I really wanted to do a post about the books that stuck with me the most last year. In case you’ve been keeping up in any capacity, at the start of 2016, I gave myself a goal to read 15 books in 2016 through the Goodreads Reading Challenge, and suffice to say, I did it! Just over a book a month may seem miniscule to some, but I think I can count on one hand the amount of books I read in 2015 (if that), so it feels nice that I went out of my way to make it happen. I used to devour books as a teen, but in the age of YouTube and Netflix, it often feels so much easier to opt for visual stimulation than picking up a book… especially when you can scroll through social media while you catch up on your favourite show.
There were points, especially in December, when I thought I wasn’t gonna make it. But I did, by the skin of my teeth! In 2017, I’m going for 20 books, which I think will only challenge me further. With a bit more willpower and discipline, I think I’ll make it.
Even though I’ve been doing reviews as I read my books, either on this here blog or short ones over on my Goodreads, I wanted to take a minute to tell you about the ones that stayed with me and resonated the most. You know, the books that really remind me why I want to be a writer. Here goes…
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe – Benjamin Alire Sáenz
I got the year off to a marvellous start with this gem of a book (well, kinda, I read this at the same time as Asking For It but finished that first). It’s a sweet tale of love, friendship and family, and it is exquisitely written. Ari and Dante meet at a public pool in the summer of 1987, and their friendship takes them on a journey that leads them to learn just that little bit more about their families, themselves and the secrets of the universe. I listened to this on audiobook and was absolutely blown away by Sáenz and his way with words… not to mention it was narrated by my future fave, Lin-Manuel Miranda. I won’t say too much more, as I’ve written a detailed review of this already, so I’ll just throw some buzz words at you: Simple. Pure. Poetic. Powerful. Magic.
Asking For It – Louise O’Neill
Well. This was a read and half. Asking For It got a lot of hype around the backend of 2015 and into 2016 because of how it deals with such a tough subject matter. It tell the story of Emma, a bitchy, popular girl from a small, fictional town in Ireland, who gets gang raped at a party by the town’s football heroes. This happens quite early on in the novel, so the rest of the story tells of how Emma and her family deal with the aftermath one year on. It puts the reader in a difficult position, setting her up as what is essentially a villain, but then having something so catastrophically terrible happen to her, and you don’t quite know where you stand – though you know where you should stand. While this is definitely not an easy read, I thought O’Neill broached the topic of sexual violence, rape culture and society in general in a very honest, raw way that cuts right to the core. This books also tackles social media particularly well, and just how far one image could go in just a click of a button.
After The Last Dance – Sarra Manning
Oh man, did I love Sarra Manning as a teenager. I remember being 14 and picking up the first book in the Diary of a Crush trilogy, French Kiss, and ploughing through it in a matter of days, followed by the rest of the series, and swiftly onto her other books. Guitar Girl, Let’s Get Lost, Nobody’s Girl… all absolute teen classics. As I grew up, I fell a little bit out of love with her, especially after she released Adorkable, and I realised, this isn’t aimed at me anymore, I’m no longer her target demographic. Luckily though, she also writes fiction for adults. After the Last Dance was her passion project, and you can really tell that Manning had researched for this novel extensively. Partially set in WWII, Manning does an excellent job of making you feel like you’re right in the moment with Rose, the protagonist, in Rainbow Corner, dancing with GIs, eating sugary donuts and washing it down with a cold Coca Cola. I’ll admit, the 1940s chapters were my favourites, I felt so involved in Rose’s story and her quest to make it on her own in wartime London.
The Princess Diarist – Carrie Fisher
I started listening to the audiobook of The Princess Diarist the day before news broke out that Carrie Fisher had suffered from a heart attack on her plane back to LA, and finished it a couple of days after her and mother Debbie Reynolds’ death. Needless to say, the whole experience felt very poignant, as I listened to Carrie Fisher’s voice talk about how she wanted to be remembered posthumously. I think I want to get the words ‘she died drowning in moonlight, strangled by her own bra’ tattooed on me someday. That is, if the hundreds of other fantastic quotes taken directly from Fisher’s teen diary (narrated by her equally sensational daughter, Billie Lourd) don’t make it there first. Hearing Fisher talk about the lead up and making of Star Wars, and her affair and obsession with Harrison Ford, truly is gripping, fly-on-the-wall stuff. She was clearly, always had been, an amazingly talented, thought-provoking writer, and I am deeply saddened by her untimely death.
Becoming – Laura Jane Williams
Last but most certainly not least… What can I say about Laura Jane Williams? Other than I talk about her endlessly on Twitter, Instagram and this very blog. I discovered Laura in 2016 (or maybe the very backend of 2015, I can’t quite remember) and I am in awe of her. You know, if I hadn’t made it quite clear the thousand times I’ve said so before! I nearly lost my shit when I got to meet her during one of her writing workshops in November. I wanted to savour Becoming, so I spaced out my readings of it as much as I could towards the end. It’s such an honest and raw portrayal of heartbreak, finding yourself and starting all over again. Laura is a breath of fresh air, talented and unapologetically herself, showing us that we are not alone in the struggle of love, life and heartbreak. Seriously, this book is going to stay with me for a good while, and it has shown me that you don’t have to be old and famous to write a memoir, like I used to think. Laura proves that everyone has a story worth telling.
What are some books that resonated with you in 2016?