2016 // What I Read in Q4

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Backstory // Q1 // Q2 // Q3

Onward to finish out the year's list (I've still got 2 hours til midnight! This is the craziest New Year's Eve ever, ha ha ha).

At the beginning of October, I finished Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson (another one of the few paper/non-digital books I read this year, you're welcome for that insignificant detail). I was familiar with Bryan Stevenson from his watching his TED talk, listening to him on a couple of podcasts, and reading about him on a really long (fantastic!) Ta-Nehisi Coates article via the Atlantic, but was nevertheless floored by the skill and readability of this book. As you can see from my year's list, I've not been reading very much nonfiction at all lately, so I was immensely impressed by the pace of this book and how he draws you into his world. Five stars, and would recommend this book to everyone. I thought it was one of the most important books I read this year, and enjoyed it, too.

Thanks to my library hold popping up at the right time again, I moved on to Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave. It had been several years since I read Little Bee (which, to this day, I'm not sure if I really "get" that one)—I'd forgotten how downright cheeky his writing style is (in a really, really impressive way). Everyone in his world is so much wittier than mine, unfortunately! I did really, really like this book, but I don't feel gushy over it. I enjoyed reading it, enjoyed the characters, but it didn't sweep me away as much as All the Light We Cannot See, which you cannot help but compare it to, as it's also a WW2 story. His turns of phrase are downright masterful, and in a different way than you expect.

I blew through Rules of Civility by Amor Towles in a couple days, thanks to a long airplane day. I love how books about New York City feel so timeless. This one is set in the Gatsby era, very glittering and smoky. I didn't find the characters particularly endearing at all, nor the book super absorbing, but the writing was good. Again, not super gushy. This one has had even less staying power than Everyone Brave...

Our next book club selection was Last Days of Night by Graham Moore, and apparently out of 9 people, I am the only one who read every word of it (and this is from a book club that supposedly falls on the "hard-core" range like finish-the-book-or-die type thing). Sooooooo dry, I don't know why I pushed through. No reward at the end. It was so disappointing, because the subject matter sounds so interesting at first glance! "New York, 1888. Gas lamps still flicker in the city streets, but the miracle of electric light is in its infancy. The person who controls the means to turn night into day will make history—and a vast fortune. A young untested lawyer named Paul Cravath, fresh out of Columbia Law School, takes a case that seems impossible to win. Paul’s client, George Westinghouse, has been sued by Thomas Edison over a billion-dollar question: Who invented the light bulb and holds the right to power the country?" See? Doesn't it sound like it should be good? And another New York City book, at that. Skip this one.

I then bit off a hefty, hefty project next, which took me more than the entire month of November to finish—Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clark. My fascination with reading this book was solely based on this post from Hanya Yanagihara's @alittlelifebook Instagram account, ha, how's that for rando? She made this book sound so magical (it was), and not-to-be-missed. I thought the craft of this book was amazing—clever, clever, and definitely absorbing. What I wished was that there was more plot driving you a long. It's a lot to ask for almost 1,000 pages and you're sometimes wondering where the plot went. I'm really glad I read it, but I can understand why one would abandon it (it would be so easy to put it down and not pick it back up because there's not much plot compelling you to finish, especially for the first half). I need to look up and watch the miniseries, because it probably translates well to TV.

My aforementioned friend Erin and I decided to read something together next, which we'd heard much mention of on the What Should I Read Next podcast and had had on my TBR list for a while—My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante, which is the first installment in her Neapolitan Novels series of 4. I just loved this book. It kept me up late into the night reading "just one more chapter," a condition I adore. I thought the translation of this book was brilliant (it's originally written in Italian), because I could hear it spoken in an Italian accent almost. I can't explain it, but I thought the phrasing was absolutely superb. This first book is lots of coming-of-age situations (it's my understanding that this series follows a pair of friends from childhood through late-middle age), which may not be for everyone, but I do like. I'm currently reading the second one (after a hiatus of two books), and am excited to finish. This is a series I'd like to have on my shelf in paper copy (though have had no trouble getting on Kindle via the library). Definitely recommend, but not sure everyone will enjoy. Falls in the category "literary fiction," I'd think.

The hold on Before the Fall by Noah Hawley from the library came to me at the perfect time after finishing My Brilliant Friend, and I finished this in just a few days. It's a very fast-paced, thrilled-type book and easy to breeze through/absorbing. I do have to admit that I was a little disappointed with the ending, but it's always nice to get through a book quickly because you're so absorbed. This wasn't brilliant or anything, but a good read.

And finally, last night, I finished The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano for book club (we'll meet to discuss it on Tuesday), which is interestingly another Italian translation. It kind of reminded me of Eleanor & Park in several ways, though a bit more quirky and quietly heart-breaking. I'll be interested to hear what everyone else thought of it, too. I didn't think the language was quite as masterful, but it was definitely a quick read.

On audiobook in Q4, I listened to:

- The Boston Girl by Anita Diamante (ABSOLUTELY charming, loved this, especially on audio!)
- Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld (A new Pride & Prejudice retelling that was actually fairly clever!)
- Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (soooo good, can't wait for the Spielberg movie in 2018. Lived up to the hype! Actually bought this one in paperback because I knew Jonathan would enjoy reading it, and he did!)
- A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (I'm not sure this was the book/audiobook for me. I could appreciate that it was a really well-done audio version, but the story did not captivate me, and I'm not sure it would have in paper version either (I'd heard sev people say they preferred the audio). Meh.)

I'm currently listening to the second Louise Penny book, A Fatal Grace (which is perfect since it begins during Christmas!), and reading the second Neapolitan Novel, The Story of a New Name. I've also been listening to Gretchen Rubin's Better Than Before off and on, on audio, for months now, ha. It's like a podcast I listen to when I feel like it (I actually wouldn't mind owning a hard copy of it for reference).

I'll be back with my plans for 2017 in a separate post! Thanks for indulging me if you made it this far. :)  (I finished these before midnight!!!!)

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