Another year has gone, and it’s that time where readers round up and look back at the books they’ve read the past year, and see which ones stand out. My list is not the order of most to least; I’m looking at my Goodreads challenge page, and going from beginning to end of 2016.
So, without further ado —
The Versions of Us (review)
I read this for the offline book club I attend, and it’s been an interesting read. Two characters, with three different stories of their romance, lives, and individual struggles. I had to take intense notes to keep up with the three versions, but I felt rewarded having been able to keep up when I got to the end, and the different conclusions to the protagonists’ story was both thought-provoking and touching.
A Darker Shade of Magic (review)
I haven’t read good fantasy in a long time. The last one I was so mentally engaged with was Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, roughly four or five years ago. This doesn’t have the level of detail as Mistborn, but it was enough for me. It was interesting, it was engaging, and the plot and action were running. If I had not been as disappointed with YA/NA fantasy lately, this probably would not have made such a mark, but I was starved, so this lit me up considerably.
To The Lighthouse
This was the year I finally read Virginia Woolf. My first one was Mrs Dalloway, which gave me quite a headache — it was a different style of writing that I was accustomed to, but it was a challenge I was willing to take, especially since I was accompanied by other ladies in bookstagram. After having somewhat of an idea of Woolf’s style, To The Lighthouse was a bit (just a teeny bit) easier to handle and understand, and the realisations that came from the text came out easier. While I don’t think I’ll count Woolf among my favourite authors (she can call me a simpleton), this year will be memorable for me as the year where I finally read and discovered Virginia Woolf.
The Life and Death of Sophie Stark
This is the first (and only?) book that all of us in the offline book club agreed on as ‘really good’. I don’t see it often on social media, but this story of a woman, told from different perspectives, shows what the price could be if one relentlessly and unapologetically seeks to present art in its truest and rawest form. Brilliant and gripping storytelling.
The Muse (review)
I keep talking about this book on my Instagram lately — a book that has mystery, romance, war, art, and thought-provoking to boot. I can’t plug this book enough. I wish there was a paperback of it out, so I could have bought a bagful and given them out as Christmas presents! As someone who struggles with balancing work and my creative outlet (blogging and bookstagram), it was quite affecting.
I remember dragging my heels to read this. It was part of ‘the travelling book’ group I joined with some bookstagrammers, where one book gets passed around to different people in different states/countries. I let it lie for a week or two when it got me before realising that I’m making everyone else wait, so I got to it. And I can’t believe I was delaying with this book — it was sad, it was scary, but there was a small strand of hope, some bittersweetness, that gives you that pleasant-but-sigh-inducing ache in your heart after closing. Fans of dystopian books wouldn’t be disappointed with this one for sure.
We Should All Be Feminists
Adichie didn’t say anything I haven’t already realised for myself, but I love being able to say in my head, “preach, girl!” and marking various parts of this very slim book that is a text of the speech Adichie made for a TEDTalk. It’s brief but to the point, and I bought several copies to give out as presents for younger female cousins who are in a culture that isn’t much different from what Adichie grew up in. I want my younger cousins not to have to worry what society tells them when to marry, when boys tell them they’re too ambitious, to not give a fuck when someone says they can’t do it because they’re a girl.
An Ember in the Ashes
This one is memorable to me for a personal reason. The story itself isn’t bad; it’s t!one of the good YA novels out there, actually, but I can think of a more poignant fantasy book I’ve read. HOWEVER, what it made remarkable for me was the experience: my sister, never been a big reader like myself, read this book on my suggestion and loved it. On top of that, we read it together — first time ever! — and it was great fun sharing the pleasure of reading even if we’re in different continents. We went on to read the sequel, and we cannot wait for the third one to come out!
When Breath Becomes Air
I was coming off from a severe reading slump when I read this. The prose was simple but the message, for me, was stirring and poignant. We all get absorbed in chasing our goals that we sometimes forget the big picture. I found Dr Kalathini brave for being able to gracefully face his diagnosis, especially knowing the prognosis of the disease, and I could feel his gratefulness for being given a chance to be able to do some of the other things he wanted to do (like write, have a son) before passing away. There’s a message in this book for everyone, although it may not be to everyone’s taste.
I’ve been attempting to read this one since the beginning of the year since it seems to be the second most well-loved Austen book after Pride & Prejudice. It’s not as popular as, say, Sense & Sensibility, but I’ve never had anyone completely write off this book. I may make a post about this book in the future, or it may be relegated to my bujo — either way, I was struck by the quiet strength of it. It doesn’t have the frivolity of Pride & Prejudice, but the writing is no less entertaining nor the romance less…romantic. If Pride & Prejudice is a book for younger lovers, this one is for those who are older and have experienced the lessons that can only be learned through time. I’m still not over thinking about it, which is making it hard for me to start another book!
And there you have it! I didn’t set out to choose 10 books, but it’s nice that it rounded up to that number.
I’m currently looking at the catalogues of UK publishers to see what books coming out next year would pique my interest, and it’s not helping my plan to stop buying so many books or to regulate my monthly reading so I can (possibly) review more! I’ve been failing on the reviewing and blogging yet again, and I’m hoping I can think of a system where I can balance my offline life (work, chores, socials) with reading, blogging, and bookstagramming.
How about you? What were your favourite reads of 2016? Link me up to your blog posts if you’ve made one!