2016 in Review

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Usually I peruse a list of over 100 books read during the year that was. But as I write I find myself looking at a list with a total of 56, barely one book a week. It’s been an odd year, one in which I struggled to keep my focus on both reading and blogging, but reviewing the year encourages me.

There were lovely parts to 2016:

For me, the best part of blogging is reading with others, and surely those read-alongs and events were a highlight. And now, in no particular order (except for the two largest books in the middle of the collage which were the most well loved), my ten favorite books of 2016 are:

The Story of The Lost Child by Elena Ferrante

A Strangeness in My Mind by Orhan Pamuk

Death by Water by Kenzaburo Oe

The Vegetarian by Han Kang

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr

Eileen by Otessa Moshfegh

As for 2017? I look forward to reading more Japanese literature, Haruki Murakami’s Absolutely on Music in particular. I look forward to the C. S. Lewis discussion group held every Saturday morning at Wheaton College which begins with That Hideous Strength. I look forward to reading Captivity by György Spiró with several bloggers including Vishy,  Jessica, cirtnecce, DorianTJ and Dwight. Please feel free to join us as we begin in January.

Wherever January takes us, in our bookish adventures and daily lives, I look forward to new ideas. Interesting books. More discussions. Thank you for being a part of my journey these past ten years.

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55 thoughts on “2016 in Review

  1. Loved your post and your favourites list, Bellezza! I want to read many of the books on your favourites list. Also, Murakami’s new book. Looking forward to reading György Spiró’s Captivity with you and others in January. Thanks so much for hosting this readalong. Happy New Year!

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  2. I too enjoyed our readalongs and look forward to Captivity and maybe more in 2017. Best wishes for the new year. I love the look of your year-end post, by the way. How did you make that nice collage of book covers?

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    • The collage of pictures is quite simple to make, considering I used to use Google’s Picasa for such things. With WordPress, you simply choose the images you wish to include in the collage, and then you are given an option of inserting them into your post as individual images, circles, or a tiled mosaic (which is the one I used here). I love playing with photographs, and I hope this sufficiently explains for you to add some of your own into your posts. Although you have such indepth text analysis, I quite doubt you need the addition of pictures to make a wonderful post.

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    • Thanks, Gary, I will plod along with this blog grateful for your input as you add from time to time. It’s a pleasure to talk with you both here and on a Facebook. (Your new bicycling gear looks very nifty!)

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    • Death by Water was not a favorite with many people, but I am fascinated by Oe’s writing and perspective. Pamuk is another favorite writer of mine, and Strangeness gave me such an insight into life in Turkey, but better yet, into marriage. Still, Snow is my favorite work of his.

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      • Yes, I loved Snow, it taught me so much I didn’t know about the fraught politics there… where making a decision to wear, or not to wear a tie, is a political act. I liked Museum as well, he’s such a good writer:)

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          • That’s always a risk when writing about obsession, I think. There’s a cut-off point where the reader says, ‘Enough already, I get that this character is obsessed!’ but the writer doesn’t always know when to stop…

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  3. I bought that Murakami book for my brother (hes a music geek) and he’s on my shortlist to do a complete-works read thru, in order of publication… if i like his first book, I’ve never read him! I agree, it’s the readalongs and events that make blogging worthwhile.

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    • One of the wonderful things about the Murakami book is that I plan to listen to the music he discusses on my iPhone as I read. I love what I’m sure he will reveal about all kinds of scores. If you’ve never read him, though, you may wish to start with something more along the lines of a narrative, such as Norwegian Wood or After Dark. Those are both on the short side, and not as “bizarre” as one of my favorites which is Kafka on the Shore.

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  4. By the look of things, you seem to have a good reading and blogging year in 2016. I look forward to learning about your reading experiences in 2017. Happy New Year!

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    • Happy New Year, Nancy! Thank you for reminding me about Operation Deeper Faith run by Becky; it’s one of the few challenges I find truly worthwhile.

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    • I’m sure Ferrante made many lists besides yours and mine; what a beloved author world wide! But, her Neopolitan novels are especially good, I think. Your list was jam-packed with interesting new (to me) titles and authors. It’s a pleasure to blog with you, Jacqui.

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    • Let’s! I’m excited to read Captivity for several reasons: it has earned an award in Hungary, it is highly praised in general, and I hope it will give me a stronger foundation in Roman times with which I can bolster my understanding of the Old and New Testament. Or, at least put them in a better context. I have begun it already, and I’m already entranced. I hope you are, too!

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  5. Dear Meredith, thank you so very much for your kind words! It is always a pleasure to read you, but if that does not happen, I will always think you will be indulging in a wonderful book 🙂 Have yourself a happy, blessed 2017!

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  6. I love, loved Eileen but read it in 2015. You have what looks to me like a successful and varied reading year. Happy New Year!

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    • Wow, Eileen took a long time to become well known then, didn’t it? I was only just aware of it for the Man Booker prize this summer. I liked how she was a victim, of sorts, but the author empowered her to overcome. I hope you have a wonderful 2017!

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    • I hope you like A Gentleman in Moscow. It was my first book by Amor Towles, and some have even said it is better than Rules of Civility. I bogged down a bit in the middle, but it was more than worth it to finish the novel. What a great book!

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  7. Our shared readings this year was a highlight for me, too. Even if I didn’t love the books in question, I loved hashing it out together.

    And what fun to be in a C.S. Lewis reading group. I’m using a C.S. Lewis devotional this year (The Business of Heaven). I used it about a dozen years ago, and it’s one of the few devotional tools I was ever really able to stick to consistently over a full year, so I’m looking forward to that!

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    • I loved our discussions arising from the Man Booker long list (and short). Even for the books which the panel did not agree on, insight was gained and fresh perspectives shared; such a wonderful highlight of the year for me.

      The discussion group at Wheaton College has reignited a C. S. Lewis passion within me; I gave my mother The Business of Heaven devotional this Christmas for her quiet time! How fun that you’ll be reading it “together” this year. I’ve never read That Hideous Strength, but I better begin for the first discussion is this Saturday. 😉

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  8. I enjoyed being part of the Read Along for Two Serious Ladies too, thank you for that. Han Kang was on my list of favourites for 2016, I though Human Acts even more accomplished than The Vegetarian, but both the sign of an extraordinarily talented and deep thinking author. I also had another Elena Ferrante on my favourites list, Days of Abandonment which was tense and brilliantly constructed, especially it being set in the crazy, heat of summer which is when I read it. I’m looking forward to your reading of 2017, Happy New Year and Happy Reading!

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    • I can appreciate reading Ferrante in the dog days of summer, much as Naples would be. I like pairing my reading with the season and food of that culture; somehow, I’m always craving udon noodles when I read Japanese books, or samosas when I read Indian.

      I am eager to read Han Kang’s newest book. I’m not sure I entirely understood all she meant to say in The Vegetarian, but I was sufficiently intrigued by her imagination, and her writing, to consider it a fine book.

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  9. 2016 was a great reading year for both of us it seems – if I go by your list of favorites 🙂 My Name Is Lucy Barton was at the top of my list, alongside A True Novel. I must say that was truly one of my favorite books last year – thank you 🙂 I’m so glad the three of us read it. Hope 2017 brings you plenty of great new books 🙂 Happy New Year!!

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    • Both you and Vishy liked A True Novel more than I did. I’m not sure if I just let it drag on too long, but I did not end up enjoying it very much at all. Probably it would have been better suited for me to read it over the summer, when time is not pressing down on me quite so heavily, and I can abandon myself to the author’s verbosity.

      In contrast, My Name is Lucy Barton was short, but every word so necessary to the atmosphere and story. I could read that one several times over.

      Thank you for reading with me, blogging with me, lo these many years, Nadia. You bring a great richness to my reading.

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  10. Happy New Year! We read the same amount of books! I feel like I should have read more but I guess sometimes work and stuff gets in the way. Anyway, loved reading about your favorites and your upcoming reading projects. Hope there are a lot of great books ahead for you!

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    • I’m not sure why I was disappointed with the total amount of books I (we!) read; when I look at other lists, people seem to have read less than 20. So, I’m rather hard on myself, but in previous years I’d read more than 100, which made me feel I was slacking off this year. Let’s give ourselves permission to read as we wish, what suits us, and not put pressure on what we do or don’t accomplish. Sometimes I forget this is a joy, not a job. 😉

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  11. Happy 2017!
    It’s good to look back, isn’t it? I had to do the same to realize there were good bits, good books. I loved Eileen and Lucy Barton too but didn’t put them on the list as I wanted to stick to ten. They were close though. I hope you’ll read great books and join interesting readalongs this year.

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    • I want to join in more read alongs this year; I sorely missed your German Reading Month in 2016! Thank you for reading for the Japanese Literature Challenge 10; you’ve added another vote for Kiego Higoshino, whom I already greatly admire. xo

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  12. Even before this crazy, turbulent year I read (mostly fiction) to escape from the harsh realities of life in contemporary America. Comparing 2016 notes, the reread of “Jane Eyre” and a first time read of “My name is Lucy Barton” (the first chapter of which was read in the aisle of Barnes & Noble while sipping a Grande Café Mocha) were some of the highlights of my reading year. A major literary goal achieved was the completion of all six novels in Trollope’s Palliser series. 2016 was the year I became a Trollope fan-boy. I have just started reading the Barchester series. I have had “The Vegetarian” and “A Gentleman in Moscow” on hold at my library but these seem to be popular titles in my community right now. Based on your impressions, I look forward to reading them early in 2017. Best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year to you and your family.

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    • I can just envision you with your mocha and Lucy Barton; it’s a lovely picture! I don’t read much in Barnes and Noble as they always seem so loud to me, but the treats there are quite scrumptious, as is the coffee.

      How impressed I am that you completed all six of Trollope’s Pallister novels! I read one of his Barchester books and just about fell asleep, never dreaming that he could be quite that slow. I think it’s an indication of my hurried life; the problem lies more in my rushing about than in his slower pace.

      I do hope you get to A Gentleman in Moscow. It was a treasure of the year for me.

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  13. I always love to read about your favorites. Now I have downloaded Four Seasons in Rome to my Kindle. On that device, it’s a small book 🙂 I’d like to read All the Light We Cannot See again, too, but it is still a big book on my shelf.

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    • I’m so glad that you downloaded Four Seasons in Rome! I hope you like it as much as I did, especially now that you bought it. I think a part of why I liked it so much, besides the quality of his writing, is that it brought back memories of when I lived in Europe which is something I’d very much like to do again. I read most of All The Light We Cannot See which everyone seemed to love, but typical of me this year, I tired of it before I finished it, and I laid it down. My focus was quite poor, which I hope to improve in 2017.

      What a pleasure it is to blog with you, Gretchen. Thank you for becoming my friend this year.

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  14. Reading with you is always a highlight of my year! I see so many places where the books we love overlap – your top reads were some great reads for me too including Eileen and The Vegetarian and Lucy Barton. I received the Towles for Christmas and am looking forward to it as you and Dorian both recommend it. And lastly, I am hoping for a Booker list you love this year! You were such a trooper about what proved a lackluster list for you this year. I hope that our shadow panel makes another run for it this year.

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    • I’m so glad you received the Towles for Christmas! And, I hope it’s not been exaggerated such that you can’t enjoy it as sometimes happens with well-loved books. To me, it was such an imaginative and delightful story, and the count an admirable man.

      Even if we get a Booker list I don’t love, I will love reading with you and the other ladies. Truly, it is one of my highlights of the year. I think I was just in a pissy place this year; like a spoiled child, not much could satisfy me. So, I will accept “trooper” rather than “witch” as a description of my endeavors. 😉 Please, let’s do it again.

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  15. It was an odd year, wasn’t it? I only read four more books than you, but it still feels like I didn’t read as much as usual. However, looking back on previous years, I didn’t do as poorly as I thought.

    I’m anxious to read A Gentleman in Moscow (thanks again!) and Four Seasons in Rome, which I picked up right before Christmas. I read an excerpt of it in a magazine earlier this year and knew it would be a winner, especially since I loved All the Light We Cannot See. I love travel essays and think Doerr is an exceptional writer.

    Happy New Year, dear friend. Hope all is well and that we both survive the upcoming ice storm this weekend!!

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