Bad news: I spent a lot of time commuting last year. Good news: audiobooks!
I read (and heard) more books last year than I think any other year of my life, which has made me feel incredibly smart and more than a little bit superior to my previous self.
And so I bring you my year of books, in Yearbook form. All voting was done by me. All opinions are subjective. You’re welcome to sign it in the comment section.
Most Mind-Melting: Annihilation
I only finished reading this a few days ago and am still in the wait what just happened? phase. This book will get in your head and give you goosebumps and you will like it.
It’s also coming soon to a theater near you, starring Oscar Isaac, Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, and was done by the same writer/director as possibly the only truly original movie in recent memory, Ex Machina.
Shout out to brother for recommending it. Now to read the rest of the trilogy before the movie comes out.
Most Fascinating: Elon Musk: Inventing the Future
You have likely heard enough about Elon Musk to get the general sense of his brilliance* and lunacy, but hearing the details behind PayPal, Tesla, SpaceX, and every OCD email he’s sent his employees in between is fascinating and well worth a read.
*You will also feel largely like a big fat failure who has done nothing with your life. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Most Honest: Hunger
This is an excruciatingly painful memoir, told in beautifully simple language. It was a one sitting, effortless read that I felt in my bones. Attempting to give it the Cliff’s Notes treatment feels distastefully blunt, so I’ll leave you with a snippet.
“They mean well, my parents. They love me. They understand the world as it is, and how there is no room for people of my size. They know that the older I get, the harder it will become to live at this size. They worry about my health and my happiness. They are good parents. My parents also want to understand — they are intellectual, smart, practical. They want my weight to be a problem they can address with the intellect they apply to other problems. They want to understand how I could have let this happen, let my body become so big, so out of control. We have that in common.”
Most How Did I Go So Long Without Reading This: East of Eden
Honestly what was I even doing for the 28 years of life before I read this book? Who were the English professors who denied me such a treasure?? I have come to cherish this book like scripture and do believe I will read it every year until my death.
“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”
Truly, words to tattoo yourself with.
Most Banned: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
This semi-autobiographical young adult novel is equal parts hilarious and tragic.
In real life, Sherman Alexie grew up on a Spokane Indian Reservation in Seattle. In this book, 14-year-old Arnold Spirit Jr. is born on “the Rez” but decides to do a year at the all-white public high school in a neighboring town. The book reads like his diary, complete with clever illustrations that are charming and sad and true.
Apparently it is banned from most Elementary Schools – but if you aren’t in Elementary School, you’re in luck! If you do happen to be in Elementary School, please find an adult who can white-out the bad words and let you read their copy.
(Special thanks to Jill for recommending this, as well as so many others.)
Most Kooky: The Book Of Laman
Kooky is not a good (or even real?) adjective, and yet it is the only one I can summon to explain this book.
It was written by a Mormon woman whose writing I’ve followed and really like, and is a retelling of the first chapter of The Book of Mormon from the perspective of the black sheep brother, Laman. I have to say the book felt almost unfinished to me and the pacing was a bit strange, but I loved the idea of it and really enjoyed challenging my perception of a story I’ve come to be so familiar with.
You can buy it on Amazon or BCC Press.
Most LA: Beautiful Ruins
As soon as this book sucked me into its shiny Hollywood romances, I would realize I was being mocked for being sucked into its shiny Hollywood romances and think noooo! I found the writing bright and entertaining, if not crass at times, and because it jumps between stories and time frames, it’s another super quick read.
“This is a love story,” Michael Dean says.
But really what isn’t? Doesn’t the detective love the mystery or the chase, or the nosey female reporter who is even now being held against her wishes at an empty warehouse on the waterfront? Surely, the serial murder loves his victims, and the spy loves his gadgets, or his country or the exotic counterspy. The ice-trucker is torn between his love for ice and truck and the competing chefs go crazy for scallops, and the pawnshop guys adore their junk. Just as the housewives live for catching glimpses of their own botoxed brows in gilded hall mirrors. Because this is reality, they are all in love, madly, truly, with the body-mic clipped to their back-buckle and the producer casually suggesting, “Just one more angle,” “One more jello shot.”
Most Brainy: The Undoing Project
I felt so smart when I decided to read a Michael Lewis book. I felt so smart while listening to it. I am entirely unable to summarize what it was about in a way that is coherent.
(You know Michael Lewis from Moneyball and The Big Short. Maybe they’ll make a movie about this one…?)
Most Fun: Where’d You Go, Bernadette
Bring this one to the beach. I lol-ed many times, and I don’t use that acronym lightly. It’s also very touching in parts, which is a term I try even harder to avoid than lol.
“I tried to love Dad and not hate him for his fake cheer and the way he gets dressed. I tried to imagine what Mom saw in him back when she was an architect. I tried to put myself in the shoes of someone who finds every little thing he does a total delight. It was sad, though, because the thought of him and all his accessories always made me sick. I wished I’d never made the connection about Dad being a gigantic girl, because once you realize something like that, it’s hard to go back.”
Most Haunting: The Handmaid’s Tale
Like any respectable American, I was motivated to finally read Margaret Atwood’s dystopian thriller after it was announced Hulu was making it into a TV show. Though I liked both versions, in my opinion there is no comparing an on-screen adaptation to her gorgeous, poetic prose.
“Falling in love, we said; I fell for him. We were falling women. We believed in it, this downward motion: so lovely, like flying, and yet at the same time so dire, so extreme, so unlikely. God is love, they once said, but we reversed that, and love, like heaven, was always just around the corner. The more difficult it was to love the particular man beside us, the more we believed in Love, abstract and total. We were waiting, always, for the incarnation. That word, made flesh.
And sometimes it happened, for a time. That kind of love comes and goes and is hard to remember afterwards, like pain. You would look at the man one day and you would think, I loved you, and the tense would be past, and you would be filled with a sense of wonder, because it was such an amazing and precarious and dumb thing to have done . . .”
Most Worst: The Secret History
Oh, I hated this book. I made it through a whopping 14 of 22 hours of the audiobook before I just couldn’t take it anymore.
I even tried her latest book The Goldfinch (it won a Pullitzer!) but after two hours of essentially nothing happening, I gave up on Donna Tartt forever.
Most Life-Changing: The Neapolitan Novels
I experienced this series on such an intensely personal level, I had to take a few month-long breaks to get through it.
Plot-wise, it’s really just about a friendship between two Italian women. That such a simple premise could inspire four of my all-time favorite books should tell you how thoroughly developed these characters are – messy and imperfect and so real-feeling, I now think of Lenu and Lila as friends.
If you take one recommendation from this list, it’s this series. Here’s a link to book one.
Most Pwned: Ready Player One
So I don’t exactly know what pwned means, or whether people still use it, but I do know it has to do with video games. And that pretty much sums up how it felt to read this book.
It was an entertaining read, but certainly would have been much more entertaining had I cared about video games or spent more than two years of my existence in the ’80s.
It’s also coming soon to a theater near you, because this is (was) 2017.
Most Nerd: Mistborn
Growing up, my brothers read these Robert Jordan fantasy books that were so thick and so many, my family began referring to them as simply “Nerd 7,” or “Nerd 13.” Fast forward two decades, and I’m reading the same nerd books by the same nerd authors!
I have yet to read the rest of the trilogy, but I thought Mistborn was so original and am just in general impressed by Brandon Sanderson and his gazillions of books.
Most British: H is for Hawk
In my imagined ideal future where I am a cardigan-wearing professor of something English-ish, this book is what I teach in our memoir unit.
It is to me a textbook memoir, in that it takes one event (the death of the author’s father) and examines it through a super-specific lens (training a young Goshawk as a means of dealing with grief.)
It shed fascinating light into a subject I knew nothing about, was insightful and honest, and just so delightfully British. I would absolutely recommend the audiobook on this one, which is read by the author.
(Thanks to Sarah for the recommendation. I have smart friends.)
Most Likely To Be Read In 2018:
Mennonite In A Little Black Dress, A Man Called Ove, Lilac Girls, Authority, The Well Of Ascension, Belgravia, You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me.
What else do I need to read in 2018? Tell me your most adjective books!