Looking back on my lists of what I’ve read throughout the year, I’ve come to the realization that the GoodReads Around the Year challenge was definitely my most successful in terms of finding books that I really loved. This may have been because it was the challenge with the most prompts (52, as opposed to the 40 in PopSugar and 24 in each BookRiot challenge). Now that I’ve reached the end of my PopSugar challenge, here are the books that stood out to me most (in no particular order):
1) A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
This was one of the books that I was most excited for, and I was blown away by it. I chose this for the prompt “a book becoming a movie in 2016,” although ironically enough the movie didn’t end up coming out this year. The book is about a young boy who sees a monster in his nightmares every night since his mother started going through some medical treatments. This was a powerful, beautifully written book that I devoured in one sitting. It was easily one of the most memorable books that I read from any of my challenges. I would love to see the movie as well, but I’m skeptical that it will have the same impact as the book.
2) Me Before You by JoJo Moyes
This was another book that I was highly anticipating after hearing so much hype surrounding it, although it seems to be a controversial choice. I chose this as my “book recommended by someone you just met,” and it was recommended to me by a placement student at my workplace. The book is about a young woman named Lou who becomes a personal caregiver to a man who is paralyzed due to a motorcycle accident. I thought that this book was a fantastic portrayal of some of the day-to-day realities of what it is like to live with a disability, and I especially enjoyed how it dealt with the issue of choice. I can understand all of the controversy surrounding the book’s ending, but I also thought it was very fitting for the character in his specific circumstances. This was another of the rare books that really lived up to all the hype.
3) And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
I enjoy reading classics, but I had never tried a book by Agatha Christie. I chose this book for the prompt “a murder mystery,” and it quickly became one of my favourite books of the year. This was another book that I devoured in one sitting, and I literally could not put it down until I found out what happened. The book is about a group of people, each with a secret they are hiding from their pasts, who are lured to a mysterious island, where they are slowly killed off one by one. I thought the interactions between all of the different characters were fascinating. I thought the mystery itself was ingenious and I was kept guessing all the way until the end.
4) Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
This was another classic that I somehow never got around to reading, although I had some familiarity with the story. I chose it for the prompt “a book that’s under 150 pages.” The book is about George and Lennie, two friends who travel together to find work to save up money to buy a farm of their own. Lennie is strong but has a cognitive disability, and George looks out for him and tries to keep him out of trouble. I really loved the interactions between George and Lennie, and especially how George continued to protect him even while complaining about how inconvenient and frustrating it can be. Although the book was a little predictable, which may be because I knew part of the ending in advance, it still had quite an impact. I did not really expect much from this book, but I was glad I read it.
5) Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire
This was one of the first books that I decided I wanted to read, yet ended up being one of the last that I read. I chose it for the prompt “a book based on a fairy tale.” I’ve actually had this book on my shelf for several years but always put off reading it. The book is an alternate version of Cinderella, focusing on the backstory of her stepsisters and stepmother. I really loved the way this book gave more depth and history to characters who, while quite famous, have always seemed one-dimensional to me. I loved how there was more attention given to the motivation behind certain actions, and I really enjoyed the writing style.
As I was going through my GoodReads page and my notes about each of the books I read, the one trend I noticed overall for this challenge is that the books in general were quite underwhelming. Even of those listed above, the first three were by far the highlights. However, I also wanted to mention a few books that I re-read this year, which I would also recommend:
- With the Light by Keiko Tobe – an incredible manga series about raising a child with autism in Japan. This was the first manga series that I ever read, and I only recently got myself copies of the full series so I can finally finish it! My library, in a very frustrating move, only had the first 5 out of 8 volumes.
- Purple, Green and Yellow by Robert Munsch – this was one of the most memorable books from my childhood, and I read it for the prompt “A book guaranteed to bring you joy.” I remember visiting my school library and reading this book over and over.
- The Miracle Worker by William Gibson – Technically this wasn’t a re-read, since I had only seen the movie versions. However, since the movie followed so closely to the script, I consider it mostly a re-read. This is the amazing story of Anne Sullivan and her work with Helen Keller.