Each January I like to take a look back at my reading for the previous year to really re-evaluate some of the books I read. Have they stuck with me? Have they faded away and I now barely remember having read them at all? But I’ve been putting it off this year because this is the first year in a very long while that I haven’t met my goal of reading 100 books over the course of the year. While I was uncomfortable with not meeting this goal, and battling a sense of failure, I have had to remind myself several times that we got some pretty awesome family games last year for Christmas and have spent a lot of this year playing them together. Not only that but I have been learning how to sew and sometimes I can listen to audiobooks while doing that, but sometimes I need to concentrate because, to be completely honest, I have no idea what I am doing half the time. And this year I also took a Photography Class and Photoshop Class which had a lot of assignments and readings and took up a huge chunk of my time.
So now that I’ve made all my excuses…
2017 READING ROUND UP…THE NUMBERS:
Number of Books Read: 78
That’s a full 22 less than my goal. Though to be fair, I’m pretty sure The Fireman by Joe Hill was about 22 books long, so maybe I’m just not giving myself enough credit. 😉
Number of Books that were Audiobooks: 24
Number of Books that were (Auto)Biography: 5
Number of Books that were Graphic Novel: 36
Number of Fiction: 23
Number of YA: 9
Number of Juvenile: 9
It shapes up to about the same number of graphic novels as last year, and, much more surprisingly, about the same number of fiction novels as last year. So where is the difference? Where are the 22 “lost” books that I didn’t get to read this year?? It turns out that I actually read much less YA this year, which is such a travesty! I love YA novels. I’m a little sad that I missed out on reading more of them. Also, I read quite a few less biographies, even though I had discovered that I really liked them last year. And I didn’t read one in graphic novel form either – which was a huge love of mine in 2016. Maybe I read all the good ones already?? No, that can’t be right. I just did a google search and put a couple of the ones I hadn’t read yet on hold. There. Much better.
And so without further ado…
2017 READING ROUND UP…THE FAVOURITES:
This isn’t even a contest. There are just some juvenile novels that are magical and have that ability to appeal to all ages. Zorgamazoo by Robert Paul Weston is perfection. I wrote in March that I was in awe of this book, and that awe has in no way faded over time. I still remember the delight with which I listened, enraptured, to Alan Cumming as he read me this tale of adventure. Nothing else I read this year even comes close.
The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles surprised me enough that it gave me pause. The world he built is rich and layered and the characters well-developed and compelling. The language used was vivid, creating scenes that still stand out in my mind even now, months later. And the end? I can’t leave it there…I demand more. As soon as possible.
Best Graphic Novel:
This one isn’t entirely fair. I hadn’t finished Locke and Key by Joe Hill by the time the end of the year hit last year, but I was already ready to name it the best Graphic Novel series I read that year. Having finished it this year, with each installment becoming better and better, it really is, hands down, the best graphic novel series that I read THIS year also. I just can’t bring myself to name the same series two years in a row. It seems wrong somehow.
However, I had been putting off reading the YA Graphic novel NIMONA, which I’ve always meant to read, but it had gotten lost in my giant imaginary pile of books-to-get-to-one-day. When I heard it was getting the movie treatment I just couldn’t put it off any longer.
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson is delightfully quirky, makes a wonderful complete story, and surprisingly tackled some big thinking subjects like the true nature of “good” and “evil.” I can see how it could be made into a truly special movie and hope that it gets the treatment it deserves.
Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime is that very rare mix of meaty substance wrapped up in humour that only serves to highlight the weight of the issues touched upon even more. I feel like whatever I write about his work won’t be good enough to really convey how important it is to read this book. Through his vivid storytelling Noah paints a personal story of what it was like growing up when segregation was the norm and he was, literally, born a crime.
This might be the first category where there just isn’t a clear, runaway, winner. I have listened to a lot of audiobooks this year and they all have something that would make it easy to recommend them.
I’m actually going to go with one that I wanted to write about, but I just never really found the time or the words.
The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne is the story of a woman, Helena, who grew up in the secluded marsh. Her mother was kidnapped by her father and held captive in the wilderness. We know at the outset of the story that Helena and her mother eventually escaped her tyrannical father, but over the course of the story we learn of the father-daughter bond, the complicated mother-daughter relationship, and just what happened deep in that marsh. It is a story in the vein of “Room” by Emma Donoghue, but told by an adult Helena rather than getting an entirely childlike perspective.
The narration by Emily Rankin matches the tone of this book with such perfection I was transported into the story, wrapped in it, enveloped by it, my brain immersed and boiling in its juices. Uh…so…I liked it. A lot.
It might conclude in an ending you can see coming a mile away, a too-trite “hollywood” style ending. But it is inevitable, as illustrated by the parable of the Marsh King’s daughter told in pieces at the beginning of each chapter.
This one is just as hard to determine. But in this case I’m just going to go with the book I obsessed about the most.
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
I had absolutely no plans to even read this book for quite a while because I, wrongly, assumed that it was some sort of romantic drama or romantic comedy type book. I didn’t expect a complex book about a group of moms with kids who attend the same kindergarten class. It quickly became an obsession of mine. I fell in love with the characters and wondered what they were doing if I had to turn off the audio book in order to attend to real life. I couldn’t wait to get back to them, and when this book was over I was so very sad that I wouldn’t be able to read more about these characters. So sad that I contemplated immediately starting the book all over again.
I listened to this as read by Caroline Lee who gives such a flawless performance that I am actively seeking out her other audio books to add to my to-read pile. Luckily, it’s more Liane Moriarty books at the same time!
Bonus – Best Classic:
I’ve been trying to make a concerted effort to read some of those classic novels that I have not really ever gotten around to, or to re-read those that I haven’t read in so long that I have very little memory of them at all. It feels wrong to include them in any sort of “best fiction” because…they are already considered classics. They are, by definition, pretty darn good.
Margaret Atwell’s The Handmaid’s Tale was adapted into an award-winning series and both the novel and the series rightly deserve all the accolades they have received. The series does an amazing job of updating the novel to present day, but the core struggles in the book remain the same. It’s a stark, cautionary tale that is as relevant today as ever.
I should have read this YEARS ago. It was a book club pick for a book club I was a part of, even. But I didn’t get to it at the time. I suppose that books join your life if and when you are ready for them and I may not have given it the full attention it deserved had I tried to force myself to read it when I wasn’t yet ready.
Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill is that sort of novel that only comes along once in a while. I’ve already talked about this novel in my blog post here. At the time I said that it is a story that will just stay with you, and I have to stress that it really hasn’t faded much over time. It is beautifully written, and the audio book is beautifully performed. To me it is a modern classic, and is unlikely to be fading away anytime soon.
So there you have it! Another mammoth post to start the year off! And another promise that I won’t do it again…until next year!