Normally, we do these posts together (Fats, Iphigene, and myself). However, given our crazy schedules, and the fact that our reading has been widely varied in 2017, we thought we’d do this separately this time around. If I were to think of one word to describe my past year, it will have to be Awakenings. However rude, unexpected, delightful – they were awakenings that will probably prompt my word for 2018: Transitions.
My 2017 Reading Stats Across Genres
Compared to last year’s 742 books, it appears that I have not read as much this year (what an understatement) with 503 books read. There is currently a glitch in the Goodreads system showing my old figures in my Year in Books, rather than the current one at 503. Since I am technically publishing this by 30 December, all the books that I will finish reading by tomorrow, 31 December will count towards my books read in 2018 – just so there won’t be any confusion.
When compared to last year, the trend indicates that there is a marked decrease across practically all the categories, except perhaps for adult fiction and graphic novels. Picturebooks continue to predominate at 387 in total (fiction, nonfiction, poetry) – around 77% of the books I’ve read this year. But a good chunk goes to fiction: from illustrated novels to graphic novels to middle grade/YA fiction and adult fiction.
2017 has been a challenging year for me, over all, not just in books. But as per usual, I seek refuge in the pages of a book. So here are some of my favourites across these genres, plus a few more. Do note that this is not just limited to books published this year, but favourite books I read this year.
Fiction Picturebooks (Top 15 and 5 International Titles)
Since I’ve read over 300 picturebooks, I thought I could perhaps post a few more in this category than just a measly top 5 or 10. Click on the images to be taken to the Book Depository link (we are now proud affiliates, yay!), and the titles for my review (for some of them). Not all are reviewed since a few of these books found me, despite the fact that they may not have fit our 2017 reading themes.
Flowers For Sarajevo by John McCutcheon and illustrated by Kristy Caldwell.
Non-English Titles Discovered from the International Youth Library, Munich
As per usual, I discovered so many amazing titles while I served as a research fellow in Munich, and I have done several posts of them over the past year. For this post, I am just highlighting a few I may have failed to mention previously, to avoid duplication.
Nonfiction Picturebooks (Top Ten)
I’ve only read around 60 nonfiction picturebook titles, so I simply selected my top ten, shared here in no particular order, but quite a variety as you can clearly see.
Poetry in Picturebooks (Top Five)
I know I should be reading more poetry. That was one of my resolutions last year which I failed to follow through, yet again. Hopefully, 2018 would be a better year for poetry for me. Here are my top five read this year: Tom Feelings pretty much dominates some of my favourites.
When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems For All Seasons by Julie Fogliano and pictures by Julie Morstad.
So this is one of my great finds this year (naturally, I got it from the International Youth Library in Munich). I took a screenshot of what I posted on my Facebook page when I shared this title, apparently, one of the most banned books in the US:
Middle Grade/ Young Adult Fiction (Top Five)
Just like poetry, I always endeavour to read more books from this genre, but fail quite miserably. Regardless, here are my top five read this year (in no particular order).
Refugee by Alan Gratz.
Illustrated Novels (Top 5)
These are books that are somewhat difficult to categorize. They are not picture books, but they are also not blocks of texts that usually characterize your usual novels, hence I have come up with another category altogether: Illustrated Novels, and here are my favourites this year.
Thornhill by Pam Smy – so this one has a Brian Selznick feel to it. Quite strange and tragic, and ultimately no redemption.
This one is a precious Folio Editions find which I bought when they had a mid-year massive 50% discount: The Bhagavad Gita – this book comforted me when I was grieving over my father-in-law’s death earlier this year.
Requiem For A Beast by Matt Ottley – this one is equal parts haunting, disturbing, and eerily beautiful.
A Chance Of Sunshine by Jimmy Liao – heartbreaking and hopeful: a sweet love story.
Graphic Novels (Top 10)
So I am pretty pleased with myself that I’ve read more graphic novels this year compared to last year’s. Here are my top 10.
The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor And The Bogus Identity by Mike Carey and Peter Gross. This is a re-read for me, which I have done for our Meta-Reading theme. Still as brilliant as the first time I read it.
Ms. Marvel Vol 6: Civil War II by G. Willow Wilson and Takeshi Miyazawa. Ms Marvel continues to grow on me in each volume. I can’t wait how she will turn out as a full-grown adult in the height of her powers, without the teenage angst and awkwardness.
March Book Three by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell. I loved the entire series, but only included this one, because I felt that this last volume did the entire series justice.
Lejren by Oscar K. and Dorte Karrebæk. I painstakingly translated the entire book when I served as a research fellow in Munich during the summer. Heartrending book.
The Park Bench by Chaboute. This was a random find at the library and its wordless visual narrative and the many stories that revolve around this park bench made me appreciate the many forms of storytelling that are now available to readers the world over.
The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui. I simply can not stop talking about this graphic novel memoir.
De: Tales – Stories From Urban Brazil by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba. I read this while on the plane on my way to Sao Paolo. What a gorgeous read, this one is. I have to read more graphic novels by Moon and Ba.
Poetry Anthologies/ Novels in Verse (Top 4)
I have read a total of four poetry anthologies/ novels-in-verse, and all of them are wonderful, so let me share them with you here.
We Come Apart by Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan – this is my first Sarah Crossan book, and will definitely not be my last.
New And Selected Poems: Volume Two by Mary Oliver. Mary Oliver always makes me bright-eyed, as I see the world around me differently with her eyes and her voice echoing in my thoughts.
Nonfiction/ Memoirs/ Professional Development Texts (Top 3)
The Book Of Joy by Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu and Douglas Abrams. This was the first book I finished reading in 2017. It helped sustain me throughout the thorny and not-so-joyful moments during the earlier part of the year.
Literary Wonderlands: A Journey Through The Greatest Fictional Worlds Ever Created by Laura Miller. This was definitely one of my greatest finds this year.
Adult Fiction (Top 6)
I deliberately omitted some of the titles I already included from my last week’s post, just so I can cover even more books. I am crafty that way. For more titles, visit my favourites from across our reading themes this year.
People Of The Book by Geraldine Brooks. It took awhile for me to finally get into this, but when I did, it was a riveting and reflective read.
The Paper Menagerie And Other Stories by Ken Liu. The man is hands-down brilliant.
The Stories Of Your Life by Ted Chiang. I read this for my book club and really enjoyed its intelligent voice.
The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen. I read this on the bus from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore, and was riveted by this powerful collection of short stories. I loved this even more than The Sympathizer.
End Of Watch by Stephen King. I am an unabashed Stephen King fan, and I am glad to get to know his more recent novels. This series is even made more special for me because my husband and I binge-watched Mr. Mercedes on TV. And this was a tragic but fitting conclusion to the entire series.
I’ve read quite a number of series this year – from fantasy novels, to crime novels, to dystopian series, to graphic novels. This series took me to not just one but four different Londons. Definitely my favourite series this year, despite my being initially skeptical about the novels. I like seeing how each of the characters have grown in each book, and how despite the overarching darkness, the reader could always discern joy, free spirits, and good intentions. The latter always count for something.
Best World Building
While The Inheritance Trilogy paled in comparison to N. K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth series, I still have to admire the scope and the ambitious magnitude of gods being enslaved by humans in this fantasy series.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin. I must have read the entire series while I was in Munich.
Books I Pushed Most People To Read
I could not stop talking about Small Things by Mel Tregonning. In practically all the professional development workshops I conducted with teachers and librarians this year, I must have mentioned this repeatedly, and could not recommend it enough.
The End Of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe. This must have been lying unread and unloved in my shelves for the longest time but it found me at the exact right time when I needed it and healed me. Books are blessings that way.
The Elegance Of The Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. Another one of those titles that have been lying dormant in my shelves whose magic was activated at the exact right time when I needed to be reminded that beauty is more keenly felt when it is fleeting and transitory. I must have begged practically all my book clubs to consider this as one of our monthly books – one finally caved in and we had an intense and pretty emotional discussion talking about this novel’s truths.
Favourite New Authors Discovered
I am glad to share that I stretched my reading boundaries a fair bit this year, and thanks to the Singapore Writers Festival, I discovered even more hidden gems and amazing authors.
I can not stop talking about Etgar Keret to anyone who would care to listen. Deadpan, self-deprecating humour rooted in tragedy, simple truths that are unadorned – all cleverly executed with a brilliant turn of phrase that is so spot-on, so accurate, and so real, it will make you ache. This is one book that I hope to read in 2018 for our Literary Voyage Reading Challenge: The Seven Good Years by Etgar Keret.
Captains of the Sands by Jorge Amado – the author was definitely new to me, but I was determined to know more about Brazil before I flew there to deliver two keynote speeches. And this classic novel did not disappoint.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood was a re-read for me for our book club pick this December. I found it to be even more haunting and disturbing as compared to when I read it when I was in my mid-20s.
My teenage daughter and I have been reading The Chaos Walking Trilogy of Patrick Ness for the past two years. It’s slow-going for us, because we do skip reading aloud when she is immensely busy with school, so we only find the time during school holidays. Finally, we finished the last book in the series: Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness a few weeks back, and we managed to read two more novels after that. Not bad as far as read-alouds go.