It somehow occurred to me that a) I had not posted to this blog in over a year *gulp* and that b) 2016 is over in the next two days. At first, I thought 2016 was a fairly disturbing year. It still is in several aspects, but then I looked at my Goodreads challenge. Many, many fantastic reads came across my desk this year, and I can’t wait to see what the 2017 literary world has in store for me.
I read 45 total books this year, 5 short of my goal of 50 (which believe it or not was originally a goal of 100! What was I thinking?). I’m quite pleased with my result, though, because several of the books I read this year were in French. My native language is English, but I have been studying French for 7-8 years now.
These are in no particular order, so I’ll start with nonfiction.
This is the memoir of the former Chief Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary. Lexicography lovers will rejoice that Mr. Simpson takes frequent pauses from the narrative to go into the history of a word he just used. (If that kind of thing bores you, well, you could just just skip those parts and continue with the memoir part.) This book awakened the word nerd in me, and though I’m not technically finished with it (it’s very wordy and hard to read large amounts in a single sitting), it made my list for the year.
The librarian in me would like you to know that if you like The Word Detective, you may also enjoy The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester. (It is another book about the OED.) Same goes in the other direction- if you read Simon Winchester’s book, read John Simpson’s!
In addition to entertain, Gloria Steinem’s latest book inspired me to be more of an activist in my daily life. As opposed to sitting back and just wishing change would happen, Gloria moves and makes change happen herself. If you love traveling and activism, you’ll truly be moved by Steinem’s book.
I read this thanks to Emma Watson’s book club. Check out the rest of her reading list for similar reads: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/179584-our-shared-shelf
While My Life on the Road was one of the first things I read this year, Cat’s Eye was one of my most recent reads. I had never read an Atwood novel before, and I suppose I was really craving some feminism in my reading. Along came Cat’s Eye, a beautifully-composed story of female friendship that passes back and forth between the narrator now and a narration of her childhood and coming-of-age. This book blew me away in more ways than one, and I can’t recommend it enough.
If you enjoy creative writing like I do, you may find yourself completely inspired to write while reading Atwood’s breathtaking sentences. I wish I had the book with me right now to insert some examples. Seriously though, Margaret Atwood’s writing style is the paragon I strive towards in my descriptions.
First of all, if you haven’t seen Adichie’s “We Should All Be Feminists” video, you should definitely watch it. The transcription is also available as a book, but Adichie is very a persuasive speaker.
Anyway, Americanah is the story of Ifemelu, a Nigerian woman who moves to the United States to pursue her studies. Obinze, the man she loves, cannot join her. The two are separated for years, and Obinze winds up living undocumented in London. While in the United States, Ifemelu builds up some cyber-fame blogging about race in the U.S. But when Obinze and Ifemelu return home years later, many things have changed. This novel is engaging, funny, bold and beautiful. I look forward to reading more of the author’s work!
I didn’t expect this book to make the list, even though I enjoyed. However, it has stuck with me for months, and I am constantly reminded of its message whenever I catch myself singing a commercial-jingle around the house. (Wayfair has what I need…AH!)
This is a frighteningly-accurate satire of Jack Gladney, a professor of Hitler Studies at an American college. (Yes, Hitler studies.) Jack’s world is numbed by the effects and appeals of technology. The white noise mentioned in the title is everywhere, and it doesn’t escape, even when you are sleeping. You will not see commercials and TV the same way after reading this novel, that much I know.
Brace yourself for several Jane Austen novels on this list. I read her entire body of work this year, save for a few short stories. So, it is only natural that several of them make it on this list.
Northanger Abbey appeals to many for its Gothic plot. You’ve got a creepy castle (that would be the “Northanger Abbey”), a thriller-loving heroine (Catherine) and some classic romance to go along with it. Of course, I personally was not entirely wooed by the gentleman of choice, but hey, that’s not what I read Austen for anyway!
Ok, this was a re-read (I first read it in 2015) but I am convinced it still counts.
This is Jane Austen’s classic tale of romance and folly judgments. Elizabeth Bennet cannot stand the idea of prideful Mr. Darcy. She also cannot stand the idea of marrying…Mr. Collins. (Here is where we get some comedy.) However, first impressions, as the novel was first titled, do not always stand the test of time.
If you’ve read Pride and Prejudice, I recommend watching the 2005 movie version with Keira Knightley, as well as The Lizzie Bennet Diaries on Youtube. (FANTASTIC for binge-watching.)
I also finally got over my reservations and watched “Pride, Prejudice and Zombies.” I can do a full review of the movie if you want, but in short, uh, well… it isn’t Jane Austen. It was entertaining, and frightening/gross, but it…was unintentionally comically far from the original (though I know it based on the book, Pride, Prejudice and Zombies). Also, what is up with Mr. Bingley’s sideburns? And why is the world so unconcerned that zombies roam around? I mean, bars or a fence wouldn’t hurt?
Masterpiece. This is a masterpiece and I am still, months later, in awe.
Yaa Gyasi begins with the stories of two girls, sisters Effia and Esi, in Ghana during the 1700’s. Efi, born in a different village than Effia, is sold into the horrific slave trade and lives in a dungeon beneath Cape Coast Castle. We follow her thread through generations, as well as Effia’s, spanning continents and centuries to the present. Some may be put off by the fact that each chapter is a different character (a descendent of Effia or Esi), but stick with it, for it will all make sense by the end.
Honorable mentions: Emma by Jane Austen, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (and its sequel), The Storied Life of A.J Fikry, Fahrenheit 451.
I hope my list will inspire your 2017 lists. Let me know what some of your favorite reads were, and if you share some of mine!