Last year I decided to list all the books I’d read in 2015, broken down by category. I don’t know if this was interesting for anyone except me, but I did point out which books I recommended and which I definitely did not.
I decided to do the same thing this year. This year, you’ll notice, I read A LOT of Young Adult and Middle Grade novels. I’m trying to become a YA/MG author, so this is called doing my homework. You’ll notice that within the self-appointed homework assignment, I stopped for a while in the Judy Blume cannon. I realized I’d never read the classic Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, so I read that and then went back and reread a couple other Judy Blume books.
You’ll also notice there isn’t much in this list that I highly recommend. I don’t know if I’m becoming pickier or if books are becoming crappier, but these days I rarely come away from a book with rave reviews. (See my post about that.) At Thanksgiving I was so dejected by my inability to find amazing books that I reread two of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials novels just to comfort myself.
I’m not sure what to do to remedy this problem. I started using #AskALibrarian on Twitter, but I’ve been disappointed by several of the books they’ve recommended to me. I recently read The Year of the Gadfly and Searching for the Rose Notes, both suggested to me by librarians on Twitter. Although they both started out promising, the plots and character motivations became more and more muddled and ridiculous as I continued, and by the end of both books I found myself saying “Really? I read all the way to the end for this?”
I really want to find some amazing books to read in 2017, especially since I’ll be on maternity leave, and I’ve heard that breastfeeding is a great time to settle in with a novel. I guess I’ll keep asking friends and librarians and the Internet for suggestions, and I’ll remember that if I’m really not enjoying a book, I don’t have to read to the end. There are plenty of other books to choose from, and I know there must be books out there for me to fall in love with.
What do you guys recommend? What have you read this year that you loved?
Here is my list of books. (The * means I didn’t finish the book.) Happy reading in the new year, everyone!
The Voyage to the Magical North by Claire Fayers
Ruby on the Outside by Nora Raleigh Baskin
George by Alex Gino
A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro*
Trash by Andy Mulligan
Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar
A Patron Saint for Junior Bridesmaids by Shelley Tougas
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany
The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin (I wrote a blog post about this one)
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
The Hired Girl Laura Amy Schlitz
Stolen: A Letter to My Captor by Lucy Christopher*
Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead – RECOMMEND A really well-done contemporary Middle Grade novel. I wrote a post about it here.
Doll Bones by Holly Black
Ash by Malinda Lo – (Cinderella as a lesbian of sorts. Beautiful writing; terrible plot.)
Fairest by Gail Carson Lavine
The Girl I Used to Be by April Henry
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo (I wrote a blog post about this one)
Looking for Alaska by John Green
The Graham Cracker Plot by Shelley Tougas (I wrote a blog post about this one)
Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell — HIGHLY RECOMMEND – A quiet YA romance between two misfit kids. Rowell creates so much tension and emotion within simple school and home scenes. I loved the characters, the dialogue, the interior monologues, everything. Beautifully-written and a great example of a story told from two points of view.
Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy — RECOMMEND – A YA comedy-romance about a fat Texas girl who decides to enter a beauty pageant. If you want a tutorial on how to plot a contemporary fiction novel, this is it. Murphy puts all the emotional highs and lows in just the right places and takes the reader on a charming roller coaster ride. She’s also created a fantastic character in Willowdean.
I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
A Path Begins (The Thickety #1) by J.A. White
Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
Blubber by Judy Blume (reread) — HIGHLY RECOMMEND Loved this book when I was a kid, and, to me, it is still the perfect contemporary middle grade novel. There are a lot of books for this age group about bullying, but in so many of them the bullying is predictable or generic or stereotypical. In Blubber the characters, situations, and the bullying itself are all highly specific, and that’s what makes this book so real.
Here’s to You, Rachel Robinson by Judy Blume
Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume (reread)
The Big Dark by Rodman Philbrick
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (reread) — HIGHLY RECOMMEND Loved this book as a kid and still love it now. Raskin breaks all the rules (adult characters in a middle grade book, “head-hopping” in the narration, etc.), but she won the Newberry Medal for The Westing Game in 1978, which just goes to show that you can do anything you want in a book, as long as you do it well.
A Gift of Magic by Lois Duncan
I Am Drums by Mike Grosso
ADULT FICTION: 17
In Search of the Rose Notes by Emily Arsenault
Each Vagabond by Name by Margo Orlando Littell
The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee — If you’re in the mood for something super light this is for you; it’s like Gossip Girl in book form. And it’s set in futuristic Manhattan.
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
The Girls by Emma Cline
Trans-Sister Radio by Chris Bohjalian
The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife by Phillip Pullman (reread) — HIGHLY RECOMMEND — Extremely imaginative and well-written fantasy.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman — RECOMMEND — Beautiful and haunting and strange. A sophisticated fairy tale of sorts that’s like Coraline for grown-ups.
Elligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Predjudice by Curtis Sittenfeld — HIGHLY RECOMMEND — I LOVED this book, and I’m not even a Jane Austen fan. I thought it was such a clever farce. Sittenfeld takes the P & P characters and story but modernizes and enhances them in such creative ways. Loads of fun.
Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia *
Cemetery Girl by David J. Bell
The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice
Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
The Bees by Laline Paull* — Very cool premise, and I loved it at first, but then I got bored about halfway through.
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters — I mostly enjoyed it, but I’ve enjoyed other Sarah Waters books a lot more.
The Melting Season by Ira Sukrungruang
The Year of the Gadfly by Jennifer Miller
Losing It by Emma Rathbone — I’m only to page 65, but I assume I’ll finish before the end of 2016. So far I’m enjoying it a lot, so we’ll see. It could be a RECOMMEND!
Hidden Figures The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly
Grace Without God: The Search for Meaning, Purpose, and Belonging in a Secular Age by Katherine Ozment
The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success: A Practical Guide to the Fulfillment of Your Dreams by Deepak Chopra — RECOMMEND — This is a short little book with a lot of good, simple advice for how to live a happy and satisfying life – whether or not success, in your mind, includes money and accolades.
The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby from Birth to Age Two by William Sears, Martha Sears, Robert W. Sears, James Sears
Girl in the Woods: A Memoir by Aspen Matis — I absolutely hated Aspen as a character and found her insufferable, and yet I couldn’t stop reading. I don’t know whether that’s a recommend for this book or not.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot -– HIGHLY RECOMMEND I’m sure you’ve heard of this book already, but the hype is real. It’s an interesting example of narrative nonfiction and an author who really inserts herself into the story.
Big Magic: Creative Living Without Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert — Normally I love Liz Gilbert. I loved her novel The Signature of All Things and I loved her first nonfiction book The Last American Man. I also loved Eat Pray Love. But I did not love this book. It was okay — not terrible — but mostly forgettable.
Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman — HIGHLY RECOMMEND — Written in a chatty, anecdotal style, I actually read this book before I got pregnant – just for fun. It’s very interesting and shines a light on how culture influences parenting styles.