I read a lot of books this year! And no, I don't remember the names of all the characters, or what all of them were even about. But I had a good time, and I expanded my brain, and I enjoyed every damn minute of it.
Except for the minutes I was reading The Vegetarian. Ugh! Slogged through that one!
I wanted to do a quick wrap up of my favourite books read in 2016, but y'all know I can't do anything quick.
But I am still doing it.
I set a specific goal to read 5 non-fiction books this year, and I blew that away with a final total of 13. They ranged in topic from feminism, celebrity, self help, graphic novel memoirs, science, and science graphic novels!
1. Tied for first place are The Dead Ladies Project, and Shrill. I read Dead Ladies earlier in the year, and it prompted me to actually BUY the book, and I never buy books anymore. The author has a very realistic view on her life. No sugar coating here. This book is definitely not for everyone (most of the reviews I read were not forgiving of her lifestyle or writing style), but she writes about the feeling of "place" in such a powerful way. And I love the insights she gave into other author's imperfect lives as she explores the places they lived and worked.
Shrill was just fucking hilarious, and so woman-oriented. She laid it all bare, being a lady living in this world. Between relationships, abortions, work, sex, dating, being fat, family, sexism, death, online shit...all of it found a place in there. And it was funny because she is funny, but also because you have to have a sense of humour about life and about your self so you don't just die a little extra everyday. I had an opportunity to see Lindy West in person as I was finishing this book, and I am still kicking myself for not jumping on that.
2. I heard about Fire Season on my "All The Books" podcast, and the first thing I thought of was Dan. BFF has always said that a dream job of his would be to work in a fire tower, so I thought I would at least pick it up to gain further insight into my BFF. I was truly blown away by this man's passion for his (dying) industry, his immense specialized knowledge, his respect for nature, and his love of solitude and how he makes it work in his life and relationships.
3. Never did I think that I would pick up a book based on a recommendation from a person with autism for other people with autism, but that is how I found How to Win Friends And Influence People and I am immensely grateful that I did. The insights on speaking with people are still relevant even 70 years after this book came out. Some of his examples are ridiculously out of date, but overall there were a lot of helpful tips and reassurances in this book. Helped with my confidence, that's for sure!
First place was mind-numbingly easy to choose, but second and third was a little bit tougher. I was given some great non-fiction memoir-y graphic novel recommendations this year that were contenders, all of which could have taken at least third spot. So in other words, do yourself a favour and read everything with the words "graphic novel" behind the title in my 2016 Book List.
1. Lumberjanes is clearly the best graphic novel out there right now. In my book list, my entry goes as follows: "GO READ THIS RIGHT NOW!!!! GO GO GOOOOOO!!!!!!!" This book is for lady friend adventuring types, who like mysteries, helping out your gal pals, magic and monsters!
2. Through the Woods was a haunting, mesmerizing read that has stayed with me over the months. In fact, just thinking about it makes me want to check it out of the library again. These are the stories that your ancestors told each other around the fire, to warn the kids about what would happen if you wandered too far from the village, or didn't listen to your parents. "Spooky" doesn't even begin to describe it. You may not be able to put your feet on the floor upon getting out of bed with the same nonchalance as before. And the illustrations were a perfect companion.
3. My Book Club chose Seconds for one of the months I couldn't attend, but I read it anyway. The illustrations were gorgeous, and the story was spectacular and fantastical! Reminded me of a fairy tale, with a fairy godmother that's maybe not all she is cracked up to be, and "a moral of the story" kind of ending.
I read A LOT of fantasy books this year! It's a genre that I keep coming back to, as I know what to expect (for the most part), and I always enjoy the titles I choose for one reason or another.
1. I still think about some of the scenes from Vassa in the Night. I don't think it showed up on any big "best of the year" lists, but it should have! This is what happens when Russian folklore Baba Yaga is played out in our modern world, in the form of a 24 hour a day convenience store, where all shoplifters meet with an untimely end, and Night is the ultimate night watchman. Be prepared for some weird shit, magic, and axe wielding disembodied hands.
2. There is so much to love about the Owl series, and when I finished the last one, I was very disappointed to learn that I had caught up with the books that have already been released and that I would have to wait until next year for the next installment. Owl is a disgraced anthropology student, traveling the world with her Incubus boyfriend (on again off again), and best friend. She was kicked out of her field because she ran across the undead on one of her digs and didn't cover it up like she was supposed to. Now she steals artifacts from dig sights around the world, with a gang of vampires on her trail. Her current boss is a cranky dragon. Yep...it's as awesome as all that.
3. Third place sees a tie between The Girl in Fairyland series and Anno Dracula. The Girl in Fairyland hits so many genres for me, and feels like so many other stories (Oz, Narnia), and it offers something to every age of reader. You may think that fairyland means light and fluffy, but while these books are a light read, they tackle some serious subject matter. Royal tyrants, blood thirsty lions, dangerous quests, and magic. Oh so much magic. If you ever thought it would be fun to be whisked away to a fairyland, these books are a must read.
I am surprised that I liked Anno Dracula as much as I did. I thought it would be like one of those books that has an amazing premise, but the writing and actual storytelling fails to live up to it. But I was wrong, and this book definitely lived up to my assumptions! Books that combine history with fantasy are totally in my wheelhouse, and this book did it with some of my favourite classics! Dracula (yes, Vlad the Impaler) is now King of England after marrying Queen Victoria. Vampirism is spreading and they are no longer hiding in the shadows. In fact, the entire world is being reshaped to accommodate them. A vampire prostitute is murdered, and the hunt for Jack the Ripper begins. Apparently, this book is part of a series, so I am off to epl.ca to see if I can put the next one on hold. If you like cross-genre, historical fiction, this is the book for you!
I read a lot of YA fiction this year, which I think gets a bad rap because people think YA books are filled with immature themes, sappy romances, and inconsequential events. And I mean, they are, but so are so-called adult books! And most of the YA books I have read definitely deal with adult subject matter, get into the nitty gritty realism of teenaged life, and are not "fluff" books. They aren't all sparkly vampires y'know...
2. The Boundless was one of those books that I grabbed for Lucas, and then ended up devouring myself and him showing zero to negative interest in it! The book starts in the past of a young boy's life, in which his father is working to build an amazing railroad across Canada that will run the longest train ever constructed, yet is continually threatened by Sasquatches killing off the work crews. We jump ahead to the future, where the railroad baron who built the magnificent, city-sized train is dead, and his father is lead engineer on its maiden voyage. But a nefarious plan is afoot, and the young man must work his way through the train with the help of some circus performers to prevent a catastrophe! Targeted for middle readers, it is so full of magic, intrigue, danger, and humour that it would delight any age of reader.
3. This One Summer is also a graphic novel, by the lovely cousins Tamaki. I think this book perfectly encapsulates a young teenage girl's summer. Boredom and restlessness, a cute boy, a best friend, dealing with jerky parents, learning about adult shit before you're really ready. A simple, almost universal experience, captured in such a poetic way. I can almost feel the lazy heat and frustrations from here. I read another title by Mariko Tamaki this year, and it was also such a perfect exploration of surviving the trials of high school. Definitely recommended for the teens in your life! I just learned that This One Summer was pulled from some libraries because of mature content...so in that case, I DEFINITELY WHOLEHEARTEDLY recommend this for the teens in your life!! (P.S. in the link I shared above the author does an amazing job - much better than me - describing this book.)
Yikes! Top Five was tough, but I managed to narrow it down. But I did! Yay me! I went with my gut for this one, choosing books that have stuck with me, books that I still think about.
Even This Page is White by Vivek Shraya
I can't remember why I started following Vivek on instagram, but I am sure glad I did. She is a multi-talented trans-woman from Mill Woods of all places! Her poems are about being queer, trans, brown, in a world that is overwhelmingly straight, cis, & white. Very mature content, but we're all mature adults here. Bold, and very personal, this is a book for today.
How to Build a Girl by Catlin Moran
It really surprised me that I loved this book so much. I think it helped that I listened to the audio book. I didn't like the non-fiction that I read of hers, but her fiction is breathtaking. I love it even more now that I know it was based partly on her own life! It portrays a family living on government assistance, with a rebellious daughter, who eventually leaves school and starts writing about music for a local magazine.
The Dead Ladies Project: Exiles, Expats & Ex-Countries by Jessa Crispin
I don't buy books anymore - thanks to my library card - but I bought this book after I read it the first time around. I can't explain why it spoke to me, why it effected me so much, but it did.
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Whoo boy was this ever a difficult and amazing read. The book begins in Africa, in the area that will become Ghana. We start to follow the lives of two women, one who is married off to a white slaver and one who is captured in her village by an enemy tribe and sold into slavery. The subsequent chapters each detail the life of one of each woman's ancestors. The breadth and depth of this book is astounding, but it is attended to in such a way that we learn a little bit about the lives of all of these ancestors as their world changes, a window into their decisions and choices (or lack of choices) that fit into the bigger picture.
Ghost Summer: Stories by Tananarive Due
These stories were so mesmerizing. They were spooky and unsettling, yet full of humanity and grace. They made me seek out her back catalogue, they made me want to read every last word she has ever written. A great cross of genres, she manages to work suspense into the shorter pieces so wonderfully, and fleshes out all of her characters, even if you only meet them for a moment.
Aannnnnddd that took forever! My brain is fried! Kudos and props and all that jazz to those people who have to write book reviews for a living. I think I have reached my review quota for at least another year.
I hope you enjoyed this recap of my favourite books in 2016. It's my FIFTH ANNIVERSARY of doing this! I've already created my Book List 2017 page that will go live in January. I can't wait to see what next year will bring!