Book Highlights of 2016

I was inspired by Amy’s post recently on her year in books and thought it’d be a good idea for a post, as well! As an avid reader, I have been slacking these past few years when it comes to reading. When I was younger I used to go through books like water, but these days with work and other social commitments (I’m really just talking Netflix here, btw), I’ve found I don’t read as much.

I did join the GoodReads Reading Challenge last year and only set my target to 20. I managed to read 14 books, so I’m proud to say I passed the halfway mark. I definitely want to read more books this year, but I have yet to set a target. I don’t want to overextend myself.

There were definitely a few books that stood out last year for me, so here are a few highlights:

How to be Single by Liz Tuccillo 

“Julie Jenson is a single thirty-seven-year-old book publicist in New York. When her friend Georgia’s husband leaves her for a samba teacher, she forces Julie to organize a single girls’ night out to remind her why it’s so much fun not to be tied down. But the night ends up having the opposite effect on Julie. Fed up with the dysfunction and disappointments of singledom, Julie quits her job and sets off to find out how women around the world are dealing with this dreaded phenomenon. From Paris to Brazil to Sydney, Bali, Beijing, Mumbai, and Reyjavik, Julie falls in love, gets her heart broken, sees the world, and learns more than she ever dreamed possible. All the while her friends at home are grappling with their own issues—bad blind dates, loveless engagements, custody battles, single motherhood, and the death of a loved one.”

This sort of became my Bible for a while. I mentioned this in my Reflections post about trying to find happiness in relationships to make myself happy, when in fact I should have really been finding happiness within myself. Reading this book actually helped. The fact that the main character actually goes around the world seeking out single women and how they’re dealing with it opened my eyes. Not everyday lament about being single, you know? I’ll admit it’s not the best book in the world, and most of the time I did feel like the main character was whinging for no reason. I still really enjoyed reading it – I personally enjoyed the character development – and it was fun learning about new cultures. The film does not follow the book at all if you’re thinking of watching it. I really did enjoy the film, but on a separate basis. 

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White Teeth by Zadie Smith

“Epic and intimate, hilarious and poignant, White Teeth is the story of two North London families—one headed by Archie, the other by Archie’s best friend, a Muslim Bengali named Samad Iqbal. Pals since they served together in World War II, Archie and Samad are a decidedly unlikely pair. Plodding Archie is typical in every way until he marries Clara, a beautiful, toothless Jamaican woman half his age, and the couple have a daughter named Irie (the Jamaican word for “no problem”). Samad —devoutly Muslim, hopelessly “foreign”— weds the feisty and always suspicious Alsana in a prearranged union. They have twin sons named Millat and Magid, one a pot-smoking punk-cum-militant Muslim and the other an insufferable science nerd. The riotous and tortured histories of the Joneses and the Iqbals are fundamentally intertwined, capturing an empire’s worth of cultural identity, history, and hope.”

Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuude. This book was so good. It’s quite a chunky book, but if you’re looking for something with a lot of characters, personalities and plotlines then this is definitely the book for you. The fact that it is set in my city doesn’t hurt either. I’ll admit that it is something that you have to chew a little longer to get into, but once you’re in then the book will take you a rollercoaster. I loved reading about the two very different families that are depicted and how they coexist in their North London bubble. In reality, if it weren’t for the war I’m pretty sure Archie and Samad would not be friends.

Making History by Stephen Fry 

“In Making History, Stephen Fry has bitten off a rather meaty chunk by tackling an at first deceptively simple premise: What if Hitler had never been born? An unquestionable improvement, one would reason–and so an earnest history grad student and an aging German physicist idealistically undertake to bring this about by preventing Adolf’s conception. And with their success is launched a brave new world that is in some ways better than ours–but in most ways even worse. Fry’s experiment in history makes for his most ambitious novel yet, and his most affecting. His first book to be set mostly in America, it is a thriller with a funny streak, a futuristic fantasy based on one of mankind’s darkest realities. It is, in every sense, a story of our times.” 

Honestly, I didn’t even know Stephen Fry was an author before this. I claimed to love him with all my heart and yet I did not know that fact. Nevertheless, when my friend lent this book to me and I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down. A chance to rewrite history and take down one of the worst dictators ever? How could one resist writing a story around that? The flashback to the alternative history that has now presented itself because Hitler wasn’t born was riveting to read. Of course, even if Hitler weren’t born who’s to say something better would happen? That’s what Fry explores and he does it so well with his trademark wit. I would definitely recommend ‘The Liar’, as well, just FYI.

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Honourable mentions: The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair; Mutay put me onto this book and I’m so glad she did because wow! This book has so many twists and turns, and continuously had me wanting to pull out my hair. Just the mere premise of a grown man supposedly falling in love with a 15 year old girl and then her body being discovered 33 years later… need I say more? I shan’t.

The Girl on the Train; another book that the film DOES NOT DO JUSTICE TO. I could not put this book down. hOLY COW. You know you get those books that you stay up until like 3AM in the morning reading because you. Cannot. Get. Enough? This is one of those books. I mainly feel sorry for the main character Rachel and honestly didn’t really feel sympathy for the other female characters. I’ll leave it up to you to decide who you like, though. Haha.

Ay, tell me about your reading history/favourite book(s)/authors/everything! Feel free to follow me on Goodreads.

9 Comments

  1. January 29, 2017 / 12:56 pm

    “and other social commitments (I’m really just talking Netflix here, btw)” SAME GURL, SAME. Haha!

    Embarrassingly, I didn’t actually read as much as I wish I had when I was younger. My sister, on the other hand, would read and finish new books every 2 days (which explains the shelves and shelves of books she has in her room haha. But I do remember one year reading lots of books – more than I ever had done! I think it was when Twilight was such a big thing, haha. I did read but maybe more Science textbooks than anything. 😛

    HOWEVER, with that said, I have started reading a lot more with my Kindle! It seems just so much easier to finish and “shorter” in my head for some reason even if it is like 300 pages haha.

    Interesting list of books! I didn’t even know How to Be Single was a book! I absolutely loved the film, it’s hilarious. I might give the book a try, I’m intrigued.

  2. January 29, 2017 / 10:34 pm

    Ah, books. I love books. XD I always have loved reading. I either race through a book or spend forever reading one.

    Anyway, some of those do sound pretty interesting! Haven’t read any of em.

  3. January 30, 2017 / 12:51 am

    I like how everyone is posting what they read last year! I used to be an avid reader, but I rarely read anything other than graphic novels now. I miss it. Now I’ll have recommends for whenever I get back into it 😉

    Making History sounds really interesting, and it makes me curious about what the alternate history is. I also like that How to be Single takes place around the world. I haven’t seen the film, but I’d be interested in reading the book!

    I’ve heard a lot about The Girl on the Train, and it seems like a book that I’d like. I’ve been meaning to read that one!

  4. January 30, 2017 / 2:38 am

    Any amount of books greater than 0 is already a great achievement. Hurray on reading 14 books in 2016! How to be Single sounds like an interesting book that gives an insight. I’m here wondering how much it would cost to travel around the world XD.

    I love stories when it’s about totally different personalities/cultures finding ways to live together.

    I often wonder about the “what if’s” in regards to world history.. What if Hitler couldn’t do the damages that he did? Would there be someone else who would’ve taken his place in a different time? I would think a lot of preventative measures would have to be taken to prevent any other like-minded jerks to do something similar.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on these books :D.

  5. January 31, 2017 / 12:11 am

    I need to read MOAR books, but it’s awesome you read a lot. I like to take my time and now that my concentration is better, I can finish books along with video games! I know I can do it!

  6. January 31, 2017 / 6:00 pm

    Making History by Stephen Fry sounds really interesting! There’s a documentary by him about printing presses (I believe) that I’ve been meaning to watch. 14 is great! I think setting challenges for yourself is awesome and as long as you’re reading – that’s the most important part!

    Your Goodreads looks amazing btw. Tara showed me her shelf and I was amazed lol. I tried keeping a Goodreads account for a while but discovered I was really bad at it, so I sort of gave up haha.

  7. January 31, 2017 / 8:56 pm

    I definitely need to read White Teeth! I don’t know if you remember, but you recommended it to me a while ago and I’m still yet to get it. It sounds amazing. I love stories that focus on a close set of characters.

    I’ve only read one book by Stephen Fry and that was The Hippopotamus, and I found it really weird. I can’t say why, because that would kill the entire plot, but so very, very weird. I’ve actually owned The Liar since I was 17, and still haven’t read it because I was put off by that one.

    How to be Single sounds great. Break-ups are so hard, especially when you’ve not been single in a while. After one of my break-ups I considered leaving the country for a while (to teach, though, not research), so I can definitely understand where she’s coming from!

    Hope you manage to make time for reading this year!

  8. February 4, 2017 / 10:33 am

    I totally get you about how we slack off on reading X_X I was the same where I read so much as a kid, but when I entered college and then did my postgraduate degree . . . my reading level dropped a lot! But now I’ve been reading a lot more, and I love it! I’ve been slacking off on the reading department again, so I need to step up my game!

    I need to check out Making History. That looks like something totally up my alley! Ahhhh! I keep forgetting about it, but not this time! I will go look for it!

    Thanks for sharing your book highlights! ^^

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