2016 is gone… and I didn’t read a single novel for pleasure. Maybe that doesn’t seem like a very big deal, but it feels as though I lost touch with my roots. Growing up I was a little bookworm. I had a book with me every day at school and if I had any spare time, you better believe I was reading. In high school I got away from it and once I broke the cycle, I never bounced back. 2015 was the last year I read consistently, so I’m looking back at it to gather motivation for reading in 2017!
I would like to preface these reviews with a bit of a disclaimer. If you’re looking for comprehensive analytical reviews of these works, look elsewhere. With ten books to get through and having read them over a year ago, it’s just not going to happen. Instead I will be taking a more casual approach to these novels, some of which are classic literature. Perhaps it will be a refreshing point of view!
1. The Good Earth
My mother is quite fond of Pearl S. Buck, so after suggesting I read her work about ten times, I did. I haven’t read much literature set in China, historical or contemporary, so I really enjoyed cultural elements of the novel. It follows the story of a farmer in pre-war China, detailing his family’s frustrations and triumphs. If I recall accurately, it’s a bit of slow burn, but one that I appreciated. Honestly, I don’t remember many specifics of the story, but I often found myself frustrated with the protagonist’s, Wang Lung, choices and sympathetic for his wife O-lan.
2. Memoirs of a Geisha
I’m a little late to the party with this one! If you haven’t read it though, I highly suggest you do as it’s easy, enjoyable and educational to an extent. It’s largely driven by characters and interior monologue, but the plot, while slow at times, is engaging. Personally, I prefer this story-telling method and burned through the book in a few days, becoming emotionally investing in protagonist Chiyo/Sayuri.
3. A Thousand Splendid Suns
This is the second novel by Khaled Hosseini and the last of his works that I hadn’t read. That sounds rather impressive, but keep in mind he has only published three novels. The Kite Runner holds a special place in my heart because it was one of the first impactful books I read in my childhood. I think if I had read this first instead, I would favor it. Again, it’s an easy read that I got through quickly. Still, it’s not short on eloquent language and emotion. It follows a similar storyline and themes (growing up in conflict, identity, family, etc.) to The Kite Runner. I’m pretty sure all three of his books made me cry, so prepare yourself!
4. Sarah’s Key
I picked this up at a used book sale, not having ever heard of it. I wasn’t terribly fond of it, but I think it could a great reading experience for some. If you cannot bring yourself to read more graphic or raw accounts of the Holocaust, but still want the exposure, this would be a good fit for you. While still emotionally impactful and deeply saddening, it does not delve into the horrors and it is a fictional work. The novel follows a young girl, Sarah, in 1942 Paris and an American woman living in Paris in 2002. While their struggles are very different, their stories, and lives to an extent, are woven together in an interesting tale.
5. The Virgin Suicides
I feel that because I read this as an adult, I missed out on the magic. I firmly believe that if I had read this in my youth, it would have been one of those books I tore through and would love deeply. It’s classic young adult fiction, so if you’re a teen or missed out on this when you were, it’s worth it. It has a peculiar allure that just draws you in. If you’re unfamiliar with it, it begins with one of four teenage sisters attempting suicide. The Lisbons put the house on lockdown to monitor their daughters, and a group of neighbor boys become captivated by the girls and watch their every move, waiting to see what will happen next.
6. Sons and Lovers
If you’re looking for a challenge, this could be the one. I typically read classic literature, so this was a pretty typical read for me. What made this work challenging was the use of dialect. Some of the characters speak in it, which to me is least, is nearly incomprehensible. Fear not, it does get easier to understand, but at first it was very difficult. I won’t offer an analytic review like I said because it’s been too long and well, we’re keeping this pretty casual :) Basically, if you’re a classic lit nerd, read it! If you’re committed to contemporary easy reads, skip it!
7. In Cold Blood
This is a great book to talk about with others who have it read it. In short, it’s an account of a family murdered in 1959 and the men who did it. What makes this a controversial work is that though it is presented as nonfiction, the blurring of fact and fiction often seems to appear as well as a bias. Capote did in fact interview the criminals, but did so without a tape recorder and instead wrote from memory. I’m sure you can guess my opinion on this! The dissection of the manner in which the information is presented is the truly interesting part of this novel.
8. Things Fall Apart
Another classic… what can I say? This was very different from what I’m used to reading so for that reason, I’m glad I read it. I didn’t particularly enjoy the reading experience. Perhaps I need to revisit it. If you want to venture into some of the novels you’ve been hearing about your whole life, but are intimidated by the language, read this. Still beautifully crafted, it is written in a more simplistic style that is reader-friendly.
9. Angela’s Ashes
Admittedly, I haven’t read many memoirs, but I always enjoy them. There’s something very special about someone sharing their life with you in this manner. Frank McCourt has quite the life to share. He beautifully details growing up in poverty in Ireland with all the twists and turns, and times of great pain and joy that his childhood held.
If you’re ever feeling bad for yourself and your situation, read this. It’s likely your problems will then seem very small.
The second memoir by McCourt centers around his arrival and new life in New York City. Again, his life journey is captivating and the way he writes about it is such a treat. It’s even better if you listen to the audiobook because he reads and his voice is a dream. It’s incredibly warm and friendly, which lends the reader to feel as though she’s sitting with him, listening to his stories. I love when people regale me with their experiences and if you do too, give both of these memoirs a listen!
Phew! That was a lot, but it does have me itching to start a new novel. Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Also, if you have any suggestions, let me know. Happy reading in 2017!