Sunday, 10 July 2016

Favourite Books of 2016 (So Far)

The first thing I'd like to (quickly) make a point of - I've been very quiet on the blogging front lately. There's been a lot going on, including me moving house last month, but I've still been reading plenty and will try to get back on track with some reviews soon! It might still be slow going for a bit (this house move is still kind of on-going and time/energy consuming) but I'll be working on it!

Now then - we're now just over half way through the year, and to try to kick start myself back into blogging again, I've decided to do a post on the books I've loved so far this year - especially as I might end up forgetting about some of the brilliant books I read at the start of the year by the time December rolls around.

I'm not great at ranking books against each other in general, because I often love books for very different reasons, as well as loving books that are entirely different from each other. However, I think this is roughly accurate as to my top five books for the first half of 2016.

1. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet - Becky Chambers
I don't read a lot of sci-fi, but this book has made me reassess on that and think that I need to increase how much sci-fi I read - which might be easier said than done considering all the other genres/subjects I want to increase reading on! That doesn't make it impossible though - a few years ago when I realised how imbalanced the gender make up of the authors I read was, it was hard to imagine that changing too, and yet this year alone I know I've swung the scale wildly in the other direction (I think the 4:1 ratio of my favourites is probably pretty representative of the way I'm reading now). It's not even a conscious or active choice - it's just how my tastes sit now. But back to the book - I adored this. I adored the characters (and even Corbin was kind of entertaining and likeable in his own way), the fact that the story managed to create tension and mystery without it getting frustrating or overly stressful, the writing style, the representation... I could go on, but I might save it for a full review in the future instead! 
2. Ruby - Cynthia Bond
I've now read 4/6 of the Bailey's shortlist for 2016, including the winner (The Glorious Heresies) and as much as I understand that books like this one and A Little Life probably don't appeal to all - given the content - I truly can't understand how Ruby didn't win. I'll admit, I think A Little Life might be my favourite of all the shortlisted books, but this book definitely deserved to win and, had I gotten through more of the shortlist before the winner was announced, I would have been so sure that this was set to win. It's beautiful and haunting, and as a writer myself, it's one of those books that both makes you feel inadequate but also painfully desperate to be that good yourself one day. It's also really set into stone that magical realism is my favourite genre now. A year ago, I don't think I even really knew what the genre was or that it even existed, but I definitely love it and want more of it in my life!
3. The Vegetarian - Han Kang
Another book that I would argue comes under magical realism, although arguably more surreal and strange than Ruby. It's one of those books that you'd feel uncomfortable raving about as a book you love, but it was just so beautifully crafted and haunting that it was hard not to be captured by it. I haven't read Kang's other novel, Human Acts, yet - but it's definitely on the list. 
4. Reasons to Stay Alive - Matt Haig
Non-fiction is another area that I'm trying to read more of. When I was in university and even in high school, I avoided non-fiction in my leisure reading (although obviously read a lot of it while studying/researching for papers), but I'm increasingly enjoying reading non-fiction books as a way to continue learning now that I'm not in education anymore. Admittedly, this book wasn't so much an education for me as an affirmation - I kind of knew everything Haig was saying already, but sometimes it's important to hear someone else saying it, to have someone else make sense of it all for you. It's also the kind of book that could, hopefully, shed some light on how it feels to experience mental illness for those that never have. 
5. What is Not Yours is Not Yours - Helen Oyeyemi
Magical realism again, perhaps naturally now! I don't generally enjoy reading short story collections, because I prefer the experience of reading a longer narrative about characters (and usually have an urge to take breaks between each story to make it easier to separate them in my mind). However, the way that Oyeyemi's stories wove and connected together through characters and themes worked for me. What really placed this book so highly, however, was Oyeyemi's writing style - again, a writer to be envied and to aspire after. The first of Oyeyemi's books that I read - Boy, Snow, Bird -  was enjoyable, but didn't impress me in the same way as this did. I've yet to read any of her other work, but as with Han Kang, it's on the list!
What I'm looking forward to most in the coming months is definitely going to be getting new bookshelves and having my new place full of books - I feel like I could even start to whittle down my pile of unread books more once everything's sorted out! (I'm not even sure how many unread books I have, but it's definitely too many, whoops). I'll hopefully start uploading more pictures in reviews and posts in future too - watch this space!