It's book report time, hooray!
I did not come close to my amazing total of 36 like last year, but a rather anemic 27. However, I did black out my bingo card for my online Book Bingo group for the third year in a row (🎉) and I regained two old book clubs—the one at the elementary school that Maddie and I were members of for three years (and now attend with Gracie and Bridget), and a new incarnation of my old Wyoming grownup book club. It is so nice to be back! I wouldn't give up Book Bingo for anything, either. The card has grown from 25 squares to 35 this year, so we'll see if that affects my total books read for 2017.
Here are notes on my five-star books for the year:
+ I have always been a bit of a Romanov family buff, and this was a really great investigation into the family that included a whole lot of detail that was new to me. This is technically a Young Adult non-fiction book, but I would recommend it for anyone with interest. Candace Fleming is a favorite picture book author of ours (Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! and others) and it was fun to read something different from her.
+ I think everyone has read All the Light We Cannot See by now, yes? It's a unique spin on another angle of World War II. Interestingly, I did not write a review over at Goodreads when I finished it, but it's definitely worth adding to your list if you missed it.
+ I read Me Before You last year—it was the right book at the right time. Sequels don't always stand up for me but this one was yet again the right book at the right time. Do not be deceived and let someone convince you Jojo Moyes' books are fluff—they are gritty, messy, and absolutely satisfying with multi-layered characters and a very strong voice.
+ Brian Selznick is a genius. This one is just as confusing as the other two he's written/illustrated until suddenly it isn't confusing at all, and it's just brilliant.
+ I reviewed Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal here. Definitely one of my most favorite books of the year.
+ I picked up Yaa Gyasi's book in the Dallas/FW airport because I love to buy a book in an airport (OK, that's an excuse but it is a highlight of any trip) and it lived up to all the debut author hype that I had read about her. I was actually a little annoyed when the chapters moved so abruptly from character to character at first until I realized the reason she was doing it—and then I just fell into the family tree and enjoyed it immensely. She doesn't shy away from hard things. This is one I'll reread at some point.
+ Stella By Starlight is a jFiction book that somehow manages to introduce the horrors of the KKK to children without being overly frightening (it's frightening, but I'd still recommend it for 3rd graders on up). I loved Stella and her family.
+ Very Married is the second book authored by my brilliant sister Katherine! (You can read all about her first book here.)(And, oh, man, I can hardly bear to read about those babies who are even more grownup now.) I still stand by the truth that it is extremely weird to read about the intimate details of someone you're related to but wow, did she ever write an honest, beautiful book about marriage and her vision, struggles, and victories within her own. This would make an excellent book club book, an excellent study book for a religious small group, or just a good book to read if you want to think about both the macro and micro implications of marriage as an institution. it isn't so heavy that you'll drag through it, but you'll finish it feeling like you are both smarter and more aware of what marriage means. Do you need a link to buy it? HERE YOU GO.
+ Naya Nuki: read for the elementary school book club, and used for the square on my bingo card "a book you would not normally read." I never in a million years would have picked this one up on my own, but it was a great story and led to an excellent discussion on book club night. I think I (and people in general) are a little more critical of books written about Native American characters these days vs. when I was growing up, and this was a good one. It was written in 1983, so well done, Kenneth Thomasma.
+ Riding the White Horse Home was a memoir read by my grownup book club, written by a new 2016 inductee to the Cheyenne Frontier Days Hall of Fame, Teresa Jordan (Miss Frontier 1975; outgoing Wyoming U.S. Representative Cynthia Lummis was her Lady-in-Waiting). It was so good. I immediately bought my own copy after reading the library one, and two more which I have earmarked for gifts. Her writing is just beautiful. It was also fun to read a book in which I recognized both geography and a couple of local family names. You don't have to live in Wyoming to appreciate it, though.
+ Shooting Kabul was a reread (for elementary school book club, read first when Maddie was assigned to read it in 6th grade) and it was just as good as the first time around.
+ I realized when I was figuring out what classic book I could read to black out my bingo card that I had never actually read A Christmas Carol before—obviously I know the story (thanks Muppets! And no less than five other movie/stage versions!)—but I hadn't actually READ it. I loved it. It was fast and festive and very enjoyable.
+ Whoo boy, one of the reasons you join a book club is so you can read character-building books that you might not get to otherwise. Such was the case with The Sympathizer, which was truly a masterpiece and also required a lot of focus and occasionally a strong stomach. It is a slow read; I would read and read and read before I went to bed and feel very accomplished until I realized I had read only ten pages. I'm so glad I read it though.
+ Trevor Noah's new book, Born a Crime, is not just a book written by a comedian but a sharp look into the era of apartheid in South Africa. I have always been immensely interested in this chapter of history, and reading about it through the eyes of someone super-funny made for a different experience than you'd get from reading a more traditional non-fiction book.
Other good books that made the four-star list: The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race by Jesmyn Ward; One Plus One by Jojo Moyes; The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead; Harry Potter and the Cursed Child; Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. I rated more books with three stars than normal, and no books with one star this year (whew!).
I don't count picture books toward my yearly total of books read but I did read a whole bunch of those, too; I wrote about some of them in my only piece for Nerdy Book Club in 2016.
So let's hear it! What were your favorites in 2016?