This month I had a lot of time for reading, what with four snow days and two weeks of winter break…and yet I spent most of that playing video games. But with such ample time, I managed to wrap up my annual goal to read three books a month.
For this post, I’ll recap my December three, and then list my favorite books of 2016 below.
The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae – Did anyone catch the new series, Insecure, on HBO? It’s dynamite! As a new Issa Rae fan, I picked up her book and see what else she has to offer – and was pleasantly satisfied. If anything, it was a little strange how much we have in common, starting with an active social life on AOL in the 90s.
Her writing is funny but not annoyingly in your face. Mostly, she just tells her story of growing up as a nerdy 90s teen, and the evolution of her dream of writing for the screen.
If you liked Insecure, you’ll like the book, and if you haven’t seen Insecure, you should check that out, too.
Oregon Disasters by Rachel Dresbeck – While wandering my favorite “Disasters” and “Nautical Lore” aisle at Powell’s, I spied this one. It walks you chronologically through something like 12 disasters that have happened in Oregon, starting with the Heppner Flood. We pretty much all know about Mt Hood erupting, but we’ve also had shipwrecks, massive dynamite explosions, and commercial plane crashes. Though the writing was a bit stiff (and I was disappointed that the bibliography seemed mostly Google searches), it’s still an interesting walk through Oregon’s history and some of the events that have shaped us culturally.
How to Care for Aging Parents by Virginia Morris – My blog is about the fun and challenging parts of my life, so I haven’t mentioned the fact that I’m suddenly (and solely) taking care of my dad who is having health problems. Too call caring for him, choosing a retirement home and taking over the responsibilities of selling his house overwhelming would be an understatement. Luckily, I ran across this book and it has given me the structure and guidance I’ve needed in a lot of ways.
If you’re caring for an old person, it’s a lot better to read this book than to listen to the multitudes of well-meaning advice people will inevitably give you.
Now it’s time to cross this goal off the list. I read 31 books this year (not quite three a month, but whatevs) which was challenging, mostly because there are so many mindless ways to pass the time (i.e. video games and Facebook) that are easier than picking up a book. I imagine that I would read closer to six a month if the internet didn’t exist. *Sigh*
Top 5 Books I Read in 2016
You by Caroline Kepnes – It’s been a really long time since I’ve had a book that I literally couldn’t put down, and I would like to openly thank Caroline Kepnes for entertaining me during my long flights to and from Europe. Written from the point-of-view of a stalker, this book is as if American Psycho, Misery, and The Catcher in the Rye had a baby. At first, I was disgusted by Joe (our narrator) and terrified for Beck (his obsession), but Kepnes is so skilled at weaving the plot that Joe subtly became my protagonist, and I feared for the moment he would get caught. It’s pretty slick writing that can get you to like (and even feel sorry for) a sometimes violent, sexually depraved sociopath. It does get a little graphic at times, but if you liked American Psycho then you could definitely handle this one.
Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes – This one picks up mostly where You left off, except Joe transplants himself to California. His internal monologues about all of the vain and insipid millennials of California are music to my ears. It’s hard to describe this story because I don’t want to give spoilers but all I can say is that I loved loved loved You and Hidden Bodies and I’m sooooo excited that it’s been picked up by Showtime. I’m already doing the casting in my head. Where can I get a “Joe Goldberg for President” t-shirt?
These are worthy of a re-read in 2017.
My Unbelievably True Life Story by Arnold Schwarzenegger – It’s no secret; I’m an Arnold fanatic. There’s so much he has done with his life, and I can understand that many still see him as a silly character, of sorts, but the fact that he went from a very poor immigrant family to the most influential bodybuilder, Hollywood action hero, real estate mogul, and politician speaks to more than just being “silly.” He’s a thinker, a learner, and a diplomat in all that he does. At one moment, he’s networking with bodybuilders globally and winning Mr. Olympia, then he’s in Spain filming Conan the Barbarian, all while hanging out with Andy Warhol and courting Maria Shriver at the Kennedy compound. Oh, and buying up real estate on the side and oil-painting in his free time. Who does that?!
The Odyssey by Homer – Midway through my trip in Greece, I was dying reread The Odyssey, having actually seen places referenced in the book, as well as just seeing the landscape of the country. Yeah yeah, I read it in 9th grade – woohoo – I didn’t give it much thought back then. This time around, I couldn’t put it down. I was so engrossed, even missed my stop on the Max one night.
“Like pipes his nostrils jetted crimson runnels, a river of mortal red, and one last kick upset his table knocking the bread and meat to soak in dusty blood.”
(Sidenote – the badass cover of the book might be my next tattoo).
438 Days: An Extraordinary True Story of Survival at Sea by Jonathon Franklin – This book tells the story of an experienced fisherman, Salvador Alvarenga, who was caught in a storm and then survived for 438 days adrift with no supplies in an open boat. His survival skills are unmatched as he learned to catch fish and birds with his hands and scavenge garbage to make tools and shelter.
And just when you think being rescued is the end of the story – it’s not. His physical and mental state are seriously damaged, and his story was put into question. But if you read this book, you’ll see that how intelligent and determined he was to survive (he was drinking his urine and eating raw turtles by day 5 – no down time for him!).