Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Year in Reading 2016

I challenged myself to read 120 books in 2016, and didn't quite make it.  On New Year's Eve, I (unexpectedly) finished my last book, for a total of 101 books.  Eleven more than the previous year (good) but not as many as 2013.  One big difference, however, is my consumption of picture books.  In 2013, I read many more picture books than last year.  They are quick reads for me (well, for everyone) although harder to write about (art!).  I'm pleased with reading over 100 books though.

On Goodreads, I gave five stars to 30 books, and four stars to 25 books.  Over half of what I read was Excellent or Very Good - but much of that was re-reads of things I'd loved in the past. I'm going to take the 55 books, and first separate out the "re-reads".

The Five Star Re-Reads.  These are books that stood the test of time; they are as good this time as whenever I had read them before:

The Sorcery and Cecilia by Patricia C. Wrede
To Say Nothing of the Dog  by Connie Willis
The Secret Country trilogy by Pamela Dean
Tam Lin by Pamela Dean
The Pink Motel by Carol Ryrie Brink
Lord Valentine's Castle by Robert Silverberg
His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman (hote:  the first book in this series is still great; I found a new appreciation for the second book; but the third book was still ho-hum).
Birdology by Sy Montgomery
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
I Am the Mummy Heb-Nefert by Eve Bunting
Frog and Toad are Friends by Arnold Lobel
Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
Watership Down by Richard Adams

The Four Star Re-Reads
The Tuesday Club Murders  by Agatha Christie
Majipoor Chronicles by Robert Silverberg
The Golem and the Jinni by Helen Wecker
Murder in Amsterdam by Theo Van Gogh
The Spellcoats by Diana Wynne Jones
A Wizard of Earthsea  by Ursula K. LeGuin
The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting
The Dalemark Quartet by Diana Wynne Jones (first three books only; even a master storyteller can have a stink, stank, stunk story - and the fourth one in this series was terrible).

What I can state about these two lists is that some of these books made me the reader I am today; and many of them are among some of my favorite books of all time;  they will definitely be re-read again in the distant but too distant future.

Five Star Books that I read for the first time in 2016:
California by Ina Donna Coolbrith
There is a Tribe of Kids by Lane Smith
The Magic World by E. Nesbit
Witches of Lychford by Paul Cornell
Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon
Symphony for the City of the Dead by M.T. Anderson
A Man of Some Repute by Elizabeth Edmundson
Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson
Blithe Spirit by Noel Coward
The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Ronald Reagan by Jacob Weisberg

And the Four Stars I read for the first time:
Good Evening Mrs. Craven by Mollie Panter-Downes
The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery
Very Good Lives by J.K. Rowling
Magic in the Park by Ruth Chew
Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
The Three Robbers by Tomi Ungerer
Victoria: The Queen: An Intimate Biography of the Woman Who Ruled an Empire by Julia Baird
Arcadia by Iain Pears
Crown and Country by David Starkey
Peacock Pie by Walter de la Mare
Citizens of London by Lynne Olson

Honorable Mentions
Louisa May Alcott: A Personal Biography by Susan Cheever
The King's Curse by Philippa Gregory

Best Fiction:
Witches of Lychford by Paul Cornell
A Man of Some Repute by Elizabeth Edmundson
Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Arcadia by Iain Pears

Best Nonfiction
Symphony for the City of the Dead by M.T. Anderson
Ronald Reagan by Jacob Weisberg
Victoria: The Queen: An Intimate Biography of the Woman Who Ruled an Empire by Julia Bair
The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery
Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon

Best Audio
Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson.  This was the one audio all year long that I never wanted to leave the car for.  Little Women and The Magic World come close though.

Best Book I read last year:  I'm going to go with Aurora.  I still remember much of it; it was gripping and interesting; it was an audio (which may have something to do with this) with a terrific reader. The characters were engaging and interesting; the ideas behind it were thoroughly engaging as well.  I have recommended it to many people as well.

Best Book I actually read, not listened to:  I loved the book about Queen Victoria.  I thought A Man of Some Repute was an excellently written mystery. And I loved Witches of Lychford. But I'm going to go with Arcadia - looking back over my reviews of this brought back pleasant memories of an awesome book that I couldn't put down.  Not as engaging as Aurora but nearly so, and really interesting in concept.  

Honorable mention:  listening to Little Women and reading Susan Cheever's biography of Louisa May Alcott at the same time was a great experience. 

Worst Book
Most of the time, if I hate a book, I don't finish it, and then don't bother reviewing it.

I gave two books 1 star last year.  One of them I actually didn't finish.  The other I listened to and hated every. single. moment.  I don't know why I even kept going, other than maybe it was like a trainwreck, and I couldn't tear away my eyes.  The Hundred Foot Journey by Richard Morais is quite possibly the worst book I've ever read - and I've read thousands and thousands of books.  It was memorably bad.

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