BRL Best of 2016

Well, Christmas has come and gone, and it’s been a truly lovely one here for our family. My son is five, and he is still at a sweet age to believe in Santa and the magic of Christmas, and not too cool yet to sing carols with his family on Christmas Eve while Dada plays guitar.  (He still calls my husband Dada. We’re hanging on to that as long as we can!)  Our parents are all still healthy and with us, and even though they’re long divorced, my mom and dad get along well enough to spend Christmas Day with us at my in-laws house.  I’ve had some days off and return to work tomorrow.  My family has baked and listened to Christmas CDs and watched The Charlie Brown Christmas Special and drove around looking at lights.  We’ve done all the holiday things we love to do, including reading lots of Christmas picture books!  It’s been so sweet and I really feel grateful.

That said, I’ve not done a lot of reading the past few weeks, and I’ve done even less blogging.  But I feel the desire for both returning, and I’m super excited about my reading plans for 2017!

But before I get to that post, I need to take stock of my reading for 2016.  So without further ado, here’s the Big Reading Life Best Of List!

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  1. (TIE) Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi and The Book of Night Women by Marlon James.  Both novels deal with slavery – James’s book is set in Jamaica on a sugar cane plantation, while Gyasi’s spans continents and centuries.   Both illuminate the horror of slavery in ways I’d never even considered before.  Both are stunning.
  2. Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen.  A memoir as open and vulnerable, but also as joyful and hilarious, as The Boss himself.  I truly appreciated Springsteen’s willingness to call out his own bullshit while not “telling tales” about others.  I especially loved the sections in his childhood and young adulthood.  I love this guy.
  3. Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt.  Weird, sad, and hauntingly romantic.  I haven’t been able to forget about this one all year.
  4. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison.  Words fail me here.  Utterly magical.
  5. The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney.  This  kind of book is my catnip anyway – multiple perspective family saga!  Rich People Problems!  But I was wholly invested in these messed-up, authentic characters.  Truly a standout of its type.
  6. March Books One and Two by John Lewis.  While I haven’t yet read the third in the series, I am wholly taken with the first two.  They’ve shown me the power that a graphic novel can have to illuminate and educate.
  7. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  Quietly devastating and powerful coming of age story in Nigeria.  So glad I finally read it.
  8. Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye.  So. Much. Fun.  Romance and gothic intrigue, a respectful but liberated take on Jane Eyre.  It’s not for everyone, but I just adored it.
  9. Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler.  A surprise love for me this year.  Something about this novel just hooked me and didn’t let go even as I could see its flaws.

Goodreads tells me that I completed 80 books this year.  Of these 21 were by authors of color, which is about 26%.  Not quite as high as I’d intended at the beginning of the year, but an improvement on last year.  More stats:

Audiobooks: 4 (Interestingly, all were nonfiction.)

Graphic Novels/Comics: 14 (the most I’ve ever read!)

Nonfiction: 20  (8 were memoirs.)

Middle Grade: 3

Mystery/Crime/Thriller: 10

Rereads: 4 (an unusually high number for me)

Fun Fact:  The only YA titles I read all year were all comics/graphic novels!

So there you have it.  It’s been a very good reading year.  I began the year participating in a reading challenge (the TBR Triple Dog Dare) and ended the year rereading a trio of books, apparently seeking comfort (Little Women, Murder on the Orient Express, Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies, which I’m still reading.)  I’ve been thinking about my reading goals for weeks now, and am really excited to share them in my next post.

I hope you all had/are having very Happy Holidays!  Have you met your reading goals for this year, or made progress towards them?  What was your standout book for 2016?  Have you read any of my top ten?

 

Big Reading Life Best of 2015

It’s time for another Best Of list!  Do you ever get tired of reading those?  I don’t, actually.  It’s fun to see what really got people excited in 2015.  Last year, when I began Big Reading Life, I only included books that were published in 2014.  This year, I decided to go with my ten favorite reading experiences of the year, no matter when the book was published.

Here we go!  (In no particular order, and with a one word review:)

A Brief History of Seven Killings – Marlon James.  Masterful.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle – Shirley Jackson.  Classic.

My Salinger Year – Joanna Rakoff.  Nostalgic.

Fates and Furies – Lauren Groff.  Fierce.IMG_2076

Dietland – Sarai Walker.  Subversive.

Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates.  Powerful.

The Shelf: From LEQ to LES: Adventures in Extreme Reading -Phyllis Rose.  Fun.

A God in Ruins – Kate Atkinson.  Heartbreaking.

Dept. of Speculation – Jenny Offill.  Raw.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian – Sherman Alexie.  Just read it.  (Okay, that’s more than one word, but this YA novel is everything – hopeful, hilarious, heartbreakingly sad – it’s got it all and you just have to read it.)

Goodreads tells me I read 77 books this year.  Of those, 17 were written by authors of color.  My main reading goal this year was to increase my numbers from a paltry 7 titles last year.  So 17 is better than 7, but it’s still only 22% of the total.  Room for improvement.

I didn’t re-read Middlemarch, nor did I complete Love in the Time of Cholera, which were my other stated reading goals.  I tried with the Garcia Marquez, but it just didn’t hold my attention.  It happens!

As you look back on your own reading year, I hope you accomplished some of your reading goals, and if you didn’t… well, I hope you enjoyed the journey anyway!  I certainly did!

 

 

 

Favorite Books of 2014

There are so many books from 2014 I haven’t yet read, like A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James, The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters, and All the Light We Can Not See by Anthony Doerr.  I look forward to reading those soon – they look amazing. But these are my ten best for 2014:

1. Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel

2. The Southern Reach Trilogy (Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance) – Jeff VanderMeer.

3. All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood – Jennifer Senior

4. Bad Feminist – Roxane Gay

5. Brown Girl Dreaming – Jacqueline Woodson

6. Yes Please – Amy Poehler

7. Stone Mattress – Margaret Atwood

8. The Vacationers – Emma Straub

9. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry – Gabrielle Zevin

10. Little Failure – Gary Shteyngart

The first two on the list are some of my very favorite reading experiences ever. Station Eleven is just luminous – gorgeous writing and a compelling story.  It deserves all the hype and praise it’s received.  And then some.  It will be a book I re-read in the years to come. The Southern Reach Trilogy is just… awesome.  Imagine X-Files meets LOST.  Mind-bending, thought-provoking, page-turning.  It totally opened up a new world of sci-fi-ish reading for me.

Anybody else have some favorites from 2014?