I failed at blogging in 2016. It’s one of my new year’s resolutions to do better in 2017, but in all honesty, I don’t hold out much hope. But, in an effort to catch up with myself, here are brief reviews of all the books I read this year. (I’ve given translations of the French titles in brackets yes I am very pretentious.)
- The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet – Bernie Su and Kate Rorick
Not the most literary start to 2016, but I have a tendency to fall into a reading slump in January and this was an easy read to get me out of that. The book accompaniment to my favourite web series, but probably not really worth reading.
- Une si longue lettre – Mariama Bâ
(So long a letter) I read this for a module on Francophone African Literature and loved it. It’s about polygamy in Senegal in the seventies, and along with that the place of women in that society. That module made me read a lot of stuff I wouldn’t have picked up otherwise and that’s the best thing about studying literature.
- J’accuse ! – Émile Zola
This is not actually a book, it’s an open letter/essay. But I’ve counted shorter things as books in the past and I analysed this in pretty serious depth so I’m including it. It’s interesting but not necessarily that relevant for today, although it does include interesting persuasive discourse.
- C’est le soleil qui m’a brûlée – Calixthe Beyala
(The sun hath looked upon me) Another one for the African Lit module, this book was a slog but it was worthwhile in the end. It’s worth noting that all the straight white boys on the module hated it, which made me like it more.
- Le dernier jour d’un condamné – Victor Hugo
(Last Day of a Condemned Man) I hated this book. Hugo needs to pipe down.
- Soppy – Philippa Rice
I read this standing in Waterstones in one go. I still haven’t bought it, which feels like stealing in some small way. It’s a very very cute graphic novel, which I keep meaning to buy for my boyfriend. (Jake, if you’re reading this, forget it immediately.)
- It’s Not Me It’s You – Mhairi McFarlane
I read four Mhairi McFarlane books this year and they’ve all blurred into one, but I know I loved them all. I still don’t know how to pronounce her name though.
- Murambi, le livre des ossements – Boubacar Boris Diop
(Murambi, the book of bones) This is a very grim and very excellent book about a massacre at a school during the Rwandan genocide. I learnt a lot from it and I recommend it to literally everyone.
- Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
I saw the theatre production of this last year and realised that it was finally time to read it. It’s brilliant, creepy in a subtle sort of way. Whenever I get around to reading 1984 I’ll let you know which I prefer. (Spoiler I will literally never get around to that.)
- Who’s That Girl? – Mhairi McFarlane
Okay, this is the Mhairi McFarlane I actually remember because it’s set in Nottingham, and it’s full of real places in the city. If there’s one thing I love about her books it’s how vividly she renders places and it’s really cool to read a book like that set in the city you live in. Also, it’s like Nottingham propaganda which I’m always behind because I love Notts.
- The Dumb House – John Burnside
BookTube didn’t shut up about this and like, it’s good but not that good. I did read it primarily in the A&E waiting room at Queen’s Medical Centre at 4am after I spilled boiling water on my stomach, so maybe I wasn’t in the best frame of mind but honestly, it didn’t live up to the hype.
- When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi
Normally it’s not easy for me to pick the best book I read in a year, but this year it is super easy. I think about this book a lot and I read it six months ago. It’s beautiful and thought provoking and inspiring and I would give it to everyone I know for Christmas except that it’s sort of about death which isn’t that festive.
- Girl Up – Laura Bates
I was sort of snooty about this, I thought I had everything figured out that this book could teach me but I cried a lot at it in public places. Also there are illustrations of tap-dancing vaginas on the endpapers, which is flawless.
- Animal: The Autobiography of a Female Body – Sara Pascoe
Kind of heteronormative but also super educational and interesting. Also I really love Sara Pascoe and she’s very funny and I stood next to her watching Grimes and I was very overwhelmed and didn’t tell her I loved her because it felt weird and invasive of her having a fun time.
- Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Yes yes yes. This is a very good book, but you know when you love something an author writes and then you don’t want to read anything else they’ve written in cadse it isn’t as good? I’m having that with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
- Sex Object – Jessica Valenti
This was kind of hard to listen to (I did the audiobook because I’m a cheat), but also important and it has stuck with me a lot. I didn’t really realise how good it was as I was reading it, if that makes sense.
- The Wicked and the Divine: Fandemonium – Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
I enjoy this series but I have no momentum to read the next one. I did see them give a talk at Latitude, which inspired me to read Volume 2, but Volume 3 is all guest artists and I think I’m going to hate it so I haven’t picked it up yet.
- You Had Me At Hello – Mhairi McFarlane
Again, all the Mhari McFarlanes have blurred into one but I recommend all of them.
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne
No spoilers, obv, but this is good but also flawed and not gay enough. I did see the play and it’s incredible and if you can possibly manage it you should see it because it’s really impressive.
- Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
I listened to Rosamund Pike reading the audiobook of this and it’s probably the best audiobook I’ve listened to, she just has the perfect voice for this story. A great way to revisit one of my favourites.
- The Actual One – Isy Suttie
Fun but kind of forgettable to be honest. I really like Isy Suttie and I enjoyed this book but I don’t really remember it.
- Milk and Honey – Rupi Kaur
I read this all in one go and adored it. It’s beautiful and brilliant and perfect and it’s another one that I want to give to everyone in my life, but also one of those books that you don’t want to tell anyone about because you want to keep it to yourself.
- Surfacing – Margaret Atwood
I feel like I didn’t get this book. Like it just went over my head in some way.
- The Keeper of Lost Things – Ruth Hogan
This isn’t out yet so I’m not sure how much I’m allowed to say as I didn’t get it for review, but I hated it.
- This Is How It Always Is – Laurie Frankel
Another pre-release that I didn’t get for review, but a much better one. Sort of chaotically written, which I liked, but with a weird bit of exoticism at the end that slightly ruined it. It’s about parenting a transgender child, which is important and I’m glad it exists.
- Here’s Looking at You – Mhairi McFarlane
Oh! I remember this a bit! I really liked the two leads in this, especially the female protagonist.
- Spaceman of Bohemia – Jaroslav Kalfar
Also pre-release because I am very exclusive and important. I liked this a lot, but books with giant space spiders need to carry a warning because I fucking hate spiders and I was not prepared. The UK cover for the final version of this is great (unlike the final cover for This Is How It Always Is, which sucks).
- The Sellout – Paul Beatty
Unsurprisingly, the winner of the Man Booker is a very good book. It’s also surprisingly readable and very funny.
- Annihilation – Jeff Vandermeer
A sort of sci-fi (I don’t know if it entirely counts as sci-fi) thriller about a group of female scientists investigating an environmental anomaly. Creepy and very readable, I read it all in one go.
- Let Them Eat Chaos – Kate Tempest
I love Kate Tempest, but this is probably the weakest of her poetry collections for me.
- The Power – Naomi Alderman
I want to shout about how fantastic this book is. It’s so fascinating and raises so many questions, but is also super readable and fun. It’s being adapted for TV, which I’m so excited for.
- The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily – Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
I read this in like an hour and a half because I was stuck in King’s Cross with a dead phone having finished my book. It’s cute and festive but nothing special.
- Talking As Fast As I Can – Lauren Graham
I love Gilmore Girls a very intense amount, so this was lovely. I listened to the audiobook, which, being read by Lauren Graham herself, was a pretty speedy experience.
- Scrappy Little Nobody – Anna Kendrick
This was fun, I liked it.
- Authority – Jeff Vandermeer
I liked this less than the first in the trilogy, it doesn’t have the pace. I do like that the protagonist of this one doesn’t know most of what happened in the first book, but does know things that we didn’t in the previous book. It picks up a lot towards the end and I’ll definitely be reading the third instalment soon.
- Sofia Khan is Not Obliged – Ayisha Malik
I’d heard this described as Bridget Jones in a hijab, and it was a lot of fun, but it falls a bit short of that description for me. I liked it, but I didn’t love it, in part because I listened to the audiobook and there were some highly questionable American and Irish accents going on.
- Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates
This book is more highlighted than not I think. Brilliant and powerful.
- The Bricks that Built the Houses – Kate Tempest
This is my current read, and I’m pretty sure I’ll finish it by the end of the year. I’m only a little way in but I love Kate Tempest’s prose as much as I love her poetry so far. I saw her do a Q&A on this when it was released and she’s a great speaker too.
- A Book for Her – Bridget Christie
Another current read, this is the audiobook I’ve got on the go at the moment. I’ve listened to a little over an hour of it and I haven’t quite formed an impression of it yet.
It’s probably a bit weird to be disappointed by quote-unquote only reading 37/38/39 (however many it ends up being) books in a year, especially given that I took my final exams and started my first full-time job this year, but I am. I always want to read fifty in a year, and I’ve succeeded at that for the last two years, so I am a little disappointed by the number. It shouldn’t matter to me how many books I read, but it does. Although, if you counted all the books I’ve read for work, then that would easily push me over the fifty mark.
What I am pleased with is that I succeeded in trying to read less books by white men. Only ten of those books are by white men, and of those two are co-authored by women and another two were books I had to read for university. It’s not a hugely diverse list, I admit, but I’m working on it.