Tuesday, January 3, 2017

best of 2016 | best books

2016 Books and Beverages collage
Follow what I read and chat with me about books on Instagram: @funnelcloudrach | #booksandbeverages

2016 was a great reading year - I read 62 books, explored different genres with the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge, joined Goodreads, and enjoyed discussing books with my online book club. The year started off with the creation of the Virtual Book Club with Veronika and Karen. Our first selection was the most boring book I have ever read in my life (H is for Hawk - HOW does this have 4 stars on Amazon?!) and we ripped that book a new one in our online discussion. I had tears of laughter running down my face at each new hilarious comment, and with that, our group was forever bonded in snarkiness. Luckily, every book club pick after that was excellent. (Though honestly, I think we have more fun discussing the bad ones!) In June, we lost Karen to cancer and I also lost some of my mojo for reading (and life). But I did keep reading throughout the year, more consistently than I ever have.

Here's what I read in 2016:

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby
Snapper by Brian Kimberling
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley
H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald
Ghost Boy by Martin Pistorius
Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
Lumberjanes, Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy by Noelle Stevenson
Lumberjanes, Vol. 2: Friendship to the Max by Noelle Stevenson
Wake Up: The Morning Routine That Will Change Your Life by Jeff Finley
Thru-Hiking Will Break Your Heart by Carrot Quinn
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo and Me by Ellen Forney
The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins
Seconds by Bryan Lee O'Malley
A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines
Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg
Slade House by David Mitchell
Tomboy by Liz Prince
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Boy on Ice: The Life and Death of Derek Boogaard by John Branch
The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin
Paris: A Love Story by Kati Marton
Pretty Good Number One: An American Family Eats Tokyo by Matthew Amster-Burton
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
Stitches by David Small
The Martian by Andy Weir
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel
The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson
This is the Life by Alex Shearer
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Black River by S.M. Hulse
Ethel and Ernest by Raymond Briggs
Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle
Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut
This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki
A Thousand Mornings by Mary Oliver
300 Days of Sun by Deborah Lawrenson
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
Blue Horses by Mary Oliver
The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
The Council of Dads by Bruce Feiler
Miss American Pie by Margaret Sartor
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
Love, Loss, and What We Ate by Padma Lakshmi
Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelson
Why I Wake Early by Mary Oliver
Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family by Amy Ellis Nutt
You Can Never Find a Rickshaw When it Monsoons by Mo Willems
Shelter by Jung Yun
Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli
Unbecoming by Jenny Downham
Yes, Please by Amy Poehler (audiobook)
A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama (audiobook)
Land of Shadows by Rachel Howzell Hall
Essays After Eighty by Donald Hall
The North Water by Ian McGuire
Simpatico by Sam Shepard
Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe (audiobook)

And the breakdown, because I love these types of stats:

Total Number of Books: 62
Fiction: 30
Non-Fiction: 29
Poetry Collections: 3
Graphic Novels: 13
Audiobooks: 3
By Male Authors: 31
By Female Authors: 31

A 50/50 split between fiction/non-fiction and male/female authors! This makes me feel pretty good that I'm reading a wide variety of books.

Favorite Books | Did You Ever Have a Family
                             Burial Rites
                             The Martian

Larry has always teased me about loving depressing books, and my favorites definitely confirm that. I loved Bill Clegg's Did You Ever Have a Family, but the premise is heartbreaking. And Hannah Kent's Burial Rites, which is based on a true event (and which I read in preparation for our trip to Iceland last summer), is downright bleak and crushingly sad. On the other hand, Americanah and The Martian aren't sad books, and they definitely lived up to the hype they've gotten over the past few years. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is an incredible writer and incredibly smart and I can't wait to read more of her books. And I never ever thought I would read, much less include in my favorites, a book called The Martian (which Larry kept recommending me to me and I kept ignoring), but I must admit I loved it. (And the movie was pretty good, too.) It may not be high-brow literature, but it was pure entertainment and I got thoroughly sucked in and couldn't put it down.

A few other good ones: if you enjoy a thrilling summer page turner, I enjoyed The Kind Worth Killing more than both Gone Girl and Girl on the Train. Station Eleven also lived up to the hype, and I'll admit I was reluctant to read it because I am not at all interested in dystopian books. (Larry enjoyed this one, too.) This is the Life and Essays After Eighty may not be everyone's cup of tea, but they provided thoughtful, humorous, insightful nuggets about life. And The North Water was the most masculine book I've ever read - brutal, gruesome, and perverse. You've been warned! It is savage, bloody, and definitely NOT for everyone, (there are only I few people I would confidently recommend this to, my husband being one of them) but it was also captivating and I couldn't stop turning pages. Another manly book is Black River, a modern western, which was surprisingly written by a woman.

My favorite graphic novel was Tomboy. If you were ever bullied or felt like you didn't fit in as a child, you'll relate to this one - Liz Prince nails it. My favorite audiobook was The Audacity of Hope, which is narrated by Barack Obama himself. I found his voice and his thoughts to be so soothing and reassuring during my post-election depression. I'm hoping to listen to more audiobooks in 2017, now that I've found that I strongly prefer memoirs which are read by the author. Several months ago I got hooked on embroidery and I've found that it's the perfect repetitive/mindless task to work on while listening to a book. I've also surprisingly been enjoying reading poetry - but only Mary Oliver. I find reading a few of her poems (which are mostly about nature or dogs) first thing in the morning is almost meditative and gives me a better outlook on starting my day. I'm still skeptical of other poetry, but Mary Oliver is awesome.

I've been struggling with whether I should set reading goals for 2017. On the one hand, I love setting goals and know that they motivate me to read more, and on the other, I feel that having a goal turns reading for pleasure into an assignment and takes the fun out of an activity that I'm doing for my own enjoyment. I know I want to read a lot, but should I put a number on it? My goal for 2016 was to read 52 books (one book per week) and I was able to exceed that goal, but does setting a number discourage me from reading longer books?  One reason that I was able to read a lot of books this year is because I read some poetry collections and graphic novels which were extremely fast reads. But I have a couple of 1,000 pagers sitting on my shelves that I was never inspired to tackle. I also enjoyed working on the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge in both 2015 and 2016, but both years I came close, but never finished the challenge. The challenges definitely got me to read lots of books that I wouldn't have ordinarily picked up (science fiction, poetry, post-apocalyptic, horror, comics, a play), but does it matter that I didn't complete the challenge? Another goal is to keep working my way though the Pulitzer winners, and yet another is to read more of the books that have been sitting unread on our own shelves. So little time, so many books! What should I do? Part of me wants to set a specific reading goal for 2017, and the other part of me says my reading goal should be to read whatever I want!

I'm curious to hear what others think about reading goals! And if you'd like to join our virtual book club (which I think we should re-name to Snarky Virtual Book Club!), connect with me on Goodreads and I'll send you an invite!


Anonymous said...

I just sent you a request on Goodreads. I love setting a goal for # of books each year. Didn't make it in 2016, but maybe 2017 I will. I thought about doing the Read Harder Challenge, but haven't committed yet. I read just about anything!

little green field book said...

Yessss! I'm drafting up my 2016 books post too, but will have to post when I get back to KR and have full use of my computer...hmm...maybe my sis has a laptop...

I'm the best at writing/hoarding lists, and the worst at completing them. But maybe, instead of trying to complete, say, a read harder type book challenge, you can come up with your own? I was kind of toying with the idea of creating collaborative book "goals" for our book club. Maybe they don't have to actually have anything to do with reading books, but maybe something or some way a book has inspired you. Just thinking out loud...

I only set out to read 25 books this year. In previous years I always started strong but then petered out at the end. This year I blew my goal out of the water which made me think, damn I do actually have time to read (especially if I'm not always watching my beloved reality tv). Our book club really pushed me when I didn't feel like reading at all because I knew at the very least I could read 1 book a month. And then, once I started reading, I got hooked all over again. Repeat every month.

We might need to change the name of our book club to "snarky f'in virtual book club where sometimes we read the books and sometimes we don't" or "h is for hawk hater club."

little green field book said...
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