About this time last year I posted a reading recap of all the books I’d read since beginning my gap year. This time around I’ll do all the non-school books I read in 2016. Who knows, maybe it’ll become a tradition?
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman — All I remember about this book is rat people and London. And I think there was a pub and an umbrella in the beginning. And a ratty girl. I enjoyed it at the time, but it hasn’t stuck with me.
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut — Again, I don’t remember much. I should probably do this every few months rather than once a year. Anyway, I do remember actually being a little disappointed with this one. I think I was so blown away by Vonnegut’s short stories that I set my expectations too high. It was good, but not jaw-droppingly, mind-bogglingly amazing, as I had hoped. Maybe if I’d read it before the short stories I’d feel differently.
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel — Beautifully written, dreamlike is how I remember it. Read it early on last year.
The First Bad Man by Miranda July — LOVED THIS BOOK. So twisted. Sort of like Lolita but not as bad, I guess. Definitely read if you want a crazy ride.
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson — One of two nonfiction books I read for pleasure this year. Fascinating and beautifully laid out. Hoping to read more Bryson and more nonfiction in general. Gotta learn about the real world sometimes.
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey — I think I read this in two days or something crazy like that. Not really sure why. It was a pretty story and nicely written. Not remarkable, but good.
Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell — I LOVE Karen Russell. I still think about Swamplandia! a lot, especially on my recent trip to Florida’s Everglades. I was first introduced to Russell by a short story from this collection, and though the rest of the stories are amazing, that first one remains my favorite. It’s called “Reeling fir the Empire.”
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides — Gorgeous book. Lovely. Wonderful story, wonderfully written. Entertaining and meaningful.
My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk — A man working in my local bookstore recommended this to me; he’d met the author a few years prior. It was one of those odd reads that I didn’t like as I was reading but enjoyed pondering afterwards.
Never Can Say Goodbye by Sari Botton — The other nonfiction I read, a book of essays about New York. I love New York, and I love things people write about New York, so I loved this book. Hopefully one day I’ll write an essay about New York that will be in a book of essays about New York. Did I mention I love New York?
Geek Love by Katherine Dunn — Twisted like Miranda July, but in a more grotesque way, I think. Grotesque is certainly the word for this novel, but I loved it nonetheless. Greatly poetic. I guess I’m a fan of the twisted.
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke — The longest book I read this year. I’ll admit it was a struggle to finish. I read it over the summer. It was fun, but not amazing.
Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut — Sorry Kurt, I honestly have no memory of reading this. But it’s on my Goodreads page, so I guess I did…
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon — My first Chabon experience and I loved it. Hope to read more soon.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood — A whirlwind read I started and finished over Thanksgiving break instead of writing some essays. Worth it, though.
The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells — I’ve always loved H.G. Wells, but this novel didn’t quite live up to the expectations set by The Time Machine. I think it was because the main character was just so unlikable. He was a terrible guy, and I didn’t really care what happened to him because he brought it all on himself.
The Corpse Exhibition and Other Stories of Iraq by Hassan Blassim — Violent and sad. “The first major literary work about the Iraq War from an Iraqi perspective.” Beautifully written, in a style that reminds me of my favorite Gabriel Garcia Marquez, mixing magic with reality.
Kindred by Octavia E. Butler — A science fiction work dealing with ante-bellum slavery. Read this for a science fiction book club, finished it on the last day of the year. I enjoyed the plot, but I think it was a little surface-level. I think the story could have gone a lot deeper and explored more of the narrator’s truly unusual and unfortunate situation. I’m very critical of science fiction because I think it has a lot of potential that is only rarely reached (examples of sci-fi that reaches its potential: H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Ken Liu’s “The Paper Menagerie”). I’ll be curious to hear other opinions on this one.
I’m currently reading a few books: another Murakami (Norwegian Wood), Calvino’s Cosmicomics (a good bedtime read, completely surreal), Rutherfurd’s mammoth New York. Reading goals for 2017: try some David Foster Wallace, read more nonfiction, more female authors, and more international authors.