“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” —Cicero
I love sentences, especially opening ones. I hate even numbers, love odd ones. A little late to the year-in-review game, I collected the first sentences of my 11 favorite reads of 2016.
A little background: in 2014, a year after graduating with my MFA, I read a book I had always craved, which work, school and life had kept me from: The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston. I moved the mass-market paperback for several years, to three different states, before opening it. I read most of it on the porch in a rocking chair, then I read another book by a woman then another and another.
Before knowing it was a thing, I wanted only books by women, and after learning about #ReadWomen, I did it on purpose, eventually incorporating LGBTQIA writers and POC. A brown woman, I have alway sought books reflecting lives like mine, but fully committing to this reading challenge has introduced me to countless worlds. A nosy writer with dreams of writing full-time in an office near my bed, I often read the writer bio, blurbs, and acknowledgements first. As I’ve heard—and said—a lot lately, good people know good people, and good books have led me to good books.
One day, I want to read Lolita and Moby Dick, but now is not that time, not even close. Honestly, I don’t feel like I’m missing anything, and what I’m gaining feels immeasurable. With the amazing book lists abound (here and here and here and here), I pray for a long, healthy life of reading.
And, finally, the first sentences of my 11 favorite reads of 2016 in the order I read them:
“1. Suppose I were to begin by saying that I had fallen in love with a color.” —Maggie Nelson, Bluets
“Niche dating sites are interesting.” —Roxane Gay, Bad Feminist
“What, Mahi, you still awake?” —Kathleen Tyau, A Little Too Much Is Enough
“Serafina held the Virgen de Guadalupe curled in her palm.” —Susan Straight, Highwire Moon
“Philadelphia and Jubilee!’ August said when Hattie told him what she wanted to name their twins.” —Ayana Mathis, The Twelve Tribes of Hattie
“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.” —Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude
“In the body, where everything has a price, / I was a beggar.” —Ocean Vuong, Night Sky With Exit Wounds
“It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.” —Gabriel García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera
“The night Effia Otcher was born into the musky heat of Fanteland, a fire raged through the woods just outside her father’s compound.” —Yaa Gyasi, Homegoing
“I told you last night that I might be gone sometime, and you said, Where, and I said, To be with the Good Lord, and you said, Why, and I said, Because I’m old, and you said, I don’t think you’re old.” —Marilynne Robinson, Gilead
“My mother was waiting in front of our house when I rode up in a taxi.” —Mia Alvar, In the Country