Jane Rebels Against Her Reading List

“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.” —Oscar Wilde

I hate being told what to do. Even when I’m the one doing the telling: work out, save money, eat more raw things. In 2015, I finished 32 books, my personal high, and I vowed to read more in 2016. Because it felt fun, I organized a reading list, courtesy of Modern Mrs. Darcy, for the year.

Surprise—I hardly obeyed it. Obsessive, I strayed, found myself on three reading tangents: Hawai‘i writers, nonfiction, and titles featuring the word sky in them. The Girl Who Fell from the Sky. The Woman Who Fell from the Sky. Stones of the Sky. Night Sky With Exit Wounds.

Because I hate failure, I edited my reading aspirations, which appear below. While I failed to imbibe the books I intended to—and it feels sacrilegious crossing beautiful titles and authors out—they remain on my ever-multiplying TBR list. I will return to them. The House of the Spirits waits for me, on hold at the library; Green Island stands on the shelf in my office; The Lover, which I bought two Thursdays ago during my first visit to Half Price Books, decorates the coffee table.

Here is how I failed last year, but—I have to tell you—failing feels a lot like success:

  • A book published this yearGreen Island by Shawna Yang Ryan Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
  • A book you can finish in a dayThe Lover by Marguerite Duras Hawai’i One Summer by Maxine Hong Kingston
  • A book you’ve been meaning to readThe Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Rolling the R’s by R. Zamora Linmark
  • A book recommended by your local librarian or booksellerHow to Get Into the Twin Palms by Karolina Waclawiak Balikbayan by Michelle Cruz Skinner
  • A book you should have read in schoolI Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Ann Jacobs
  • A book chosen for you by a spouse, partner, sibling, child, or BFFBad Feminist by Roxane Gay
  • A book published before the year you were bornSula by Toni Morrison To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  • A book that was banned at some pointThe House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
  • A book you previously abandonedTales of Burning Love by Louise Erdrich Cherry by Mary Karr
  • A book you own but have never readMake Your Home Among Strangers by Jennine Capó Crucet
  • A book that intimidates you Bluets by Maggie Nelson
  • A book that you’ve already read at least onceLove in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez


  1. cynthia · February 5, 2017

    I love your categories–may use them myself! Happy Reading.


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