2016: My year in books

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2016 was a bad year for celebrity deaths (I’m still getting over Prince and Carrie Fisher) and for politics (the less said, the better). But it was another great year for books, one in which I enjoyed some old reliable writers (Kent Haruf, Jim Butcher, Marissa Meyer) and discovered some new ones (Holly Seddon, Erik Larson, Libbie Hawker). I travelled to Africa and Outer Space, took a camel across an ancient Syrian desert, sailed with some Vikings, and discovered the secret sorrow of the Queen of Hearts. The usual sort of adventures.

Stats n stuff

According to Goodreads, in 2016 I read 52 books in 2016.

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Yet another year in which no book received the dreaded 1 star.

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No huge surprises here: fiction was predominant over non-fiction, and historical fiction was my favourite genre overall (some novels are included in more than one genre).

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As usual, the Anglophone countries are the predominant ones. Among the more “exotic” settings were Iceland (The Blue Fox by Sjon), Syria (Daughter of Sand and Stone by Libbie Hawker), and South Africa (Zoo City by Lauren Beukes). This map does not include 6 books set in outer space, 5 novels set in a fantasy world, and 1 book set in the fictional “Duchy of Grand Fenwick”.

time_chart

My reading covered a great stretch of time, from prehistoric Siberia (Reindeer Moon by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas) to an unknown future on a distant planet (Dark Eden by Chris Beckett). That bump in the 9th and 10th centuries is for Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Stories, while the one in the 23rd century is for James S.A. Corey’s Expanse series.

Recommendations

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In contemporary crime, I enjoyed Try Not to Breathe by new author Holly Seddon, someone to watch in the future. In classics, I “discovered” Wilkie Collins and loved the twisty-turny plot of The Moonstone.

There were a number of likely candidates in historical fiction, but I’ll have to vote for March by Geraldine Brooks; set during the American Civil War, it tells the story of the father from Little Women. It seems to be my year of spin-offs from famous novels, because my fantasy pick is Heartless by Marissa Meyer, where the cruel Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland gets a tragic backstory.

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Although I read more fiction books, I had more consistent good luck in my non-fiction reads. My favourite in  history was The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, a story about the Chicago World’s Fair and a serial killer that read like a novel. In science, Mary Roach scored again with Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War. In travel, I was in turns intrigued and terrified by Tim Butcher’s Congo trip in Blood River: A Journey to Africa’s Broken Heart.

The Year Ahead

What will I be reading in 2017?

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Well, there’s book #10 of the Saxon Stories, book #6 of the Expanse series, and maybe book #4 in the Gentleman Bastard series by Scott Lynch (if the publication date isn’t postponed again).

I’m planning to read more by Geraldine Brooks, starting with People of the Book, and also to look up other books by my two non-fiction author finds: Erik Larson and Tim Butcher. Wilkie Collins has a huge bibliography for me to work my way through. Some other interesting books on my to-read shelf include I, Claudius by Robert Graves and Tennison by Linda LaPlante.

Happy new reading year to all!

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