I broke my record for books read in a year. Twenty five was the most since I started keeping track in 2007. This year I made it to 27! I realize many people consistently read much more than that, but for me it’s a biggish deal.
I joined a book club, I read some of these books for work, and I started receiving eBook ARCs this year from NetGalley and Edelweiss. All of that brought more books to me than usual but I’m still apt to fall asleep if I’m not standing up so my reading time is still limited. I read and reviewed cookbooks, pattern books, and travel books on Goodreads this year but did not include those in my count.
My favorite: Idaho by Emily Ruskovich – expected publication date is February 16, 2017
Five star winners: The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, Brother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat, Dark Matter by Blake Crouch, and Idaho by Emily Ruskovich
My least favorite: Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The longest: Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy at 433 pages?
The oldest: also Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy originally published in 1874
Nonfiction: 5 (I’m counting a memoir.)
Here is the list in the order I read them. I’ve included reviews for some and ratings on a scale of 1 to 5 stars for all.
1. The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood – 2 stars
I should probably give this a 2.5. I read the first novella which eventually became part of this book. I just was not feeling it. I’m very sorry, Margaret. I still love you.
2. Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy – work – 3 stars
3. Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger – 4 stars
4. Rising Strong by Brene Brown – book club – 3 stars
5. MLA Handbook, Eighth Edition by The Modern Language Association of America – work – ? stars
I realize this is a style manual, but I read it six times this summer and fall so it makes the list!
6. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro – 5 stars
7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – 4 stars
8. Tampa by Alissa Nutting – book club – 3 stars
9. The Vegetarian by Han King – 4 stars
10. Teaching Information Literacy Threshold Concepts: Lesson Plans for Librarians by Patricia Bravender – work – 4 stars
11. Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald – 2 stars
12. The Girls by Emma Cline – 3 stars
It is a decent book, but the level of hype surrounding it is unwarranted. My favorite part is the way the author understands young women and puts that understanding into words via the thoughts of the main character. I especially liked her thoughts about the girlfriend who is abandoned at the house she’s staying at in real time (when she’s an older woman). For a book about a murderous cult, there was very little happening.
13. Brother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat – work – 5 stars
I’m not much of a memoirs person, but I really enjoyed this book. Danticat’s writing style makes the book flow more like a really touching, fictional story than an autobiography. I knew shockingly little about Haiti before reading this and, while I’m sure I still know basically nothing, I know more than I did and am eager to learn more.
14. The Winter of our Discontent by John Steinbeck – book club – 3 stars
The pet names and “conversations” with the groceries drove me crazy. It’s Steinbeck so it was occasionally very good. I felt that the story was too drawn out. I don’t understand why the main character needed not one, not two, but three get rich quick schemes. I get that Steinbeck was saying something about materialism and morality and I appreciate that. I feel he could have said it much more succinctly. If you want a moral lesson, I recommend reading The End of the Affair by Graham Greene instead.
15. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant – book club – 4 stars
16. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch – NetGalley – 5 stars
I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
I really liked this book! I’m not much of a science fiction or mystery reader, but this book features my favorite aspects of the best books/films/shows of those genres with great, “literary fiction”-style writing.
Dark Matter is a book I couldn’t put down. I raced to the end. Once or twice, I thought I guessed the ending, but I believe Crouch wants readers to realize certain plot twists just before they are presented outright. There were more coming, so the book stayed intense and unpredictable. The physics and philosophy sprinkled throughout intrigued me and taught me some things I didn’t know. I enjoyed the questions this novel asks us to ask ourselves, particularly about identity and choices.
Recommended for fans of not-so-cozy mysteries (a la Gone Girl), spooky/cerebral science fiction, and shows like The Twilight Zone and Black Mirror.
17. Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach – book club – 3 stars
18. The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison – NetGalley – 4 stars
I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
The Book of the Unnamed Midwife is a thought-provoking, post-apocalyptic, page turner for the rest of us! In the tradition of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, this is the end of the world from a female perspective. Just about every kind of person was represented by a complete character in this book: a gay couple, a bisexual woman, a sex worker, some LDS church members, young women, young men, people who decided to fight for their lives and people who chose to die. At no point did the book feel like a diverse checklist. Every character felt real and helped the plot along. If you like post-apocalyptic fiction like Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven then The Book of the Unnamed Midwife is for you.
19. The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff – work – 2 stars
20. Bird Box by Josh Malerman – 4 stars
21. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier – 4 stars
22. Idaho by Emily Ruskovich – NetGalley – 5 stars
I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I read more books than usual this year and Idaho is possibly the best of them all. I love Emily Ruskovich’s writing. She wove music, and one song in particular, throughout the entire book without it ever being cheesy or cumbersome. The song held the non-linear story together as we learned details out of order from a number of characters. I love that it’s a mystery and a love story. It shows characters capable of extreme violence and cruelty but also uncommon compassion and kindness. I think it’s really unique that one chapter was dedicated to a bloodhound’s experience while searching for the missing daughter.
Idaho is one of the best novels I’ve ever read. I’m glad I didn’t skip this one and hope Emily Ruskovich’s future works are this great.
23. My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout – 4 stars
24. The Mortifications by Derek Palacio – NetGalley – 3 stars
The characters have a lot of strongly held convictions that change too often and are too ambiguous for strongly held convictions. I enjoyed reading the book for the most part, but nothing really happened and I never became invested in any of the characters.
25. The Futures by Anna Pitoniak – NetGalley – 3 stars
I enjoyed this book, although it was very predictable. I graduated in 2008 like most of the characters in the book. It was a hard time to enter the real workforce. I liked the way Anna Pitoniak expressed, through the main female character, Julia, how difficult that time in life can be. The path to success is pretty clear up until graduation when things get confusing and young people are very much on their own to find work and their adult identities. The period just after graduation can be rough, even for the wealthy apparently. Much of the book is building up to a major event that I saw coming a mile away. As soon as I got the male characters’ absurdly white, Anglo-Saxon, protestant names (Jake Fletcher, Evan Peck, Adam McCard) sorted out, I knew what was going to happen. The predictability and then the slow build to a not-much-of-anything ending make this book just okay in my opinion.
26. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman – 3 stars
27. The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout – 3 stars