50 Books I Read in 2016

50 Books I Read in 2016

2016 was the fifth consecutive year I’ve read fifty books a year. One book a week is very manageable for me. However, the last two years I fell behind and was faced with 14 book pileups in December. Two years in a row this happened! I blame my lack of willpower and re-watching Game of Thrones and all of Shameless, The Leftovers, The Killing, Stranger Things, The OA, and The Night Of. I resolve to be better with prioritizing reading time in 2017! Here’s this year list of books read. I link to 2015’s list at the bottom of the post.

    Books I Loved

  1. I found Maus I in my younger brother’s childhood bedroom during a trip to Houston. I knew of its fame and read it in two afternoons. The graphic novel memoir is the story of a Jewish survivor of Hitler’s regime as told by his cartoonist son.
  2. You can’t finish Maus I and not immediately go look for Maus II. This story reaffirmed my goal of documenting my dad’s story of surviving the Vietnam War.
  3. Fates and Furies

  4. I read Fates and Furies while in Barcelona and it was hard to go to bed because I couldn’t stop reading! I also carried it and squeezed in reading sessions during subway rides. This story of a marriage is first told in the husband’s point of view and then told in the wife’s point of view.
  5. I expected to love The Thing Around Your Neck, a collection of 12 short stories, because I fell in love with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s writing when I read Americanah last year. I love stories of straddling two cultures and assimilating to American culture.
  6. I enjoyed The Course of Love so much that I made the girls at I Feel Better Podcast read it and we dedicated a whole episode to it.
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  8. Truth and Beauty is a memoir by Ann Patchett about her friendship with Lucy Grealy, who lost half of her face to childhood cancer. A beautiful story that made me want to read Grealy’s memoir, Autobiography of a Face.
  9. Milk and Honey is bittersweet lyrical poetry with accompanying sketches that made me want to sketch again.
  10. I can’t fathom the amount of courage and grace it takes to write about a relationship and its intimate and ugly parts and still have a working relationship. And yet Glennon Doyle Melton achieves that with Love Warrior, an unflinching retelling of her experience of her husband’s infidelities.
  11. Their Eyes Were Watching God, a story of a black woman named Janie and her three marriages, might be my favorite book read in 2016.
  12. The Grownup teetered between books I loved and books I liked but what pushed it into the love cateogory was the fact that I read it to Sugarface on our long drive to Arkansas. We shared laughs and speculations. I laughed out loud at the first line of this novella (which prompted me to read to Sugarface).
  13. Books I Liked

  14. The Lowland is a family drama centered around two Indian brothers.
  15. My friend Ashley recommended I read In Cold Blood and now it’s my turn to recommend that you read it if you enjoy True Crime.
  16. Norwegian Wood was assigned reading for the I Feel Better Podcast. So glad it was put on our list!
  17. A Tale for the Time Being is two stories in one. That of a Japanese 16 year-old girl who kept a diary and the Canadian novelist who finds her diary washed ashore in Canada.
  18. A neurosurgeon learns of his terminal diagnosis and has to come to terms with his mortality at the age of 36. He dies while writing When Breath Becomes Air and the epilogue is a tearjerker.
  19. I read The Buddha In The Attic after reading Maus II and it was kind of thematic. The writing style (first person plural) was a smidge distracting in the beginning but it was a heart-aching read about Japanese female immigrants right before WWII and then entering WWII.
  20. Goldfinch

  21. My friend Treavor gifted me Goldfinch a few years ago for my birthday. What an adventure of a read! It also won a Pulitzer in 2014.
  22. 2 Dollars a Day is a compassionate and well-researched book about the extremely impoverished in the United States.
  23. Are you a Shonda Rhimes fan? If so, read Year of Yes.
  24. I’m a big fan of Oprah and bought What I Know For Sure for my sister. It is a mix of personal development and memoir essays.
  25. Read Not that Kind of Girl if you like Lena Dunham or the show Girls.
  26. Men We Reaped is a grief memoir that acknowledges (not so much examines) the role of race in the death of five black men in her life.
  27. Love, Loss, and What We Ate is overwritten and needed better editors. Padma Lakshmi was excessive in mentioning how she used to model. Every page at first felt like it had at least three sentences that started with “when I was a model”. When I started to accept that leaving the modeling world was a pivotal moment for her and that she earnestly is referring to that transition, it became less distracting. I read a few criticisms about how out of touch she is from an average person’s everyday life. Those kinds of criticisms always grate me. She’s a former international model and Top Chef host! She’s telling her story, which includes working in an industry that values beauty.
  28. The End of the Story speaks to loss and sifting through ever-transforming memories.
  29. The End of Your Life Book Club is about a book club between the author and his dying mother. I added to my to-read list after reading this book.
  30. Blankets was my first experience of the graphic novelist’s Craig Thompson’s work. I must read more of his works in 2017.
  31. We Were Liars,a YA mystery, is the only book that made me want to read it immediately again after I finished to see if I could catch the clues a second time around.

  32. I decided to read Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman after listening to Lindy West confront one of her internet trolls in an episode of This American Life.
  33. I read M Train because I loved Patti Smith’s first memoir, Just Kids, and because I heard she wrote about one of my favorite TV shows watched in 2016.
  34. I’m so excited to see Big Little Lies being made into a TV show!

  35. The Life We Bury was the first book my book club chose. A thriller/mystery that was well-written.

  36. Personal Development Books

  37. The author of The Art of Living subscribes to Napoleon Hill’s teachings.
  38. I wanted to read Thich Nhat Hanh for the first time and chose How to Eat as my first. Speaks to mindfulness while eating.
  39. So Good They Can’t Ignore You.

  40. You are a Badass

  41. Everyone Writes

  42. The religious undertones in Fringe Hours was distracting.
  43. Crush It!: Why Now Is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion will make you want to tweet.
  44. Crossroads of Should and Must was beautifully illustrated.
  45. How to Love (another Thich Nhat Hanh book)

  46. The Writing Life
  47. Books I Didn’t Quite Like

  48. The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo

  49. The Nest

  50. How to Be Single

  51. I used to enjoy the Adulting blog but I think I’ve outgrown most of the content!
  52. Rosie Project

  53. I was so excited to read Adultery since it’s by Paulo Coelho but it was a flop for me.
  54. I Like You Just Fine When You’re Not Around

  55. Shining Girls, chosen by my book club. Thriller with a side of time travel.

  56. Eleanor and Park was on the cusp between books I didn’t quite like and books I liked.

You may also like: 50 Books I Read in 2015

Question: What were your favorite reads of 2016? Please share in the comments!

2016 in Review

This is my ninth yearly recap on this blog. NINTH! I have been sharing my life from this space for almost 10 years! You can read previous years’ recaps at the bottom of this post. As I review my year, I counted six weddings, three trips to Arkansas, and six trips to Houston. Travel highlights outside of trips to Arkansas and Houston were Miami, Barcelona, and Toronto.

2016 was my first full year not working a conventional 9-5 job. I worked part-time in an engineering firm and supplemented the rest of my income with freelancing jobs that ranged from photography, blogging, social media marketing, and teaching drawing with Artful Bachelorette. I didn’t make as much as I would have with a full-time job but haven’t been this professionally happy. My biggest source of freelance income was photography which lights me up. I’ve dreamed of becoming a professional photographer since high school and years before I even owned a DSLR. I’m no where near established but my slow and steady pursuit of it this year has been the most fulfilled I’ve ever been professionally.

January


Sugarface and I rang in the New Year dolled up at a New Year’s Eve wedding in Arkansas. I had never seen him look so handsome in a tux before! We spent the first few days of the year in Arkansas and enjoyed some quality time with his parents. Shortly after getting back from Arkansas, we celebrated our first anniversary by watching Die Hard and eating dinner at one of our favorite restaurants. Also in January, I got to try my hands at sausage making!. Finally, we ended the month the same way we started it, that is, dressed up for another wedding.

February

In February, I spent a weekend in Fredericksburg with Sugarface and our puppies. We ate around Fredericksburg and played Scrabble while drinking pink champagne. That weekend was my favorite memory from February.

A close second favorite memory was Valentine’s Day. We started the day with breakfast tacos, watched my friend run the Austin Marathon, and had a chicken tender-off for lunch and ordered chicken tenders from around town to see who had the best one. For dinner, I was just about to make the same dinner I made for him the previous Valentine’s Day when I received a text from one of my besties. She couldn’t make her reservations and gifted us an elegant multi-course dinner at an esteemed restaurant in Austin. We literally had ten minutes to decide and make the seating. It made me feel so lucky to have kind thoughtful friends and a man who is such a willing partner in crime in my life.

March

March in Austin meant much of the city was under siege for two weeks by SXSW. During SXSW, I usually do a few food related events and my friend Patrick Pho, one of the handful of friends I’ve met through Youtube comes very year. We had our yearly reunion with Ashley.

Sugarface and I attended our third wedding of the year. This one was our first Indian wedding and we felt so honored to be part of our friend’s day. Kind of related, I got ordained as a minister. I even paid extra for the paper certificate which came with a parking pass that made me laugh. I told Sugarface I’ll frame it next to his PhD.

April

For my dad’s birthday, I treated my parents to a weekend trip in Miami. We stayed with my long time friend, Nazanin. It was there I decided to experiment with taking more photos of humans in addition to my ongoing food photography endeavors. After taking Nazain’s photos in Miami, I declared to my friends and the internet that I am seeking more opportunities to take portraits. My friend Julie obliged and let me do the honors of shooting her engagement photos.

May

I spent the first day and last weekend in May at the same hiking trail and swimming creek with the dogs and Sugarface. Summer finally arrived and the sweaty hikes and swimming adventures with our dogs are a couple of my favorite things about summers in Austin. Though much of the month was spent partaking in the usual activities of working, organizing happy hours for food bloggers, and grabbing bites with friends, I also attended two special events.

The first event was the yearly Fancy Dress Night with Sugarface’s work. I attended this event even before he did, when I used to work with his boss years ago. It was nice to still come to this tradition as an alum and a plus one. The second special occasion was the wedding of one of my besties, Thomas. I got to use my fancy minister certificate but alas, no one called me Reverend Linda.

June

June was a fun one. I had three photo shoots with friends, a baby announcement, author photos, and a couple session with Dan and Treavor. I’m happy my friends are giving me opportunities to practice portraiture! Sugarface and I ended the month road-tripping to Arkansas with Bob and Neva to celebrate the Fourth of July with his family.

July

I spent the first few days of the month with Sugarface and our dogs visiting his family (which also included 3 other dogs) in Arkansas. I’ve adored his family immediately upon meeting them last year but also come to relish all the time we spend visiting them in their home state. It’s pretty and serene and even the lack of cell service is a welcomed reprieve. Bob the dog, as far as I know had never been on a boat or in Arkansas and he took to the lifestyle. After my weekend in Arkansas, I went to Houston the following weekend to celebrate my mom’s birthday. I took the parents to see this amazing Kusama exhibit.

We came back to Austin and commemorated being together a year and a half by eating at Barley Swine.

I shot another portrait session and then decided to take a leap and against my financial judgement, splurged and bought myself a photography website.

The rest of July was spent eating a lot of ice cream and green tea desserts. I celebrated and shared my birthday at the end of the month with Neva the dog. Sugarface made me feel very special when I came home to pink purple roses and a book he saw I was ogling back in May.

August

One thing I love about travel is how it makes certain times of your life very memorable. August 2016 is now etched in my memory as the month Sugarface and I took our first international trip together. In fact, it’s the first time we got on a plane together! My biggest blogging regret this year is not properly recapping this trip to Barcelona on this blog and my food blog (except for a post about the Sagrada and two restaurants). Maybe first thing in 2017? You can find my instagram posts from Barcelona here in the meantime.

September

One month after our first international trip together, we go on our second one! Sugarface had a work trip to Toronto and I couldn’t resist joining him even if it was only for a weekend. In September I also shot my first family and judged a cooking contest sponsored by Gloria Ferrer. I also decided to grow my photography business’s efforts even further and started a dedicated instagram account.

October

Sugarface’s mom came to visit us and took us to Austin City Limits. She goes every year and this was my first time since 2007! I’ve grown quite attached to Sugarface’s mom and loved having her in Austin. For Halloween, we dressed up the dogs as crocodiles and carved our first pumpkin together (and named him Lyle). I roasted the seeds and decided I will now do this every year. I also attended the glorious Texas Monthly Barbecue Festival. Mmmm. Texas barbecue, so good it makes you dance.

Meat coma about to commence at @texasmonthly BBQ Fest.

A video posted by Linda Nguyen (@lindaeatsworld) on

November

Oh, November. I was so heartbroken by the election, I wept.

I officially added my first emceeing job to my weird batch of freelancing work and got to emcee Austin’s first Mac and Cheese Festival. I took advantage of the opportunity by sharing all the cheesy jokes I could manage without being booed off stage. Sugarface and I spent Thanksgiving in Houston with my family where we overindulged in my mom’s cooking and Lee’s Fried Chicken and Donuts. I also booked the most photo shoots in the month of November compared to previous months in 2016 and felt like I was making headway in my photography as a business dream!

December

We attended my friend Julie’s wedding, our 6th and last of 2016. She invited me along with 3 other women with whom we share a dinner club. It was at her wedding that I realized we photograph our food when we get together but haven’t taken one photo together in over five years of having our dinner club. We thankfully remedied that. I also photographed my first newborn multiples photo shoot. One of my favorites of the year!

Sugarface and I spent Christmas weekend in Arkansas with his family. I had Sugarface introduce me to Anthony Chapel in his hometown and it was breathtaking. I plan on requesting we stop by everytime we visit Arkansas now!

I’m not sure yet what we’re doing for New Year’s, if anything. So long as Sugarface and I hug and kiss at the stroke of midnight, I think I’d be happy wherever we are. I know this year felt heavy for many, and if you’re reading this, I want to thank you for supporting my endeavors even if just by following along. I wish you a new year filled with light, joy, and love. Happy New Year to you!

Recaps From Previous Years

2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015

You can probably tell if you clicked on the links in this recap that I do a lot of my life-telling on instagram. Come follow me! @lindaeatsworld @curiousnotionsphoto @bobthedogatx

Questions: What are five highlights of your 2016? Please share in the comments!

Friday Feels

Friday Feels

That photo above is from a coffee date I had with a friend this week and we each brought the same notebook. I delighted in that coincidence and had to boomerang it. Happy Holidays, all! I’m heading to Arkansas for the weekend to stay with Sugarface’s family. I can’t wait to take some time off to spend with lovely humans and dogs. What about you? Are you traveling anywhere?

Here’s this year’s last Friday Feels, a round up of links that made me feel things.

  • Very much enjoy Bourdain in this post-election interview.
  • I found a new favorite instagram. It’s a guy and his grandma! Have to enjoy with sound on!

  • The Dalai Lama on what’s behind our fear of be being unneeded.
  • It’s not often I find online quizzes thoughtful, btu this Self-Knowledge Questionnaire is thoughtful.
  • A conversation about prejudice.

  • 25 authors and the best books they’ve ever received.
  • At the time of this writing, I have 4 more books to read before the end of the year to meet my goal. Am appreciating shorter books this time of year. This book of poems was lovely.
  • What 86 burglars revealed about how they cased their jobs.
  • Photography Inspiration

  • Street Photographer Recreates Photos He Took in the 80s in Amazing Reunion Series
  • 40 practical photography assignments to reinspire.

  • Gorgeous photos of fog waves.
  • Personal Plugs

  • I posted a few portrait sessions on the blog. I posted a holiday family one, a lifestyle blogger, and a dreamy newborn cousins one.
  • On our podcast, we had our second live recording and you watch it here. We discussed the Gilmore Girls reboot.

  • In 2017 I resolve to update my food blog more often. Recently I posted about a new restaurant offering “dope Chinese.”
  • Holiday Family Portrait Session in Austin

    Holiday Family Photography in Austin

    Holiday Family Portrait Session in Austin

    I’m a reformed crotchety Christmas-hater. I’m learning to give into the magic of the holidays, and shooting holiday photos is helping me in this winter-time journey! It’s hard to be a scrooge when you’re around family who love each other. I had a blast being the fourth wheel to the Tovars as we strolled around downtown Round Rock. Their little princesa was a natural in front of the camera!

    Holiday Family Photography in Austin

    Holiday Family Photography in Austin

    Holiday Family Photography in Austin

    Holiday Family Photography in Austin

    tovars-7

    Holiday Family Photography in Austin

    Holiday Family Photography in Austin

    To see more of my work and book with me, check out my photography website. You can also follow my portraits on Facebook and Instagram.

    Question: Do you take holiday photos with your family?

    Newborn Cousins Ready for Their First Christmas

    Portrait Session: New Born Babies

    Newborn Cousins Photo Shoot in Austin

    I had my first multiple babies photo shoot in Austin this weekend. Can I be honest about something? I find myself just gazing at these snapshots. These cousins are so stinking cute, I can’t help myself. Born just a few days apart, I have a feeling they’re going to grow up to be best friends.

    Portrait Session: New Born Babies

    Portrait Session: New Born Babies

    Portrait Session: New Born Babies

    Portrait Session: New Born Babies

    Portrait Session: New Born Babies

    Portrait Session: New Born Babies

    To see more of my work and book with me, check out my photography website! I don’t mind a little travel either!

    Portrait Session: Austin Blogger Jane Ko

    Portrait Session: Jane Ko

    One of my girl crushes and heroes in Austin is someone you probably already follow if you live in Austin. Jane of A Taste of Koko writes a very popular food blog. Funnily, sometimes strangers will stop me when I’m out and about, commending me for my food blog and praising me for my work. I let myself be flattered and touched and then the stranger will say something like, “bye Jane!” It cracks me up and I ain’t mad about it!

    It has been fun and inspiring to see her soar through her career as a blogger and influencer. I enjoyed catching up with her as I photographed her in her bright and airy home. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for her and her journey!

    Portrait Session: Jane Ko

    Portrait Session: Jane Ko

    Portrait Session: Jane Ko

    Portrait Session: Jane Ko

    You can see more of my work on my photography site. If you live in Austin, San Antonio, or Houston and wish to have your portrait taken, please email me at linda@curious-notions.net. I’d love to hear from you!

    Portrait Session: Baby Aubrey and Her Many Faces

    Austin Baby Photography

    Austin Family and Baby Session

    A few days ago, I had the pleasure of meeting baby Aubrey when her proud grandfather and my friend Doug, hired me to shoot holiday photos. I was touched to spend time with a family with so much love for each other. It didn’t take long to see that the family dotes on Aubrey. I can’t imagine it any other way since I fell in love with her happy disposition instantly. She gave me the best facial expressions and was a dream to photograph.

    Austin Baby Photography

    Austin Baby Photography

    Austin Baby Photography

    Austin Baby Photography

    Austin Baby Photography

    aAustin Baby Photography

    You can see more of my work on my photography site. If you’re interested in scheduling a session yourself, I invite you to email me! linda@curious-notions.net

    Friday Feels

    Friday Feels

    Hello friends! Happy almost November! Are you ready for November? Are you panicking like I am? I had so much I wanted to do this year and still a lot of it left to accomplish! Oy. So this weekend I plan on catching my breath with Sugarface and doing something that makes us happy. Maybe a hike with the dogs? And I have a barbecue festival to attend. The joys of being a food blogger! What do you have going on this weekend? What have you been reading?

    It’s been a bit since my last link round-up of Internet pieces that made me feel feelings. Some of these links I’ve had in my pocket for a few weeks. Enjoy and happy Friyay!

  • How to be a writer.
  • I finished a few good books since the last round-up. Goldfinch was an great read.
  • When Breath Becomes Air and Blankets were also enjoyable reads.
  • I started reading The Nest and Love Warrior this week.
  • There’s been a lot of race thoughts and discussions amongst my circle. There’s this open letter. And our podcast discussed Code Switch, an NPR podcast. (episode isn’t live yet).
  • Ruth Bader’s Ginsburgs advice for living.
  • At every stage of life, you should be a rookie at something.”
  • Dear Michelle Obama

  • Roxanne Gay’s 13 rules for Female Friendship.
  • Kim Kardashian, Elena Ferrante, and the right to privacy.
  • I liked some of these tips about working for yourself.
  • Best Jobs for your personality type. This was uncanny for some of the people in my life.
  • Ultra Rich Man’s letter to his fellow filthy rich Americans.
  • Personal Plugs

  • A few weeks ago we celebrated 50 episodes of I Feel Better Podcast by recording live! You can see the Youtube replay here.
  • I wrote about this awesome boozy ice cream place in Austin.

  • I shared a recipe for Chorizo Quiche with Hash Brown Crust.

  • I also recapped Toronto.

  • Did you see my first newborn photography shoot?
  • Newborn Photography Session: Reyansh

    My Introduction to Newborn Photography

    When my beautiful friend Soujanya approached me about doing a newborn photography session with her son, Reyansh, I was honored. As soon as I arrived at Soujanya’s and her husband Deepak’s home, we entered a state of flow. With patience and teamwork, the four of us, with some support from doting grandparents, were able to capture some precious moments. Baby Reyansh and his adoring family were a dream to capture. I left inspired by their images. Soujanya reported she loves them so much she cried. What a relief! Here are some of my favorite shots.

    Newborn Photography

    soujanya-33

    Newborn Photography

    soujanya-17

    Newborn Photography

    Newborn Photography

    Newborn Photography

    Newborn Photography

    Newborn Photography

    Newborn Photography

    You can see more of my work on my photography site.

    Weekend in Toronto

    Weekend in Toronto

    I squeezed in a baby trip to Toronto a couple of weeks ago. Sugarface was there for work and even though I couldn’t visit long, I indulged and joined him for just under 48 hours. I worried about whether it was worth the expenditure for such a short trip, but now I know I don’t regret it and would do it again! We stayed downtown and mostly kept our exploring within walking distance from our hotel. Downtown Toronto was just teeming with restaurants. We ate so well but most exciting to me was that we had poutine. I have been to Canada and have eaten poutine but I’ve never eaten poutine in Canada! (Read more about our delicious meals on my food blog.)

    Aside from all the eating, we also walked by the CN Tower, visited Ripley’s Aquarium, where we were mesmerized by eels and jellyfish, and explored Graffiti Alley. During our first night there, I met an internet friend whom I’ve known for almost 6 years. I like how being a blogger has made it possible for me to have friends around the world. I’m also glad I can add Toronto to my adventures with Sugarface. We’ve only been on two international trips together, the first one not too long ago, and each time it becomes clearer how much I love having him by my side when I explore this world.

    So that concludes my weekend recap in Toronto. I already miss it and want to go back. If I ever make it back, I’m definitely going to plan for a day trip to Niagara Falls! Have you ever been to Toronto?

    Weekend in Toronto

    Weekend in Toronto

    Weekend in Toronto