This year I've been reading as many non-fiction books as fiction ones, which is new. Most of non-fiction I read is on writing craft, some on women and feminism and the glorious things like vaginas and female ferocity and inner goddesses (as I'm preparing to take over the world), one almost 1000-page dictionary (yes, I read every page), and lots of books on psychopathic murderers and crime investigation procedures. I've been also reading more poetry, so the selection of the best books this year will be different from that of the previous years. Here they are, by the way, for your perusal:
My reading pace has remained the same as in 2015. Goodreads stats tell me I've read almost 100 books (98, but by the end of the year it will be 100), which is almost 30K pages, with the shortest book being 72 pages (House of Incest by Anaïs Nin), the longest 992 pages (Russian-English Dictionary of Idioms by Sophia Lubensky). The average book length was 307 pages, and my average reading speed is 8-9 books a month, or 2 books a week. This is to answer some of you who have asked me how I read so many books. I read 100 a day, which is about 2-4 hours, depending on the complexity of the text. I also dissect every novel I read for plot, noting down every scene and later figuring out the plot turns, and that's why it sometimes takes me longer than last year to finish a book. I stop to analyze and think. It has helped me improve my own craft exponentially, so I highly recommend this method.
Well then, to the books themselves. Each one has a little review, and the cover is linked to Goodreads so you can add it to your reading list if you wanted to. Also, many of you said you love my book reviews on Instagram! Therefore I will continue posting pictures of books with reviews in 2017. All for you, my cuddly bears. Also, pictures of snacks. And socks. And me in all kinds of hats. And my upcoming adventures in Russia. GET READY.
One of those books that is over 400 pages and that you wish WOULD NEVER END. So much flavor, gusto, soul. I laughed and I cried, and when it was over I wanted more. The women from this book will stay with me for a long time, and the pie story...let me tell you, I didn't just laugh, I wept, and I tinkled my panties. Please, Kathryn Stockett, hurry up and write more books for me to read.
My kind of book. Horrendous and real, unforgiving and unapologetic and in-your-face and brutal and yet hopeful and beautiful in that hope, because that's all there is sometimes left to hold on to, hope. All you gotta do is just push a little more. Just push.
It's like some menace creeping up your skin, this story. Starts innocently enough, then slowly, stealthily draws you into a chilling nightmare, the kind where you bite your fingers, where nothing seems remotely scary, but you're terrified out of your mind. Terrific writing. Superb storytelling. Crisp, concise prose that drags you in and spits you out at the end when it's done with you.
Robinson Crusoe in space. With lots of potatoes and black humor that will have you in stitches. I don't remember the last time I read a space book this entertaining. Thriller, sci-fi, horror, and survival all rolled into one. Bravo.
This was perfect. The guts of the treacherous brain of a serial killer (based on Jeffrey Dahmer) and what made him tick. The horror of this book is in the absence of horror, and that is the worst horror of all, the horror we perceive on the outside knowing there is none on the inside, the inside of a psychopathic killer.
Now this is real horror, the quiet type that sneaks up on you and consumes you whole. And you weep. You don't cry, you weep. Such is the power of each and every one of these stories. Human grief and pain and love and hope, told so simply yet hitting you so hard. (By the way, some of the stories will make you weep with laughter.) My hat off. This is but the work of a genius. Where have you been all my life, Ludmilla?
This. Was. Bloody. Good. It chilled my blood and my bones and beyond. A delightfully sick and twisted tale, perfect for bedtime reading.
Tragic. A story of a family so real, with characters you love and hate so fiercely as though you really knew them. And then the writing, of course. The actual metaphysics of writing that seems to penetrate the words, to not need any words...my mind is blown.
Extraordinary tale of extraordinary madness. The kind of quiet horror that steals on you out of nowhere. A continuous loop of...well, I can't give it away. You'll have to read for yourself.
Fantastic, stunning storytelling. Haven't had this much fun reading since Harry Potter. No, since The Dark Tower. No, since The Lord of the Rings. What kind of imagination must one possess to create a world such as this? It doesn't seem human. It's stories like Dune that make you believe in a Muse or some kind of divine intervention, where forces out of our grasp have collided and birthed a whole new universe, and all the writer had to do was simply write it down. Bravo, Frank Herbert. I believe you did the impossible.
If you want to learn about zen and laugh your ass off at the same time, this is a book for you. Actually, this is a perfect book for writers. On letting go. If you're blocked, it will get you unblocked. And if it won't, come to me and I will hit you with a stick thirty times and shout in your face: "KATZ!!!" That ought to do it. By the way, I'm buying it to reread in times of despair, and suggest you do too. As a bonus, it will turn your mind inside out and thoroughly empty it, and you will attain bliss.
If you want to giggle insanely over words like polyptoton, merism, anadiplosis, diacope, epizeuxis, bdelygmia and more (because you don't know what they mean), and then giggle insanely at their examples (because now you know what they mean), this is a book for you. It starts with the best non-fiction line I've read in years: "Shakespeare was not a genius." Also, British humor. Also, tricks up your sleeve on how to make that sentence (or that paragraph) burn into your readers' brains without them noticing. Brilliant. A book to read and reread, to memorize all those pesky ways of turning a phrase. And what splendid phrases they are. Like this one (you'll learn why it has survived for centuries): "To be, or not to be, that is the question."
If I could buy this book for every woman in the world, I would. This book will become your mother when you need a mother and there isn't one around. Hell, it will be a mother you've never had. A mother of all mothers, from the birth of time. And a heart that will keep you alight when you think you're surrounded by darkness that blinds you, suffocates you, destroys you. A book every woman needs to read, if only to know she's not alone but standing on the bones of all the other women who died for her so she could keep blazing her path, to make it easier for the women who'll come after her, our daughters.
This book quite possibly has changed my life. It will quite possibly change yours. If you're a writer, I suggest you buy it. If you yourself already know what's in it, give it as a gift to a novice writer. They will love you for it. I know I love my fellow writer who suggested it. It has taught me how to be my own editor. It has given me the structure I craved, when I was tearing out my hair, trying to fix my novel. I nearly gave up on it. This book helped me save it. More. This book fired me up to make it the best book I ever wrote. Period. And I know it will be true.
Everything you wanted to know about prisons and everything you didn't, from the words of a killer who hated all mankind and admitted to it too, and yet you can't help it but to feel compassion when you read about his life, half of which he spent in prisons starting at the age of 11, and then you see his humanity emerge and you cry and you think you'd probably become a killer too if you went through what he went through, and yet he was never broken, not until the very end. A fascinating, horrifying read.
Everyone MUST read this book, period. Bravo, Laurie Penny. I'm behind you. For us survivors of violence against women, books like these need to be read and reread and reread as a way of holding hands.
This little book showed me the secret to great writing so profound I cried. Many years ago a friend gave me this book as a gift. I shelved it. Later, when moving, I sold it to a secondhand bookstore without reading it. And now I have stumbled on it again, on a suggestion of a reader. The time was right. I knew I must read it. I did. And I wept. I am blind no longer. Every writer, READ THIS BOOK. It will make your writing better in ways you can't imagine.
Brilliant. Brilliant. Brilliant. Like a hand in the dark, guiding you to writing great dialogue and encouraging you along the way. The kind of book that feels like your very own private teacher who's always there for you. And what insights! I didn't want it to end. More, please.
This was magnificent. Poetry in prose. At times so hysterically funny that it was hard to breathe, and at other times so painful that the idea of breathing seemed impossible. And at all times too beautiful not to fall in love with.
A beautiful book. Packed with examples and exercises that help you create your own writing workshop covering everything from repetition to punctuation to prose economy to POVs to exposition to critiquing. A book to buy and keep and study; and pull out and do exercises when hopelessly stuck.
This is it! Now it's your turn. Share. What books have you read this year that have blown off your socks? Or your brain? Or something else? (Tell us all the details, we're dying to know.