I’M ALIVE!

Hello. It’s been too long. But I have good news, I’m alive and I have been reading. At first, I didn’t write a 2016 recap because I was moping; I finished 97 books last year, a disappointing three books short of my goal of 100. And then I wasn’t writing a recap because work got pretty insane. And then I wasn’t writing a recap because I was behind on my goal for 2017 (already) so I was playing a little catch-up.

I’m still behind, but I’ve decided it’s time for me to write my 2016 reading recap because a month and a half has already gone by and that’s embarrassing. Another post is coming soon with the books I’ve read so far in 2017 (there have been already been some great ones).

I didn’t necessarily read these last few books of 2016 in any specific grouping. It was more of a “whatever I can get my hands on and devour quickly in the next 10 days and counting” mentality. So without further ado…

Book #90: MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN by Ransom Riggs

I had pretty high expectations for this book; I’ve been seeing it everywhere for the past few years and I thought the premise sounded great. I was sadly disappointed, though. I’m not exactly sure what it was, I just never felt completely drawn into the world that Riggs had created using fictional stories based on real pictures. Maybe I’ve finally outgrown children’s fantasy worlds… I’m kidding, I think about Harry Potter at least twice a day, that’s obviously not it. It may have been the narrator; I didn’t find Jacob that interesting or relatable, so his story didn’t matter to me much.

Book #91: SIDDHARTHA by Hermann Hesse

This was a short book, but I found myself having to stop and write down passages every other page (I borrowed it from a friend so I couldn’t underline.) It’s the story of a noble man named Siddhartha who renounces his wealth and privilege to travel India in search of his life’s meaning. He meets and joins several groups of people, all leading drastically different lives. He joins the ascetics who practice self-denial and live in perpetual discomfort; he meets Buddha and becomes inspired; he rejoins society and becomes rich; he loves a woman and has a child. Eventually, he finds meaning and purpose in letting go of his quest and becoming one with all. I liked this version because some of the footnotes explained Hesse’s implicit lack of understand of some of the principles of Hinduism and Buddhism, coming from a European background that “mysticized” (that’s not a word but… you know) Eastern religions and philosophies. It was a lovely read.

Book #92: WHATEVER HAPPENED TO INTERRACIAL LOVE?: Stories by Kathleen Collins

This book was beautiful and I never wanted it to end. Kathleen Collins was the first African American woman to direct a feature length film. She died young, which is such a shame because I think she would have gone on to make amazing art. These stories were beautiful because, while they all involved race to some degree, they were character-driven, simple stories of the day-to-day lives or memories or experiences of a rich cast of human beings growing and learning and existing in the world. They varied in length and none of the stories were related, but the writing was so beautiful and strong. Her daughter has the bulk of her unpublished work now, so I’m really hoping that Kathleen’s writing continues to be released.

Book #92: ARIEL by Sylvia Plath

I’ve never been the strongest poetry reader; something about the line breaks combined with the (usually) extremely abstract imagery makes the genre difficult/less enjoyable for me to read. I went into this one with a slightly different mentality because I read The Bell Jar and absolutely loved it. Despite being more familiar with Plath’s writing, I found myself struggling to follow some of the poetry. Overall though, I liked the collection. It had some of her most famous poems (“Daddy”) along with more obscure ones (“obscure” meaning I’d never read them, which isn’t saying much). I didn’t used to like short stories but I got very into those this past year, so I’m hoping that if I just continue reading poetry, I’ll grow to and enjoy it more.

BOOK #93: THE IMPERFECTIONISTS by Tom Rachman

This told the story of a Rome-based newspaper; each chapter comes from the new perspective of a staff member, and interspersed between the present-day chapters is a chronological history of this newspaper. It was such a great story, and such a cool way to tell it. All the present-day chapters were somewhat related, but only through this newspaper. It was so cool because you’d get little slices of a character from their coworker’s perspective, but never the full picture until it was their chapter later in the book. All in all, it painted a bleak picture of print newspapers but did a lovely job telling the story of the rich cast of characters who staff them.

Book #94 & #95: QUICK QUESTION and PLANISPHERE by John Asbery

These were both poetry collections by the same poet, packed in my Christmas bag home due to their slim size and low word-count (if you call that cheating then you’ve probably never tried reading 100 books in a year…). As I mentioned above, I have trouble connecting with poetry. This was the case with both of these collections. I hope to come back to them after I’ve fallen head over heels in love with poetry at some later date.

Book #96: A CHILD OF BOOKS by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston

This was the greatest gift I’ve received to date (thanks mom <3). It’s a picture book about a girl who has grown up on books, otherwise known as my autobiography. The artwork is absolutely beautiful and the story is so lovely.

Book #97 (so close, yet so far): NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND by Fyodor Dostoevsky

I think the moment I truly recognized defeat in 2016 was the moment I chose this book to read, because I’ve already read it. I was due for a reread though, and Notes from Underground is a really great (and short) book. You all know how I feel about Russian literature, and the doom and gloom narrative of this story was a great way to end a year that was already ending ominously enough.

So that’s it! If anything, last year’s challenge made me realize that this goal is more than attainable, and I can absolutely do it. Let’s hope that the third time is a charm as I dive into this year’s 100 books. Happy reading, and wish me luck. ◊

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