy’s Hope: Beauty from Ashes by Ginger Monette

The Courtship of Edward Gardiner by Nicole Clarkston

Best Poetry: (another tie)

Field Guide to the End of the World by Jeannine Hall Gailey

Obliterations by Heather Aimee O’Neill and Jessica Piazza

Best Fiction: (a three-way tie)

The Secrets of Flight by Maggie Leffler

My Last Continent by Midge Raymond

This is the Story of You by Beth Kephart

What books were your favorites this year?

Bukowski in a Sundress by Kim Addonizio

Source: Penguin
Paperback, 224 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Bukowski in a Sundress by Kim Addonizio is a memoir written as a series of personal essays that’s not only about the writing life, but also loving what you do so much that no matter how on the outside you are, you keep plugging away. Addonizio never shies away from her less than sober moments or her self-doubt.  She takes life on full force, and she makes no excuses for that.  It’s what life is for — living.  In “Plan D,” she talks about having a plan to give you some sense of control, but in all honesty, those plans don’t always work out.

As many of you know, I’ve written poems and submitted them and received a ton of rejection of late.  This book hit my bookshelf at the right time.  “How to Succeed in Po Biz” brings to light the difficulty with being a poet, what it takes is determination and a will to struggle through it all to achieve even just a modicum of success.  Royalties are small and many poets find other sources of steady income or work toward small awards and fellowships to keep working on their craft without the drudgery of a full-time job, or at least only requiring a part-time job.

Addonizio has always been a fresh poet to me, and as she writes in her essays she remembers those very low moments when she met failure, thought about giving up, and went forward anyway.  This perseverance, sheer will is what poets need.  She’s by turns vulnerable and well shielded from the barbs that come with writing poetry — the title of the book stems from one critic’s comment about how she was Bukowski in a sundress.

Bukowski in a Sundress by Kim Addonizio is utterly absorbing.  I read it in a day, and I’m still thinking about everything she said and how it applies to my current struggles with poetry and the publishing industry, especially as someone outside academia.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Poet:

She’s the author of several poetry collections including Tell Me, A National Book Award Finalist. My latest, My Black Angel, is a book of blues poems with woodcuts by Charles D. Jones, from SFA Press. I published The Palace of Illusions, a story collection, with Counterpoint/Soft Skull in 2014. A New & Selected, Wild Nights, is out in the UK from Bloodaxe Books.

Due summer 2016: Mortal Trash, a new poetry book, from Norton. And a memoir, Bukowski in a Sundress: Confessions from a Writing Life, from Penguin.

I’ve written two instructional books on writing poetry: The Poet’s Companion (with Dorianne Laux), and Ordinary Genius: A Guide for the Poet Within. Visit her website.












Mailbox Monday #382

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links.  Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

Bukowski in a Sundress by Kim Addonizio for review from Penguin for review.

Kim Addonizio is used to being exposed. As a writer of provocative poems and stories, she has encountered success along with snark: one critic dismissed her as “Charles Bukowski in a sundress.” (“Why not Walt Whitman in a sparkly tutu?” she muses.) Now, in this utterly original memoir in essays, she opens up to chronicle the joys and indignities in the life of a writer wandering through middle age.

Addonizio vividly captures moments of inspiration at the writing desk (or bed) and adventures on the road—from a champagne-and-vodka-fueled one-night stand at a writing conference to sparsely attended readings at remote Midwestern colleges. Her crackling, unfiltered wit brings colorful life to pieces like “What Writers Do All Day,” “How to Fall for a Younger Man,” and “Necrophilia” (that is, sexual attraction to men who are dead inside). And she turns a tender yet still comic eye to her family: her father, who sparked her love of poetry; her mother, a former tennis champion who struggled through Parkinson’s at the end of her life; and her daughter, who at a young age chanced upon some erotica she had written for Penthouse.

At once intimate and outrageous, Addonizio’s memoir radiates all the wit and heartbreak and ever-sexy grittiness that her fans have come to love—and that new readers will not soon forget.

After Alice by Gregory Maguire for review with TLC Book Tours.

When Alice toppled down the rabbit-hole 150 years ago, she found a Wonderland as rife with inconsistent rules and abrasive egos as the world she left behind. But what of that world? How did 1860s Oxford react to Alice’s disappearance?

In this brilliant new work of fiction, Gregory Maguire turns his dazzling imagination to the question of underworlds, undergrounds, underpinnings — and understandings old and new, offering an inventive spin on Carroll’s enduring tale. Ada, a friend of Alice’s mentioned briefly in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, is off to visit her friend, but arrives a moment too late — and tumbles down the rabbit hole herself.

Ada brings to Wonderland her own imperfect apprehension of cause and effect as she embarks on an odyssey to find Alice and see her safely home from this surreal world below the world. If Euridyce can ever be returned to the arms of Orpheus, or Lazarus can be raised from the tomb, perhaps Alice can be returned to life. Either way, everything that happens next is After Alice.

Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes from a friend in Book Club!

Joe Goldberg is no stranger to hiding bodies. In the past ten years, this thirty-something has buried four of them, collateral damage in his quest for love. Now he’s heading west to Los Angeles, the city of second chances, determined to put his past behind him.

In Hollywood, Joe blends in effortlessly with the other young upstarts. He eats guac, works in a bookstore, and flirts with a journalist neighbor. But while others seem fixated on their own reflections, Joe can’t stop looking over his shoulder. The problem with hidden bodies is that they don’t always stay that way. They re-emerge, like dark thoughts, multiplying and threatening to destroy what Joe wants most: true love. And when he finds it in a darkened room in Soho House, he’s more desperate than ever to keep his secrets buried. He doesn’t want to hurt his new girlfriend—he wants to be with her forever. But if she ever finds out what he’s done, he may not have a choice…

The Totally Gnarly, Way Bogus Murder of Muffy McGregor by Teddy Durgin, my friend and colleague, from another friend.

High school is out for the summer of 1986. Unfortunately, mega-popular cheerleader Muffy McGregor won’t live to see the fall. While most people in the small town of Laurel, Maryland, see tragedy in the cheerleader’s gnarly demise, her unpopular classmate, Sam Eckert, sees a most excellent opportunity. In between shifts at his new job at the mall, Sam works with a local P.I. to try and solve Muffy’s murder before the police do so he can finally get in good with the cool crowd. But the suspects are many. Was it Brent, Muffy’s way emotional jock boyfriend? Was it Chet, the super slick record-store manager she was carrying on a not-so-secret affair with? It couldn’t be Sam’s dream girl, Barbara, could it? Or was it someone far more dangerous? Who killed Muffy McGregor? What was the motive? And did it have anything to do with Bobby Ewing in that shower?

What did you receive?

309th Virtual Poetry Circle

Welcome to the 309th Virtual Poetry Circle!

Remember, this is just for fun and is not meant to be stressful.

Keep in mind what Molly Peacock’s book suggested.

Look at a line, a stanza, sentences, and images; describe what you like or don’t like; and offer an opinion. If you missed my review of her book, check it out here.

Today’s poem is from Kim Addonizio:

The Matter

“Some men break your heart in two,
Some men fawn and flatter,
Some men never look at you;
And that cleans up the matter.”
—Dorothy Parker, “Enough Rope”

Some men carry you to bed with your boots on.

Some men say your name like a verbal tic.

Some men slap on an emotional surcharge for every erotic encounter.

Some men are slightly mentally ill, and thinking of joining a gym.

Some men have moved on and can’t be seduced, even in the dream bars you meet them in.

Some men who were younger are now the age you were then.

Some men aren’t content with mere breakage, they’ve got to burn you to the ground.

Some men you’ve reduced to ashes are finally dusting themselves off.

Some men are made of fiberglass.

Some men have deep holes drilled in by war, you can’t fill them.

Some men are delicate and torn.

Some men will steal your bracelet if you let them spend the night.

Some men will want to fuck your poems, and instead they find you.

Some men will say, “I’d like to see how you look when you come,” and then hail a cab.

Some men are a list of ingredients with no recipe.

Some men never see you.

Some men will blindfold you during sex, then secretly put on heels.

Some men will try on your black fishnet stockings in a hotel in Rome, or Saran Wrap you

to a bedpost in New Orleans.

Some of these men will be worth trying to keep.

Some men will write smugly condescending reviews of you work, making you remember

these lines by Frank O’hara:

I cannot possibly think of you/other than you: the assassin/of my orchards.

Some men, let’s face it, really are too small.

Some men are too large, but it’s not usually a deal breaker.

Some men don’t have one at all.

Some men will slap you in a way you’ll like.

Some men will want to crawl inside you to die.

Some men never clean up the matter.

Some men hand you their hearts like leaflets

and some men’s hearts seem to circle forever: you catch sight of them on clear nights,

bright dots among the stars, and wait for their orbits to decay, for them to fall to earth.

What do you think?