It’s that time of year again: Time to share my annual reading list.
After great success last year with my Goodreads reading challenge, I decided aim a bit higher this time around by committing to 24 books. Two books per month felt like a doable pace. Unfortunately, it ended up being a little too much of a stretch.
I finished 23 books, boosting my number in the past two weeks by catching up on a couple comic book series. My reading effort was aided by a long vacation in September (Australia to Europe provided nice, long stretches of airplane reading time), but I was ultimately sunk by attempting two 700+ page books which I’ve left unfinished for the time being (Hard Choices by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes).
Even though I fell just short of my goal, I’m still happy with my effort. I’m confident that I’ll be able to reach 24 books next year. My work commute will be 10-20 minutes longer each morning and afternoon. That’s a lot of quality reading time.
The Birth of the Pill by Jonathan Eig
Color Your Message by Lisa Caprelli
Thunderstruck by Erik Larson
Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata (book club selection)
Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson and Jacob Wyatt
In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson (book club selection)
The Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser (reread)
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (book club selection)
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (book club selection)
The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler (book club selection)
Animal Farm by George Orwell (book club selection, reread)
Brunelleschi’s Dome by Ross King (reread)
Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman
Captain Marvel Volume 1: Higher, Further, Faster, More by Kelly Sue Deconnick and David Lopez
Captain Marvel Volume 2: Stay Fly by Kelly Sue Deconnick and David Lopez
Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling by Ross King
Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (book club selection)
Quiet: The Power Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking of by Susan Cain
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl (book club selection, reread)
Captain Marvel Volume 3: Alis Volat Propriis by Kelly Sue Deconnick and David Lopez
The Mighty Thor: Thunder in Her Veins by Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman
There were several standouts on this year’s list.
Two non-fiction favorites that took on new significance post-election were The Birth of the Pill and In the Garden of Beasts. Pill tells the story of how the hormonal birth control pill was developed, both a scientific breakthrough and a big win for the advancement of reproductive freedom. With women’s bodily rights coming under new, more emboldened attacks in recent months, it’s a great reminder that allies can be found in unlikely places (Dr. John Rock, a lifelong Catholic, fought the church and became an effective advocate of the pill).
Garden of Beasts follows William E. Dodd, America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Nazi Germany, and his family who accompanied him to Europe. It was maddening reading how so many people either ignored or failed to recognize the warning signs in Hitler’s rise to power and actions as leader– almost as maddening as what’s happening in the world now.
Fiction favorites were fewer. The only one I really loved reading was Career of Evil. The character’s Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling) has created are a lot of fun, even when surrounded by horror and murder. I’m anxiously awaiting the next book in this series, rumored to be released sometime this year.
Finally, Quiet was a self-affirming gem. A deep dive into introversion and how introverts interact with a world that champions an extrovert ideal (in the West, anyway), this book felt like it was speaking directly to me. I can’t describe how wonderful it was to read something that valued the traits of introverts and reassured me, a self-described “shy” introvert, that it’s perfectly OK to feel the way I do sometimes.
As with last year, there really weren’t any books I hated, just a few disappointments.
Color Your Message was basic, so I’m glad I knocked it off my marketing reading list early. The Big Sleep was OK. I remember enjoying Chandler’s hard boiled detective writing so much more when I read The High Window. I may give him another chance, if only because his are easy reads that make great palette cleansers. After a promising start to the Captain Marvel series, Volume 2 was a letdown. Thankfully, the next book was much better, but it just wasn’t long enough.
Looking Forward to in 2017
For the first time in years I didn’t ask for books as Christmas gifts. Between my current to-read list and book club picks, I have more than enough to get me through the year. Not that that will stop me from buying books during the year, but at least I’m starting with less of a deficit.
I’m currently reading Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull. It’s more a study of management styles than a history of Pixar, but I do have To Infinity and Beyond waiting on my shelf as well. Also in the non-fiction department: Gloria Steinem’s My Life on the Road and Sarah Vowell’s Lafayette in the Somewhat United States.
As for fiction, this year I plan to read some of the comics Ben has been recommending for years. Think Batman: Hush and The Long Halloween. I’d also like to finally finish the Fables series, but that will depend on how many volumes are left. I’ve also recommended that my book club delve into some feminist science fiction with The Handmaid’s Tale and one of Octavia Butler’s novels.