2016 has been a pretty good reading year for me. I managed to read widely, both for my university course and for my own enjoyment, and I began to explore some different genres such as graphic novels and memoirs. I also began listening to audiobooks, and realised that I actually absolutely love them – who would have thought that all of the YouTubers plug-ins about audible would have had such a profound effect on my reading experience?
Still, in spite of my shame at falling victim to an advertising ploy, I must say that I’m glad I found audible this year… which leads me on to the first of my categories.
Best audiobook: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Mark Haddon’s novel has long been admired in the literary world, and I feel that Ben Tibber did a fantastic job at narrating it in this dramatised, unabridged version. This was one of the first audiobooks that I listened to, and I became completely absorbed from the outset. As someone who grew up with a younger brother who has Asperger’s Syndrome, I know a fair amount about autism, and I feel that both Mark and Ben did a great job of portraying some of its possible symptoms.
Best graphic novel: Maus
Graphic novels have quite a bad reputation. People seem to think of them as nothing more than extended comics about superheroes and the like, when in reality, many graphic novels deal with difficult topics and can make powerful statements about them. Art Spiegelman’s Maus is definitely one of these.
Set for the most part in Nazi-occupied Poland, the form of the novel allows him to use a striking metaphor, depicting Jews as mice, Poles as pigs, Germans as cats, Americans as dogs, etc. From time to time, the mice wear masks when they are pretending not to be Jewish; the fragility and danger of their situation in occupied Poland is clear. Art Spiegelman’s illustrations and story-telling is both beautiful and heart-wrenching as he shares his father’s experiences with the world in a form that many would have dismissed off-handedly as inappropriate; they could not be more wrong.
Best Young Adult novel: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
This multi-award winning contemporary by Benjamin Alire Sáenz certainly deserves the hype surrounding it. It follows the development of a friendship that forms between two teenage boys named Aristotle and Dante, who meet at a swimming pool and seem at first to have nothing in common other than being named after famous philosophers. Throughout the book, we get to see the changes that the boys go through as their lives progress and their relationship with each other develops. Whilst some readers have said that they disliked the overall lack of plot, I feel that this is one of the book’s strengths; it managed to captivate me regardless of the fact that there were so few major events that took place.
Best memoir/autobiography: When Breath Becomes Air
Paul Kalanithi was training as a neurosurgeon, already highly accomplished at the age of thirty-six, having studied at Stanford, Cambridge and Yale when he was diagnosed with lung cancer. His memoir recounts his drastic change from doctor to patient, from man to father, and from someone who has their whole future ahead of them to someone who only has months left to live. The story is emotional and powerful, and shows how quickly everything you take for granted in your life can change.
Best adult novel: The Kite Runner
Another modern classic, Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner is a heartbreaking read. It doesn’t shy away from describing difficult scenes, nor does it protect the reader from the reality and consequences of bad, selfish decisions. It explores friendship, war, family dynamics and so much more. It can be a tough, emotional read at times, but it’s well worth it.
So those were some of my favourite reads from this year, and I hope that I’ve interested anyone who may be reading this to give one or more of these novels a try. It was hard to pick a winner for some of these categories, but that just goes to show what a great reading year this has been for me. Some of the runners-up were Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys, Binge by Tyler Oakley, Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor and A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab.
I hope that 2017 will bring even more great reads, that I’ll keep my resolution to blog about them, and, of course, that you have a very, very happy New Year!