It’s been an interesting year book-wise – I haven’t read as much as last year but there are a few stand-out books I would recommend. I’ve been feeling restless this year so my focus has been off when it comes to reading, but there are definitely some books which have captured my attention.
1. Introvert Power by Laurie Helgoe.
This was left over from December last year. I read Quiet by Susan Cain in 2013 and I was convinced that this was the best ground-breaking work on introversion at the time. However, after reading Introvert Power, I feel that this is my favourite book (so far) on what it means to experience and live in the world as an introvert. I would recommend this book to anyone. It is much more expanded compared to Quiet on how to cope with various life challenges as an introvert, as well as exploring the joys and possibilities of life.
‘For introverts, the best associations start with ideas. If you don’t feel a part of your neighborhood association or the happy hour regulars after work, don’t force it. The community that surrounds you may not be your community.’
2. Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan.
What is not to love about this wonderful, geeky, and magical tale? It is populated with intriguing characters, Google the actual place, an idiosyncratic Mr Penumbra and his kooky bookshop, and a mystery that keeps you hooked all the way through. A must read, and one that I know I will read again.
‘Walking the stacks in a library, dragging your fingers across the spines — it’s hard not to feel the presence of sleeping spirits.’
3. The Borrower by Rebecca Makai.
Another wonderful book with books at its heart. This time, the setting is a library, and the two main characters find themselves in a sticky situation involving a road-trip across the US. What I loved the most about this is that it shows how books can save you; how essential libraries and librarians are. Another book I will cherish and read again in the years to come.
‘I believed that books might save him because I knew they had so far, and because I knew the people books had saved. They were college professors and actors and scientists and poets. They got to college and sat on dorm floors drinking coffee, amazed they’d finally found their soul mates. They always dressed a little out of season. Their names were enshrined on the pink cards in the pockets of all the forgotten hardbacks in every library basement in America. If the librarians were lazy enough or nostalgic enough or smart enough, those names would stay there forever.’
4. My Daughter and I by Melissa Mostyn.
Melissa Mostyn wrote a successful blog about her family’s experiences with Isobel, her oldest daughter. She turned this blog into a book, expanding on her story of Isobel’s diagnosis and development as a child with cerebral palsy. This is a powerful account of how Isobel, Melissa and their family learnt to adapt and thrive with determination. An insightful and affecting book that gives a snapshot of what it is like to fight for the rights and inclusion of your child.
‘It is in the nature of beauty to be neither infinite nor consistent. Most people change as they get older, and some will blossom while others wilt. Ultimately, I don’t think it matters how old you are, because the effects of your general outlook based on individual life experiences, rather than your age, are what will eventually show on your face – and it is this that I believe determines real beauty. While there’s nothing wrong with caring for your appearance, it shouldn’t outweigh what’s really important in life: looking out for others as well as yourself.’
5. The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon.
I’ve read a few interesting YA (Young Adult) books this year, and this one is no exception. Dystopian and dark, this story is one of the better dystopias I’ve read recently. I randomly picked it up in Shakespeare and Company when I was in Paris this year for our honeymoon. I’m looking forward to the next instalment out next year. I would recommend this if you like dark fantasy.
‘Knowledge is dangerous. Once you know something, you can’t get rid of it. You have to carry it. Always.’
6. The Collected Works of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin.
This is a stunning novel. Again, like Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore and The Borrower, this has books and bookshops as its central location and backdrop. A.J. Fikry is a bookshop owner and widower and one day his life changes when a baby is left in his bookshop. I fell in love with this book – it has a place on my favourite books list. There is wisdom, struggle, and love in spades in this book. Read it.
‘We are not quite novels.
We are not quite short stories.
In the end, we are collected works.’
7. What the **** is Normal by Francesca Martinez.
I reviewed this book here and this is a snapshot of what I said: ‘I just finished reading ‘What the **** is Normal?’ last night, and it was balm for my soul. Francesca Martinez’s book is a wonderful, honest and open account of her experiences being ‘wobbly’, as she puts it: her journey towards self acceptance and body acceptance. After going through bullying, social isolation and a self confidence crisis through her school years, she finally found acceptance in the form of a mind-blowing revelation: that the only opinion of herself that matters is her own.’
‘I truly believe that a world of happy, confident people would be a lovely place to live, so to pursue happiness is not a selfish act. […] And people will be far less likely to want to dominate and oppress others if they’re busy gorging themselves on the nourishing fruits of inner peace.’
8. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black.
This is one of those novels that I chose to read on a whim and ended up appreciating far more than I thought I would. Holly Black’s writing style is lyrical and poetic in parts and I felt fulfilled by this book more than I often do with some other supernatural novels. It is both wise and intriguing and also quite real in the way she depicts the characters in the book. Not your typical teen vampire novel, it reminded me a bit of Sunshine by Robin McKinley (which is another must read).
‘Isn’t every hero aware of all the terrible reason they did those good deeds?” Aware of every mistake they ever made and how good people got hurt because of their decisions? Don’t they recall the moments they weren’t heroic at all? The moments where their heroism led to more deaths than deliberate villainy ever could?’
9. Cinder, Scarlet and Cress by Marissa Meyer.
This series is incredible! It weaves Science Fiction and Fantasy with Fairy Tales and completely set my imagination alight. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting when I picked these up but I was hooked and now I’m looking forward to the next instalment next year. What’s not to love about cyborgs, mind readers and spaceships, all mixed up with werewolves and aliens? An odd mix but somehow it works.
‘She was a cyborg, and she would never go to a ball.’
10. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater.
Another YA book, at first I found the style hard to get into, but once I got past the author’s lyrical and surreal writing style, I found this story absorbing. I haven’t read anything by Maggie Stiefvater before but her style is poetic and somehow feels like reading a classic novel. The story is deeper and with more layers than I was expecting and I’m already reading the second in the trilogy (The Dream Thieves).
‘She wasn’t interested in telling other people’s futures. She was interested in going out and finding her own.’
These are the books I’ve most enjoyed this year although I am also currently reading a few books that I haven’t yet finished which I also recommend – The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp, The Wonderbox by Roman Krznaric, and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks. I already have a huge pile of books mounting up in my bookcase for reading next year, and I’m looking forward to discovering new stories and ideas. I hope that this year’s reading has been good to you and your bookcase!