Goodreads wrapped: a year in books

I am comforted to know that whatever next year brings, I can find solace and compassion in between the pages of a good read.

Jane McNulty, Op-Ed Editor

As the year is coming to an end, it’s natural to start reflecting on experiences you had, changes to make, and what you’re grateful for. Personally, this year has been an extremely difficult one; I know I’m not alone in that. 

One hobby that made the year brighter was the books I consumed. Knowing that reading consistently makes life better for me, I challenged myself through Goodreads to read twelve books this year. One per month seemed attainable.

I ended up reading seventeen books total! Whether these books confused or comforted me, they each provided me with new insights. For the sake of brevity, I’ve awarded some of these books superlatives, a literary sort of Spotify wrapped.

Best style

In a previous review, I sung the praises of David Sanchez’s debut novel “All Day is A Long Time”. This was the first book of the year that I completed, and its lyrical style really set me off on a reading craze. The prose in this book is absolutely gorgeous, painting stunning images of coming-of-age in Florida’s Gulf Coast. Even the ugly, painful moments of the narrator’s journey from addiction to recovery were constructed with such care in the diction. The unique beauty of  his writing style makes me so excited to read whatever Sanchez writes next.


Ottessa Moshfegh’s novella “McGlue” was just a really fun, albeit gross, read. “McGlue” follows the eponymous narrator, a drunken sailor with brain damage accused of murdering his friend. Set in Salem in the year 1851, the story moves quickly as McGlue struggles with his lack of memory of the alleged crime.

What I’d recommend

If you haven’t read Ocean Vuong’s “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” yet, what are you waiting for? No matter your background or life experiences, you will see some part of yourself reflected in this narrative about contemporary American pain while also gaining new insights into the experiences of others. 

The novel is a letter from a son, the narrator who goes by the name Little Dog, to his mother who can’t read. He untangles their complicated family history starting in Vietnam while also telling her about the parts of his coming-of-age that she didn’t witness, including grappling with his sexuality and his complicated first love. Vuong is a poet, and in spite of the painful topics of trauma, addiction, grief, and pain, his language choices maximize beauty and love.

I don’t recommend

I became hooked on Irvine Welsh’s four-part “Trainspotting” series this year. The characters are so distinct yet so universal, and Welsh is my favorite writer. I appreciate his humor, his distinct, innovative style, and how the themes he writes of transcend time and place. That being said, getting through the third book in this series, “Porno,” was like pulling teeth. The plot was boring, and there was little to no sense of heart grounding this one.

Best “classic”

To help me grow as a writer, I ventured into two “classics” that were recommended to me this year, “The Sound and The Fury” by William Faulkner and Dostoevsky’s “Notes from Underground. While both of these novels are regarded as highly influential and innovative, Faulkner’s narrative resonated with me more. 

“The Sound and The Fury” is about the decline of the Compson family in early 1900s Mississippi. The novel was difficult for its disjointed timeline and subject matter. However, Caddy, the rare female tragic hero in the Western “canon,” self-pitying and neurotic Quention, and the cynical Mr. Compson have stuck with me long after finishing the book, as well as Faulkner’s elegant prose.

Best debut novel

I read two debut novels this year, Sanchez’s “All Day” as mentioned above and Jordan Castro’s “The Novelist”. While I’m inclined to say I liked “All Day is A Long Time” best, I read “The Novelist” in one day. 

Castro’s debut is experimental, covering one morning where an unnamed writer tries to get some work done but is distracted by social media. I can’t be the only one who really relates to that premise. Distractions lead him to ruminate on the state of fiction, caffeine, contemporary culture, and his past mistakes. 

I really loved both debuts and ultimately can’t choose between the two, but I would encourage anyone looking for something different to check out “The Novelist.

My personal favorite

I loved Irvine Welsh’s “Trainspotting” prequel, “Skagboys,” so much that one thing I did to celebrate my birthday this year was spend hours reading it in my backyard. At 700-something pages, the novel follows the characters in their early twenties, navigating the grim landscape of Scotland in the 80s, during the early stages of their substance use issues. 

The journey of series main character Mark Renton and his struggles with a loss of identity, love, and family was the biggest highlight. There was something so universal yet so personal about the novel. 

Welsh’s characterization, social and political commentary, and prose are at their all-time best here. In particular, the commentary about how certain government policies can push people into meaninglessness would resonate in any time and place. The sentiment of transitioning into adulthood in a world that seems like it’s coming apart affected me heavily. Reading this novel might be my favorite thing I did this year.


To say this year was a great year for me as a reader would be an understatement. I am comforted to know that whatever next year brings, I can find solace and compassion in between the pages of a good read.