It’s nearly winter break (after I get through this a stack of ungraded exams)! For me, this means marathon reading sessions curled up with a blanket, coffee, and kindle. In the spirit of the season, I share with you all a glimpse into my 2016 bookshelf.
Favorite Book of the Year: My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
This first book from Elena Ferrante’s Neopolitan series was published (in English) in 2012. It took me three and a half years to get over the awful cover art. I then spent the next four days incommunicado reading all the books on my couch. The story follows the lives of two girls, Elena and Lila, as they grow up in a poor neighborhood outside of Naples, Italy. The series is a beautiful portrait of a friendship over the years, as well as the story of a nation and culture.
[As an aside… Lindsay hated this book. See? It’s like we’re two entirely different people.]
Most Disappointing But You Should Still Read It Anyway: Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
This was the book I was most eagerly anticipating. Hidden Figures is the true story of NASA’s African-American female mathematicians/computers who contributed greatly to America’s space program. I was in love with this idea, and am still eagerly anticipating the movie coming out in January. The book’s problem is that it never finds a narrative. Shetterly never focuses on one character long enough for readers to connect. We also never know if it’s a book about these women’s lives, civil rights, the space race, or the really awesome mathematics. Nevertheless, you should read this, because these women were amazing and their stories should be told. Go buy the book!
Most Overrated Yet So Beautifully Written You’ll Keep Reading: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
According to Goodreads, it took me six and a half months to finish this book. That’s because I kept having to put it down and take a break from the emotional sledgehammer that is A Little Life. The book follows four college classmates from a small Massachusetts town (cough… Harvard… cough) as they move to New York and figure out life. The writing is beautiful, but I couldn’t get over the characters’ constant self-flagellation. And at the end, it was just tragedy upon tragedy. Unsubscribe.
Most Unexpectedly Awesome and I’m Recommending to Everyone: Sex in the Sea by Marah J. Hardt
I found this book through a Twitter rabbit hole, and am so glad I picked it up. The official title is Sex in the Sea: Our intimate connection with sex-changing fish, romantic lobsters, kinky squid, and other salty erotica of the deep. Yes, it sounds weird, but the book is a delightfully humorous and informative take on the quirky sex habits of marine life. I spent a considerable amount of time at work debating whether or not to Google “lobster sex” after reading an early chapter. And after unsuccessfully trying to convince Lindsay to Google it for me, I gave up. (Until I got home, and then made sure safe search was on.) Sex in the Sea is also about how our fishing practices and climate change affect these marine populations. It’s educational without being preachy, raising alarm bells without feeling utterly hopeless.
Most Embarrassed to Admit I Read and Enjoyed: The Royal We by Heather Cocks
There are days when I get home and just want to not think. This was my guilty pleasure. The Royal We is about an American, Rebecca Porter, who studies abroad in England. She meets, falls in love with, and marries a prince. Yes, it’s Kate Middleton fan fiction, but sometimes that’s ok. Women can still be fierce feminists and wear a tiara. #LeanIn