Inside Amy Schumer

Favorite Books of 2016

I know there are many people in the world who rarely read, which is probably one of the most depressing things to know about our society. I feel no shame in the time I spend daily reading or thinking about reading or discussing reading with my roommate.

In 2016, I read 92 books and plays, which is a personal record (I was determined to out-do my 2014 total of 91, so congratulations from me to myself). Unlike past years, I set a few goals at the beginning of the year other than reading a total of 52 books, which included reading works by specific people. By Thanksgiving, I’d accomplished all of those goals, so I’m upping the ante for 2017 (see my new reading list in a day or two if you’re curious about how nerdy/obsessive I can be).

Below, in the order I read them, is a list of my favorite books I read in 2016, followed by some honorable mentions. This list contains books both new and old, some of which have even achieved favorite status. You can consult my full 2016 reading list here.

What books did you love in 2016? Maybe I’ll add them to my shelf.


Brooklyn, Colm Toíbín

Both as a book and a film, Brooklyn has taken deep root in my soul. I adore this coming-of-age story (they tend to be my favorites anyway, but this one is especially great). The novel, which tells the story of a young Irish immigrant Eilis who moves to New York City to start a new life in the 1950s, is just as profound and beautiful as its Oscar-nominated film adaptation. This is a perfect book to enjoy on a cozy winter afternoon.

Collected Sonnets of Edna St. Vincent Millay

I grabbed this book at a used bookstore to help fill out my reading list for my master’s comprehensive exams in the spring and was fortunate enough to love it as a piece of literature. I quickly became obsessed with Edna St. Vincent Millay herself (this girl was crazy progressive and hip in the 1920s) and her poetry doesn’t make me feel like an idiot as most poetry does. She’s witty, hilarious, and heartbreaking in equal parts.

‘Night, Mother, Marsha Norman

It’s strange that I only read ‘Night, Mother earlier this year because the story feels deeply engrained in me already. My mom has loved this play for a long time, and I finally understood why when I read it myself this spring. Norman’s play is sparse and simple but still incredibly profound. It’s impossible as a reader not to share the characters’ anxiety as the story progresses in real time toward a potential suicide. I can’t wait to share this play with my students this spring.

Hamilton: The Revolution, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

This may come as a surprise to you, but I’m a fan of Hamilton (okay just kidding I haven’t listened to any other music in a year). Since annotating is one of my favorite pastimes, reading the annotated edition of the complete musical, accompanied by beautiful photographs and behind-the-scenes information, was a dream. Hamilton: The Revolution is a must-have for fans of the musical. Though it’s a little pricier than the Chernow biography upon which the show is based, it’s far less likely to sit untouched on your bookshelf.

Tiny Beautiful Things, Cheryl Strayed

My only prior encounters with Cheryl Strayed came from seeing the film adaptation of Wild  and reading a few nonfiction essays in a writing workshop, but after my roommate loved this one and gave it to me as a graduation gift, I too fell in love. I intended to bring this as my reading material on a long drive to Nebraska over the summer, but I got so into it I breezed through the entire book before our departure. Tiny Beautiful Things is a collection of Strayed’s Dear Sugar letters, a column she wrote for The Rumpus. Strayed clearly answers each person with deep thought and tenderness, but she isn’t afraid to answer with honesty. Each entry makes you feel understood and valued. I have a feeling this book will be one I continue to share with friends and family.

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, Amy Schumer

After solidifying my love for Amy Schumer in 2015, I of course had to read her memoir when it was released this summer. Schumer doesn’t disappoint in this book that is equally laugh-out-loud funny and sweetly sad. Though I read this book months ago, there are still stories here that I think of and laugh about often.

The Book of Other People, edited by Zadie Smith

The Book of Other People is a collection of short stories written by several famous authors whose sole prompt was to create a character and write a story about them. As with many short story collections, the end result is a bit of a mixed bag, but the general feeling I had was a very pleasant one. When my roommate and I read this aloud together (now one of our favorite and cutest habits), we sometimes had difficulty stopping ourselves from reading indefinitely. Though many of the stories are great, see if you can get your hands on “Magda Mandela” by Hari Kunzru. It’s a quick read and you will not be disappointed.

A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness

I haven’t even seen A Monster Calls yet but I’m already guessing this will be the #1 tearjerker of 2017. The book tells the story of a young English boy named Conor whose mother’s cancer is continually worsening. Conor is visited nightly by a tree monster, a clear manifestation of his frustration and grief as he watches his mother fade. This is a beautiful story about love and loss. Just maybe skip the eye makeup before reading.

Big Little Lies, Liane Moriarty

I’m very rarely a reader of mysteries, especially contemporary ones. However, once I saw the trailer for the upcoming HBO miniseries adaptation of this novel, I was too intrigued not to read it before the February air date. Who knew I’d be such a fan? The book rounds out at over 500 pages, but I couldn’t put it down in the 2 days I spent reading it. I think Moriarty does a great job of telling a dramatic story in a way that still feels authentic (something I’m a little worried about based on the footage from the miniseries). It was refreshing to see a story about women who come from various backgrounds, aren’t all about competition, and keep cattiness to a minimum. Though this was my first encounter with Moriarty, I’ve already purchased her latest book, Truly Madly Guilty, and look forward to enjoying it early next year.

State of Wonder, Ann Patchett

2016 was a year of Ann Patchett for me. I’d never read her previously, but my roommate and I read Bel Canto together in the fall and I became a fan. Though I generally try not to be too easily distracted by my book purchases, when I bought State of Wonder in October, I couldn’t resist starting it almost immediately. The story is clearly inspired by Joseph Conrad’s classic Heart of Darkness, but differs in that it follows a woman sent to retrieve her female boss from the depths of the Amazon where she’s developing a fertility drug. Though I was—and still am—frustrated by the book’s conclusion, it features beautiful writing and some great twists that make for a worthwhile read.

The Penguin Arthur Miller

In my 92 books read this year, this one feels like the biggest accomplishment. In fact, it’s one book that contains 18—this is the complete canon of Arthur Miller’s dramatic works. Miller and I go way back at this point, but before 2016, I’d only read 3 of his plays. This edition isn’t exactly an easy one to travel with—note its comparative size to my cat in the featured photo—but now it has a stately position on my bookshelf made all the more grand by the fact that I’ve read all the words in it. Miller is an undeniable master of American drama, and I loved spending so much time with him this year. If you remember, think of him on February 10—the date not only of his death, but also the anniversary of the Broadway premiere of Death of a Salesman.

Why Not Me?, Mindy Kaling

My general relationship with Mindy Kaling over the past month has gone from casual fan to actively seeking friendship (so, Mindy, if you’re reading, let’s hang out!). When I bought this book in the airport a few weeks ago, I was just looking to be mildly entertained on my journey home, but many times I was made to laugh aloud. Then I watched the entirety of The Mindy Project in just a few days, and I became even more enamored. Though it would be wrong to call Why Not Me? a page-turner, it’s still the kind of book you have a hard time putting down.


Honorable Mentions: The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, Voyager by Diana Gabaldon, At Fault by Kate Chopin, Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, The World’s Wife by Carol Ann Duffy

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Life post-Master’s degree

I graduated with my Master’s two-and-a-half weeks ago, but saying I have a Master’s degree sounds fake. I imagine it will for a while, especially since my future career prospects are still a giant question mark.

Since graduation, I’ve done a lot of applying for jobs, but I’m also basking in the very strange freedom of no impending responsibilities apart from maintaining my own existence. To celebrate graduation, my mom took us to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter which was both rewarding and exhausting. We’re happy to have had the experience and to hopefully never need to do it again.

Luckily, this freedom means I have lots of time for my Very Favorite Activities: reading all the books and watching all the TV/movies I can think about. So, to celebrate my first time away from school in 19 years, a mostly successful and rewarding first semester of teaching, and writing a 114-page thesis, here’s how I’ve been spending my hours of entertainment.

Books—I feel like my reading progress should be more substantial since finishing school, but I did finish Diana Gabaldon’s Voyager, an 870-page tome that I expect will be my longest read of 2016, so that makes up for the short reading list. I’ve also knocked out Ta-Nehisi Coates’s though-provoking and beautifully written Between the World and Me, which is essentially 150 pages of reminding white people to check their privilege. We all need more of that in our lives.

As a fairly transitional reading project, I also powered through K.C. Dyer’s Finding Fraser, a light read for fans of the Outlander series. It wasn’t anything terribly enlightening or profound, but it kept me feeling occupied and pleasant for a day or two. I’m also feeling mentally cleansed to delve back into heavier hitting literature, so I’m working through two projects right now: Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Anton Chekov’s The Cherry Orchard. It’s my first time with both of these authors, and I think my first attempt at anything Russian, so I’m hoping for rewarding experiences. Once these are done, I plan to resume my work through Arthur Miller’s collected works since I haven’t revisited those since January and Ernest Hemingway’s collected short stories. It’s such a pleasure to know I will never have a shortage of great things to read.

Movies—My movie-watching habits have been surprisingly lame these days, partially because the movies I have watched have been rewatches rather than anything new. I do intend to see Me Before You when it’s released this week, but there hasn’t been much in theaters to draw my attention—partially because the things I am interested in are only available in limited release. I recently built up my Amazon watchlist, so I’ll hopefully start making a dent in some of those films soon.

TV—It’s probably fair to say that I haven’t watched many movies lately because I’ve been busy with TV. Though most shows I watch have stopped airing for the summer, Game of Thrones, Veep, Outlander, and Inside Amy Schumer all keep me busy enough, but I’m also doing plenty of other TV viewing. I finally got to the War & Peace miniseries adaptation that aired in January and February, and I really loved it (this is a big reason why I decided to tackle Chekov). The more I see of Lily James, the more convinced I become that she’s actually made of sunshine.

I also finished the two seasons of Starz’s cult hit Party Down yesterday, though my journey through the show has been a bit strange. I watched the first 3 episodes on my Bluray player, and when I picked up on my iPad, unknowingly began with episode 4 of season 2. I got all the way through the end of season two and backtracked to the 3 episodes of season 2 I hadn’t seen before I realized the problem. I’d been wondering if I’d been paying bad attention (Where did Jane Lynch go? When did Megan Mullally get here? When did Adam Scott start dating Kristen Bell?) or if they just didn’t explain everything very overtly, so I was glad to realize it was my organizational mistake that created the confusion rather than bad viewing habits. I may have to watch it again from start to finish sometime to make up for my stupidity.

I’ve also watched half of Amazon’s Doctor Thorne, which is charming and lovely. I expect to finish it today. And I’ve started season two of Netflix’s Bloodline, but that’s a show that’s too depressing to really binge, so I expect we’ll take some time with it. I’m also expecting that Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and Grantchester will be the next two projects on my list. Nothing like a period piece to momentarily take you out of a humid Kentucky summer.

What are you reading and watching these days? I’m always looking for suggestions!

TV Shows I Watched in 2015

I’m a bit of a champion at television-watching, so my TV list is usually rather impressive, especially at the end of the year. I don’t really set numeric goals of how many shows I hope to watch, but here’s my general list of things I wanted to watch in 2015.

Some members of my original list have been pushed to 2016, and I have two on-going projects that I’ll be finishing early in 2016 (those are the shows listed in bold). Here’s a look at what I watched this year.

  1. The Affair (1 season, 10 episodes)
  2. Angels in America (miniseries, 6 episodes)
  3. Bloodline (1 season, 13 episodes)
  4. Broadchurch, season 2 (1 season, 8 episodes)
  5. The Casual Vacancy (miniseries, 3 episodes)
  6. Catastrophe (1 season, 6 episodes)
  7. Empire (1 season, 12 episodes)
  8. The Fall, season 2 (1 season, 6 episodes)
  9. Frasier (11 seasons, 264 episodes)
  10. Game of Thrones (watched season 1 – season 5, episode 5)
  11. Inside Amy Schumer (2 seasons, 20 episodes)
  12. The Jinx (miniseries, 6 episodes)
  13. Jessica Jones (1 season, 13 episodes)
  14. John Adams (miniseries, 7 episodes)
  15. Lost (6 seasons, 120 episodes)
  16. Luther (3 seasons, 14 episodes)
  17. My So-Called Life (1 season, 19 episodes)
  18. The Office (U.K.) (2 seasons, 14 episodes)
  19. The O.C. (watched season 1 – season 3, episode 14)
  20. Olive Kitteridge (miniseries, 4 episodes)
  21. Outlander (1 season, 16 episodes)
  22. Rectify (3 seasons, 22 episodes) 
  23. Teen Wolf (4 seasons, 60 episodes)
  24. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (1 season, 13 episodes)
  25. Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp (1 season, 8 episodes)
  26. Wolf Hall (miniseries, 6 episodes)

After all this, I watched a grand total of 26 series and miniseries in 2015 and 764 episodes this year (though this doesn’t count any of the shows I watched live, so these numbers are a bit low).

Here’s to much more great TV in 2016!

Life in 2015

In the gratuitous time of my winter break that feels approximately 8,000 weeks long, I’ve been fortunate to accomplish tons of reading and watching and sleeping and adventuring. My standard blog consists largely of reading updates, but I’ve also been doing other things as well (I’m so interesting!).

Unfortunately, the thing I’m probably doing most with my life these days is wallowing in self pity over the fact that I will not be attending the Sundance Film Festival this year. Exactly one year ago today was Opening Day of Sundance 2014, and it was the most glorious 10-day experience of my life. If you’ve encountered me in person or online since then, you’ve probably heard about it. Sorry about that.

Anyway, I know I’ll be reminiscing a lot in the days to come. One year ago today, for example, I saw my first celebrity of the festival, Joe Manganiellowhich immediately prompted my friend Lendee to burst into tears (our emotions were pretty crazy while we were there). We also saw Mark Ruffalo and Aaron Paul said “hello” to us. And that was just day one. If you’re interested, here are two posts I wrote last year about the Sundance experience. The first is an overview of what we did and the second is a list of miscellaneous rememberings two months after the fact.

Okay, now back to the present, where life isn’t nearly so exciting. So like the true TV-watching champion that I am, I’ve crossed six TV series off my list since finishing the semester in mid-December. To be fair, the longest of those shows (“Downton Abbey”) just meant finishing a few episodes and most of the other shows have been short, but still, I probably watch too much TV. Here are some quick reactions to what I’ve watched:

  • “Black Mirror” is pretty freaking depressing, but not necessarily in a bad way. For six episodes (on Netflix), it’s manageable, but I’m not sure I could handle much more. It’s an episodic show about the evils of technology in a modern/futuristic society. Upside: lots of good British actors who are always fun to watch.
  • “Broadchurch” is really good and disturbing. If you watched “Top of the Lake” and enjoyed it, give this a go (but the tone is definitely lighter on “Broadchurch”). The show is about the death of an 11-year-old boy in a small English seaside town and the ensuing murder investigation. Also, I watched an episode of the American version, “Gracepoint,” and don’t really see it’s purpose. If you’ve got Netflix access, go with the original.
  • “Olive Kitteridge” is a wonderful little miniseries that I really enjoyed. First of all, Frances McDormand is wonderful in the titular role, but basically all of the acting performances are great. The story is very character-driven, chronicling the lives of Olive and her husband over twenty-five years in a small town in Maine. There are some pretty great poop jokes in the third episode to watch for.
  • “Luther” IS GREAT. I think the world realizes already that Idris Elba is super hot, a fact confirmed from watching this show. However, I had no idea of my love for Ruth Wilson until watching her fantastic performance as Alice Morgan. Elba plays John Luther, a very talented London detective, and Wilson plays a criminal he tracks in the first episode, though their relationships develops a lot from this point. In three short seasons, the show develops lots of great ensemble cast members and features a few surprising character deaths. If you’re a fan of “Sherlock,” you’ll love “Luther.” If you aren’t a fan of “Sherlock,” you obviously haven’t watched the show and I do not wish to speak to you until you have, so get to work.
  • Finally, I finished “Inside Amy Schumer” yesterday. Meh. As my mom and roommate know, I struggled with this one. I marathoned the first season in one day and felt very unsure whether I wanted to continue. It’s so short! my brain said, followed by, But I also kind of hate it! After my internal battle, I decided to continue, but broke up the episodes more than I did with season 1. Season 2 is undoubtedly better, but the show still isn’t one I care much about. It’s a sketch comedy, so some sketches are good and some aren’t. I never found myself laughing aloud. It’s fine, but I doubt I’ll continue on that journey.
  • Now to my current TV projects: yesterday I started my long-anticipated rewatch of “Lost” which I haven’t watched since the show ended in 2010. Since it’s a longer project, I might also slide some shorter things in occasionally to break it up. My mom and I also started “The Affair” last night. I watched the pilot episode in September and wasn’t crazy about it, but after our newfound love of Ruth Wilson (not to mention the fact that she and the show won Golden Globes on Sunday), we’ve decided to give it a shot. After two episodes, I’m at least intrigued and want to keep watching.

Now we turn to movies. I’m currently ten movies deep into 2015, 10% of the way to my goal of seeing 100 new (to me) films this year. I’m doing my best to balance between award-nominated movies, clearing out my Netflix list, and catching up on missed movies at Redbox. You can see the full list on my 2015 Movie List page, but here are my biggest reactions:

  • Foxcatcher is a great, slow-burning movie with fantastic performances. I’m so happy Steve Carell made the cut for his first Oscar nomination.
  • Selma is beautiful and heartbreaking. It’s a real disappointment that David Oyelowo was overlooked for a Best Actor Oscar nomination, but in a year with lots of great performances, it’s an unfortunate truth.
  • I rented Calvary from Redbox because it was one I’d missed at Sundance last year, and I’m now happy I didn’t waste my time on it then. It’s a movie that lacks any certain tone and suffers from poor direction. It’s a pity to see a great cast in a clunker.
  • Pride, on the other hand, is a lovely little indie that’s full of joy. It tells the true story of an LGBT group in London who worked to raise money for a community of Welsh miners who were on strike under Margaret Thatcher’s government. I was pretty much in love with every guy in the movie, despite their being gay. Such is life, I suppose.
  • My last Redbox rental was The Maze Runner. I read the book series over the summer but didn’t see the movie, and I’d say waiting on the DVD release was just fine for me. I think it was a fine adaptation, but I don’t feel the need to rush to the theater for the next one.

To know what I’ve been reading, you can consult my recent blog posts, but my quick recommendations are as follows: Will Grayson, Will Grayson and Looking for Alaska by John Green, Sanctuary by William Faulkner, and On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan. 

It’s not been the most eventful winter break (at least since my return from New York), but it has provided me with plenty of time to do what I do best. I plan to make the most of this time before my unfortunate return to the real world next week.