Sunday, 1 January 2017

2016: A Year In Books

Despite the resolution I made this time last year to read more varied genres, in 2016 I once again stuck to a fairly limited diet of crime, thrillers and YA, with a smattering of literary fiction and non-fiction (all links will take you to my original review of the book).

Best Book I Read In 2016 (Broken Down By Genre If Necessary)
YA
I really enjoyed Dumplin by Julie Murphy, gloriously fat-positive YA and a book I would have loved to have read when I was a teenager. I also adored This Song Will Save Your Life, which reflected many of my own teenage experiences.
Contemporary/Literary Fiction
The Museum Of You by Carys Bray was just stunning: a moving meditation on grief and family, and properly funny too.
Sci-fi/Fantasy
I read the Daughter Of Smoke & Bone trilogy at the very start of 2016 and was absolutely hooked. Fantasy is not my usual cup of tea, but this tale of the battles between chimera and angels, across multiple worlds, transcend genre.
Thriller
I read Lie With Me when on holiday in September and thought it was brilliant, while The Kind Worth Killing is one of the best psychological thrillers I've ever read, and one I've pressed upon many other readers.
Non-Fiction
A Man Of Good Hope by Jonny Steinberg chronicles the life of one Somalian refugee and is absolutely essential reading in today's world.

Most Surprising (In A Good Way) Book Of 2016
I love Pride & Prejudice and I love Curtis Sittenfeld, so it shouldn't be surprising that I loved Eligible, her modern take on P&P. And yet I've hated most of the other Austen Project books, so I was shocked but thrilled to adore this.

Book I Read In 2016 That I Recommended Most To Others
As my job is now literally recommending books, there are so many I could mention here. But outside of work, my most recommended books have to be the Murder Most Unladylike series. I ended the year by buying piles of them for my nieces.

Best Series I Discovered In 2016
As someone who's not overly keen on reading series (I hate having to commit myself to anything beyond one book), I'm surprised to find that for 2016, this is a difficult one. The Wells and Wong series, as mentioned above, was one of my favourite finds, as was the Daughter Of Smoke & Bone trilogy. But as I've already talked about them, I'll go for the Spinsters Club series by Holly Bourne. Properly funny feminist YA fiction? I'm so there.

Book I Was Most Excited About & Thought I Was Going To Love, But Didn't
The Art Of Being Normal had been critically lauded both on the Bookstagram/book blogging scene and in the mainstream media. So I was disappointed to find it was not only a fairly middling read but also super problematic on class. If you're looking for YA with a trans heroine, If I Was Your Girl is a far superior book, and written by a trans author too. The #ownvoices campaign is something that I'll be getting behind in 2017.

Best Book That Was Outside My Comfort Zone Or From A Genre New To Me
I wouldn't have discovered Lucy Knisley's lovely graphic memoirs if it weren't for Laura mentioning that her new book was about marriage. As I'm in the midst of planning a wedding, I decided to take a look and I'm so glad I did. Something New was exactly what I needed to read - her reflections on bi erasure and what it means to be a queer woman marrying a straight cis man were particularly valuable to me - and I've since hunted down all her backlist, too, as well as seeking out more graphic novels.

Favourite Book From An Author I've Read Previously
I've found David Levithan's recent work very hit-and-miss, but You Know Me Well, his book with Nina LaCoeur, was a lovely queer YA novel as much about the important of friendship as about romance.

Best Book I Read in 2016 Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Someone Else
I don't think I'd have picked up Deon Meyer's Benny Griessel series were it not for the constant recommendations from my aunt in Cape Town. But they're properly brilliant: high octane police procedural thrillers, but with the added benefit of insight into modern-day South Africa. Oh, and amazing settings too.
Favourite Cover Of A Book In 2016
Umm hello? Just LOOK at the cover of Dumplin'! I think I'm going to adopt Go big or go home as my motto for 2017.

Book That Had The Greatest Impact On Me In 2016
The book that, according to Kirkus, could "have been titled Black Lives Matter", Between The World And Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates is tough but essential reading.

Book That Had A Scene In It That Left Me Reeling And Dying To Talk About It With Someone
Another series I loved in 2016 was Charlaine Harris's Midnight, Texas series. And it didn't so much leave me reeling as wanting to talk about the multiple plot revelations across the series. It's impossible to describe the characters without major spoilers, so reviewing it was a challenge.

Favourite Relationship From A Book In 2016 (be it romantic or friendship)
The fierce father-daughter love between Darren and Clover in The Museum Of You.

Genre I Read The Most From In 2016
YA and crime, again. I'd rather be relaxing with another crime novel or YA romance than plodding through Bleak House, and I'm past feeling I need to apologise for this.

Best 2016 Debut
I thoroughly enjoyed Missing, Presumed, a superior crime novel with a political conscience, but strictly speaking it wasn't Susie Steiner's debut novel, just a debut for the series. Not Working by Lisa Owens - think Bridget Jones for the millennial generation - was probably my favourite actual debut.

Book That Made Me Cry (Or Nearly) In 2016
I sobbed like a baby at the afterword to When Breath Becomes Air, in which the author's wife describes his peaceful death from cancer. Unfortunately, I was on a train in Belgium at the time and got some rather odd looks.

Book I Read In 2016 That I Think Got Overlooked When It Came Out
I know this comedy of manners wasn't to everyone's tastes, but I really enjoyed Modern Lovers by Emma Straub and didn't see it mentioned much when it came out. I also really loved Naomi Alderman's feminist dystopia The Power, which was reviewed glowingly in the press but hasn't had quite the promotion I think it deserved.

Total Number Of Books Read In 2016
2016 was the year I stopped blogging every book I read, so unlike previous round-ups I have no idea what my annual total is: around 200, at a guess? The vast majority of what I read was by women authors, both cis and trans, but I could still do better at reading more books by PoC, so that's one goal for 2017 (and luckily, Americanah by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie is top of my TBR pile, so I'll start 2017 as I mean to go on). However, my 2016 goal was to read less crime, and that didn't exactly come to pass....

22 comments:

  1. Ah so glad you're enjoying Lucy Knisley's books! They're all great, the first one I read was French Milk and I've bought her new ones ever since.

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    1. I just bought French Milk with my Christmas book token! I really liked Age Of License too.

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  2. I've just finished Eligible and really enjoyed it too, thanks for the recommendation (again). I feel the same about crime novels. I love them and I can get a bit blindfolded and neglect other genres but hey reading is reading and not all crime fiction is equal!

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    1. I'm really glad you liked Eligible. I think my preference for crime is that they generally don't require too much thought and they get you turning the pages, so they're perfect for busy weeks when I just want to switch off.

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  3. 200 books! I've just worked out that I read 17 in 2016 - that's a weekends reading for you ;)
    So many books here really pique my interest, I might have to give up the day job...

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    1. I suppose I'm lucky that books ARE my day job!

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  4. Great roundup - I need to add a lot of books to my TBR pile. As for Americanah - you're in for a treat!

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    1. I've heard so many good things about it, I'm really looking forward to it.

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  5. I thought I did well reading 108 books! 200 is amazing! This is a great end of year reading review... I don't know if I'll have the time (may take a while to figure out my answers) but would you mind if I lifted these questions and answered them myself on my own blog? (I'll link to yours of course).

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    1. Yes help yourself - I forget where I originally got them from but it was another blog years ago.

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  6. I loved Americanah! It was my book club's favourite of all the books we've read as a group (about 30 now). I have Modern Lovers out from the library now and look forward to reading it. I've only read French Milk by Lucy Knisley, and will need to catch up on her other titles. You had a great year for books!

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    1. I hope you enjoy Modern Lovers! I much preferred it to her better-known The Vacationers.

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  7. Read this post with my 'books to read' list to hand! Whhhyyyyy will there never be time for me to read all of the books in world???

    Liz x
    Distract Me Now Please

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    1. It is of great annoyance to me. Also days like today, when the only things I want to read are on hold at the library and not in my actual house.

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  8. My god, I'm out of breath reading this! I'm such a slow reader so could never hope to read anything like 200 (I read 18 in 2016 and am aiming for 30 this year), but you've certainly inspired me to broaden my horizons a bit. Happy reading!

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    1. Hopefully the book challenge will help us both - you to read more and me to read something that's NOT crime or YA!

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  9. I have the first book in both the Daughter of Smoke and Bone and and Murder Most Unladylike series, so I will be sure to give them a go this year. I have already started putting a TBR for 2017 together of books that I want to get to the most, so I'll just pop them on that with the 40 others haha.

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    1. Oh man, don't even mention TBR piles - mine is dangerously teetering, and that's without all the unread titles stacked up on my Kindle.

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  10. I love the breadth of books on here. There are definitely a few on here that I've heard recommended by others & need to remember to find. I'm particularly keen to read Dumplin and Modern Lovers. A Man of Good Hope sounds really interesting, to.

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    1. I think you'd really enjoy A Man Of Good Hope, it's such a powerful book but not depressing, as you might expect from the subject matter.

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  11. Mental note- have half finished my version of this- must come back and read yours when I am not exhausted!!!

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  12. This was one of if not my worst year ever for reading...some great sounding reads here, thanks! I avoided the Jane Austen re-workings because it felt like literary heresy (Yes I totally just watched Austenland and related too much!) and I hadn't heard many good things but maaaaybe I will have a nose at your recommendation.... :-)

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