At the beginning of this year, I started working at a bookshop. I had taken the year off from study to sort out some health issues, and I knew that I was going to be getting more time to read and enjoy books than I had in a long time. I decided to keep track of all the books I read over the 12 months of 2016, as much out of curiosity as anything else. I have ended up reading 53 books in total, which means that I have read more than one a week! I didn’t think anyone would be interested in reading a full list of everything I read this year, since that post would probably be a few thousand words long, so instead I’m just going to give you the highlights!
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
I had seen this book time and again as I was scrolling through Tumblr, and eventually I decided to give it a go, as it looked like it had the potential to be amazing! I was a little bit hesitant, as more than once I have been disappointed by books that have been really hyped up. I got a copy of Six of Crows before I had two days off in a row (something that doesn’t happen all that often; I usually have Wednesdays and Saturdays off), thinking that I would fill in the two days and maybe the next few evenings. I started reading it the night before my first day off, and was instantly sucked in! Luckily my boyfriend was staying that night, which stopped me from staying up unbelievably late reading. I read a chapter or two and then forced myself to put it down until the next day… when I finished it! I got completely sucked in by the intriguing, intricate plot, the relatable characters, and the witty humour. Leigh is an incredible writer, and the constant twists and turns of the story kept me on the edge of my seat, never knowing what was coming next but desperate to find out! I bought a copy of Crooked Kingdom as soon as I could get my hands on one, and while I didn’t have the time to read it in one go, it was still finished within a few days! Crooked Kingdom was as wonderful as Six of Crows for all the same reasons, and the two books instantly earnt themselves a place on my favourites shelf!
The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes
I was first introduced to Jojo Moyes’ work when I saw the trailer for the movie adaptation of her novel Me Before You. I thought the movie looked wonderful, and since I always prefer to read a book before seeing its movie adaptation, I read both it and its sequel, After You. I never actually got around to seeing the movie (I know it is going to make me bawl my eyes out, and I just haven’t been in the mood to cry lately), but I really enjoyed both the books, so when a lovely looking edition of The One Plus One came into store, I decided to give it a go. I ended loving this book, finding myself much more drawn to it than I was to her other works, and to this day it remains one of my most recommended books at work. The story centres around an unusual family and their interactions with a young man. Various characters experience some incredibly difficult things, but the overall tone of the story remains optimistic, and I regularly found myself laughing uncontrollably as I read (my boss seemed to find it very amusing, watching me cacking myself with laughter while curled up on the purple bean bag in our backroom). I particularly love the way the story ended – it managed to be wonderfully happy without being unrealistically perfect, and it left me feeling content about life and mankind as a whole.
When Michael Met Mina by Randa Abdel-Fattah
I love this book for so, so many reasons. The author is a young Australian woman who has written a number of books, many of which centre around her experiences growing up as a Muslim in Australia. I read her first novel, Does My Head Look Big In This?, in middle school, and it opened my eyes to a culture I had previously had very little exposure to. We were sent an advanced reader copy of When Michael Met Mina, and as soon as I recognised the author’s name I knew I had to read it. The story revolves around two main characters; Michael, whose parents have founded a new political party called Aussie Values; and Mina, who fled Afghanistan with her mother via a refugee camp, a leaky boat, and a detention centre. Alternating chapters are told from each of the characters points of view, allowing you to see both sides of an incredibly complex story as it unfolds. The thing I most admired about this book was the way Randa Abdel-Fattah portrayed both sides of the story. I felt that she could very easily have painted Michael’s family as the stereotypical ‘bad-guys’, racist caricatures there simply to push the plot along. Instead, she showed them to be very loving people, who believe they are doing what is best for the people they care about in a situation that is incredibly difficult and complex. The fact that this book was released just before a major Australian election where the issues of Asylum Seekers and Refugees were major points for all parties meant that it was particularly relevant, and I do think it had an impact on my voting decisions.
The Rest Of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
I can’t remember why I picked this book up, but I am incredibly grateful that I was compelled to read it. While the story itself was funny and interesting, if a little unusual, it was the characters themselves and their portrayal that very quickly earnt this book a place within my heart. Mental Health is an issue I feel very passionately about, and the portrayal of Mental Health and Mental Illness in literature is something that I consider to be unbelievably important. It is something that Patrick Ness has excelled at in this novel, and I am excited to read more of his works next year. Many of the characters have had experiences with mental illness, and while it is an important part of who they are, it isn’t what defines them. While I suffer from Depression and Anxiety and can easily relate to characters with similar conditions, I have often found Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and similar conditions somewhat… baffling. I have understood the general concept of the disorder, but part of my mind has never been able to grasp just how it must feel. Patrick Ness does an incredible job of portraying OCD, and he does so in a way that meant, for the first time in my life, I completely understood how it must feel, and why people with OCD do things that can seem so extreme to others. As well as enabling me to better understood OCD and a number of other mental illnesses, The Rest Of Us Just Live Here also gave me new insight into my own mental health. There is a particular scene partway through the book where the main character is in a counselling session. He is having a discussion with his psychologist about blame, and in particular the blame mentally ill people often put on themselves for causing difficulties for those around them. The psychologist compares mental illness to conditions like cancer, pointing out that a cancer victim is never blamed for their illness. This scene, and the way getting help for mental illness was treated as the sensible, normal thing to do, meant so much to me, and as soon as I finished that particular scene I messaged a friend to tell them that they had to read the book ASAP.
The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon
I decided to read The Sun Is Also A Star because it had been recommended by one of my all time favourite authors at an event I was lucky enough to attend; a decision that was strengthened when I saw the beautiful cover (I know you aren’t meant to judge a book by its cover, but trust me, it is stunning!). I am always a fan of a good romance, but what I loved about this particular romance was the way it was told. Chapters alternated between the points of view of the two main characters, but intersected between these chapters were shorter, more unusual chapters, and these were the ones that made me truly love this book. These chapters served to broaden the scope of the novel; sometimes they would be from the point of view of minor characters whose lives would be altered by the passing actions of the main characters; other times they would describe in detail a scientific or mathematical theory that was mentioned by one of the main characters. This little titbits and asides added a whole other dimension to the story. They made me stop and think about how every single person on this planet is living their own story, and about the way that at any one time multiple stories can be intersecting, with the actions of one person affecting the life course of many others. I have never before read a story that was written in quite this way, and I absolutely adored it.
Well, that’s it! Five books that I read this year that, for one reason or another, I particularly enjoyed. I am hoping that next year I will write more in-depth reviews of many of the books I read, so hopefully I won’t need to cram quite so much information into one post again! I hope you have enjoyed reading this, even if it was a bit rambly. Have a wonderful New Year, and I hope you have a wonderful, book-filled 2017!