My Year in Books

Every year I set myself the challenge of reading fifty-two books in a year and although I’m nowhere near close to achieving that, every year I do edge a little closer. This year, I have read thirty-six books and I was very much on track until I decided to move to another country and then life got in the way. However, thirty-six is still a good number and this year (as I have now finished my degree) I’ve had a lot more freedom to read books I actually want to read, which is something that hasn’t been a possibility since I started studying English Literature properly at fifteen. To anyone who knows me, they know I love books and rarely go anywhere without one in my bag. My personal library grows substantially every year and is one of the few material things I truly treasure – although I’d like to think I’m not stingy when lending my books to others. So, now I have sufficiently gushed about my love of reading here are some of the highlights of my 2016 in books, enjoy!

My year began with a lot of university related reading. I had chosen the twentieth century American literature module as I had chosen similar modules in previous years and the thought of doing literary theory was enough to make me shudder. The module included Kerouac’s On the Road and Nabokov’s Lolita, both of these books I didn’t expect to enjoy too much but actually ended up loving. Lolita is especially beautiful in the way it is written once you can get past the repulsiveness of the book’s main theme and isn’t so complex in its language that it alienates the reader. However, it is not what I read on the module that I want to talk about, it is what I read because of the module. Off the Road by Carolyn Cassidy is a thoroughly insightful read for anyone interested by the Beat Generation from the perspective of a woman who knew them. I wasn’t even aware that she had written a book about her side of the story until my housemate told me and I was not at all disappointed. This year, I have read a lot more non-fiction than I have in previous years and this book began that and encouraged me to be interested in the truth of life than just the fictional aspect of it.

Continuing my interest in the lives of the people behind some of my favourite books was this little find from my favourite author – Haruki Murakami. Murakami is famously reserved in what he reveals about himself to the general public, he calls himself an outcast of the Japanese literary world as despite his large readership the critics aren’t usually a fan of his work. So, I was a little surprised to come across this book in Waterstone’s in which Murakami talks about his love of running and his personal experiences as a marathon runner. It’s a short read but a very insightful one for anyone who enjoys his writing and also for people aspiring to be writers themselves. I also read his newest book this year, Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, it wasn’t my favourite but it was very classic of his style. I would always recommend people read Norwegian Wood first as it is his most realistic novel and eases you in to his slightly surreal world.

I could continue talking in detail about the other non-fiction books I enjoyed reading this year but I will just list them here or else this post will end up being an essay:

  • Modern Romance: An Investigation – Aziz Ansari.
    If you like Aziz Ansari as a comedian then you will enjoy this book no matter what, for anyone asking themselves “who the hell is that?” I would skip this unless you actually have an interest in the science behind modern relationships.
  • The Soul of an Octopus – Sy Montgomery
    Again, unless you have an interest in this topic (being octopuses) then I doubt you’re going to enjoy this but I found it to be an intriguing read.
  • The Woman Warrior – Maxine Hong Kingston
    I highly recommend this book, technically it is a mixture of fact and fiction but it educated me on Chinese-American people and their experiences when emigrating to the states and the writing is utterly captivating.
  • Everyday Sexism – Laura Bates
    Although this book didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know, it was a good read and I’d highly recommend it to anyone who feels distanced from modern feminism or to anyone with questions regarding gender inequality. The book also has a section on how gender inequality affects men.

The book that I will be recommending to everyone after reading it late this year is Hanya Yanagihara’s, A Little Life. I came across this book when I dozed off on the bus from Montpellier back to Barcelona and woke up to find Macey holding back tears. Although I was slightly alarmed, her reaction made me want to read the book immediately and find out what could possibly be so heart-wrenching. I had no idea that this book would reduce me to a similar state. It is hefty at about 800 pages and I know that can be very daunting for a lot of people but by the end you will wish there was 800 pages more. I don’t often get effected emotionally by a book after I have put it down and but once I finished this novel I sat for about 15 minutes, quietly refusing that it was just over like that. I don’t want to give much away by talking about the storyline but I will say that it will make you feel very angry, completely distraught and there will be moments of pure happiness. Definitely not a holiday read but a book that is very worthy of your attention.

A few other good novels I have read this year are:

  • The Narrow Road to the Deep North – Richard Flanagan
    Anyone who spends any time in Waterstone’s will have seen this book and probably read it already but its a good read although some parts can be quite gruesome which might put some people off.
  • The Color Purple – Alice Walker
    I am always a fan of books that utilise a different format to tell a story and the use of letters in this novel is so powerful.
  • A Place Called WInter – Patrick Gale
    My mum recommended this book to me and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. It discusses issues surrounding gender and sexuality in the early 1900s in the setting of newly emerging towns in Canada.

For balance, here are a few books I read this year and didn’t enjoy

  • One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
    As much as I enjoyed Love in the Time of Cholera I felt like the translation of this particular Marquez novel didn’t do it justice and made it very hard for me to follow what was happening.
  • The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway
    Hemingway, ugh. I guess some people like him I’m just not one of them.
  • The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins
    Seriously, what was the hype with this book? The characters are utterly unlikable and the storyline is so predictable whilst trying to be as clever as Gone Girl and failing miserably. I mean when a book has about 5 characters and one of them is dead you can kind of guess who did what.

So that’s it! My 2016 in books and I’m looking forward to what I’m going to read in 2017. Comment below with any book suggestions, I love to read people’s favourite books!

 

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