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2016: The Year in Books, Part 2

It's time to keep the spirit of procrastination rolling into the New Year with more book memes! Questions snagged from egelantier and littlerhymes. Head under the cut if you want to hear me say "I don't know" a lot.

the first book you read in 2016:
Life of Alcibiades (And Some Other Guys)

the last book you finished in 2016:
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters.

the first book you will finish (or did finish!) in 2017:
Either The Count of Monte Cristo or Partners in Crime

how many books read in 2016? fiction/non-fiction ratio?
202 if you count the volumes of In Search of Lost Time as separate books, 198 if you don't (since I didn't actually finish Lost Time in 2016). 24 non-fiction, which is a lot for me! There's going to be more in the coming year because I've resolved to “read down” the books I own but haven't read – more NF in proportion, that is, probably fewer books overall.

male/female authors?
112 male, 87 female, 4 books with multiple authors.

Where did they come from?
Not exact numbers, but roughly:

42 already owned in 2016
23 gifts, borrowed, or other
55 bought used in 2016
14 bought new in 2016
22 from the public library
43 from the university library

most books read by one author this year?
Ngaio Marsh, followed closely by Agatha Christie: 14 books and 13, respectively.

favorite books read?
Too many to list, which defeats the purpose of having "favorites," but I'm really not sure on where to draw the line between favorites and not-quite-favorites. The Long Goodbye, Titus Groan, No Highway, The Left Hand of Darkness are a few that definitely deserve the top slot.

best book you read in 2016
I have zero literary judgement and definitely can't be trusted to separate "best" from "favorite."

least favorite?
Probably Ape and Essence by Aldous Huxley. I think my problem with Huxley is largely down to the past being another country. The descent of humans and other primates from a common ancestor is a familiar idea no more alarming to me than the idea of being made of proteins or water, so the patented Huxley apeshow thing completely fails to shock me out of my bourgeois complacency, or whatever it's supposed to do. And I don't have the imagination or the patience to see past my own annoyance to any other part of the text. Which is a form of being shocked, I guess, or a form of bourgeois complacency, and certainly a form of Not Getting It, but. I try to put up a good-faith effort with most things but with this book I couldn't manage anything better than hostile indifference.

most disappointing book/book you wished you loved more than you did?
The Warrior's Apprentice by Lois McMaster Bujold! I was completely prepared to love it. I thought the first two books in the series were a fascinating mix of the pulpy and the personal. I was looking forward to a long, enjoyable series of texts to interrogate from the wrong perspective. But The Warrior's Apprentice jumps to a new generation and. . .I don't know, suddenly the ratio of boredom to engaging irritation was all wrong. I couldn't tell you what it was I didn't like about it compared to the earlier books, just that it somehow managed to make me more annoyed and less emotionally invested at the same time.

best series you discovered in 2016?
Does Terry Pratchett count as a series? I didn't “discover” Pratchett this year as I'd had Hogfather around for quite some time, but I read a bunch more books and loved most of them.

favorite new author you discovered this year?
Other than Pratchett? Maybe Chandler, maybe Proust, for authors whose "future favorite" status I'm pretty confident in. Sarah Waters, Henry Williamson, and James White are hovering in the potential favorite zone.

Sorry, I know that's more than one!

oldest book read?
Probably Plutarch's Life of Alcibiades And Some Other Dudes Who Just Wish They Were Alcibiades.

I think Yaa Gyasi's Homegoing.

longest book title?
Female Authorship and Literary Culture in Canada 1760-2000, or one of those other NF books.

shortest title?
We, Y. Zamyatin. The most delightfully batshit dystopia of the twentieth century (that I have actually bothered to read).

how many re-reads?
I don't keep track of all my re-reads because there's no point; with some books it's just a compulsive motion like scratching my head. Outside of the usual suspects: 10

any in translation?
A few! BALZAC, Elena Ferrante, Jussi Adler-Olssen, Jacinto Lucas Pires, maybe one or two others?

book that most changed my perspective:
I don't know! I don't think there's a strong standout candidate for this one. Possibly the Life of Balzac? I've mostly been either finding my own prejudices reflected or agreeing to disagree, rather than feeling my thinking change in a noticeable way. This might mean that I'm a sloppy reader or that I don't have enough self-awareness to notice when I've changed my mind.

favorite character:
There were a lot. I loved all the Pratchett mains: Sam Vimes, every member of the Unsociable Coven, and DEATH. Nick and Nora Charles made me happy. Special honorable mention to Magersfontein Lugg, the brilliant true hero of a curiously un-brilliant series (or, more likely: one I just totally failed to understand).

most memorable character:
As distinct from "favorite?" I'm not sure. Philip Marlowe, but he's also a favorite. Just off the top of my head, it's a tie between BALZAC and the Very Lonely Chair (the true hero of Lady Chatterly's Lover), but I'm not sure that's accurate, either.

favorite scene:
The return of the Pharaon, hands down and forever. Mercedes confronting the Count of Monte Cristo in her drama veil. DEATH explaining to a small child why he doesn't come apart like the other skeletons she has seen.

how many you'd actually read again?
Lots. I'd guess at least half? I'm already on the hook to read Proust again with a reading group and looking forward to it. Pratchett is a new comfort-reading favorite.

a book that you never want to read again:
There were a couple I was glad to see the back of. The Laughing Monsters and McNally's Gamble tested my patience in different ways. The Woman Warrior was beautifully written but full of horrifying images I would rather not invite into my brain again.

book you recommended most to others in 2016?
hahahaha not “recommended” per se, but probably The Whale: A Love Story: A Novel

In terms other than "Please read this bad novel so you will know I'm not exaggerating!" maybe Mort by Pratchett, maybe The Long Goodbye. Probably also Proust, if that counts, since I started in January and have not let up since.

the book series you read the most volumes of in 2016: 
Inspector Alleyn Mysteries! Raise a glass with me to the best detective in fiction at solving completely ridiculous murders with reason, patience and hard work. *raises*

the genre you read the most in 2016:
You know it's detectives. It's always going to be detectives. That barn door isn't closing anytime this decade.

most surprising (in a good way) book of the year?
I've been really surprised in a good way by Henry Williamson, but I think that's mostly due to Burgess putting so much effort into warning me off. I was surprised by how much I liked The Old Man and the Sea, too, after having a difficult time with For Whom the Bell Tolls last year.

the hardest book you read in 2016 (topic or writing style):
The Woman Warrior and July's People were extraordinarily tough and painful. Titus Groan was an impassable garden of thorns (but in a fun way). I found Durrell's Alexandria Quartet genuinely hard to read, in the sense that I had no idea what anyone was trying to say a lot of the time, but part of that might just be inability to trust my own judgment.

the funniest book you read in 2016:
When it wasn't punching me in the gut unexpectedly, In Search of Lost Time made me laugh louder and longer than anything else. For best laughs-to-pages ratio, probably Wyrd Sisters.

the saddest book you read in 2016:
I don't know if it's the saddest, but The Left Hand of Darkness hurt a lot, in a good way.

the shortest book you read in 2016
Maybe one of the graphic novels, maybe The Old Man and the Sea.

the longest book that you read in 2016:
I didn't finish the obvious candidate, In Search of Lost Time OR the runner-up, The Count of Monte Cristo, so I'm not sure!

best book that was outside your comfort zone/a new genre for you:
I didn't get too far outside my comfort zone this year. Something unexpected: Diane Duane's My Enemy, My Ally, a really enjoyable Star Trek novel that avoids some of the usual difficulties of tie-in novels (in part by opening with a long conversation in untranslated Romulan).

most thrilling, unputdownable book of 2016? 
If Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man had been any longer I would have starved to death. Runners up: The Story of a New Name and Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante. Not “thrilling” in the Count of Monte Cristo way, but books I was completely unable to stop reading once I'd started.

most beautifully written book in 2016?
It's really hard to say. There are so many kinds of beauty. Is that a meaningless platitude? Probably. All I know is, Lawrence Durrell wants it to be Lawrence Durrell, but it's not. I think I'm going to go with The Girls of Slender Means by Muriel Spark.

book you most anticipated in 2016?
The Inheritance, by master infodumper Charles Finch! I wasn't a bit let down, either. The Comfortverse is a minor gift but a very pleasantly reliable one.

favorite cover of a book you read in 2016?
I haven't really been keeping track. This cover of Clea enticed me to buy the paperback even though I already had a perfectly serviceable copy from the library. [modern love walks beside me]
modern love walks on by

book that had the greatest impact on you this year?
Impossible to say! I probably won't know for another five years how things are going to shake out. Proust and Pratchett, if I had to guess.

book you can't believe you waited till 2016 to finally read?
Invisible Man. The Count of Monte Cristo. So many. It's shocking how many things I haven't read. Well, maybe not shocking, given how many books there are in the world, but still! What have I been doing all my life?

book that had a scene that left you reeling and dying to talk to someone about it?
All of Lady Chatterly's Lover, for one thing. It's been nice to have people to yell about books with. <3

one book you didn't read this year that will be your #1 priority in 2017?
The Story of the Lost Child is just waiting for me to pick it up and get sucked in.

new book you are most anticipating for 2017? 
New book, as in something coming out this year? No idea. Someday maybe I'll be able to start paying attention to new books in advance, but not today. I'm looking forward to getting Here Comes the Messiah! which egelantier has just recommended to me. I've ordered it, but I don't know when it will arrive.

Maybe I should have thought about these answers a little more? I'll probably come back to this later and have changed my mind, and be amazed at what I've forgotten to mention.


( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 4th, 2017 08:14 am (UTC)
that was a really great reading year - i think i comment less here than i should because i don't often have something to say, but your reviews (of things that i know about) were a joy this year; you always have this knack of approaching things from a side new to me, and make them - interesting in a different way, you know? i can't wait for you to get rubina, too.
Jan. 4th, 2017 04:09 pm (UTC)
Same for me and your posts! I seldom feel like I have much to say besides "I don't know what this is, but it sounds interesting," but I always enjoy reading them.

Definitely looking forward to Rubina! Unfortunately, it seems to be out of print? nothing at my libraries, and used copies are going for $95 right now, so I'm waiting for Amazon to hunt one up to send to me . . . Fingers crossed.
Jan. 4th, 2017 09:40 am (UTC)
Raise a glass with me to the best detective in fiction at solving completely ridiculous murders with reason, patience and hard work. *raises*

*joins you* Aw, bless.

And yay for Pratchett!

That is indeed a impressive roll call of books for 2016. I'm all admiration, and thanks for sharing it along with us all. Your posts are always a joy, even when I don't know half (or more) of the books.

Jan. 4th, 2017 04:20 pm (UTC)
Aww, thank you! I've been a slacker about commenting lately, but I always enjoy reading your posts, too.

I'm genuinely sorry that I didn't grow up with Pratchett! I can't even blame my own bad taste for this one, since I don't remember ever seeing one of his books, or anyone mentioning him to me, until I was in my mid-twenties. But it's never too late, etc..
Jan. 4th, 2017 08:44 pm (UTC)
No - you get all the pleasure of reading him now! :-)

And thank you. ♥
Jan. 4th, 2017 10:24 am (UTC)
Gosh, some of these questions are HARD. I'm glad I did the shortened down version lol. The distinction between 'favourite' and 'best' is so tricky! Anyway tons here I have to look up and think about one day eventually reading. :)
Jan. 4th, 2017 04:46 pm (UTC)
It might have been better to cut out a few more questions - I feel like it got a little repetitive, even setting aside all the things I didn't know the answer to.

"Favorite" vs "best" is something I could spend all day and all week sorting out, if I didn't feel like getting anything else done, but . . . I don't know if I'll ever get back to being comfortable making claims about literary quality. I used to do it all the time, but that was when I was young and reckless. Now it's much easier just to stick with "how did that make you feel?"

:) I still have to give Dick Francis a try! Maybe 2017 will be The Year of Reading At Least One Dick Francis Novel.
Jan. 4th, 2017 03:33 pm (UTC)
All I know is, Lawrence Durrell wants it to be Lawrence Durrell, but it's not Lol.

The Lonely Chair how could I have forgot!

A busy reading year:)
Jan. 4th, 2017 04:52 pm (UTC)
Lawrence Durrell has kept me in a constant state of being simultaneously compelled to make fun of Durrell and haunted by the certainty that I am being unfair to Durrell. It's a gift!

I've been lucky this year in that my job allowed me to sit around all day and read. There will be a lot less of that in 2017, for better or worse.
Jan. 4th, 2017 09:37 pm (UTC)
I don't much care for The Warrior's Aprentice either. And even if I like al the books, the ones I LOVE doesn't turn up until Memory.
Jan. 5th, 2017 03:41 am (UTC)
It had the strangest effect; I don't really know why it tipped the balance so abruptly from "this is a fascinating and flawed series that I have one million thoughts about" to "I don't care whether these people live or die." But it did.

Does the series go back to Cordelia later? I thought she was an interesting character. Someday I'll try again with a different book.
Jan. 5th, 2017 03:02 pm (UTC)
I felt something similar, actually. By the end of Barryar I only wanted more Cordelia and I was very disappointed with her being relegated to a supportive character. But I persisted and Miles grew on me. You might want to pick up one of the Miles-books which are who-dunnits in SF disguise. :) Memory is the best of those, IMO, and also Cetaganda and Komarr.
Jan. 5th, 2017 03:05 pm (UTC)
So far we have one more Cordelia-book; Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen. It takes place about 45 years after Barryar. I like it, but there is a strong feeling of epilogue about it. There is no real tension in the plot and there are a LOT about Cordelia and Aral's Life together I would like to read a proper novel about, not read about long after it happened.
Jan. 5th, 2017 02:14 am (UTC)
The Lonely Chair! I had nearly forgotten it, bless its sad little heart; no wonder it's so lonely.

It's been a good year in reading! Possession in particular has really stuck with me, in a strange elusive kind of way; I can't remember any of the characters' names (except poor Beatrice, the one who researched Ash's wife), but the atmosphere of the big crumbling country house, searching for long-forgotten letters in a cold dark room, and the bright crack of light beneath the bathroom door - all that has stayed.
Jan. 5th, 2017 03:45 am (UTC)
The Lonely Chair is leading a happy and useful chair-life now, so it's ok if you forget about it!

Possession has stuck with me, too, in several ways (and I have also forgotten the names of all the characters).
Jan. 5th, 2017 10:44 pm (UTC)
Whew...s'a'lotta books!

( 16 comments — Leave a comment )


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