Best Books of 2016

I’ve had the same New Year’s resolution for a few years running now (if you haven’t been following along, check out this post here). To recap: I was sad about giving one of my favorite hobbies such a low priority in my life, and I wanted to challenge myself to include more reading in my routine.

I use my Goodreads account to track and rate all of the books I read, and to encourage myself to keep up the pace on my reading challenge. (This year’s goal: read 60 books.) I’m not affiliated with Goodreads in anyway but I find having a visual way to monitor my progress very beneficial.

However, I’ve since discovered something that’s helped me even more.

It’s this blog, and more importantly, you guys (the readers). There has been nothing more special to me as a bookworm than to find a community of kindred spirits like yourselves to share all my deepest, bookish thoughts with, and to commiserate on all of the books we’ve read, both good and bad.

I’m amazing too, to connect with people across the globe, regardless of race, religion or age. We all have something that brings us together in spite of our differences and I think that makes us pretty special.

So thank you, my dear readers, for making this year a great one, both in blogging and reading adventures.

Here are some of my favorite titles that I’ve read this year:

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Fiction

For someone who relies so much on their sight to read, it seems a little ironic that two of my favorite books of this year were about blindness. For instance, the appropriately-titled Blindness by José Saramago resonated so much with me that I included it on my list of reads that have shocked my poor sensitive system. Just imagine if everyone in your city started going blind- you’d be shocked too.

A little less scary, but no less interesting or beautiful, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is about a blind girl struggling to survive through World War II, and a treasure hunt that will leave you wild with excitement.

If modern-day horrors scare you even more than post-apocalyptic worlds and war, be sure to pick up a copy of Lionel Shriver’s So Much for That. It’s one of the many books this year that really made me stop and think, and its darkly humorous take on a family devastated by cancer made it another contender on my list of books that you should read at your own risk.

The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas is another controversial, albeit more gossipy book, about the aftermath of a suburban barbecue where a parent slaps a child that is not their own. No matter where you stand on the discipline issue, the secrets and lies that unravel as a result made this book hard to put down.

Among the serious titles I’ve read this year, I’ve come across a couple of favorites that are a little more light-hearted. The Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg turns the Scandinavian crime genre on its head with the role of the scheming villain played by an aging pensioner just looking for better treatment. (Ok so maybe it’s a little bit of a tongue-in-cheek look at the way we treat our elders, but it still had me in stitches all the same.)

Finally, one of my favorite fiction books of the whole year has to have been Rachel Joyce’s The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. It’s everything a good book should be- funny, bittersweet, thoughtful and surprisingly compelling considering it’s actually about a super-long walk across the English countryside.

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Poetry

Once in a while a book of poetry finds its way to my shelves, and my list of favorite books this year wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention how much I loved this slim volume of poetry and creative prose by Canadian author (and now friend!) Joel Thomas Hynes. Straight Razor Days is a collection of thoughts about nearly everything in Hynes’ life- his hometown, his childhood, his relationship with his son- and even though it seems like he uses just about anything that crosses his mind as material, the works here still maintain a sense of cohesion. It’s beautifully written, so even if poetry isn’t always your thing, I still suggest that you check it out. (And he doesn’t even know I’m telling you that!)

Update: This title isn’t currently available on Amazon, so I encourage you to hunt it down in your local bookstore, or check out some of his other titles. They’re all good!

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Non-Fiction

The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman was a great education for millennials like me in how global events in the 80s and 90s have shaped the interconnected world we live in today. Keep in mind I was just a young’un when a lot of these changes were taking place, and this book helped shed some light on some of the things I didn’t fully understand.

I can’t say enough good things about Elizabeth Gilbert’s creative manifesto, Big Magic. I won’t go on too much about it because of the gushing review I wrote here, but if you’re anyone who has ever felt inclined to do any artistic thing ever, you will find this book valuable.

Do Over by Jon Acuff will forever go down in history as the only career-related book that got me in the feels. If you’re looking to make a change in your career, or just tired of accepting the status quo at your current job, this one is for you. (Don’t believe me? Read the review I wrote about it here.)

KBwB-BFlower-50What were some of your favorite books that you’ve read this year? Send me your list at keepingbusyb@gmail.com or better yet, let’s be friends on Goodreads so we can snoop each other’s virtual bookshelves. Want to see even more of what I like to read? I love talking about books here, here, here and here. Or comment below and let me know what you think of my list. How many books have you read this year? I need to know it all!

 

Read at Your Own Risk

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I’m not really a scary movie person; around this time of year when people invite me to re-watch some of the classics with them my response is usually, “I’m fine, thanks. My imagination scares me enough as it is.”

It’s not a line- this is 100% absolutely, totally true. As a kid I was plagued by crazy, reoccurring nightmares and as I grew older and learned about the horrific historical events that paved the way to our modern society- wars, genocides, holocausts, disease. These things almost scared me more than the ghosts and demons I conjured up in my imagination,

Hearing and watching these stories always shook me to the core- to this day, I still can’t stand watching people torture and kill each other, even if it’s imaginary. War movies are out. I was a mess at the end of Game of Thrones’ sixth season. No, really.

It seems silly to accumulate a list of scary books when the things that frighten me seem like no big deal to other people. “Read at your own risk” is more of a warning then to those of us softies who find this sensitive reading material. Even if you have seen your fair share of blood and guts, I hope my selections are still enough to disturb (if in a quieter, more subversive way).

Patrick Suskind’s novel Perfume is subtitled “The Story of a Murderer” but really should have read “The Story of a Sick, Sick Man That Will Make You Shudder in Equal Parts Horror and Disgust”. It makes you wonder what kind of guy Suskind is in real life, although I’m sure he’s very, very nice.

So Much for That by Lionel Shriver is kind of the modern-day horror story that’s uncomfortable to read because at the back of your mind you know that every procedure that she details, and all of the suffering she describes is actually real, but it’s worth the read for the light it sheds on the frightening reality we live in.

You have to have lived under a rock if you haven’t heard of Room yet. Canadian author Emma Donaghue’s novel was a smash hit that got turned into an award-winning movie and it’s easy to see why- it’s both gripping and tender, funny and frightening. Even so, it was still a tense read for a sensitive soul like myself.

I read The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne when I was baby-sitting one night. (It’s so engrossing and short that I’m sure you could, too.) As it happened I reached the end just before the parents came home, so when they walked through the door they found me sobbing hysterically. Needless to say, I had to include this book for the shock it gave my system. The ending was like a sucker-punch.

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell sounded like the kind of quirky, fun read that was right up my alley and at first it was. Russell’s writing makes the heat of the swamp shimmer off of the page; it’s so easy to get caught up in the heady landscape that when things start to get sinister it feels like the slither of an alligator inside you. I ended up being so disturbed.

Honorable Mentions

I couldn’t talk about creepy reads without listing a few of the books that have made my blog before. They’re worth a second mention for the chills they gave me.

  • Even if you’ve seen the movie Gone Girl, the novel of the same name by Gillian Flynn is worth the read so you can see just how psychotic her characters were intended to be.
  • The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins is the classic unreliable narrator mystery, and it feels particularly disturbing reading it as a woman watching the main character submit over and over again to addiction, and leaving herself vulnerable and exposed. It’s a reminder that women’s safety continues to be an issue.
  • I have to include the novel Blindness by José Saramago as the premise alone is enough to give me the chills.
  • The Clothes They Stood Up In by Alan Bennett is a short, yet devastating read.
  • If it’s magic and things that go bump in the night that you want, then Andrew Pyper’s The Demonologist is for you.

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I love to read and I love sharing my favorite books with you. (For more reading inspiration click here or here.) Don’t forget to friend me on Goodreads either! Btw: These lists are totally my own creation and I was not paid or perked to share my opinions with you by any author or publishing company.

Fall 2016 Reading List

KBB_fall_2016_reading_list.jpgI love hearing about the books that people read and what they like to recommend to me (whether it’s because I’ve snooped their bookshelves, because they’ve been saving books for us to trade back and forth, or because they were looking to unload one of their bookshelves).

I’ve been feeling like I’ve been in a little bit of a reading rut lately, so I decided for my fall reading list I would let one of my fellow book-ish friends dictate what I read. I asked my friend and photographer for the blog, D, to pick out things that were unusual, shocking or out of character for me. And of course when I heard that I hadn’t read one of his personal favorites (Watership Down by Richard Adams) he was shocked and disappointed, and demanded that I read it, like, yesterday.

Here are the other books he chose:

  1. Automated Alice by Jeff Noon
  2. Blindness by José Saramago
  3. The Clothes They Stood Up In by Alan Bennett
  4. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

What are some of the books that you’ve read at other people’s suggestion?

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Psst- wanna see which books have previously graced my bookshelves? Click here. Want even more fun reading recommendations? I’ve got some for you here. Don’t forget to find me on Goodreads so we can snoop each other’s bookshelves and dish about our favourites.