Monday, 2 January 2017

Best Books in 2016

It’s early 2017 and time to look back on last year’s best reads, which is something I’ve done before (for 2015 and 2014).

Goodreads says I read 63 books in 2016. Seeing that I didn’t enter all books in there, the total number would be a little higher, perhaps by 10 or so. Anyway, it is more than in 2015, when I listed 43 books in Goodreads. Why? I have no idea! I don’t think I’ve spent that much more time reading, but perhaps I have. Oh, and in early 2016, I seem to have made a New Year’s resolution to read more books! I had actually forgotten all about that... but it means I actually managed to find a resolution I could stick to. ;)

In terms of ratings, only a handful of books received 5 stars. However, there was quite a big bunch of four star books, many three star books, and only a few two star books. So, overall, I read pretty good books last year. My average rating was 3.4 (but it must be said that there were many books I didn’t rate at all). Let’s take a look at some of the highlights.

One of the few five-star ratings went, as expected, to “Children of Earth and Sky” by Guy Gavriel Kay. I’ll try to write a review at some point; right now I feel too close to the book still (it was one of my holiday reads this year, after all) to be able to say much except that I loved it.

Another one of the top books was “Haukka, minun rakkaani” by Kaari Utrio. The novel is set in Medieval Finland; while not Utrio’s best, there’s still plenty of historical detail, humour and adventure. A newly built Raseborg Castle is threatened by enemies. In the midst of battles and power struggles, Lady Blanka is pursued by a gorgeous knight... and a battle-axe-wielding, huge and hairy pagan. Do I need to say more? ūüėč Yes, this sort of thing does work for me, but it must be done right. Utrio knows how.

Another five-star rating went to “The Paris Wife” by Paula McLain about Ernest Hemingway and his first wife – you can read my review here.

This was actually one of my trends in 2016: I seem to have been into books about authors and/or writing. In addition to ”The Paris Wife”, there was “Possession” by A. S. Byatt about fictional 19th century poets and literary analysis (my thoughts here), “Mistress Shakespeare” by Karen Harper about Shakespeare and the love of his life (which I enjoyed a great deal but never managed to review) and “Mrs. Poe” by Lynn Cullen about Edgar Allan Poe and Frances Osgood, who was also a writer, and their affair. “The Shakespeare Secret” would also go into this category... and perhaps ”The Hours” by Michael Cunningham which I was also going to review but didn’t. ”The Hours”, however, made me want to read something by Virginia Woolf – and I picked ”Orlando”, which, of course, also deals with writing! Then there was “Reader, I Married him”, a collection of short stories inspired by “Jane Eyre” (I might write a review later).

Just to mention a few others... Cyrano de Bergerac – I’ve seen film adaptations, but finally got around to reading the ”real thing” - funny, sweet but so tragic!

Phil Rickman’s “The Man in the Moss” and “The Chalice” were both very enjoyable. Again, a good combination of history, myth and mystery – and great writing; I wish I could set the mood the way Rickman does.

I must also mention the anthology “Dangerous Women” (I even wrote a review).

I feel like I should say something smart in conclusion, but I can’t think of anything (this seems to happen to me with every post). I had not even set myself a reading challenge (nor will I) – but, looking at my year in books in Goodreads, it is obvious that I read a variety of very different kinds of books from different genres, eras, themes and topics. Therefore, I guess I can say that 2016 was another adventurous year – at least in terms of books!

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