As promised, here is my complete list of books read and favorites from last year. I mentioned in the previous post that 2015 was a really good reading year for me. This was because I happened to select a lot of books that ended up really sticking with me, in what I like to refer to as a book hangover. I didn’t really get that many in 2016, but I did read some quality writing that I’d like to expound upon and advertise, so here goes. First, my complete list of books read.
- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer – Mart Twain (4.5/5)
- The Ask and the Answer – Patrick Ness (4/5)
- The Sleeper and the Spindle – Neil Gaiman (4/5)
- Hector and the Search for Happiness – Francois Lelond (4.5/5)
- The Bad Beginning – Lemony Snicket (4/5)
- How I Live Now – Meg Rosoff (4/5)
- Not My Father’s Son – Alan Cumming (4.5/5)
- The Summer I Turned Pretty – Jenny Han (3/5)
- The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupery (4.5/5)
- Ready Player One – Ernest Cline (4.5/5)
- Let’s Get Lost – Adi Alsaid (4/5)
- Anne of Green Gables – L.M. Montgomery (4.5/5)
- Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury (4.5/5)
- Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls – David Sedaris (4.5/5)
- The Boy on the Porch – Sharon Creech (4.5/5)
- What I Talk About When I Talk About Running – Haruki Murakami (4/5)
- The BFG – Roald Dahl (4/5)
- Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe – Benjamin Alire Saenz (4/5)
- The Importance of Being Earnest – Oscar Wilde (4/5)
- Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell (3.5/5)
- Alberic the Wise and Other Journeys – Norton Juster (4/5)
- Lumberjanes – Stevenson/Ellis (4/5)
- Goodbye, Mr. Chips – James Hilton (4/5)
- George – Alex Gino (4/5)
- Hyperbole and a Half – Allie Brosh (4/5)
- A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness (4.5/5)
- Yes, Please – Amy Poehler (4/5)
- The Stranger – Albert Camus (3.5/5)
- The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks – E. Lockhart (3.5/5)
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – J.K. Rowling (2.5/5)
- Hamilton: The Revolution – Lin Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter (4.5/5)
- This One Summer – Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki (4/5)
- My Man Jeeves – P.G. Wodehouse (4/5)
- This is What Happy Looks Like – Jennifer E. Smith (3/5)
- Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Ransom Riggs (4/5)
- The Dirty Side of the Storm – Martha Serpas (4/5)
- Kitchen Confidential – Anthony Bourdain (4/5)
- Murder on the Orient Express – Agatha Christie (4/5)
- The Summons – John Grisham (3.5/5)
- Slaughterhouse-Five – Kurt Vonnegut (4/5)
- Nimona – Noelle Stevenson (4.5/5)
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky (4/5)
- The Pearl – John Steinbeck (3.5/5)
- The Ninth Life of Louis Drax – Liz Jensen (4/5)
- Volition – Lee Strauss (4/5)
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – J.K. Rowling (4.5/5)
Looking back on some of the ratings now, I’m kind of surprised that some weren’t rated better or worse than they are. With that said, I should probably add a disclaimer here that the books I’m about to list may not be what I would’ve chosen at any time last year, but time has somehow made me reconsider them. And really, doesn’t that make for a more accurate assessment of what books you really liked? Anyway, it was hard to rank these in any way, so they’re not in any order.
- The Sleeper and the Spindle – Neil Gaiman
I had a big Neil Gaiman year in 2015, but this was the only one of his that I read last year. It was definitely a strong one though, and I enjoyed it thoroughly, especially as I listened to it on audiobook, narrated by the author. (He’s a really good reader.)
As you can probably guess, the story is something of a reinterpretation of “Sleeping Beauty” (the Disney version, as far as I know). There’s a really interesting twist on the story we know of “princess gets cursed, princess pricks finger, princess falls into a deep sleep and is awoken by a kiss from her prince and they live happily ever after.” I don’t want to spoil anything here, so let’s just say that another well-known character of royal birth comes into play…and is way more badass than you know or expect her to be. The book also maintains the slightly creepy, keep-you-on-your toes type of vibe that any of Neil Gaiman’s works have, serving the storyline perfectly.
- Ready Player One – Ernest Cline
I also listened to this on audiobook, read by Wil Wheaton. The book, if you’re not already familiar with it, takes place in a dystopian future where basically everyone in the world uses a system called OASIS, a virtual reality simulator, to escape the bleak “real-world” lives they lead. Our narrator is Wade Watts, a teenager who lives in “the stacks,” the poorest neighborhood that a person can live in. The story follows his progress in completing the elaborate puzzle that James Halliday, the creator of the OASIS, left behind when he died. The winner of the challenge (which is no easy feat, to say the least) inherits his massive fortune. Cline builds a fascinating world for his characters to live in and it’s one that keeps you constantly intrigued, not only with the details that he describes, but with the puzzles that he devises for the gunters (those dedicated to completing Halliday’s quest). It was a really good story and I’m looking forward to seeing the film adaptation next year.
- The Boy on the Porch – Sharon Creech
Sharon Creech was one of my favorite authors growing up (though I later found one of the books that I had enjoyed when I was younger to be problematic when I reread it years later). I came across this in the library and, wanting to see what she was writing about nowadays, decided to check it out.
The story follows a married couple, John and Marta, who live in the country and one day awake to find a boy left on their porch (big surprise, right?). He has nothing with him besides the clothes on his back and a note promising that he would be picked up soon. The boy never speaks – even his laugh is silent – but he endears himself so well to John and Marta with his art, musical ability, and how he bonds with their dog that they are a little heartbroken when he finally does leave them. They never find out where he came from. The story is adorable and the message is very sweet. I don’t know if Sharon Creech has any history with adoption or fostering children, but this book, to me, felt like it advocated for it pretty strongly. I loved the characters and their story.
- Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe – Benjamin Alire Saenz
This is one of those books that I didn’t love as I was reading it, but it still somehow really stuck with me after I finished it.
Aristotle (known as Ari) and Dante meet when Dante’s family moves into the neighborhood. On the surface, the two teenagers have nothing in common: Ari is athletic and tough while Dante is bookish and slightly scrawny. However, they strike up a tentative friendship when Dante offers to give Ari swimming lessons over the summer. As they spend more time together, Ari grows to really enjoy Dante’s quirkiness and smarts, and his family. The book touches on themes of family, communication, and sexual orientation. The characters are so well-developed that it doesn’t take long for you to root for all of them. The ending was so satisfying and left me wanting to know what happened next with the pair…so you can imagine my delight when I later found out that a sequel is in the works.
- Nimona – Noelle Stevenson
Graphic novels get a bad rap. People don’t realize how good the story can be and how quickly you can fall in love with the characters, even without all the exposition of a novel.
Nimona is a young girl with a special ability – she’s a shapeshifter. She’s been on her own for a while, until she decides to lend her skills to (or, more accurately, force them on) the kingdom’s villain, Ballister Blackheart. I should specify here that the setting for this story is in an old-fashioned kingdom, like with kings and princesses and such, but one where a lot of technology and science are prevalent. Blackheart is constantly at odds with the kingdom’s hero, Ambrosius Goldenloin (how bout them names, eh?). Nimona and Blackheart start off with a couple of schemes to mess with the kingdom and its science institute, but things escalate pretty quickly. Backstories are uncovered, betrayals are perceived, people are hurt; it’s a wild ride, but a fun and, in some parts, sweet one. Admittedly, I was left with a few questions about Nimona, but in general, I was very satisfied with the ending.
My reading year is progressing fairly well so far, with multiple books on at once, as per usual. Updates on that to come.