Top 10 Tuesdays is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish
Part of the fun of reaching the halfway point of the year is reflecting back on everything I’ve read so far. As a whole, this year has been a bit up and down in terms of what I’ve read so far. Many of the books that ended up being my favourite are not the kinds of books I normally would have picked. Looking back on my list of books read this year, I was surprised to find that many of my favourites were graphic novels. By the same point of the year last year, I’d already had quite a few stand-out reads. This year, there haven’t been quite so many that jumped out at me immediately, but there have also been a couple of pleasant surprises. Here are the top 10 books I have read so far:
1) Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
This is one of the few books I’ve been tempted to re-read almost immediately after I finished it. I actually did go back and re-read several of the stories because they were just so funny! Allie Brosh has an amazing talent for blending humour with some more serious subjects, covering everything from the idiocy of her dogs to a goose invading her house, to depression and self-image. I was first exposed to Allie Brosh years ago with her cartoons about The Alot, and her amazing post about her dinosaur costume. The book is a great way of presenting more serious topics in a way that is still accessible and easy to understand but without undermining how difficult they can be to talk about. I can’t wait for her next book!
2) Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Celeste Ng has quickly become an author to watch based on the strength of this book alone. This book is about a Chinese American family in the 1970s whose oldest daughter Lydia has died. Celeste Ng did an amazing job of creating fully-developed characters, especially Lydia’s parents. I enjoyed the way the author incorporated the parents’ experiences with racism and sexism and the direct impact this had on their daily lives, and especially the way they treated their children. I wish a tiny bit more attention had been paid to Lydia’s younger siblings, but the book was a very compelling read and easily one of my favourites.
3) Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
After reading and being very disappointed by The Underground Railroad, I was nervous to try this book. Somehow, the two of them became inextricably linked in my mind so I naturally assumed that I wouldn’t like this one much either. Fortunately for me, I found this book a lot easier to get into and I loved Yaa Gyasi’s writing style. This book consists of a series of stories tracing the descendants of two half sisters, one who remains in Africa and the other who moves to the United States. Each chapter told the story of a different family member and their experiences. I ended up enjoying this book a lot more than I expected to, although some of the stories were more interesting for me than others. I thought the book was beautifully written and told a very powerful story. ‘
4) Hate List by Jennifer Brown
I’d had this book on my TBR for a couple of years already, so I thought it was about time to give it a chance. This book is about a girl named Valerie whose boyfriend committed a school shooting. Because of a “hate list” the two of them wrote together, Valerie is also blamed for the incident, and since she is the one left alive, she has to cope with all of the aftermath. I thought this book was a very compelling story that was told from a unique angle. It was by far one of the strongest and most complex stories about a school shooting that I’ve read, and I liked how it handled Valerie’s confusion about her feelings for her boyfriend and how other people viewed her afterwards, including her own family. The characters were fully developed, complex individuals who gain your sympathy, even when you disagree with their actions. My one small complaint was that I really hated the character’s names (ie. the therapist was named Dr. Heiler, pronounced like “healer,” and the shooter’s last name was “Levil” which is pretty closed to “evil”).
5) Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
I’ve mentioned this book a few times recently, so I won’t go into too much detail here. I am not a huge fan of graphic novels in general, but this was was amazing! I loved how the characters were quite different from your typical heroes. Nimona herself is an impulsive, often violent, shapeshifter who acts as a sidekick for Ballister Blackheart, a villain who reminds me quite a bit of Megamind. The illustrations were simplistic but well-done, and the story was hilarious! I loved the interactions between Nimona and Ballister, and I especially loved the sarcastic humour. I would love to read more about these characters if another book was ever published!
6) Strong Female Protagonist by Brennan Lee Mulligan
This was another graphic novel that I was pretty confident I was going to enjoy, and it ended up being my favourite read overall of this half of the year. This book is about a girl named Allison who used to be a powerful superhero, but has given up that life to go to college instead. The story was a lot more complex than I expected it would be, and I loved how it explored so many gray areas about what it means to be a superhero. I found the beginning of the story a tiny bit confusing until I got used to the world it was set in, but Allison was such an intriguing protagonist that I was drawn in pretty quickly. I thought it was very interesting to get the perspective of a disillusioned superhero, and I loved all the exploration of the line between hero and villain and what makes a hero different from other people. I would highly recommend this book!
7) Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
This was another book that I’ve actually been meaning to read for a couple of years, but for some reason kept putting off. The book is about a girl named Cath who is struggling with the start of college when her twin sister Wren decides she wants some space. Cath is a huge Simon Snow (basically Harry Potter) fan and a talented fanfiction writer. I related very strongly to Cath as a character, especially her social anxiety. I really appreciated how this book included a protagonist who was introverted and socially awkward, and did not force her to change by the end of the book. I especially enjoyed the snippets of Simon Snow and Cath’s fanfiction about it that were included with the story since they helped to bring the whole fandom element to life. This is definitely my favourite Rainbow Rowell book so far.
8) Baba Yaga’s Assistant by Marika McCoola
Surprisingly enough, yet another graphic novel made it to my top 10. This book is about a girl named Masha who applies for a job as the Baba Yaga’s assistant to try and get away from her home and her new stepmother and stepsister. In order to get the job, Masha has to pass a series of tests based on the Baba Yaga myth, a story which I actually knew very little about before reading this book. I thought the book was very well-written and beautifully illustrated. There was a lot more depth to the story than I expected, but it was still a very quick and entertaining read. I loved how it incorporated the myth, Masha’s memories of her grandmother telling her these stories, and her own experiences with the Baba Yaga. Even though it took me only about an hour to read, it was one of the most memorable stories so far.
9) Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
I’m sure many people will disagree with this one, but I really enjoyed this book! I think it helped that I didn’t read it in the height of the YA dystopian trend, because it definitely includes a lot of those tropes, but I thought it used them very well. The book is about a girl named Mare who is a “Red,” part of the lower class in society, who accidentally discovers that she has special abilities that only a “Silver” should have. Since her abilities are displayed very publicly, she is passed off as a missing Silver princess and is betrothed to a Silver prince, all while working with a resistance group to try to overthrow the Silvers. I really liked Victoria Aveyard’s writing style, and because of that I thought the story was very well-done. I was surprised to find that the twist toward the ending actually caught me off-guard and left me wanting to find out what happens next!
10) Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
This book may seem like a bit of an odd choice, especially compared to everything else on this list. It is even more strange for me because I listened to it as an audiobook, and I rarely (if ever) listen to audiobooks. Actually, I think the fact that my version was narrated by Jeremy Irons was a huge factor in why I enjoyed it so much. This book has always been one of those classics that I felt like I “should” read but was always put off by the subject matter. I was surprised to discover how compelling of a narrator Humbert Humbert was, and I thought it was fascinating to listen to him try to justify himself and all the layers of deception that involved. I was very impressed by the writing style, although I’m not sure I would have enjoyed it as much if I was reading it instead of listening. I actually especially enjoyed some of the snarky commentary on a variety of day-to-day situations, such as all the noises in a supposedly quiet hotel. The book was a lot more interesting than I thought it would be, and definitely one of the most memorable so far.