2016: My Year in Books

I know a lot of people can’t wait to see the end of 2016, but the year really wasn’t so bad for me. I’m not a constitutionally upbeat person, and the power of positive thinking gives me hives, but I also don’t experience world events and celebrity deaths as personal tragedies, which has been helpful this year. For me, 2016 wasn’t unrelenting awesomeness, but it wasn’t unmitigatedly awful, either.

2016 was a year of introspection and reevaluation for me. In 2016, I turned forty, I visited Acadia National Park and Prince Edward Island for the first time, my spouse got a job promotion, I helped my religious congregation find a new minister, my son found a best friend, and my daughter grew to within 2.5 inches of my height. We welcomed new family members via birth and marriage, felt the constellation of our family shift as we said goodbye to other family members, and in general grew and changed and lived much as we’ve done in years past.

And in the midst of all of this, I read 89 books. The average (mean) books read per month was 7.41, and the average (mean) per week was 1.71.

Of these, 75 were fiction (including children’s books), 5 were memoirs, and the remaining 9 were other nonfiction.

I read NO (zero; 0) books from my Cavalcade of Classics list during 2016. I did not finish my Cavalcade of Classics by January 2017 as planned—I didn’t even get close—but I’m going to use this anniversary to revisit, revise, and hopefully renew my interest in my list. To encourage myself in this endeavor, I’m going to participate in the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge and fill as many of the categories as possible with classics. (Moby Dick as a book about sports? A Vindication of the Rights of Woman as a book published by a micropress? Utopia as a fantasy novel? Hey, whatever works.) My goal is to read two classics a month. This is probably too ambitious, so if I manage one a month or even one for the year, I’ll feel content.

My reading in 2016 has been interesting. I managed to read more fiction than I did in 2015, which worked well for me. I read fewer picture books than I did in previous years, in part because my children are getting older and in part because I was involved in more outside-the-home endeavors this year.

My big discovery this year was audiobooks. On my walks and jogs around the neighborhood, on road trips near and far, and while I cooked dinner, I listened to a total of 34 audiobooks.

Also, I took my SBC into the real world and started meeting with friends to discuss each month’s book selection, and I participated in two Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathons, and now I’m trying to figure out how to make every weekend a readathon.

As 2017 comes into view, I am reading In the Darkroom by Susan Faludi (one of the five books my spouse got from the library for me for Christmas this year. The others are Euphoria by Lily King, Honeydew by Edith Pearlman, Stoner by John Williams, and The North Water by Ian McGuire), The Sword in the Stone by T.H. White, Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, The Last Days of Socrates by Plato (I have only Crito left!), and The Histories by Herodotus (STILL not ready to cry uncle on this one).

Below is my book list for 2016, by the month I finished each book. Click on the month name for the “Bookends” for that month, which includes other information about my reading progress throughout the year. I also cross-post most of my reviews on Goodreads. If you’d like to just go straight to Goodreads to see my reviews there, here’s the link to my Goodreads profile. You can also go there to see all 1067 books I’ve read and logged on Goodreads. If you’re not a Goodreads fan, you can check out my collection on LibraryThing instead.

December (this is the bookends post for this month)

The Three Weissmans of Westport by Cathleen Schine (audiobook)

Faithful Place by Tana French (Dublin Murder Squad #3)

Broken Harbo(u)r by Tana French (Dublin Murder Squad #4)

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (audiobook)

Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan (audiobook)

Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin (stopped reading)

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (the December SBC selection)

My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor (audiobook)

November

A Failure of Nerve by Edwin H. Friedman

In the Woods by Tana French (Dublin Murder Squad #1)

The Likeness by Tana French (Dublin Murder Squad #2)

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler (the November SBC selection)

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (audiobook)

A Trumpet in the Wadi by Sami Michael (the October SBC selection. In November.)

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

The Good House by Tananarive Due

The Missing by Sarah Langan

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald (audiobook)

White Fang—The Call of the Wild and Other Stories by Jack London (audiobook)

October

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

Memento Mori by Muriel Spark (audiobook)

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (audiobook)

The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante (book three of the Neapolitan Novels)

The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante (The fourth and final Neapolitan Novel)

Mr. g by Alan Lightman (audiobook, stopped reading)

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard (stopped reading)

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch (audiobook, stopped reading)

Coraline by Neil Gaiman (read-aloud re-read)

Winter Cottage by Carol Ryrie Brink (read-aloud)

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (audiobook re-read)

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine (audiobook)

September

Six of One by Rita Mae Brown (SBC September selection)

Searching for Meaning by James T. Webb

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (audiobook)

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (audiobook)

The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante (Book 2 of the Neapolitan Novels)

Leaving Church by Barbara Brown Taylor

Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr (audiobook)

August

The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan (SBC August selection)

In Zanesville by Jo Ann Beard (audiobook)

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes (audiobook)

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

In One Person by John Irving

A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson (audiobook)

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight translated by J.R.R. Tolkien (not really a “kids'” book, per se, but I read it aloud to my kids, so I put it here)

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (audiobook)

July

The Parasites by Daphne du Maurier (SBC July selection)

Atlas of Unknowns by Tania James (SBC June selection)

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff (audiobook)

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak (audiobook)

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (first of the Neapolitan Novels)

Greenwitch by Susan Cooper (audiobook, third book in the Dark is Rising series)

The Grey King by Susan Cooper (audiobook, fourth book in the Dark is Rising series)

Otto of the Silver Hand by Howard Pyle (read-aloud)

Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland by Tomie dePaola (read-aloud picture book)

Across a Dark and Wild Sea by Don Brown (read-aloud picture book)

Marguerite Makes a Book by Bruce Robertson (read-aloud picture book)

June

SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard (stopped reading. I liked this one, I just wasn’t in the mood for nonfiction)

Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg (audiobook)

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson (the May SBC selection)

Life of Pi by Yann Martel (audiobook)

The Martian by Andy Weir

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (audiobook re-re-re-re-read as we explored PEI)

Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink (audiobook re-read as we explored Maine and New Brunswick)

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald (read-aloud with my kids)

May

Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman

By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder (audiobook, re-re-read)

The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper (audiobook, second book in the Dark is Rising series)

April

Into the Go-Slow by Bridgett M. Davis

The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White (audiobook, re-read)

Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper (audiobook, first in the Dark is Rising series)

The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder (the paperback version)

March

The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery

Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (re-read; started as a read-aloud then we switched to the audiobook)

The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder (audiobook, which I didn’t like a lot; currently finishing the paperback, which has been updated with more PC language, thank goodness)

February

The Burgess Boys: A Novel by Elizabeth Strout (February 2016 SBC selection)

Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America by Barbara Ehrenreich

No Time to Lose: A Timely Guide to the Way of the Bodhisattva by Pema Chödrön (stopped reading because it was due back at the library)

Rome Antics by David Macaulay (read-aloud)

Pegasus, the Flying Horse by Jane Yolen (read-aloud)

The Librarian Who Measured the Earth by Kathryn Lasky (read-aloud)

Clementine by Sara Pennypacker (read-aloud)

Archimedes Takes a Bath by Joan M. Lexau (read-aloud)

The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien (audiobook, re-re-read, and I cried this time, too)

January

The Turner House by Angela Flournoy

Welcome to Braggsville by T. Geronimo Johnson

The Makioka Sisters by Junichuro Tanizaki (the SBC Selection for January)

A Thousand Years of Good Prayers by Yiyun Li

The Bassoon King by Rainn Wilson (stopped reading)

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick (read-aloud for our homeschool book club)

The Persian Cinderella by Shirley Climo (read-aloud picture book)

Matilda by Roald Dahl (audiobook, re-read)

And to round things out in a not-as-bookish way, here are my goals for 2017:

  • Wink more.
  • Modify my relationship with social media.
  • Quell my assumptions by going to the source and asking questions, even if it feels prying or awkward or if I worry someone’s going to get mad at me.
  • Gain fluency in Spanish…or at least enough confidence that I can converse with native speakers without the aid of alcohol.
  • Make ample use of my passport.
  • Work to become aware of the ways in which I blindly follow the spoken and unspoken demands and biases of my culture, and modify those that don’t work with my morals and ideals.
  • Say “Indeed” in place of swear words.

I wish you all a very Happy New Year! May we each rise to whatever challenges 2017 has in store for us!

5 comments

  1. Pingback: Bookends: April 2017 | Imperfect Happiness
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  4. Lori · January 1

    I am so happy that because of you I got hooked to Goodreads. It’s such a great tool for keeping track of reading. Unfortunately, my year has not been by far as fruitful as yours. I barely read 24 books, although most of them really good books.

    I really need to get in the audio book game, although on some level that still feels like cheating to me. Of course it doesn’t matter when you get to go through more books that way, but still. I mean, is reading with your ears the same as doing it with your eyes? Does it reach the same place in the brain? I know there has been a lot of discussion about it and the general opinion is that there isn’t much difference in cognitive processes, but to me we still lose something of the literature as an art, as it is intended to be consumed, when we listen to it. I don’t know. I think I could probably listen to non-fiction without having issues with it, but with literary fiction, I don’t know. I like to take my time to think passages over, for example, I often go back to reread something I think I’ve missed or misunderstood. Plus I’m a visual learner, so seeing the words on the page does matter to me. I don’t know. How do you feel about all this?

    Like

    • Charity · January 1

      Twenty-four books in a year is pretty darned good, Lori. Considering the various goals I have for 2017 (not all of them listed in this post), I’m bracing myself already for a lower books-read total to report a year from now. I don’t want to care about how many books I read in a year, but that not-caring is easier in theory than in practice.

      I’ve not read up on brain imaging comparing listening to audiobooks and visually reading them, but regardless of what those data might indicate, the two processes feel different to me.

      I don’t pay as close attention to audiobooks as I do to book-books, but having something else to do—walking, running, meal prep, dishes, routine cleaning—seems to improve my attention. I also miss the ease with which I can mark passages or copy down quotes. Sometimes the audiobook goes more slowly than I would prefer to read it, like with Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Other times, I would like the option of stopping and reading back over a passage for clarification, to read it with my own interpretation rather than the narrator’s (if the narrator isn’t the author), or just to luxuriate in the language, a phrase I stick with despite the fact that my spouse makes fun of me for using it.

      I usually choose books that are less literary for my audio selections, books with language in which I’m less likely to want to immerse myself. For example, I actively chose to re-read Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle in print rather than on audio so I could enjoy it more deeply. I also don’t listen to books I like to binge read, like Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series, because I like to read faster than narrators read.

      Some books are just really great on audio, though, and I try to select those that I think will benefit from the read-aloud treatment. Two of my favorites on audio this year were Neil Gaiman reading his The Ocean at the End of the Lane and Helen Macdonald reading her memoir H is for Hawk (although I ended up buying the print version of that one because I liked it so much I wanted to read it with my eyes).

      I also choose books that have languished on my TBR so long that I’m unlikely to read them if I don’t sneak them in on audio. If the alternative is not reading the books at all, I’m okay with a less-than-optimal reading experience.

      One book that did not work for me at all on audio was David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. It was a lovely recording and I actually like the narration a lot, but the form of the book is complex enough that I want to read it visually to keep things straight (I’m also a visual learner, and having the geography of the page and the shapes of the words (especially names) helps me remember things…this is also why I prefer paper books to e-books, but that’s another discussion). I’ve got the print book now, and I’m hoping to finish it before it’s due back at the library.

      Anyway, I probably should just make this into a separate blog post, but I’ll leave it as a comment for now. I love this conversation! Thank you so much for bringing up these questions!

      Like

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