Welcome one, welcome all, to the inevitable and downright obligatory Best Books of 2016 post that isn’t at all subjective or biased in any way. (Disclaimer: that sentence was entirely a lie.)
(If you’re looking for my more stats-based wrap up of 2016 then please do pop over to my 2016: A Bookish Year In Review post!)
I’m sure you’ve seen enough of these lists floating around in the past week or so but, basically, I’ve decided to draw a line under (let’s face it a pretty crappy) 2016 in the most positive way possible – by celebrating some absolutely brilliant books that I’ve read this past year. They may not necessarily have been published in 2016, but all of them were read by yours truly in these past twelve months and, it’s safe to say, if they made this list and have stuck around despite my patchy memory, then they must have been something special. Each of these books has well and truly earned their place on this list and I’ve detailed the not-at-all-incoherent reasoning behind each choice below so that, hopefully, my flailing might persuade you to read them yourself if you haven’t already.
Right, without further ado, let’s do this like the music charts, in reverse order, shall we?
Honourable Mention: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
Why?: When people say a story is “haunting”, I finally know what they mean thanks to Hannah Kent’s novel. Set in Iceland, it follows the story of Agnes Magnusdottir, the last person to be sentenced to death in the country. From the outset we are told what Agnes has allegedly done and this characterisation of her as a “murderess” haunts her every word and interaction from this opening page. Add onto that Kent’s chilling writing style which masterfully evokes the harsh, bleak, but beautiful, Icelandic landscape, and you have an absolutely astounding book that has stayed with me for many months.
“To know what a person has done, and to know who a person is, are very different things.”
Well another year is over… and, if I’m honest, it’s been a mixed bag in terms of life aside from books. This year saw another family member continue to battle with that dreaded C-word, another family member sadly passed away, uncomfortable truths about a loved one have started to become apparent, and another is beginning to lose her memory so… all in all, I can say without hesitation that, frankly, 2016 can do one. Add onto that the rate at which beloved celebrities seem to be dropping like flies and we seem to have lost a lot of people, in one way or another, far too soon. And the summer of 2016 was shitty of the highest order because of said family bereavements coupled with the self-confidence obliterating task of job hunting.
But I don’t want to focus on the bad, let’s look at the good things in 2016, shall we? I managed to find a job and move out by the time I was 24, just like I’d wanted to, even if I was beginning to despair that it would never happen. This move did wonders for my self-confidence, and continues to make me feel a lot more positive about the future ahead. I feel like maybe I will have the courage to do some of the things I want to now, now that I’ve made this first step moving away from home properly. Other good things? Well, I visited a friend in Oxford and attended YALC with her and her sister and had a whale of a time on the entire trip – definitely a highlight of the year, and very cultured and bookish a trip it was at that!
Oh and I also read some really good books which, believe me, help. A lot. I’d like to take the time to look back over this bookish year and remember some of those really great reads that were always there, even if real life was a bit shitty.
If you’ve been around for a little while, you may remember that I really enjoyed doing a sort of Year In Review for 2015 in order to round off and wrap up the books I read that year. Well, it’s back again for this year! For those who don’t know, this In Review post is mainly stats-based and pictorial; I’ll keep my further opinions to reviews and such, but I have done a Best Books of 2016 list so please do pop over and take a look, if you fancy. If you’re just interested in the stats breakdown, then look no further: Continue reading
Confession time: I completely forgot that I had made a 2015 Bookish Resolutions post. I’m not sure exactly when that post – and the resolutions contained therein – disappeared from my conciousness but, as can be seen from how many I actually completed, I really didn’t stick the plans I set for myself in 2015. Let us briefly review those “best laid plans” …
- Stay on top of required reading – ACHIEVED (I graduated MA with Distinction this year so I must have done something right!)
- Write TBRs that are actually manageable, realistic, and appealing. – SEMI-ACHIEVED (only since I stopped writing official TBRs altogether)
- Write a review, even just a sentence or two, no matter how incoherent/flaily, for every single book/play/poem I read this year. – SEMI-ACHIEVED (I wrote a lot more reviews that I had previously but not for every single book)
- Give everything I read some kind of rating. – ACHIEVED (It was a fairly simple goal though!)
- Make blog posts/videos more regularly. – ACHIEVED (I’m certainly blogging more than I used to)
- Have more structure to the blog posts/videos. – SEMI-ACHIEVED (I have started to participate more in readathons and weekly memes such as Top 5 Wednesday and Friday Reads. I still like to make more thoughtful discussion-based posts, however.)
- Be more mindful of what I am reading, using Book Riot and Reading Challenge for guidance – SEMI-ACHIEVED (42/50 on the Popsugar Reading Challenge and 15/24 on Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge)
As for the extra text-specific goals I set myself? I failed… every single one of them. I hoped to right many a wrong by reading in their entirety (rather than piecemeal sections to pass a class) Spenser’s Faerie Queene, Milton’s Paradise Lost, Hugo’s Les Misérables, and Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. Likewise I hoped to tackle as many Dickens’ novels as is possible. I did not do that. I had to read A Christmas Carol and Oliver Twist for a Victorian Literature and Other Media class I took in Lent term but I don’t think I should count those since I had to complete them.
So I think we can all agree 2015’s Bookish Resolutions was a mixed bag of success and failure. However, because I never learn, I’ve decided to jump on this bandwagon once again and set myself some (hopefully) manageable reading goals for 2016. I’ve stopped making life resolutions because I never ever stick to them, so with those I might as well not bother – the reading ones, however, are sometimes accidentally achieved, so with that cynical mindset onwards to 2016…
- Read 52 books this year – it only works out as 1 per week so not too difficult
- Read at least 1 non-fiction book a month – I don’t read enough non-fiction but I’ve found a liking for it recently
- Get caught up with more series / finish series – this might be difficult to achieve with the likes of A Song of Ice and Fire but god loves a trier, right?
- Write a review for every single book I read – no matter how long or short, profound or ridiculous, the review is, I must write one for every book
- Keep a book journal – this should help enormously with resolution #4
- Read at least 4 of my longer “project books” – high contenders include Anna Karenina, Moby Dick, War and Peace, Les Misérables, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Goldfinch, and Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell
- Write more thoughtful blog posts – the weekly memes are nice and all and certainly useful jumping-off points if I need to hammer out a quick post late on a Friday night when I’m tired, but I can fall into the trap of mindlessly fulfilling the bare minimum of posts and I’d like to be more creative and thoughtful about posts and reviews this year, even if that means taking my time over them
I shall leave it at seven since that seems a nice magical number. I’m aware a lot of these are vague and difficult to measure but the book-specific resolutions really don’t seem to work for me so hopefully I’ll be more likely to actually keep these ones in mind as I’m choosing what to read in 2016.
How about you – have you set some 2016 bookish resolutions, what are they? How did your 2015 resolutions fare? Do you think resolutions are a waste of time since no one (read: I) reviews them until December when they realise they’ve accomplished none of them? Comment below!