If you’re anything like me, you started out 2017 with grand plans for reading All the Books, perhaps also keeping a reading journal where you would write out some brilliant thoughts about All the Books. Unfortunately, if you’re like me, 2017 took a hard right turn somewhere and all of your lovely reading, and thinking about reading, plans went right down the crapper. I read 33 books last year, according to my Goodreads Reading Challenge. This year I thought I could read 35 with no problem. It’s just two more books. What could possibly go wrong?
The answer: 2017. The year 2017 went wrong.
It is November 28th and I have read 15 books so far. Fifteen! It’s hard for my brain to even comprehend this. Probably because I only read 15 books and my brain has gotten slow and flabby.
If you find yourself in the same predicament and you just can’t decide what to read next, fear not. I am here to present you with a quick review of All 15 (sigh) Books Amberly Managed to Read in 11 Months. Click on the book titles to go to their respective Goodreads pages for more info. Happy browsing!
1.) Turner: The Extraordinary Life and Momentous Times of J.M.W. Turner by Franny Moyle
Wow, I was really hoping to ease you guys into the depths of my nerdiness. Alas. This is the first book I read in 2017, so, here we go. I highly recommend this book if you love J.M.W. Turner paintings. He was an interesting and complicated person and later in life he kind of just started to do his own thing and it’s fascinating. If you don’t like J.M.W. Turner paintings, or if you have never heard of him (Google him, for the love of everything) then I don’t know what to do with you.
I’m doing these together because they’re books one and two of the Kingkiller Chronicle series by Patrick Rothfuss. Book three has yet to be written, so if you’re the kind of person who needs to know how things end RIGHT NOW, I recommend waiting until the third book comes out, which, spoiler alert, may be never (although there is a TV adaptation in the works). If you’re not that kind of person, these are some fantastic fantasy novels with all of the fantasy staples: poor kid who doesn’t know he’s destined for greatness, magic, bad guys, faeries, lutes, etc.
Well, that pretty much sums it up. If you love Neil Gaiman, you will probably love this book. He has Wise Things to Say about Life, Writing, and Whatnot.
5.) Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
A retelling of classic Norse mythology. It’s good on its own, but I found the experience slightly enhanced by casting a Hemsworth brother (honestly, does it matter which one?) and Tom Hiddleston as Thor and Loki in my head.
6.) The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss
Although this book also takes place within the same story of The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear, it’s a small book that explores the life of a side character, so it’s not technically part of the series. It’s not necessary to read it in order to understand the main books, but it’s still beautifully done and will hold you over for an hour or so whilst we wait patiently for Mr. Rothfuss to finish the third book…
7.) Stardust by Neil Gaiman
Are you sensing a pattern here? This is a straight-up fairy tale told Neil Gaiman-style. It’s a fun, fast read that would be perfect if you’re trying to beef up your Reading Challenge numbers quickly.
8.) The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy
I swear I have no idea what possesses me to pick these kinds of books up. I can think of exactly one other person I know who would enjoy this book. If you’re the kind of person who enjoys a plodding English family drama with bits of salacious sex that never actually appear on the page, but drive the entire plot, then this is your jam. Warning: Contains lots of Old White Men doing idiot things to the detriment of most.
9.) The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster
This trilogy usually appears bound together as one volume, so I think it only counts as one book. The three books are loosely related to each other and are a little weird and completely brilliant and I had a ton of fun reading them. They’re about people in New York City, but they are not at all conventional or beholden to your preconceptions. You’ve been warned.
10.) Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance
I picked this up because J.D. Vance is a hometown boy and I’ve been trying to wrap my head around the 2016 election. I’ll keep my opinions on the conclusions he draws to myself. The book is well written and I think it portrays the places I grew up with a degree of fairness.
11.) Villette by Charlotte Brontë
If you’ve read Jane Eyre and you’re not on a “I must read everything Charlotte Brontë ever wrote” kick, then I would suggest passing this one up. It’s basically a lesser version of Jane Eyre and there is a lot of French dialogue that isn’t translated (at least not in the copy I have) so you’ll spend a lot of time typing things into Google Translate. Unless you read French, of course, in which case, you know. Good for you.
12.) Hermit in Paris: Autobiographical Writings by Italo Calvino
If you’re not into Italo Calvino or his writing (sort of magical realism), then you can probably skip this book, too. If you do like his writing, it’s an interesting look into his writing processes and his life generally.
13.) The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon
I cannot recommend Michael Chabon enough. This is the second book I’ve read of his (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay was the first) and each time I marveled at his ability to nail down humans being human. And he does it with wit and gorgeous writing. The Yiddish Policemen’s Union is an alternative history exploration with a murder mystery, social commentary, a bit of a love story, and some good old fashion noir.
14.) Preludes & Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman
Who has two thumbs and kept Neil Gaiman in expensive notebooks this year? This girl.
This is the first of the Sandman comics, though I think it wasn’t originally published in that order. It’s brilliant, just like all of the other stuff he does.
15.) The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
This book is a subtle punch to the gut. Arundhati Roy has an uncanny ability to sneak the most life-altering, horrifying experiences into prose and then weave in the repercussions in such a way that you don’t realize you’re dead until you’re a ghost standing over your own corpse like “What just happened here?” This book won the Booker Prize in 1995 and no wonder.
Just in case those weren’t enough to whet your bookish appetite, I’m currently reading:
The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman, a fascinating look at the science of ornithology and how studying the way bird brains work could help us understand ourselves;
The Brontës: Wild Genius on the Moors by Juliet Baker, the most in-depth biography of the entire Brontë family available. I hope.