2016 in review

Oh my goodness, where has the year gone?

As 31 December 2015 rolled into 1 January 2016, I made my only serious resolution: to maintain a book review blog for an entire year. I love being able to read back on my old reviews and opinions, but have never been good at keeping up with the reviewing. And so I put my money where my best intentions lay, and purchased a domain and hosting. And the rest is history.

I’m genuinely surprised (but very happy!) that I’ve managed to keep it up all year, and intend to carry on and on. And so without further ado, a look back on the best and worst reads of 2016.

My personal challenge was to read 52 books this year, and although I by far and away surpassed that goal (coming in at 106, with a couple of weeks still on the clock!) I’m setting the bar at the same level next year. In 2017, I want to read fewer, but crucially better books.

A friend asked me just yesterday what I’d read this year that I could recommend, and after discounting re-reads of beloved old favourites, I found that most of my list was depressingly mediocre. Thriller after middling thriller, which are certainly easy reads, but somewhere along the way seem to have become the staple of my literary diet. I want 2017 to be the year I start crossing some classics off my to-read list and being genuinely blown away.

Goodreads tells me I’ve read 37,977 pages this year, plus 25,354 minutes of Audible books. Of those tens of thousands of pages (and 17 solid days of listening!), my very favourites belonged to…

(Drumroll please!)

The Fireman, by Joe Hill.

Oh my goodness. The Fireman moved me in ways I never expected. Joe Hill has been added to my must-read list this year, but even so, I never in a million years could have predicted that this apocalypse tale would leave me sobbing and at sea, listening to “Romeo and Juliet” by Dire Straits on loop. I normally flit from book to book to book, but I just plain had to take a few days off after The Fireman, because I was not ready to move on. I cannot recommend this end-of-days story highly enough.

Best of the rest:

Beloved re-reads: Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin, His Dark Materials trilogy (Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass) by Philip Pullman

Crime: Magpie Murders and The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz, The Wrong Side of Goodbye by Michael Connelly, The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker, Out of Bounds by Val McDermid

Thrillers: Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn, The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson (the only thriller I’ve read this year worthy of being compared to Gone Girl).

Literary fiction: Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle, Slade House by David Mitchell, The Power by Naomi Alderman, When I Was Five I Killed Myself by Howard Buten, The Children Act by Ian McEwan

Young adult: What Milo Saw by Virginia Macgregor, Carry On and Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell, My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal, Time Travelling With a Hamster by Ross Welford

Graphic novels: The Jessica Jones: Alias series by Brian Michael Bendis, Gotham Central by Ed Brubaker (In the Line of Duty and Jokers and Madmen), Agatha: The Real Life of Agatha Christie by Anne Martinetti

Short stories and novellas: The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennet, Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman, The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

Non-fiction: Without a Doubt by Marcia Clark, Forensics by Val McDermid, The Run of His Life: The People versus OJ Simpson by Jeffrey Toobin, Triumph of Justice by Daniel Petrocelli and Peter Knobler

Plus a special shout out to the Dark Materials trilogy for being the very best audio adaptation I’ve ever heard. The entire cast are sublime.

In truth, compiling this list has helped me realise how many great books I did read this year, so I’m now feeling much more positive than at the start of this post! And now, because they wouldn’t be highs and lows without the lows… my least favourite reads this year:

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion. A sequel that didn’t need to be written.

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler. A nothing-y sort of book where nothing much happened.

The Edge of the Fall by Kate Williams. Cousin sex is my lingering take-away from this one. I doubt anyone ever pens a book thinking ‘I hope the only thing readers remember is the cousin sex.’

Six Four by Hideo Yokoyama. Far from badly written, but an entirely unthrilling thriller that dragged on endlessly.

We Are Pirates by Daniel Handler. Massively failed to live up to its potential.

Penpal by Dathan Auerbach. A Reddit story that was more at home on Reddit.

Other un-thrilling thrillers: Dear Amy by Helen Callaghan, One Kick by Chelsea Cain, The Loving Husband by Christobel Kent, After the Crash by Michel Bussi, The Killer Next Door by Alex Marwood, Baby Doll by Hollie Overton

And the just plain unrateable: If I Did It by O.J. Simpson

And there we have it! I did consider challenging myself to stop buying new books and only plough through my existing shelves and Kindle library of neglected to-reads next year, but I sincerely doubt I’d make it. Instead, I’m just going to try to be more mindful of what I select. Here’s to 2017!

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