Books of 2016

Happy New Year! I know I haven’t posted for a long time. Turns out grad school (and helping to organize a conference, and all the other stuff I have going on) takes a lot of time, and posting more pictures on Facebook has made this seem kind of redundant. I’ve also kind of lost motivation to do recipe posts, since I usually don’t remember to take photos of what I cook, the photos I do take usually don’t turn out very well (bad lighting, bad camera, lots of steam), and I’m usually just making random tweaks to pre-existing recipes from the internet, so it felt kind of fake to be just re-posting those. I have a bunch of recipe posts with no photos on backlog, so I’ll upload those just for the sake of completeness (and my easy reference), but I don’t expect to do a lot of regular recipe posting. I’ll do a quick update/semester summary sometime later (next weekend, if I’m feeling really motivated).

For now, I wanted to revisit my ongoing tradition of pretending other people care what I read in the last year. I didn’t quite get to my goal of averaging 1 book per week. Quality over quantity, right?

Okay, here’s the full list:

  • Crown of Midnight (Maas)
  • Cocaine Blues (Greenwood)
  • The Silkworm (Galbraith)
  • Maisie Dobbs (Winspear)
  • Career of Evil (Galbraith)
  • The Sleeper and the Spindle (Gaimain, Riddell)
  • Spider Woman’s Daughter (Hillerman)
  • The Coroner’s Lunch (Cotterill)
  • Harmony Black (Schaefer)
  • Uprooted (Novik)
  • A Feast for Crows (Martin)
  • Rock with Wings (Hillerman)
  • Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power (Maddow)
  • Mr. Churchill’s Secretary (Macneal)
  • The Art of Peace (Ueshiba, trans. Stevens)
  • A Dance with Dragons (Martin)
  • Asking for It (Harding)
  • White Cat (Black)
  • Postmortem (Cornwell)
  • The Invention of Wings (Kidd)
  • A Game of You (Gaiman)
  • Fables and Reflections (Gaiman)
  • Brief Lives (Gaiman)
  • World’s End (Gaiman)
  • True Grit (Portis)
  • Lockwood & Co.: The Screaming Staircase (Stroud)
  • His Majesty’s Dragon (Novik)
  • A Darker Shade of Magic (Schwab)
  • Ancillary Justice (Leckie)
  • The Android’s Dream (Scalzi)
  • Fun Home (Bechdel)
  • The Invisible Library (Cogman)
  • The Phantom Tollbooth (Juster)
  • Kindred (Butler)
  • Honor Girl (Thrash)
  • Leviathan Wakes (Corey)
  • The Wisdom of No Escape (Chodron)
  • Embroideries (Satrapi)
  • Mindfulness (Langer)
  • American Widow (Torres, Choi)
  • Sula (Morrison)
  • Cinder (Meyer)
  • The Kindly Ones (Gaiman)
  • The Wake (Gaiman)
  • A Gathering of Shadows (Schwab)
  • Orphan #8 (van Alkemade)
  • The Golden Compass (Pullman)
  • The Subtle Knife (Pullman)
  • The Fifth Season (Jemisin)
  • The Amber Spyglass (Pullman)

There are some trends here, like the trashy mystery/thriller kick I was on in January, my Sandman binge around Memorial Day, and a few instances of being inspired to revisit authors I’d previously enjoyed (like Marjane Satrapi and Jonathan Stroud) or re-read books I’d already read (A Feast for CrowsThe Golden Compass/The Subtle Knife) because I hadn’t gotten around to their sequels (A Dance with Dragons The Amber Spyglass). But enough with that: on to a brief top 10! Because once a year, I can pretend that somebody gives a crap about what I think of these things. In chronological order (of when I read them):

  • Uprooted, by Naomi Novik: I believe I heard about this one on NPR (actually, I heard about many of these from NPR). The infusion of Eastern European folktale influence in this novel, as well as the brilliant writing, made it quite addicting to read. As a bonus, it prompted me to start reading her Temeraire books (the first one is His Majesty’s Dragon), which have also been quite enjoyable so far.
  • A Dance with Dragons/A Feast for Crows/ASoIaF in general (George R. R. Martin): Yes, it came out a while ago. Yes, these books have been in my top 10 forever. I know everybody likes to hate on these two, and I understand why. However, reading/re-reading these ones made me excited for the next books, and I finally had a few Dany and Cersei chapters that didn’t make me want to groan/yell at them in frustration/fall asleep.
  • The Invention of Wings (Sue Monk Kidd): Mom recommended this one to me, and I’m really glad I picked it up. The relationships between Hetty and her owners, the Grimke family (including Sarah and Angelina Grimke, of abolitionist and women’s suffrage fame) are brutally and complexly portrayed in yet another excellent book by Kidd.
  • True Grit (Charles Portis): This one was courtesy of a classmate. Along with The Hobbit (the book, obviously, not the abominable trilogy of films), I would hold this up as an amazing example of character-as-storyteller writing. Portis absolutely nails Mattie’s voice, and she is a delight to follow on this excellent short adventure.
  • Ancillary Justice (Ann Leckie): Dad recommended Ancillary Justice to me, and I don’t think I can do its premise justice. (No pun intended.) The short version: the protagonist is one body of many that were controlled in a hive-mind-ish way by a military starship of an empire called the Radch, but all the others are gone, and now she’s out for revenge. The practicalities and implications of the concept are explored rather well, the plot is exciting and full of revelations, and I enjoyed the depictions of various cultures, particularly the relationship between the imperialist Radchaai and the colonized people of Shis’urna. It doesn’t quite break the space opera mold, but it’s an excellent addition to the genre.
  • Fun Home (Alison Bechdel): It’s a classic (and now a Broadway musical) for a reason. Equal parts funny, sad, and fascinating. Enough said.
  • Kindred (Octavia Butler): It’s another well-known classic, but reading Kindred was my first foray into Butler’s work. Apart from being a really interesting and “realistic” (for a story about almost completely unexplained time travel, anyway) depiction of how a quietly bad-ass 20th century black woman might react to being thrown back into the slaveholding South, it really made me want to read some of her more “sciencey” sci-fi, like the “Earthseed” series.
  • Leviathan Wakes (James S. A. Corey): I actually read this after watching the first season of The Expanse, which is also good. I was worried that having seen the show might make this 600+ page novel a bit of a slog, but (a) there are quite a few differences between the show and the book; (b) the first season of the show only covers about half the book; (c) the book is really excellent. There’s a lot more depth that they couldn’t fit into the show.
  • The Kindly Ones/Sandman in general (Neil Gaiman plus various artists): I finally bit the bullet and finished reading Sandman, courtesy of a housemate who owns the whole series. I didn’t really want to accept that it was ending before I started reading the last few issues, but the loose ends are tied up beautifully, and it all ends up okay.
  • The Fifth Season (N. K. Jemisin): This book has been on my “to-read” list for about a year, but I didn’t get around to starting it until the flight home to Salt Lake City for winter break.  Not only does it take place in an interesting science-fantasy dystopia and feature awesome ; Jemisin’s book (which now has a sequel, The Obelisk Gate, that I’m planning to devour as soon as I get it) also follows a gripping emotional narrative of tragedy, growth, and systemic oppression. Highly, highly recommended.

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Finally, here are a few books I’m looking forward to reading in 2017:

  • Sequels to various books I read in 2016 and 2015, including: The Obelisk Gate (Jemisin), Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Mercy (Leckie), The Wise Man’s Fear (Rothfuss), Caliban’s War (Corey), and maybe some more of the Magicians series (Grossman).
  • Some literature/literary fiction I’d like to get around to: Americanah (Adichie), The Enormous Room (Cummings), The Sellout (Beatty), The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (Chabon).
  • Nonfiction and memoirs: Desert Solitaire (Abbey), The Fire Next Time (Baldwin), When Breath Becomes Air (Kalanithi), SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome (Beard), Wild (Strayed).
  • “Genre fiction” (mystery, fantasy, sci-fi) and fun books: Dissolution (Sansom), City of Thieves (Benioff), The Song of Achilles (Miller), Furies of Calderon (Butcher), The Traitor Baru Cormorant (Dickinson), Lock In (Scalzi), Armada (Cline).

That’s a pretty ambitious list, and I’d be surprised if I even got to half of it, but who knows? Happy reading and Happy New Year!

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