It’s been quite the year on both a personal and global level – for me, I got a new job, traveled quite a bit, and reached my goal of reading 50 books! So, I thought it would be fitting to do a year-end review of the books I read. I got these questions off of a Tumblr post which I unfortunately can’t find now, but please let me know if you have the link so I can give credit.
1. A book you loved: The Hakawati by Rabih Alameddine. Not something I would have ever chosen for myself, but it was recommended to me by a friend. I’m so glad I picked it up – nominally about a Lebanese expat returning to his home to be at his father’s deathbed, the story fantastically twines with the protagonist’s personal history, his family history, and classic Middle Eastern stories.
2. A book you hated: Anatomy of a Soldier by Harry Parker. This was about a British soldier in Afghanistan; its gimmick was that the story was told by various objects the soldier comes into contact with, like a bullet or an IV bag or a boot. Good concept, but each object had such a flat voice it was difficult to engage with the characters or the story.
3. The most surprising book: Kraken by China Miéville. This was the first book I finished in 2016 and one of the things that most stood out to me was constantly being blown away by the story. Miéville really built up a rich world for this story, and it was fascinating to see how all the little components came together along the way.
4. The most interesting villain: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon. It’s hard to say that the antagonist of this story is truly a villain because she’s motivated by good intentions, but that definitely made her all the more interesting.
5. The best makeouts: I’m going to go with ‘best love story’ for this one since I don’t remember any makeouts in particular, and that would be South of Sunshine by Dana Elmendorf. This was a really cute story about coming out not only to family and friends, but also to yourself.
6. A book that was super frustrating: Feather Crowns by Bobbie Ann Mason. This book was about half again as long as it needed to be, and something happens midway through the book that nearly made me stop reading. Instead of feeling bad for the characters when I should have, I just felt frustrated with the whole story.
7. A book you texted about, and the text was IN CAPSLOCK: I’ve been telling everyone about The Mothers by Brit Bennett. A deeply moving story about the relationships between mothers, daughters, and female friends. The prose carries you away and the story is captivating – read it!
8. A book for the small children in your life: I unabashedly read the entire Warriors: The New Prophecy series by Erin Hunter at the beginning of 2016. The original Warriors series was a favorite from my childhood, and I’m glad I saw how the story continued further. TBD whether or not I’ll read the next series in 2017…
9. A book you learned from: Let’s take this literally: I read and annotated Adulting by Kelly Williams Brown, both to learn for myself and to later give to my sister as a graduation present. Lots of useful tips for being a functional adult.
10. A book you wouldn’t normally try: The House Gun by Nadine Gordimer. This was recommended by a friend for the book challenge I was partially doing. It was set in South Africa and centered around the legal system there – very interesting, but not something I would’ve picked out myself!
11. A book with something magical in it: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton. Magical realism at its finest with lyrical, syrupy prose. I loved how the book traced the family’s history and all the strange things that happened to them in such a matter-of-fact way.
12. The best clothes: Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente. 1920s-40s era clothes – in space!
13. The most well-rounded characters: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I loved hearing from both a French girl and a German boy, and how the story explored the various factors that led them to play their parts in WWII.
14. The best world-building: Redwall by Brian Jacques. I never read this as a kid, but picked it up at my boyfriend’s suggestion. I really liked the complexity of the world, and can definitely see myself devouring the rest of the series if I had found it when I was younger.
15. The worst world-building: The Detainee by Peter Liney. This was the weirdest, most nonsensically anti-Millennial book I’ve read in a while. Interesting premise – non-useful people go live on an island of trash, but the character development and world-building were sorely lacking.
16. A book with a good sidekick: The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle. I’m sure Schmendrick the Magician wouldn’t like being called a sidekick, but I loved his characterization of fitting within the stereotypical magician trope at the beginning of his story and then slowly expanding beyond it.
17. The most insufferable narrator: Zodiac by Romina Russell. I know the narrator is a super special teenager with the weight of the galaxy just placed on her shoulders, but I couldn’t get over her unrealistic and inconsistent reactions and bizarre rationalizations.
18. A book you were excited to read for months beforehand: Under the Dome by Stephen King. I was excited to read this one since I bought it in a used bookstore – $5 for a hardcover! I skipped a few in my reading order so I read this sooner than I ‘should have’.
19. A book you picked up on a whim: Moving Mars by Greg Bear. I saw it at a book festival for $1 and couldn’t resist giving it a try.
20. A book that should be read in a foreign country: Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe. A daughter who recently suffered a breakdown and her father travel to their ancestral home of Vilnius. Lots about culture shock and grappling with the fact that what you imagine a place to be like often is not often close to reality.
21. A book Cassian Andor would like: The Fireman by Joe Hill. I think he’d appreciate the unsung hero who’s figured out how to turn a curse to his advantage.
22. A book Gina Linetti would like: The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis. Badass women standing up for themselves and taking no shit, even if it’s not in the most healthy of ways? Say no more.
23. Your favorite cover art: House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. This book definitely wins for overall design, not just cover art. A great example of how content can influence form and vice versa.
24. A book you read in translation: I don’t think I read any translations this year! 😦
25. A book from another century: Smoke by Dan Vyleta. Set in an alternative history 20th century England.
26. A book you reread: World War Z by Max Brooks. I first read it in 2013 but found myself thinking more and more about the stories, so decided to give it another read. I’m glad I did – I caught a lot of stuff I didn’t see the first time!
27. A book you’re dying to talk about, and why: The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters. The first pre-apocalyptic novel I’ve ever read – it’s about a small-town New Hampshire policeman trying to solve a murder nine months before an asteroid is scheduled to hit the Earth.
Books I read that weren’t mentioned here:
Slade House, David Mitchell
The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern
Salt & Storm, Kendall Kulper
There Will Be Lies, Nick Lake
Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut
All Those Vanished Engines, Paul Park
Adaptation, Malinda Lo
Unbecoming, Rebecca Scherm
She’s Come Undone, Wally Lamb
Uprooted, Naomi Novik
A Tyranny of Petticoats, Jessica Spotswood (ed.)
Single, Carefree, Mellow, Katherine Heiny
Sleeping Giants, Sylvain Neuvel
In A Dark, Dark Wood, Ruth Ware
The Witch’s Daughter, Paula Brackston
The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016, Karen Joy Fowler (ed.)
City of Strangers, Louise Millar
Pure, Julianna Baggott
Mostly Void, Partially Stars, Joseph Fink
You Are One of Them, Elliott Holt