EEEE I AM SO EXCITED FOR THIS POST. A lot of the bloggers I follow write posts like this one in December but I prefer to save mine for January so I can take into account allll of the books I read the previous year, not just some of them.
Before we get started, here’s a screenshot from Goodreads of all the books I read last year, so you can get an idea of how often I give certain star ratings.
As you can see, it follows a fairly standard bell curve shape, with most of the books grouped in the middle and a descending number of outliers on each edge. (And that pretty much exhausts my math speak for the day, everyone!)
This was by no means intentional… I’m just pointing out that logically, most ratings will fall between a certain range. This is by far the lowest number of four- and five-star ratings I’ve given in the past few years, but thankfully that was balanced out by a lower number of one- and two-star ratings!
All in all, 1% of the books I read last year received five stars and 12% received four stars, meaning that a grand total of 13% of what I read are what I would consider truly great books. I know it’s not many, but that’s exactly why that category matters to me so much.
When writing this post, I put my one and only five-star book at the top of the list, then filled in the rest of it with my nine favorite four-star reads. (I’ve listed the remaining three four-star books at the bottom of this post, because that rating is rare enough that I think they deserve a mention too!)
ANYWAY, I’M DONE RAMBLING ABOUT BOOKISH STATISTICS NOW.
“But it’s one of life’s strange paradoxes that the only way to find true love is to be willing to risk being devastated by losing it. Who knew love was so much like a Star Trek episode?”
I LOVE HEARING FROM LGBTQ+ ADULTS SO MUCH. Well, I guess I’ve technically been an LGBTQ+ adult for the past few years, but you know what I mean… I love learning from adultier adults, people who’ve been around a bit longer than me! I felt super hopeful and reassured about my future after reading The Letter Q this spring and think I need to reread it sometime soon because lately I’ve been feeling rather anxious and lonely about my identity in the face of the incoming presidential administration.
“How can you tell if you’re an adventurer? You’re with your best friend. You’re outside in the mud. The word ‘quest’ gets used often. You have a flashlight in your hand. You write things in code…”
This book was PURE FUN to read! The Gutsy Girl includes adventurous anecdotes from the author’s own life, tips for going on your own adventures, and plenty of blank pages to write or draw about all those adventures you’re having. It reminded me that I don’t have to travel very far or spend a lot of money to go on an adventure! Also, I melted a little inside when I found out that this book was created by a wife-and-wife author/illustrator team… is that #goals or what?!
“An old man stood by the window, his hands clasped behind his back. He had probably been waiting for them in this exact pose. He was, quite obviously, a dick.”
I love Derek Landy’s books. I would read anything he writes, TBH, including his grocery lists, because I’m sure that SOMEHOW even those would be full of action scenes and sarcastic one-liners. Now, I have to admit that I didn’t like Desolation QUITE as much as I liked Demon Road, the previous book in his new series, but it was still super enjoyable!
I loved the introduction of canonically LGBTQ+ characters, especially since one of them is the protagonist (a step up from the representation in Landy’s earlier Skulduggery Pleasant series! yay!). I also really appreciated how accurately those long, lonely cross-country drives through the United States were portrayed. Like, Landy really GETS IT despite having not grown up here, unlike certain other authors.
Like J.K. Rowling. YES, I WENT THERE. DEAL WITH IT.
“Names. Names. The old woman squinted, then she shook her head. She was herself, and the name she had been born with had been eaten by time and lack of use.”
A creepy fairy tale, with hauntingly gorgeous writing and plot twists that took me completely by surprise: How could I have ever expected anything else from Neil Gaiman? The illustrations by Chris Riddell were absolutely perfect for this story. I know it’s classified as a picture book, but I think it’s actually more suited to adults than to kids. Definitely one of those books that takes you no time at all to read because it’s so short, but leaves you with so many questions that it lingers in your mind for a long time afterward.
“But books offer vicarious experience. Life passes into pages if it passes into anything.”
OH WHAT A LOVELY LOVELY CONCEPT FOR A BOOK. I was impressed with the wide variety of writers featured here because it made for an extremely cool collection of experiences. The physical and artistic design of this book was superb, too. This would make a great gift! I want to buy my own copy, as well… let’s say as a birthday present to myself on my twenty-fifth birthday, maybe? I can’t wait to refer back to this volume over the years to come and ponder how I feel about all these quotes as time goes by.
5. Atlas of Remote Islands: Fifty Islands I Have Never Set Foot On and Never Will by Judith Schalansky
“Consulting maps can diminish the wanderlust that they awaken,as the act of looking at them can replace the act of travel. But looking at maps is much more than an act of aesthetic replacement. Anyone who opens an atlas wants everything at once, without limits – the whole world. This longing will always be great, far greater than any satisfaction to be had by attaining what is desired. Give me an atlas over a guidebook any day. There is no more poetic book in the world.”
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that The Gutsy Girl and Atlas of Remote Islands both made it onto my top ten list! I have a hunger for travel that I’m always happy to satisfy by either actually going out into the world… or by reading about others’ adventures! I’ve never been to any of the places mentioned here and neither has Judith Schalansky, but that doesn’t matter because her writing is such that I was easily able to imagine visiting those islands.
“I find that stability is good for my creativity.”
This is SUCH an important book and I’m honestly a little worried that people don’t take it seriously enough because of the format it comes in! In this graphic novel memoir, Forney describes her life with bipolar disorder. I laughed and cried while reading this book because everything she had to say about struggling to make art while mentally ill was so on point. To be honest, it kind of made me wonder if I might be cyclothymic?
(Also! Ellen Forney is bi! Yay for LGBTQ+ rep in books about mental health! It’s a rarely discussed subject that we desperately need to more conversations about.)
“…when you look at a photo or realistic drawing of a face, you see it as the face of another. But when you enter the world of the cartoon, you see yourself.”
THIS BOOK SHOULD BE REQUIRED READING. Even before I read it I hated to see graphic novels and comic books so easily dismissed, and now that I’ve read Understanding Comics I feel still more passionate about the subject! I dove into this genre five or six years ago and became a serious fan about two years ago, so I already had some idea of just how powerful a graphic novel or comic book can be. This book blew my mind, though. My head hurt from thinking so much about all that this format of storytelling can do! I think I’ll need to reread it two or three or a hundred more times until I fully grasp all the concepts discussed here.
“Thus with cautious steps, among deceived enemies, I circulated, plated with poetry, armored with rhymes, stout with another man’s song, stiff with cardboard, bullet-proof at long last.”
This was assigned reading for my Prose Style class last semester, which was all about how to construct the perfect sentence. Like Understanding Comics, this is a book I know I’ll return to again and again, both because I love it and because I am 100% sure that I missed some things the first time around. Pale Fire is comprised of a 999-line poem followed by extensive annotations, through which the story of an elderly writer, the professor who is obsessed with him, and an exiled king is told… but the narrator is unreliable, which makes piecing together what really happened all the more fun. Oh my god. Just go read it. Please.
“But all our phrasing – race relations, racial chasm, racial justice, racial profiling, white privilege, even white supremacy – serves to obscure that racism is a visceral experience, that it dislodges brains, blocks airways, rips muscle, extracts organs, cracks bones, breaks teeth. You must never look away from this. You must always remember that the sociology, the history, the economics, the graphs, the charts, the regressions all land, with great violence, upon the body.”
An absolutely essential book to read if you have any interest in knowing more about racism and police brutality. I was left in awe of Coates’ writing, too: Funnily enough, that Prose Style class turned out to be a great help in identifying and learning how to emulate his stylistic choices. I faked my way through one of his essays in a class I took freshman year because I was so busy and overwhelmed with practically EVERYTHING IN LIFE… so when I finally got around to reading this book, I knew I’d been missing out!
Here are my other four-star books from 2016!
- About A Village by Eamonn McCabe
- The End of Summer by Tillie Walden
- Baba Yaga’s Assistant by Marika McCoola
What are the ten best books that YOU read in 2016? Have you read any of my top ten?!