Tag: books

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.