Monday, January 9, 2017

Books of 2016

It's been a hot minute since I talked about the things I've read (last post was for 2013!!), but I have been keeping track. I finished 19 books last year. Not spectacular, but hey, at least I'm reading!

First, the list:
  1. Quite a Year for Plums by Bailey White, finished 2/9/16 - meh. Didn't really connect with the characters.
  2. Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson, finished 2/20/2016 - (reread for book club) hilarious (for the second time) because, duh, it's The Bloggess. Also discussion at church book club made me realize there are fewer mentally ill people than I thought?? At least, I feel like I know a higher than average number of people fighting mental illness. And also it's possible the Bloggess appeals mostly to those battling mental illness and she is not quite as hilarious/accessible to those without such issues.
  3. Spooning by Darri Stephens & Megan DeSales, finished 3/5/2016 - Spent most of the book being frustrated with Charlotte for her inability to accept that a guy is not into her, and regardless he's incapable of acting like a decent human being in his interactions, so she should ditch him. And also maybe be a little less shallow/more accepting of the state of her human body. I don't really need to read hundreds of pages of inner monologue of an insecure woman's hate for her own body, I get enough of that sort of message from media and advertising.
  4. Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee, finished 3/5/2016 - Wouldn't call it absorbing, but it was very interesting. And well-written, because I found myself sympathizing with the majority of the characters who, if I'd met them in real life, I'd probably dislike. The most weird thing was the narration in third-person omniscient voice. Maybe it's because I'm so used to a limited voice in novels, but it gets rather confusing to constantly know the internal states of almost every character in a scene. Still, overall, a good book.
  5. The Tiara Club by Beverly Brandt, finished 3/28/2016 - A fun read! Categorized as "Chick Lit", meaning it's focused on female characters who have romantic interests in the story, because we all know guys would never want to read something where women are the subjects of the narrative, making their own decisions about love and life. (Yes, heavy sarcasm in that sentence!) Had some mystery elements thrown in, and the big reveal at the end was definitely a surprise. I could complain that it came out of nowhere, but honestly life is like that sometimes, so it seems reasonable enough.
  6. Crescent by Diana Abu-Jaber, finished 4/21/16 - Pretty good. Lots of talk about food, and love and relationships. Kind of makes me want to visit the Middle East (slash I feel like I almost have been there). Nice to read a love story that focuses on middle aged people, as well. And romance novels have their time, but it was good to read a love story with literary depth.
  7. He's Got To Go by Sheila O'Flanagan, finished 4/23/2016 - Cute! Managed to capture a realistic dynamic between three grown sisters. A fun read.
  8. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling, finished 4/27/2016 - Amazing, obviously! And totally counts, even if it is a reread.
  9. Second Nature by Alice Hoffman, finished 5/8/2016 - Fine. Sort of an interesting cross between a romance and mystery novel, although the "mystery" wasn't really developed until the very last bit of the book. And also it was super easy to figure out. I guess it just felt too predictable, although the writing was very good. And I did learn there are actually mountains in Michigan, so there's that.
  10. What is the What by Dave Eggers, finished 7/1/16 - Good. Intense, as you might expect a novel/autobiography of a Lost Boy of Sudan to be. Something about the narration, though, made it feel kind of… distant? Dissociated? I dunno, just not very vivid. Still a really great book.
  11. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford, finished 7/2/16 - So good! Very sweet, very romantic, and also very sobering re: what people do in the name of patriotism. It really highlights the tension that can arise in relationships across social boundaries. And definitely brings up some knotty questions about privilege and what those with privilege (of any kind) can/should do to aid those with less privilege. Seems especially fitting to have read this story in days when the news is full of people calling for the ghettoization (if not internment) of fellow citizens who happen to follow a different faith, and crying for the exclusion of refugees in the name of "national security," as though keeping out one particular Other will really solve all our problems.
  12. Stupid Cupid by Arabella Weir, finished 8/3/16 - Meh. Not really captivating. Or surprising. Or relatable. Supposedly it's "laugh-out-loud funny" but maybe you have to be British to find the humor in it…
  13. Shaken and Stirred by Colette Caddle, finished 8/30/16 - pretty good. Light, but fun!
  14. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, finished 9/25/16 - (for book club) So good! Beautifully written, and also a fascinating look at identity and assimilation. The dialogue really brought the story to life.
  15. The Bread of Angels by Stephanie SaldaƱa, finished 10/23/16 - (for book club) really good! Made me want to learn Arabic, and also do a month-long retreat of silence in order to figure out what to do with my life.
  16. The Name of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, finished 10/27/16 - Awesome! But so many mysteries and questions to be answered…
  17. Hogfather by Terry Pratchett, finished 11/24/16 - (reread for book club) Probably my favorite Discworld novel :-)
  18. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, finished 12/2/2016 - bleh. Generally I enjoy magic realism, and possibly it was the translation that made this novel drag on so, but I just could not get into this book! Which feels weird to me, because GGM is widely acknowledged as the "father" and quintessential author in the genre.
  19. The Twelve Clues of Christmas by Rhys Bowen, finished 12/3/2016 - fun and quick! An intriguing mystery, but not too creepy. And quaintly British. If I came across other books in the series and read them, I wouldn't be mad about it!

Ultimately, I'd recommend 5 of these books to just about anybody - Furiously Happy (Lawson), Crescent (Abu-Jaber), Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (Ford), Americanah (Adichie), and Hogfather (Pratchett). Of course I'd recommend the whole Harry Potter series to everyone, and for people who know they like long, involved fantasy stories The Name of The Wind (Rothfuss) is an A+ choice, even if the final book in the trilogy hasn't yet been published.