Friday, December 30, 2016

The Big Book Post

Let's do this.

Books read this year, in order:

Jan: Furiously Happy, by Jenny Lawson
Jan: Prisoners of Geography, by Tim Marshall
Feb: Tales of the City, by Armistead Maupin
Feb: MaddAddam, by Margaret Atwood
Mar-Apr: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon
May: Lafayette in the Somewhat United States, by Sarah Vowell
Jun-Jul: The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, by Oliver Sacks
Aug: The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro
Sep: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs
Sep: Between You & Me, by Mary Norris
Oct: Don't Get Too Comfortable, by David Rakoff
Oct: Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
Nov: What If? by Randall Munroe
Nov: The Refugees, by Viet Thanh Nguyen
Dec: A Natural History of the Senses, by Diane Ackerman (haven't finished, will count for 2017)

I finished 14 books toward my reading goal of 17. Goodreads also reports these interesting bits:

  • My 14 books amounted to 4,567 pages (which is a lovely number, but probably inaccurate)
  • My shortest book was Comfortable and my longest was Kavalier
  • Peculiar is the most read book on my list this year; Refugees is the least (because it's not out yet). Prisoners is the highest rated.
It was a good year for actually enjoying the books I read. I gave five of them five stars: PrisonersMaddAddam, Kavalier, Between, and What. The lowest rating I gave a book this year was two stars, and I gave that rating to Mistook and Buried. It was a weak summer.

About the authors:
I read a startlingly low four books by women this year (Senses would have made it five).
I read three books by authors who are deceased (Vonnegut, Sacks, and Rakoff). Vonnegut and Sacks would have been the oldest and second oldest authors this year if they were alive, but of the living authors, Atwood is the oldest (b. 1939) as she was last year. The youngest author is younger than I am (Munroe, b. 1984).
Eight were born in the USA (Lawson, Maupin, Chabon, Vowell, Riggs, Norris, Vonnegut, Munroe), two are/were Canadian-born (Atwood, Rakoff), two are/were from the UK (Marshall, Sacks), Ishiguro is from Japan but lives in the UK, and Nguyen is from Vietnam but lives in the US.
This year I read my second Lawson, my fifth Atwood, my sixth Vowell, my third Ishiguro, and my second Vonnegut. The other nine authors were new to me. I will certainly read Chabon and Rakoff again.

About the books:
It was an even split between fiction and non-fiction.

Fiction: 7
2 Sci-fi (MaddAddam, Cradle)
2 Fantasy (BuriedPeculiar)
1 Historical (Kavalier)
1 Short Stories (Refugees)
1 Plain Ol' Fiction (Tales)

Non-Fiction: 7
2 Memoir (Furiously, Between)
2 Science (Mistook, What)
1 History (Lafayette)
1 Geopolitics (Prisoners)
1 Essays (Comfortable)

The oldest book I read was Cradle (1963), followed by Tales (1978) and then Mistook (1985). All the rest were published in or after 2000, including five in 2015 (Furiously, Prisoners, Lafayette, Buried, Between). The newest book I read was a galley of Refugees, to be released in 2017.

Time periods range from that of Arthurian legend (Buried) to the American Revolution (Lafayette) to WWII (Kavalier, Peculiar) and slightly after (Cradle) to the seventies (Tales, Refugees) to the distressingly near future (MaddAddam). Locales include NYC, Valley Forge (and other Revolutionary War sites), Vermont, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Texas, Florida, the Canadian Rockies, San Lorenzo (fictional island in the Caribbean), Cairnholm (fictional island in the Irish Sea), Prague, Vietnam, Antarctica, all of Earth (as explored in Prisoners), and the various places on Earth and in space imagined in What.

Tales is the first in a series I hope to continue.
MaddAddam is the last in a series.
Peculiar is the first in a series I probably will not continue.

Kavalier won the Pulitzer in 2001.

I watched the TV miniseries of Tales with Laura Linney.
I read Peculiar with the intention of seeing the movie, but did not.
I anxiously await the TV adaptation of MaddAddam, and I pine for a movie of Kavalier.

Book Clubs:
I read Peculiar as part of a book club, but no one else read it (which is fair, because I hardly ever read the books we choose). I encouraged my fellow editors at work to read Between, but no takers yet. I'm currently reading Senses as part of an impromptu book club with two friends.

Why these books?
Prisoners: saw it at Community Bookshop
Tales: swiped it from a friend who was purging for a move
Kavalier: saw it at Housing Works for $3
Mistook: swiped it from a friend's coffee table
Peculiar: book club
Between: received it as a gift
Comfortable: public radio demanded I read Rakoff
What: received it s a gift
Refugees: a former Borders coworker gave me a galley
The others: I'd read the authors before

For 2017:
  • Finish Senses
  • Something from the ambitious pile: Guns, Germs, and Steel; Game of Thrones; A People's History of the United States
  • More Rakoff, Murakami, Vonnegut, Chabon
  • Belgravia (Fellowes), Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out (Yan), the new Mary Roach
  • How I Paid for College (Acito), which two people independently of each other told me I should read, one day apart (granted, they saw it on my shelf)
  • The Elements of Style (Strunk/White/Kalman) and Remembrance of Things I Forgot (Smith), which I received as holiday gifts
Thanks for reading, nobody!


  1. I read your post! We only intersected on one book for the year (Lafayette) but I've read Tales and Cat's Cradle (long ago). You spurred me to add my books for the year to Goodreads so I can keep track, although early 2016 is lost to bad memory. Happy New Year!

    1. Thank you for reading! Looking forward to comparing our bookshelves and reading your reviews. Glad to know you're a fellow Sarah Vowell fan. :)

      By the way, is this Bjo or To? ;)