Myra, Fats, Iphigene here.
Every year, we do a round-up of the best books we have read and write our reflections on how our reading lives have been (see our end-of-year book survey in 2011, 2012 from Myra, 2012 from Fats, 2012 from Iphigene, 2013, 2014, 2015 Part 1, 2015 Part 2). Normally, we join one of the memes hosted in the blogosphere. This time around, though, we thought of coming up with our own.
And so, here is our Christmas Eve Post as we explore our 2016 in books – from us to you.
Myra’s Best Reads in 2016
I originally meant to share my reading stats in this post but decided against it, as I have just received a whole stack of books that I plan to go through before end of year. So I am saving it for next week. 🙂
The Neapolitan Quartet by Elena Ferrante definitely takes centre stage for adult novels. I meant to write a long review, but never got around to doing it – perhaps in 2017. I managed to review the other four novels, so you can quickly click on the links to read my thoughts. I also got me the illustrated version of George Orwell’s 1984 published by Folio Society – my indulgence this year.
I have a special affinity for memoirs and biographies. In fact, my nonfiction reads mostly consist of life story narratives or musings about life and the world. I read Between the World and Me earlier in the year, while Black Milk accompanied me in Maldives, My Life On The Road in Berlin. Mary Oliver and Annie Dillard were my December reads this year. Planning on reviewing both books more fully next month.
Poetry Anthology / Novels-in-Verse
I vowed to read more poetry this year and I did manage to read a few more than last year’s. I like how I come full circle with Mary Oliver. It was her Felicity that I read in the 1st of January, and I ended this year with Upstream.
I knew I had to have a category for these books. They’re not picturebooks by any stretch of imagination, but some could not strictly be classified as full-length novels; hence, illustrated books. The Steampunk Dickens was quite the favourite. Pharos Gate is an acquired taste. Up to now, I still don’t know how I truly feel about it – but it might be because of where I am in my life right now.
Another genre where I wish I have done better. I only read 22 this year compared to 47 from last year’s. I don’t know what happened. I think picturebooks must have overtaken my sensibility in 2016, leaving hardly any space for graphic novels. Fats has written quite the extensive review of Persepolis which shamefully I have only read this year – I didn’t include the second book here, since I found the first one a lot more riveting. I fell in love with Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba’s Daytripper, that I immediately borrowed a copy of Two Brothers from a comic-geek-friend of mine. It also seems to be a year of the trolls with Neil Gaiman’s creepy Troll Bridge and The Heartless Troll by Norwegian artist Øyvind Torseter published this year. I also just have to include Au Pays de la Memoire Blanche because I painstakingly translated all 125 pages of this French graphic novel into English (thank you, Google Translate). Equal parts creepy, disturbing, existential, thought-provoking. I hope to feature it at one point.
Middle Grade/YA Fiction
While I was not able to read as many young adult novels this year, some of them had been pretty extraordinary such as the ones I am sharing here. I realized just now that most of these novels are part of a series that I have already been reading: Harry Potter, of course, being a case in point. While the new HP books themselves leave much to be desired – they are not, strictly speaking, novels: one is a play while the other one is an original screenplay – what can I say? I love anything that is connected to the HP Universe. Jasper Jones is the only one here that is a stand-alone novel, which also happens to be one of our book-club picks this year.
I have read over a hundred nonfiction picturebook titles, but I managed to winnow it down to my top six here. Some are based on true stories such as The Mystery of Eilean Mor by Gary Crew and Jeremy Geddes, and The Menino by Isol, while others are picturebook biographies such as Ada’s Ideas and The Red Piano and The Birdman. The Night Life of Trees is quite difficult to categorize but is a book that you will have to touch, feel, and experience for yourself. I love the quiet meditation of The White Cat and the Monk which I will feature for our next reading theme.
There is always something about poetry that heals. These five gorgeous picturebooks would be perfect titles to share with young readers to get them started on the beauty and cadence of the language. I feel bad seeing how poetry seems to be vilified or avoided at all costs in most classrooms, as poems are often perceived as needlessly complex with its structure and form. The magic of the imagery is lost, not to mention the fun that one can have with word play, while at the same time moving one’s heart too. These are my top five picks for this year.
Admittedly, I went overboard with this gallery of images here. But what to do? I read 476 picturebook titles. It should not come as too much of a surprise that I only managed to whittle the list down to my top 30. I hope to feature more of these titles when we do a throwback on best reads of 2016 for our January-February 2017 Reading Theme.
Iphigene’s 2016 in Books: Favourites
Iphigene told me that she only managed to read 30 books this year, and here are some of her favourites.
I re-read it and enjoyed it immensely.
I read a lot of this in 2016.
H is for Hawk. I didn’t expect to like it, but I did. It brought me into MacDonald’s head and then out of it. The journey through grief was incredible.
This was an emotional read. Powerful, beautiful and cerebral.
Mary Oliver. What other explanation is needed?
It’s a re-read, but that’s my soul in its varied faces written out by someone I never met.
Fats’ 2016 in Books
The Hundred-Year-Old-Man was a riotous read, even though it took me a while to finish reading it. The movie version was just as funny as the book. In contrast, Murakami’s novel was dark and bittersweet, and is one of the most beautiful books I’ve read this year.
I don’t read a lot of adult nonfiction and memoirs but I was glad to come across a few good ones this year — and I’m sure there’s a ton of good ones out there! When Breath Becomes Air and Into the Wild were heartbreaking. Headscarves and Hymens made me angry and I sympathized with women in the Middle East who continue to receive unfair treatment in society because of their sexuality. The Family Romanov also made me angry but, mostly, I found myself shaking my head so many times at the absurdity of Russian Imperialism. Thankfully, Ari Seth Cohen’s Advanced Style brought a truckload of good vibes, in the form of unique street fashion.
So thrilled that I was finally able to read Thanhha Lai’s Inside Out and Back Again. I didn’t think I would enjoy reading House Arrest but I did, and I’m glad that I gave it a shot. Always a delight to read poems by Nikki Giovanni and Tyler Knott Gregson.
Had the most fun reading Jorge Aguirre’s graphic novels. Claudette is such an adorable character!