Last year was definitely good year regarding reading. I wanted to read at least twenty-four books – that’s only two books per month, I know – and I managed to exceed my expectations by finishing a total of twenty-six books. And I was already halfway through two other books before 2016 came to a close. Not bad.
Besides quantity, quality wasn’t bad either. I read a bit of everything: fiction and non-fiction; short stories and lengthy novels; bad, good and outstanding. Some books I have already forgotten, while others made quite an impression on me and fortunately there are quite some in the latter group. You can go and check my whole year in books in my Goodreads profile (btw, let’s be friends!). Otherwise you can scroll down and read on to find out what the highlights of my reading year were.
So, sticking to the chronological order of reading, here’s a list of my favourite books of 2016.
PLAYING BIG, by Tara Mohr.
I borrowed this one from the library and I’m more than happy I did. I’m not really into self-help books but I loved this one and I am glad this was my first read of the year. Playing Big is a book for women who want to thrive, who want stand out from the crowd, who want to be the best version of themselves and achieve their every dream. Playing Big is an empowering book for women written by a woman but it’s not your typical discourse on how to become a fierce, competitive and successful woman over night. It’s not geared towards women who want it all and want it all to be perfect. The beauty of Playing Big is that it is addressed to all kind of women, no matter how big or small their dreams are; everyone can learn some piece of wisdom from it. Besides, Tara Mohr seemed like a very genuine and likeable person, which is always a bonus in this kind of books.
All in all, I loved this book and would definitely recommend it and read it over and over again. It was a very inspiring read and gave me the courage to say out loud that I want to be a writer, to put myself out there and try, no matter how long it takes or how hard it is. It is the book that taught me that I am worthy to pursue my callings and do it now.
FOUR SISTERS, by Helen Rappaport.
Four Sisters had been on my reading list for a while and luckily, I found a copy in my local library. Now, this is probably not for everyone; I assume you must have some sort of interest on Russian history or royal families to pick this one. But as it happens, I am interested both in Russian history and royals of all kind and I found Four Sisters to be a gorgeous book. It really delivers.
Four Sisters is intended as the biography of the four daughters of the last Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II, and his wife Alexandra. But the book goes further in its research and scope and actually provides a very intimate portrait of their simple family life and the complicated circumstances that conspired to produce their dramatic ending. Though not dwelling that much on history, Four Sisters also give a detailed account of Alexandra’s life and her woes and eventually, one can only wonder if that woman and her woes really able to bring down and empire and destroy her family along the way.
A beautiful book, in spite of all the tragedy in it.
KING LEAR, by William Shakespeare.
“Thou shouldest not have been old till thou hadst been wise” (Act 1, Scene 5)
2016 was the year when I read Shakespeare for the first time. I know, I know, it took me quite a while but it was totally worthy.
Actually, I had read Othello and Romeo and Juliet in Spanish before but last year I felt ready to deal with the real thing, the original works of William Shakespeare. It wasn’t always easy but it was a very enjoyable experience and now I have many other of his plays in my TBR pile.
King Lear was one of my favourite reads last year and, again, one that I could reread many times. The story is tragic, yet powerful, and it is chocked full with quotable lines. Besides, the story has aged rather well and it is still of great relevance nowadays. I should probably dedicate a whole post to King Lear in the future.
CLOUD ATLAS, by David Mitchell.
A pleasant surprise, this one. Yet another book I borrowed from the library and loved.
I was mildly interested in Cloud Atlas because I knew the Wachowski brothers (now sisters, I guess) had done a film adaptation of this story. It wasn’t a particularly easy read but I devoured it and found it totally mind-boggling. I watched the film after having read the book and I was sadly disappointed, though I could totally understand why it had been a flop.
Besides finding it an utterly beautiful and poetic tale of the doom of the human civilization, I also learnt from it that a book of big ideas, such as Cloud Atlas, usually translates in a poor film.
HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE, by J. K. Rowling.
I was very late to jump in the Harry Potter bandwagon – the books bandwagon anyway – and something funny happened along the way. I have seen all the films probably more times than I should admit and HP and the Goblet of Fire has always been the I liked least. Too cheesy, too silly, too reckless, too whatever. However, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire has been my favourite book so far. Again, great books don’t always make memorable films.
Harry Potter is already in his fourth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardy and soon he finds himself in more trouble than ever before. Harry, Ron and Hermione are growing, the relationships between them are evolving and their magical world is changing as well. In HP and the Goblet of Fire, the main characters begin to become their own personas and the transformation of Hermione Granger is particularly outstanding. She is a very fine example of a strong female character, who happens to be a bit of a feminist as well and a fighter for universal rights. Or house-elf rights, as it is the case in the book. Besides, HP and the Goblet of Fire introduces a couple of subplots that add complexity to the book, making it a departure from the simple fantasy adventure books that the HP series were until then.
Apart from the outstanding books, there were also the regular books and the very bad ones. Yes, unfortunately I had a couple of big disappointments, among them A Gathering of Shadows, by V.E. Schwab; Tintin and the Secret of Literature, by Tom McCarthy; and Swiss Life: 30 Things I wish I’d known, by Chantal Panozzo. Very BIG disappointments, as I said before.
Finally, I also read quite a lot of speculative fiction during the first half of the year and I’m planning a post on my favourite short stories. So stay tuned for that one.
So, that was 2016 in reading. This year is looking a bit more complicated than the last year so I am only aiming for twelve books this year. Hopefully I’ll many more, but I don’t want to deceive myself too much so I’m keeping it sweet and simple.
And what about you? What were the books you read and loved last year? Or read and loathed? Any reading goals for 2017?