This year, I made it through 125 books and audiobooks, which I’m pretty sure is a new record! It was also a diverse year of reading for me, as I took on my second Pop Sugar Reading Challenge to broaden my tastes and habits.
As this crazy year comes to a close, I’m content to dwell on some of the best reading I had to accompany me through it. They span the spectrum of children’s and “adult,” fiction and nonfiction, and I’m happy to share them with the world.
What I loved most about this book was the way the story and the illustrations blended together so well. The plot itself is fairly dark for a children’s book, but not inappropriate for younger children. In fact, I have a theory that this book is meant to be read aloud to a child by an adult (or older sibling), because there are elements of the story that children will understand best, but there are other parts “mature” readers will pick up on as they read through it. Ollie is the best friend every parent would want for their child, and even the villain has a story that people can understand. I appreciated this book so much for the ways that Joyce applied eccentricities to a simple children’s story of the real-life love of their favorite toys.
I love the original Peter Pan myth and legend, created for the stage by J. M. Barrie, and I also love the different ways people interpret that myth. This book was my favorite adaptation of the year. It’s not often that I enjoy an adaptation that messes with the good side and the bad side (I hope I’m not giving too much away there…), but this one does it well, and you experience great sympathy for the right characters at the right times. Lisa Maxwell is an excellent author, and I look forward to reading more from her in the future!
The Female of the Species
I’ve already gushed about this book in my last post, and I still haven’t said enough about it. An easy-to-digest story this one isn’t. McGinnis says a bunch of stuff you probably don’t want to hear about what happens (or, at least, could happen), in high school in such a way that we cannot ignore it. Alex is the protagonist every present and previous victim needs to know she/he is not alone. And we, the greater populace, should aspire to be the Alex to our friends who have suffered (although perhaps without the psychopathic violence…).
This story isn’t only worthy of school reading requirements with its treatment of sexual assault and date rape culture. It’s also just brilliantly done. You spend the second half of the book wondering how all these different situations could ever work out to be a good thing, and then BAM! McGinnis delivers the only possible ending that could tie everything together. You don’t feel great about it, but you feel comfortable with the knowledge that she put it together in the method that works best. Perfect for the teen reader and the thriller lover alike, Alex will have you guessing until the very end!
This Is Where It Ends
I read this book in a matter of hours on a Saturday. The plot itself is a great page-turner. I think I was most captivated by the idea that we would be witnessing this school shooting through the eyes of the shooter’s sister, along with a few other characters. The perspectives that come from inside and outside the building, and even inside and outside the auditorium, give a plot that is at once well-rounded and scattered. I was immediately drawn to the characters and their lives, and I was invested in how their stories would turn out. I don’t think what Nijkamp describes is necessarily a realistic school shooting (if, of course, we want to admit to the “normalization” of this experience that makes us notice differences from actual situations). Our shooter doesn’t act like someone on a spree, he has too much ammo, and it takes him far too long to be stopped. Moreover, some of the deaths of different students are more from dramatic effect than for accurate representation. However, the overall mood created in these instances does, in fact, create a better understanding of the atmosphere one might experience if put in that situation. Another author who was unafraid to touch the social taboo and attempt to address real-life problems our culture must learn to acknowledge and attempt to overcome.
This book is so dark and creepy, it made my skin crawl just reading about it. I have to admit that, while I can’t stomach scary movies, I appreciate an occasional dark and frightening read, and this one did it for me this year. I’m too young to really be aware of Charles Manson or the women who murdered in his name, so I was mainly intrigued by this book’s premise after learning about it. After engaging in the story, I fell in love with the rest of it. Evie’s plight is extreme, and I found myself empathizing and distrusting her at the same time. As the story developed, I particularly appreciated the parallelisms between Evie’s past and present. These elements complicate the message of the story and remind us that the behavior of these women are perhaps not so foreign to us after all. Creepy as hell, but worth the chills!
Adulthood is a Myth
I absolutely LOVE “Sarah’s Scribbles,” so I was totally stoked when I saw that she was coming out with a book (and I believe she’s officially signed a contract to publish another one soon!). I read this collection in one sitting, as well, and I found it delightful. It includes several of my favorites from the Sarah’s Scribbles Facebook page, along with several new stories. As a twenty-something, I find the best way to cope with “adulting” is to laugh about it, and Sarah helps you do that it the best way possible. I can’t wait to get the next collection!
milk and honey
I don’t frequently read poetry, but this collection really spoke to me. I think, like The Female of the Species, this is one young women should be exposed to, to remind them of where love and relationships can lead. More importantly, this collection reminds young women where their strength comes from, and how powerful they are on their own. In rupi’s own words,
“from now on i will say things like
you are resilient or you are extraordinary
not because i don’t think you’re pretty
but because you are so much more than that”
Finding Mr. Brightside
I met Jay Clark and bought his book to show support for a local author. Much to my surprise, I was immediately swept up in the story and carried away by the characters and the plot. The writing is simple and funny, with some elegant twists and turns through the complex relationships it reveals. The romance feels not only possible, but real, which isn’t often something I say about a teen love story. But you want to situation to work out for our lovebirds, and it isn’t handed on a silver platter. Now, I’m grateful for the opportunity I had to speak with Jay about his writing, and I can’t wait to pick up his first novel, The Education of Jay Baker.
The Reason I Jump
I have been interested in the Autism Spectrum ever since I studied the disability deeply in a training course I took for writing center work. When I found this book, written by someone with autism, I couldn’t wait to read it. Naoki’s simple expressions of his feelings and experiences are eye-opening. The target audience is parents of people who are on the spectrum, but I think anyone who wants to understand how others think might enjoy diving in to this thirteen-year-old’s brain.
Where Am I Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame
Other than having seen “Miracle on 34th Street” and “Matilda,” and finding her on Twitter, I didn’t know much about Mara. However, after reading this book, I feel like she could be one of my best friends. She’s extremely honest about her experiences growing up, both within and outside Hollywood. She speaks to issues all young women have experienced, and even some of her unique encounters speak to me due to how we were interested in similar things when we were younger. I also appreciated that this book did not read like a traditional celebrity memoir. Mara isn’t trying to draw connections to her readers by speaking around her personal experiences. Rather, she says what actually happened, and then expects you to make those connections yourself. I felt like she was just talking with me, rather than trying to explain herself. A great storyteller with a well-developed voice for prose. Even those with no knowledge, appreciation, or understanding of Mara’s career would enjoy her book!
As I mentioned, this year was a diverse series of books from my Pop Sugar challenge. I ended up reading some books I greatly disliked, including some highly popular bestsellers that simply didn’t speak to me personally. Reflecting on these Top 10 Best, however, reminds me of what a great year in reading it was, and how much I can’t wait to take on the 2017 Reading Challenge for next year.
Happy New Year, and Happy Reading!