Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature from The Broke and the Bookish.
I took the week off of blogging for the holidays, but I couldn’t resist commenting on my favorite books last year (especially since this week’s topic is all about 2017 new releases and we all know that I won’t be getting around to most of those books this year anyway…). It still hasn’t quite sunk in that the year is over and the new one has begun yet. Maybe it will start to when we unpack our bags and finish unloading our car. Or maybe it won’t be until I make my ridiculously long list of New Year’s Resolutions like I do every year. Possibly I won’t be rid of 2016 until February. But now I’m rambling. On to the books!
Actually I read a lot of not-so-great books this year, along with a lot of things that I wouldn’t normally read (like wedding books), so this year I’ve divided my list of 99 books read into categories, and talk about the best books (and runner ups) from each one.
Best Fiction (read: 26)
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
runner up: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
I can’t say enough good things about Doerr’s book. It’s a stunning and heartbreaking look at one of the most devastating events of the twentieth century. The characters are fully alive and unique, and the story is mesmerizing, inviting you to take your time in the created world without any part of it moving too slowly.
Capote’s most famous work is most correctly called (according to the man himself) a non-fiction novel. I was at a loss whether to put it in the fiction or nonfiction category, but since some of the information was proved to have been falsified, I decided it belonged here. Nevertheless, it is an extremely well written work–a provocative look into the minds and motivations of two killers.
Best YA (read: 4)
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
I didn’t read much Young Adult stuff this year aside from the Divergent Series, which I was not all that fond of to be honest. I enjoyed the first book, but lost interest as the series continued. So, even though I didn’t read Riggs’ book until the very end of the year (after seeing the film), it became far and away my favorite. I love that the story was inspired by and freely incorporated old photographs and that the protagonist actually sounds like a young man (complete with bodily humor, sarcasm, and angst).
Best Science Fiction (read: 1)
Foundation by Isaac Asimov
Before this book, I’d never read anything by Asimov, which is weird considering how much I like science fiction. It just seemed intimidating I guess. But this book was great–I’ve never really seen a book set in the future jump time periods like this one does and I was blown away by it. I can’t wait to finish the trilogy.
Best Series (read: 17 books)
The Magicians Series by Lev Grossman
runner up: The All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness
Can I just say how excited I am to watch The Magicians television series on Netflix? So pumped. These books were great–a mix of all my favorite children’s fantasy books but now decidedly grown up.
And Harkness’ books have become a favorite in my family circle. If the Twilight books had lived up to their best potential, it might have been this series which is full of magic, romance, and time travel.
Best Nonfiction (read: 10)
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
runner up: Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik
I don’t think it would be overstating things to say that Coates’ small book was the most important thing I read all year. His words are difficult and challenging, but in this fraught time of police violence and the Black Lives Matter movement on the one hand and a denial that a race problem even exists in America on the other, his words are poignant and essential. Everyone should read this book.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg has long been a source of inspiration to me (and women everywhere, I think), but I never knew all that much about her life until I read this book. The well written biography is juxtaposed not just with pictures but with artwork inspired by the Justice. It’s a great, quick read that’ll bring you insight into the court system and the life of this remarkable woman who never backs down.
Best Graphic Novel (read: 6)
The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua
runner up: Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel
What if Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace were able to follow through on their project and actually build the world’s first mechanical computer…in the 1800s? That’s the line of inquiry the author/artist follows. What seems to have begun as a little bit of research into an interesting subject became a deftly drawn alternate reality rife with information about Victorian life, mathematics, and the biographies of these two fascinating people. Unlike most graphic novels, it’s not exactly a quick read, but it’s totally captivating.
Bechdel’s tale is one of identity and family–coming to terms with your father’s death is never easy–especially when he was a difficult man with a dark secret. This memoir tries to capture her father’s identity as well as her own struggle with her sexuality. Be warned that the content is very adult (and not very happy), but it’s a great book about how your family influences who you ultimately become.
Best Cookbook (read: 4)
My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl
I love reading cookbooks cover to cover, especially when they tell a story like this one does. Reichl is famous as a critic and magazine editor, and when her magazine folds, she feels adrift. She finds her way back with food, and these recipes are her journey. They’re a pleasure to read because they’re less blunt instructions and more of a conversation about food.
Best Children’s Book (read: 6)
The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin
runner up: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery
I’ve got one or two more books to go in Le Guin’s Earthsea books, and I’m enjoying them so much. I picked the second book as my favorite. I love how though it’s related, it’s so different from the first book and a nice departure from the usual quest narrative, bringing up entirely different themes and characters.
This was the first time I’d ever read this book, and man do I feel like I was missing out. It’s such a beautifully told story about imagination and beauty and death–big themes for such a little book that takes place on such a little planet (and I really enjoyed the Netflix film as well!)
Best Parenting (read: 2)
The Highly Sensitive Child by Elaine N. Aron, PhD.
runner up: In Defense of the Princess by Jerramy Fine
I checked out Aron’s book as research for my character–a highly sensitive child–and to my surprise it was not only really helpful as research, but it gave me so much insight into my brother’s character and my own when we were children. If you’re struggling with parenting but it’s not the usual struggles, and your kid is not the “usual” kid, you might think about picking up this book.
This book I picked up because of the title–never conscious that it was, in fact, a parenting book–and it contains a really interesting argument in favor of princesses and all things pink as an expression of feminine power. It’s really a book geared towards feminists who worry that all things pink make their daughters more subject to the patriarchy. While I really enjoyed this book, I do have issues with some of the arguments and I think it could have taken a stronger and more complex stance on objectification–particularly where Disney princesses are concerned.
Best Wedding Book (read: 23)
A Practical Wedding by Meg Keene
runner up: Something New: Tales From a Makeshift Bride by Lucy Knisley
I guess I should have known that my research tendencies would not go away just because I got engaged. I read a ridiculous amount of wedding books (if you need a book for a specific case or type of wedding I probably can give you a recommendation…) and came out with two clear favorites. One is Keene’s pragmatic and level-headed guide, the companion to her wonderful blog. If you’re interested in creating an authentic celebration with emotions rather than stuff at the forefront–read this book. Her website and book are very open to all kinds of unions and are wonderfully helpful–much more so than 99% of the things I read this year.
In contrast, Knisley’s book is actually a memoir describing what it looks like to have a feminist, modern wedding. It shows with humor and charming illustrations struggles over budget, family issues, and what happens when ideas run amok. I think it’s a great read for anyone planning their wedding, or anyone who just likes reading about weddings.
Did you read a lot of books outside the norm this year? Or did you stick to your favorite genres? Let me know one of the books you loved this year in the comments!