Author: bookishnonsenseblog

Favorite Novels Read in 2016

Favorite Novels Read in 2016

Due to several months of unemployment, I ended up reading quite a bit in 2016. I read 125 books last year, but that number is heavily padded with graphic novels. Of the 125 books, 21 were novels, 3 were short story collections, 28 were poetry books, 15 were nonfiction,  2 were plays, and 56 were graphic novels. If you want to see everything I read, click here.

I’m not going to attempt to rank my favorite books, or even limit the number I write about in this post. Instead, I’ll split it up into different sections. Today, I’ll write about my favorite novels. I’ll write about my favorite poetry books, nonfiction books, and graphic novels in other posts. Also, all titles are linked to their Goodreads descriptions.

Novels: 

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Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple 

I never expected to love this book as much as I do. I was definitely in the right mood when I read this. I wanted to read something funny and light because I just didn’t have the concentration to read anything dense. This book was perfect for that. It is written in epistolary style, making it perfect to read a little bit at a time. Not that I wanted to stop reading. It was so funny. Bernadette’s emails made me laugh out loud. The plot – from Bernadette’s encounters with the private school mothers to her disappearance to Antarctica – are a bit ridiculous, but I love that about it. This book tackled important issues like phobias and social anxiety while staying funny and light. It was funny, self-aware, and sincere. Not bad for “chick-lit.”

The Old Man and Me by Elaine Dundy

Another funny one, but a different kind of a funny. This book is an American in London, and not just any American, but a woman who calls herself Honey Flood, one of the most scheming and craziest characters I’ve ever encountered in literature. And I loved her. She narrates the book with such wit that I couldn’t help cheering her on as she attempted to seduce and swindle an old man out of his money. You wouldn’t think, but this book has a few plot twists that make your jaw drop. I was hooked from the beginning. Honey Flood’s voice was consistent from start to finish even as she was unraveling. I could go on in inarticulate gushings, but I’ll leave it here. Just read the book. Oh, and might I just add that the ending is perfect.

Dracula by Bram Stoker

I read this for an Irish Lit course, and we analyzed it through the lens of drug abuse, which I think was far more interesting than reading it through the lens of sex (as it might have been intended). This is an another epistolary, but unlike the first book mentioned, is not funny. In fact, it can be downright horrifying. The epistolary style heightens the suspense and horror. The images in this novel are so vivid, especially in the first part of the novel when Jonathan Harker is in Count Dracula’s castle. I love the atmosphere in gothic novels, so this was joy to read.

A Plotless Book

A Plotless Book

October is possibly my favorite month – the start of Autumn, colorful leaves falling to the ground, brisk air, and of course, Halloween! I love going into stores and looking at all of the decorations. This year I decided to make October count. I was going watch and read a bunch of horror and gothic novels like Jane Eyre and House of Leaves. October was going to be my “spooky” month. I even made a shelf on Goodreads.

I succeeded in binge-watching horror movies, but my reading plan utterly failed. I fell into a major reading slump and as a result barely read anything.

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alas, the forsaken to-read list

BUT all was not lost. I managed to read one very cool book about death that month and that book was Memento Mori: The Dead Among Us by Paul Koudounaris. I’d been interested in this book ever since I read Caitlin Doughty’s Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, a memoir of her experience working in the death industry and her thoughts on Western society’s attitude towards death.

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Paul Koudounaris is an art historian and specializes in charnel houses and ossuaries, meaning that he goes around taking photos (very nice photos) of skulls (some very fancy skulls) and elaborately constructed arches made of human remains. Of course it’s a lot more than that. In Memento Mori, Koudounaris describes different practices of caring for and respecting the dead, some of which are very foreign to me. In some cultures, family members’ skulls are kept, decorated, and displayed in the house. There are days dedicated to celebrating that dead, and and everyone will gather with their decorated, deceased family members. In an extreme example, in one culture (I can’t remember which), dead family members are “kept alive:” they are dressed up, stay in the family house, and even sleep in the same bed as the living.

As an American, it is shocking to read this, but it does make me question our practices and think about Caitlin Doughty’s grievances with the American attitude towards death. Why 22501229are we so repulsed by human remains? Why must we literally and figuratively bury our dead? Perhaps if we adopted practices from other cultures, we might change our attitudes and treat death as a part of life instead of as an end to life.

The actual book is beautiful; it is wonderfully bound and has high quality printed pages. And the photos simply stunning. The ossuaries and charnel houses are awe-inducing and underscore how death can be beautiful. I’ve included a slideshow of a few photos I found on the internet. These pictures don’t Koudounaris’s photos justice though! You must see them in print for yourselves! Koudounaris has done an amazing job, and I very much look forward to reading and viewing more of his work.

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I would like to thank my pun-obsessed friend Anna for the title of this post.

 

Finally left Blogger…

Finally left Blogger…

After years of frustration and negligence, I have finally left Blogger! I’ve imported all of my posts so they are all here on WordPress. I’m loving the flexibility WordPress offers, not to mention its superior appearance. Ultimately I left Blogger because it was so difficult to move images within a post, and I didn’t like the border it put around every image.

Hopefully, I won’t ignore this blog.

 

 

(And obviously, the photo above is from Hyperbole & a Half by Allie Brosh)

Library Book Sale

Library Book Sale

There are few things I cannot resist…chocolate, sour gummies, and library book sales. At library book sales, you can find brand new or slightly used books for $1 or $2. They are the reason why I cannot bring myself to buy new books in bookstores or even heavily discounted books in used bookstores. I’ll look at a $5 book and think “hm that’s a bit out of my budget.” Somehow, they have made me cheaper than I already was.

Anyway, I went to a really great book sale the other day and thought I’d post them here.

All books are linked to their Goodreads pages!

Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke – I read one of Rilke’s poetry books years ago and have been very interested in reading this one ever since!

Carry On, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse – This was such a lucky find! I have been in the mood to read something funny and I’ve been wanting to check out this series! I started reading it and it’s delightful!

Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank – A classic sci-fi. Seems kind of post-apocalyptic. That’s all I really have to say about this one.

Native Guard by Natasha Trethewey – I read this poetry book in 2013 and really enjoyed it. I love reading poetry, but to be honest, a lot of it goes over my head. I’m so glad I found this as I can know re-read it and take notes in it!

German Marks: Postwar Drawings and Prints Donated to the Busch-Reisinger Museum through the German Art Dealers Association by Erika Gemar Koltzsch – This was such an exciting find. These books go for anywhere from $20-$50 so it was pure luck that I found it for a $1. If you’ve read my post on The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, you will know that I love German Expressionism. This seems to be only post-war art, so it won’t feature expressionism, which was pre-WWIII and was at its height in the 1920s.   (Here is a link with an actual description of the book)

Here are a few details from the book!


"BookTube-A-Thon" – What I Read Pt. 2

Here are the rest of the books I read for the read-a-thon:

5/Read a book that is older than you & 6/ Read and watch a book-to-movie adaptation. – The book I read for these challenges was Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll. I didn’t watch the movie and after seeing the reviews, I probably won’t be watching it at all. I’ve always been a huge fan of Alice in Wonderland. So silly, so nonsensical, so whimsical. A dream world. I love it. I don’t really have anything else to say about this. Rating: Really Good

7/ Read seven books. – As I said in my last post, I read 20 books for the read-a-thon, but that was heavily padded with graphic novels and a few poetry books. There are quite a few books that fall under this challenge and I won’t be fully reviewing all of them because I don’t have that much to say about them. The book I finished for this challenge was Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. This is the first book in the Imperial Radch sci-fi trilogy. This is a complicated book that does interesting things with artificial intelligence and gender. We begin the book as Breq, an AI that used to be an entire ship, the Justice of Toren, stumbles across someone she vaguely remembers lying in the snow, having overdosed. There is not much more I can say about the plot without spoiling it. The book is very confusing at first because we are placed right at the end of Breq’s “mission,” which is slowly revealed to us through flashbacks. I will be continuing with this series! Rating: Really Good, almost amazing

I read I Remember Beirut by Zeina Abirached, a graphic novel about the author’s experience growing up during a time of turmoil between Muslims and Christians. I enjoyed the artwork, but I wished it had more of a narrative. Overall, I enjoyed it. Rating: Good

I also read Pretty Deadly, vol 1: The Shrike by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios. I wish I could give you a description of what it’s about, but the truth is I had no idea what was going on while I was reading it. The illustrations are not bad, but there is just too much going on in the same page. And the grittiness of the illustrations makes it even worse. It was disappointing because it seemed like it could be a good story, if only I could follow it. Rating: Okay

Next, I read a few poetry books: The Iraqi Nights by Dunya Mikhail, Phenomenal Woman & His Day is Done by Maya Angelou, Once by Alice Walker, and The Panther and the Lash by Langston Hughes. I don’t really remember these well enough to say anything besides that I enjoyed them and that they got me back into reading poetry. My favorite of these was Langston Hughes’ poetry. Rating: Good/Really Good

Finally, I read The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami. This is a weird little book in which a boy goes to his library to get a few books but ends up getting locked up by a mean, old man in the library’s twisty-turny, dark basement. There he meets a sheep-man and a girl who only appears at night. This was another disappointment for me. The story was like a combination of Kafka and Alice in Wonderland, which has great potential, but unfortunately, this just fell flat for me. It was all plot. I finished it within an hour and was left thinking, “so what?” What’s the point? The book also has illustrations on almost every page, which I personally found very pointless. Rating: Okay


"BookTube-A-Thon" – What I Read Pt. 1

“BookTube-A-Thon” just ended today, and it was a huge success for me! I read 20 books, consisting of mostly graphic novels as well as poetry and fiction, and finished all but the book-to-movie challenge. Additionally, I was pretty faithful to my TBR list, the one exception being Shakespeare. I just was not in the mood for him this week. Because I read so many books this week, I’m splitting this into two parts. Here’s part 1 of what I read this week: 

1/ Read a book with yellow on the cover. – For this challenge, I read Gene Luen Yang’s Boxers & Saints, two graphic novels that follow a young man, Little Bao, and a young woman, Four-Girl, during the Boxer Revolution in China. The young man and woman are each on different sides of the revolution and each have their own stories and motivations for being on that side. Little Bao chooses to lead the revolution, driven a childhood desire to be like the courageous figures in he admires in his favorite operas as well as anger from seeing his family and other village members brutally mistreated and disrespected at the hands of foreigners. Four-Girl, on the other hand, chooses to defect from her traditional society and convert to Christianity, stemming from a sense of alienation from her own family as well as a childhood desire to be a “foreign devil” that blossoms into a deeper understanding of Christianity. I absolutely loved these graphic novels. I love that Yang chose to show both sides of the story to show each character’s ideas and motivations, as well as to show how each character suffered. These books are not light summer reading. Both main characters suffer a great deal, and many people die. These books truly show the high costs of imperialism, missionary work, and revolution. Rating: Amazing!

2/ Read a book only after sunset. – For this challenge, I read Saga, vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. I also read volumes 2-5. This is a science-fiction graphic novel series that follows a family comprised of a “Winged” mother, a “Horned” father, and their daughter, a hybrid – “Winged-Horned”. The parents’ planets are at war with each other so falling in love and having a child has gotten them into quite a pickle. They are persecuted by their planets’ forces as well as by a Freelancer. I inhaled these five volumes. The series gets better with each volume, with great character development and exploration of themes like war, violence, and parenthood. The illustrations are so gorgeous and imaginative. Combine them with the superb story and you have a comic series completely deserving of all of the praise and awards it has received. 
Rating: Amazing!

3/ Read a book you discovered through booktube. – I read Carol Ann Duffy’s Feminine Gospels, a book of poetry I learned of through JeanBookishThoughts channel. This was one of July’s books for the Feminist Orchestra Book Club, so obviously, it examined different women’s experiences. I really thought I was going to enjoy this given the subject matter, but Duffy’s style just didn’t work for me. The poems felt long-winded and I didn’t see why they had to be in verse. That is not to say that Carol Ann Duffy is a bad poet (like Lang Leav). Even though I I personally did not really enjoy this collection, I can see that Duffy is talented, and I will be picking up one of her other collections!
Rating: Okay  

4/ Read a book by one of your favourite authors – For this challenge, I had intended to read a play by Shakespeare. What happened is that I read the first like of As You Like It and immediately closed the tab. I was not in the frame of mind to read Shakespeare. So, I decided to return to one of my favorite poets, Louise Gluck, whose poetry book The Wild Iris is one of my all-time favorites. This time around, I read Gluck’s Averno, and it did not disappoint. In this book, Louise Gluck uses the myth of Persephone to explore loneliness, love, desire, and mortality, and as usual her verse is stunning. This is one I will be re-reading. 
Rating: Amazing!

Part 2 with Challenges 5-7 will be up soon!


 

"BookTube-A-Thon" TBR

I don’t have a youtube channel, but I thought it might be fun to participate in these challenges next week. Here is the video describing what the “BookTube-A-Thon” is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9eFFTCnMATs. This read-a-thon runs next week from July 18-July 24.


I definitely won’t be able to read everything, but here are my choices for the reading challenges:


1/ Read a book with yellow on the cover.Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang. I’m currently reading Boxers and am really enjoying it! 

2/ Read a book only after sunset.Saga series by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. This is a sci-fi graphic novel series that I’m finally giving a try after hearing about it on almost every “booktube” channel I watch. This series also counts for the next challenge!

3/ Read a book you discovered through booktube. – Feminine Gospels by Carol Ann Duffy. This is a book of poetry. I found out about this through JeanBookThoughts channel on this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MuFim5Hacr0. Jean runs an online book club called the Feminist Orchestra Book Club. This will be the first time I participate in this club!

4/ Read a book by one of your favourite authors & 5/Read a book that is older than you. – I’m thinking I’ll combine these two challenges and read something by Shakespeare. I’ll probably read As You Like It, Cymbeline, or All’s Well That Ends Well

6/ Read and watch a book-to-movie adaptation. – For this challenge, I am thinking of reading Alice Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll. I probably won’t watch the movie since it’s still in the cinemas and I don’t really want to spend money on it, but maybe I’ll watch it a few months from now.

7/ Read seven books. – Finally, I’m hoping to finish Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie.