I started off the year with two goals when it came to my reading:
- Read 50 books
- Read more diversely
I think I did a fair job when it came to reaching both of these goals. As of writing this blog post, I’ve surpassed my goal of reading 50 books and have read a total of 65 books so far. I tried to make as conscious a choice when it came to picking which books to read this year when it came to diversity. Of the 65 books I’ve read, 48 of them were written and/or co-created by a woman, 29 were written and/or co-created by a man, and 32 were written and/or co-created by a person of colour. In hindsight, I think I could have done a better job when it came to reading more books written and/or co-created by a person of colour, which is something I’m going to try and do more of next year.
I’m a very eclectic reader. I like reading loads of different genres whether it be general fiction, or erotic romance, or comic books. The general theme that has emerged over the course of my reading habits this year is ‘small but mighty books’. A lot of the books I read were on the smaller size, less than 350 pages in length. It was definitely a surprise to me considering they heavy tome-type books I’ve read over the last few years but I’m not at all disappointed in the books that I chose to read over the course of 2016.
These are my favourite books of 2016 and my top recommendations as well.
Favourite Memoir: When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi
When Breath Becomes Air was one of the earliest books I read this year and also one of the books that really stayed with me throughout the year. It was the first book that made me cry, which definitely adds to its memorability, but more than that, it was real. It’s an honest memoir, in that you could feel Paul’s anger and sadness as you read his words. You could see his vulnerability shine through his sentences. You could feel his fear as he faced every test and every treatment he encountered. The book covers everything from medicine to mortality, to life and love, happiness and family, and facing challenges that one would have never expected to. The memoir was published posthumously. Paul died in March of 2015. It’s a powerful memoir and one I take to heart as I face 2017. The one piece of advice that I would give when reading this memoir is to take Abraham Verghese’s advice and read the last paragraph of this book aloud. It’s a powerful few sentences that really do stick with you even after you set the book down.
Favourite Romance: Neanderthal Marries Human – Penny Reid
Neanderthal Marries Human is the sequel to Neanderthal Seeks Human and the reason that makes it is my favourite romance novel of the year is that I really enjoy seeing romances play out after the initial cut-to-black happily ever. I enjoyed seeing Janie and Quinn face all of the issues that many couples face when planning a wedding: the stress, the indecisions, the extended family, etc. and tackling these issues together. You get to see their love story continue to flourish and become more rounded and solidified over the course of planning their wedding. You get to see all these crazy hijinks that they get into together and with their closest friends. You get to see them fight and work together to resolve them. You get to see these two individuals who are madly in love with one another accept each other for who they truly are and who their families are and see them move forward, together. Love is messy, marriage isn’t easy, and I don’t think anyone doesn’t have a bit of crazy in his or her family and I loved reading about that in this novel.
Favourite Fiction: Essays in Love – Alain de Botton
Essays in Love was another book that I had read quite early on in the year. I had made the prediction that it would be one of my favourites for the year and I was right. The book documents a relationship from its very beginning to its very end and every trial and tribulation the couple encounter in between. It’s a very honest look into a relationship, about how two people fall in love and how two people fall out of love with one another. Love isn’t perfect. Love is quite often messy, disordered, chaotic and down right nuts. But we’re human beings and we’re social creatures who crave love and acceptance. We’re also imperfect which makes our relationships equally imperfect and that’s okay. The voice of the male narrator captures you as you read about the bourgeoning of his relationship with this woman he met on a plane. You come to empathize with his thoughts, his feelings, emotions and insecurities that he has in his relationship with this woman that he had fallen deeply in love with. The book takes you on a roller coaster ride and I loved every moment on it even though I shudder at the thought of riding a roller coaster.
Favourite Comic: Monstress – Script by Majorie Liu, Art by Sana Takeda
I had heard bits and pieces about Monstress in late 2015 and after hearing all the praise it was getting I decided to pick it up in early 2016 and I’m so glad I did. I love, LOVE, Monstress. I have loved reading every single issue that has found their way into the palms of my hand via my bank account and my local comic book store. It’s absolutely brilliant and visceral and so, so beautiful. The story that Majorie and Sana are creating with every word bubble and every panel in these comics is one that strikes at you and draws you into this world of magic and monsters and talking cats and a girl trying to discover who she is, where she came from and where she is going. It’s really, really great and I cannot wait to recommend it more and cannot wait to read more of it come 2017.
Favourite Non- Fiction: We Gon’ Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation – Jeff Chang
I had heard about this particular book through Book Riot (one of my favourite bookish sites on the internet) and it was around the time of my birthday that I decided to pick it up and give it a read. I started reading the book after the 2016 presidential elections and let me tell you, this is the book that I really needed to read at that time. Chang doesn’t shy away from talking about racism and sexism in this book but filters it through a lens that somehow sharpens your own, or at least it did mine. A lot of the issues that Jeff covers in this book are things I had never known about or never would have really considered and that was definitely eye opening. It talks about freedom, representation, race, feminism, intersectionality and so many other converging topics. I loved reading this book and if I had to recommend just one book that I’ve read this year to anyone, it would be this one.
Favourite Poetry Collection: Milk and Honey – Rupi Kaur
I’ve only read one poetry collection this year, and this is the one and it’s my favourite not only because it was the only poetry collection I read this year but it’s honestly one of the best poetry collections I’ve read over the last decade. (Arguably, that isn’t a lot considering I’m only 24 but I liked it better than reading Shakespeare in high school and a whole lot more than some of the stuff I read in university.) The book has a pounding yet quiet rhythm to it. Its words are searing and blunt and beautiful and heartbreaking and hopeful. It’s kind of astounding and I love that about it. From the way that each piece of poetry is laid out, to the accompanying drawings with each piece to how the collection is segmented, it weaves this tale, this journey of a young woman who has faced untold trauma and has lived through it and seen the other side and has moved into that the after part of it. It’s an astonishing collection, even made more astonishing considering how old Rupi is. But as I’m starting to figure out age, while an important number, is still just a number and it’s up to us on how we define that number. This book is also the one that I read on my 24th birthday this year, which also makes it more special to me.
Favourite Fantasy: Sorcerer to the Crown – Zen Cho
I had high expectations coming into this book. I had heard a lot of good things about it and that can sometimes be a bad thing when it comes to a book. Luckily for me, all that praise and expectation of the book was completely founded. This is a freaking amazing book. I was literally flailing Muppet hands as I got to the last few chapters of this book after the initial part in the beginning where I was struggling a bit to get through it. It was well worth that struggle. I love the characters of Prunella and Zacharias. I love the fact that the both of them are persons of colour. I love the fact that while they are respectively female and male, they are still on an equal footing throughout the book. I love that there was a bit of whimsy and awe and magic in the book. I love the fact that the book was set in Regency England and had all of the previously mentioned things in it. I’m am very much looking forward to the sequel to this book and hope that it arrives sometime in 2017 because I really want to know what happens next.
Favourite Science-Fiction: The Inheritance Trilogy – N. K. Jemisin
Okay, I’m cheating a bit because The Inheritance Trilogy is a trilogy and not a singular book but wow did I fall head over heels in love with this series of books and novellas. This was my first time reading N.K. Jemisin and I’m going to read everything else she has ever written or will write because of how much I enjoyed reading this series. The series contains three books: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, The Broken Kingdoms, and The Kingdom of Gods. There are also two novellas that follow the trilogy: The Awakened Kingdom and Shades in Shadow. I read them all one right after another, which is really a great experience and one I would recommend doing. They are brilliant! The world and the characters that inhabit them that Jemisin has created are just jaw dropping. I honestly cannot heap enough praise onto them so I’m telling you, you should read them. It’s one of the best series I’ve read in years. YEARS! I also didn’t want to hurl the third/final book of the series into a burning pit of flames or skip through the majority of the chapters to get to the end which really is a feat considering I did that with the previous few series I read before this one.
Favourite “Holy fuck did all that really happen in 2016? And how the hell do I face 2017” Book: Hope in the Dark – Rebecca Solnit
I had read Rebecca Solnit’s book, Men Explain Things to Me, (another book I highly recommend) earlier in the year and I really fell in love with her writing, which is what spurred me into picking up this book and most of her backlist (that I haven’t gotten the time to read yet). The newest edition of Hope in the Dark was reprinted this year with a new forward and afterward and is the edition I picked up. Over the course of the year, I’ve gone back to this book, rereading certain chapters or paragraphs in an attempt to make sense of all that has happened this year. And it’s been quite a year. The book talks about hope, hope for change, hope for a better and more equitable world, hope even when the world is surrounded by darkness and uncertainty. The hope that Solnit speaks of is hope, even in the face of insurmountable uncertainty that will drive us to act, to stand up against, to speak out against, to participate, to listen and learn, and enact change even if the effects are immediately seen. This is a book that I feel will return to time and time again.
What were your favourite books you read in 2016? What are your favourite recommendations from 2016?
Thanks for reading!