What’s the first thing you check out when visiting a friend’s home for the first time? For me it’s the bookcase. I love to see what kind of books have made it onto their shelves and just as importantly how they organise them. Yes, I know I have issues.
In case you’re wondering what books to add to your reading list for 2017 – or indeed which titles to avoid here are some of XOXO Collectives best and worst reads of 2016.
Haiya from Pass Me The Dim Sum
The best book I read this year was In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vadday Rather. The book was a finalist for the Pen Hemingway award, and I can only wonder which book beat it. It’s narrated through a eyes of a little girl growing up in the Cambodian civil war of 1971, and the beauty of the book is not just in how captivatingly it is narrated, but how it the POV of the main character progresses (or regresses) from a very lyrical and poetic perception of life to a very muted one.
This book pulled at every heartstring and hit so close to home because although it was based in a war over 4 decades ago, I feel that so much of the plight of the war-torn victims in the book is still true for so many of the victims of modern day wars. When they talked about eating insects and starving, I couldn’t help but think of the children in Syria eating grass and dying.
The worst book I read this year was And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini. I would like to boldly state that this was his weakest work yet. It took me over a month to finish this book simply because of what a drag it was and what a chore it felt to read. Twice I just shelved it and reached for another book but then went back to finish it because I feel a restlessness of unfinished business if I abandon a book midway.
One of the things that made this book lack captivation was that it was told from too many POVs. The second thing is that I feel this was too far fetched a work of fiction for Khaled Hosseini. The Kite Runner may have been inspired by his own life. A Thousand Splendid Suns was a very in-depth look into the lives of two families living on the same street. This book was like a summary of the lives of so many people who were simply related to each other in one form or the other, and there was no real point to the story. Unlike his other two books which were real tearjerkers, this was a major drab.
Sofia from Papaya Pieces
I hang my head in shame and admit that I’ve been quite slack this year when it comes to reading books. I began many books this year but I didn’t finish most of them, sometimes because the book was boring, other times because I was just way too busy.
I’ll be honest, I can’t remember the titles of the worst reads, probably because I quickly erased them from my memory… but here are my best reads of the year:
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. This book was never ending –and don’t ask me how many pages because I read it in my e-reader- but I was fascinated from the beginning to the end. Not only was he a creative genius, it seemed that he chose to live his life dramatically in each aspect that mattered to him.
World War Z by Max Brooks. Zombies are always interesting, as long as they remain in fiction that is. Also, just in case they do come to real life, we need to know the best way to defend ourselves, right? 😉
Other books I read were cookbooks. Cough cough, are we allowed to consider these as reading books? Should we even be calling it reading? Really I was admiring, drooling. The most notable ones where Terrines by Rudolphe Paquin and Cheesecakes comme à New York by Sophie Dupui-Gaulier. Both are in French.
Sanne from MitzieMee
I’ve always been more into crime novels than chick-lit, and my favorite author is Jo Nesbø. I love everything he has written, but in 2016 I ran out of Jo Nesbø books. I’ve tried switching over to other crime novel authors, but it’s just not the same, and I’ve been reading a lot less in 2016 than I usually do.
One of the books, which did manage to catch my attention was #Girlboss. The book is Nasty Girl founder Sophia Amoruso’s business memoir and describes her journey from setting up her eBay shop to running a multi-million business. It’s not just a book, it’s like a manifest for awesome women set out to do great stuff, and if you haven’t read it yet, you’d better get started.
In 2016 my husband has developed an interest for fitness and healthy living, and during the year he has bought several books on the topic. I haven’t yet decided which one is the worst, but I think they all suck. I’m fed up with funny-named diets, which without any scientific proof will tell you to only eat yellow fruit picked during full moon, or vegetables starting with a “G”. Reading about healthy living is just as exciting as watching nail polish dry. Could someone please pass me the Pringles?
Hanna from Tripsnkids
We have a bit odd book club in my family. I read Finnish literature to kids and my husband reads the Danish ones.
This year our 6 year old learned to read. A new world opened to her, she is a very good reader when it comes to English books. We do have hilarious moments when she is trying to read Danish, Finnish or Swedish books. The pronunciation is not even close there, but she is trying, oh boy, that girl is making an effort.
To give her credit, she is not reading any easy books in English: ”Lola the Lollipop Fairy” has been by her bed for bedtime stories for a few weeks this year. A lovely illustrated book about friends called Lola, Linda and Lulu in a theme park.
Our 3 year old is naturally a copycat of her sister and pretending that she also can read. It is not the case. Every evening she takes a stack of Disney Princess books, (believe me, there are MANY). Finnish Moomin stories and Elsa Beskow’s fairytales have been her favorites this year.
Let’s see what the New Year is bringing for us and to our reading habits. For sure she will choose more and more English books since when spending a day speaking English at school, it must be devastating to listen monotonic Finnish reading as your bedtime story. Sorry kid, you cannot choose your parents.
What were your best and worst reads of 2016? We’d love to know where to start next year!