Audience Appeal
January 1, 2020

My Year in Reading 2019


Street art by Sara Fratini (@sara_fratini on Instagram), on the walls of La Libre, Calle de Argumosa, Madrid. Photo taken by me last summer. I'm on Instagram with lots of art at susanthomsen03.

Yesterday at the library I ran into Tricia Tierney, a friend and fellow blogger, and we each vowed to go home and write a blog post. Yay! Thanks, Tricia.

I'm still reading picture books, at a couple of public schools, to two classes of first graders and one of second graders, plus this year I was happy to add a small combined kindergarten/first-grade class. At a different school my husband reads to first graders, so between the two of us we still have lots of kids' books around the house. (Our own kiddo is a young adult! How did that happen? He was just a book-chewing baby yesterday.) So far the second graders' favorites are Alexis Roumanis's Dwarf Planets (nonfiction) and B.J. Novak's The Book with No Pictures (total silliness), and the first graders' fave is Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood, written by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell and illustrated by Rafael López. For the K/1 class, it was the perennially popular Turkey Trouble, written by Wendy Silvano and illustrated by Lee Harper. The conversations that follow the readings are still the best things ever. Everyone enjoys chiming in with an opinion, although occasionally some of us forget what we are going to say after we raise our hands. No matter!

My own list of favorite books of the year includes

The Carrying: Poems, by Ada Limón (Milkweed, 2018)

The Collected Schizophenias, essays by Esmé Weijun Wang (Graywolf, 2019)

Don't Read Poetry: A Book About How to Read Poems, by Stephanie Burt (Basic Books, 2019). I'm also a fan of her book The Poem Is You: 60 Contemporary American Poems and How to Read Them (Harvard, 2016).

Greek to Me: Adventures of the Comma Queen, by Mary Norris (Norton, 2019). I had the great privilege of hearing Mary, a friend and former colleague, read from her book in the Parthenon—the one in Nashville.

How to Love a Country: Poems, by Richard Blanco (Beacon Press, 2019). Blanco's memoir, The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood (Ecco, 2016), is also terrific.

Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss, essays by Margaret Renkl (Milkweed, 2019)

New Kid, a middle-grade graphic novel by Jerry Craft (HarperCollins, 2019)

Ordinary Light: A Memoir, by Tracy K. Smith (Knopf, 2015)


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