(My) Year In Books

Posted on Dec 30 2015 - 10:27am by Claire Herbaux
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The title wasn’t my idea, so you know, Goodreads will happily – just like a number of sites – give you a summary of your year. It is the time for reflection. And so, Goodreads has summarised my year as follows:

Books read: 96; Pages read: 30,946; an average length of 322 pages. The shortest being Hickory Daiquiry Dock, the longest The Goldfinch. The most popular – read by an incredible 2,465,184 other people – was The Fault In Our Stars and the least popular – read by no one, I added it to the database – a French book called Un parfait ciel bleu.
The average number of stars I have given is 3.8. And then we are going into the nitty gritty.

Like all statistics, there are several points to take into consideration: First of all, the year isn’t over and I will add a few more books before 2016! Some books were audiobooks, the least popular book is by no means unpopular, it is just not very well-known in the English-speaking world. I could go on… The highest ranked book also has very few ratings as it doesn’t have as larger audience. Therefore, the few (7) ratings give it an average of 4.86 while the aforementioned The Fault In Our Stars has gotten over 1.7 million ratings, which vary a little more but still average at 4.34.

Still, this year was so much more than those statistics. Forgive the cliché: It was a very exciting year!
Of course, I was in America (the continent, not the country) I got to know a lot of American authors better, almost ignoring the British literary scene for a few months. Let’s look at the most noteworthy books and authors of the year (well, my year, at least; for a general list I’d direct you to the bestseller list of major newspapers), shall we?

Without a doubt, the most notable author is David Rosenfelt. While I discovered one of his books at a library book sale in 2014, it’s the first book I finished this year. And I finished 18 more throughout the year. That’s all of his fiction novels! And he is hilarious. It’s simple and maybe not a bestseller or Shakespeare, but the mysteries are mysterious, the thrillers sure are thrilling and the characters are funny. The kind of humour you can enjoy any day and picking up a book is always bound to give you a good time.

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Not long after, on the 6th January, I finally got to read House Broken, by Sonja Yoerg. I waited about five or six months for it and boy, was it worth it. Yoerg’s second novel, The Middle Of Somewhere, I read in just over a day. Those characters are addictive! The connection to their life stories feels so strong and I identified so well with Lucy I simply had to find out how it would end for her. I also got to meet the lovely Sonja in Cambridge (not our Cambridge, but Boston, MA). Sonja, thank you for ticking off a point on my bucket list: Getting a book signed in person. Dear younger me, yes, authors are real people and they can be your friends – first name basis friends! – in real life! And they will be.

More book signings this year: Along with Sonja Yoerg, Lissa Warren was in Cambridge. Also there (in the Harvard Book Shop this time, but still, it is the place to be): William Nicholson, who is a very interesting writer. Even more so if you are interested in films and know he wrote Gladiator, Les Misérables, Long Walk To Freedom, Unbroken and Everest. Fancy meeting a British author on his very first US book tour. It was an impressive few days.

Should we even mention the lows? Or is this a happy reflection? Let’s just say I do not see the appeal in some books which have been very popular: Bill Cosby’s biography (read unrelated to his presence in the news this year) was simply boring; Gone Girl – yes, the story is gripping, but the ending??; Lena Dunham is a good example of a bestseller I cannot understand, it was a challenge to finish; and finally, The Goldfinch, to me it was long and – well, mainly long. It seemed like one of the Oscar winning films in which “life happens” and nothing else. But who am I to judge these books? People (other people) have obviously thoroughly enjoyed them.

Back to the good parts: I made it through the John Green books I wanted to read (yes, I was a little behind) and became a fan. When does an author write and almost all his books end up in the Top 10 New York Times Bestseller List? Never, that’s when. John Green is an exception. He is also a very intelligent and engaged man, his vlogs (take them seriously) can cover the contemplative topics and condense and explain issues in a way more news outlets should. And he is funny. I should know, I went to meet him (not personally, I was with 1,000 others) at a Q&A in London for the Papertowns film.

A personal highlight was Meg Cabot’s Royal Wedding (another one for the “signed” shelf). Princess Mia is grown up and getting married and since her original fans (me included) are now adults, the series has evolved from YA to an adult novel.

Lastly, these are the books which have touched me, which I read and will stay with me, and they will stay with anyone who reads them: I finally read the “A Writer’s Journey” book to Flowers For Algernon. If you haven’t read it, you have missed out and I suggest getting the Writer’s Journey; you won’t want the book to finish and this way, you get a few extra pages. Freya North’s Turning Point: Usually, romance is not my cup tea. Once in a while is fun, but I like to learn and see new worlds, other perspectives, possibly not a happy ending. This, is domestic drama as good as they come: You don’t know what to expect (you know what you expect but are proven wrong quickly and repeatedly) and the book keeps on giving. Big Little Lies: The story is one thing. This is much more about the style, the writing. It is witty, it stands out, it is of the ordinary and drives the book. I have another Lianne Moriaty on my to read shelf and may read it before the end of the year. Lisa Genova published a new book and as all the previous ones, Inside the O’Briens is perfectly written, poignant, and an honest and unforgiving insight into the truths of Huntington’s Disease. The most harrowing one though was Room. The voice of little 5-year-old Jack still rings in my ears.

Lastly, I do need to give a little shout out to Tim Federle, discovered prior to this year, not met, but still, he deserves it. Not only are the new cocktail books and his children’s book (Tommy Can’t Stop) brilliant, but he is dazzling (yes, I meant it). I got two of his books for Christmas – aimed at middle school age – and read almost 600 pages in less than two days. He is funny, quirky, and he does something most bookworms will understand: He writes a story those who are usually misunderstood outsiders can relate to. For me at the time, it was Inkheart, a book where people loved books as much as me. This is a teenage boy dreaming of leaving Pennsylvania to go to Broadway. When I mentioned today I was reading pre-teen and teen books, someone said “oh that’s usually first love and so on, isn’t it?”. Usually, yes, but we need more unusual books, we need books as diverse as people are and these books – Better Nate Than Ever and 5, 6, 7, Nate – aim for just that!

This is not by far an extensive list of book suggestions, so there will be more reviews in the New Year.

All the best for 2016!

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