I’ve read 65 books so far this year. Of these, StoryGraph characterizes my reading as predominantly “emotional”, then “reflective”, “funny”, “mysterious”, “light-hearted”, and “informative”. My most frequent categories of books are romance, historical, contemporary, memoir, and literary (as categorized by StoryGraph, which isn’t necessarily the way I’d categorize each book).
I’ve read more nonfiction than I usually do, 17 books so far this year. I read about 10 books a month, with a big spike in February.
About 40% of my books were on audio – though occasionally I switch back and forth so that’s not a clear number. So far I’ve read two authors more than once this year – Stacie Murphy and Jesse Q. Sutanto (and currently Emily Henry).
Here are some of my favorites so far this year:
For powerful, vividly drawn stories and characters, some of my favorites were:
Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles: a retelling of the life of Achilles during the Trojan War, this story is rich with mythology and passion. Achilles is half-god and destined to be a hero, while Patroclus is the exiled prince who supports and loves him.
Amor Towles’ Rules of Civility tells the story of Katy, a young woman in New York in the late 1930’s, and the friendships and relationships she builds during a difficult time.
Douglas Stuart’s Young Mungo is another beautifully told story about a boy struggling with his sexuality during 1980s Glasgow.
For beautiful writing and poetic imagery and themes:
John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row is a collection of loosely-related vignettes about life in a small cannery town near Monterey, California. The characters are lovely and show humanity and nature at its finest and weakest. I’m planning to travel there at the end of August so this book was a perfect lead-in to my trip.
Jacqueline Woodson’s Before the Ever After is a telling of a boy’s relationship with his father, a professional football player, before we knew anything about the tragic impact of concussions on athletes.
Winner of this year’s Women’s Prize, Ruth Ozeki’s The Book of Form and Emptiness tells the story of a family struggling to get by after the father’s tragic death. Fourteen-year-old Benny begins hearing voices, as the inanimate objects around him begin talking to him, and he finds shelter and friendship in his local library. Nothing about this book is what you might expect.
For history and a sense of time and place:
Melissa Fu’s Peach Blossom Spring was an epic story of one man’s journey as a boy across Taiwan and China during World War II and to the United States in the 1950s.
Malinda Lo’s Last Night at the Telegraph Club also depicts the life of Chinese immigrants in the United States in the 1950s during the Red Scare. It tells the story of a young woman who has to deal with homophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment, while maintaining good relationships in her Chinese-American community in San Francisco.
Bonnie Garmus’ Lessons in Chemistry isn’t necessarily historical fiction, but it tells the story of one woman’s fight in the 1960’s to be taken seriously as a chemist and as a person, and in doing so it tells the story of what so many women have faced.
Clare Chamber’s Small Pleasures is set in late 50’s London, and tells the story of a journalist who befriends a couple and their daughter while reporting on a story about a supposed immaculate conception.
And for true stories with heart:
Being Heumann by Judith Heumann tells the inspiring story of Heumann’s activism, without which we probably wouldn’t have the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Inheritance by Dani Shapiro tells about Shapiro’s discovery that the father she’s always known is not her biological father, which leads her to explore her family, her identity and her religion.
The Book of Hope by Jane Goodall and Doug Abrams is a conversational book about the nature of hope, framed in Goodall’s own experiences as a young scientist, and activist, a philanthropist, and an inspiration around the globe.
We’re Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union is a memoir by an actress that’s funny and smart, but also deals frankly with serious issues like racism and sexual assault.
Those are some of the best books I’ve read this year. It surprised me that most of them were historical in nature. Have you read any of these? What are some of your favorites?
The Song of Achilles! Even thinking about it makes me want to cry!
It was such a beautiful book. I had high expectations from Madeline Miller, but I wasn’t sure how interesting I’d find the Trojan War. She really brought the characters to life and told such a fascinating story.
I’m with you on the Ozeki!
She is an amazing writer! I loved Time Being and loved this one as well. She blends so many interesting concepts.
Time Being is on my best of the best list! Very special writer.
I read Inheritance this year, thanks to you! Many of the others you list are also on my TBR though I’ve not gotten to them yet. Do you think Cannery Row would be suitable for a 16 year old? I’m trying to introduce my son to some classics, and I like Steinbeck but don’t want to put him off with something too long or heavy.
Cannery Row isn’t long or heavy, so yes, I’d recommend it for a 16 year old more than Grapes of Wrath or East of Eden. It’s told in related vignettes and the characters are ones I’d think a 16 year old might really relate to it (not knowing your son of course). There’s some violence but less than what you’d see in the news.
“The Book of Form and Emptiness” is now on my top 25 of all time list. And I’m impressed by your reading volume!
One of my coworkers is obsessed with The Song of Achilles. I promised her I’d read it, but I haven’t yet. 🙂 It sounds awesome.