What I Read: 2016

Here are all of the books I read in 2016, in chronological order.

1. Flowers in the Attic – V.C. Andrews

This was the scandalous book of your mom’s era.  Read if you want to feel creeped out and mildly bored. 3 stars.

2. Looking For Alaska – John Green

Re-read from when I read it in high school.  I think I’ve outgrown this book. Read if you are in high school. 5 stars.

3. Riding in Cars with Boys – Beverly Donofrio

Watch the movie over the book (it has Drew Berrymore and Brittany Murphy!).  Read if you feel stuck in your hometown.  3 stars.

4. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath

Should’ve read this in high school.  Read this if you’re anyone.  If someone makes fun of you for reading Plath then you don’t need that person in your life.  4 stars.

5. Captive Prince – C.S. Pacat

Don’t listen to the reviews on this one, they’re mostly crap.  Read if you want a light read that is still suspenseful with good characters. I’ve heard the two following books are better. 3.5 stars.

6. Grasshopper Jungle – Andrew Smith

No character development (which is sad since it’s a THICK book) but good writing.  Read if you’re in middle school or early high school.  3.5 stars.

7. One Day – David Nicholls

Third time reading this book and I get something new out of it every single time.  I’m scared to read his other books because I’m afraid nothing can live up to this.  Read at various times throughout your life. 5 stars.

8. The Help – Kathryn Stockett

Re-read.  I’m still jealous of Skeeter.  Read Roxane Gay’s essay in Bad Feminist after you read this. 5 stars.

9. Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

The only good part of this book was the passage on the ‘cool girl’.

“Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.

Men actually think this girl exists. Maybe they’re fooled because so many women are willing to pretend to be this girl. For a long time Cool Girl offended me. I used to see men – friends, coworkers, strangers – giddy over these awful pretender women, and I’d want to sit these men down and calmly say: You are not dating a woman, you are dating a woman who has watched too many movies written by socially awkward men who’d like to believe that this kind of woman exists and might kiss them. I’d want to grab the poor guy by his lapels or messenger bag and say: The bitch doesn’t really love chili dogs that much – no one loves chili dogs that much!

And the Cool Girls are even more pathetic: They’re not even pretending to be the woman they want to be, they’re pretending to be the woman a man wants them to be. Oh, and if you’re not a Cool Girl, I beg you not to believe that your man doesn’t want the Cool Girl. It may be a slightly different version – maybe he’s a vegetarian, so Cool Girl loves seitan and is great with dogs; or maybe he’s a hipster artist, so Cool Girl is a tattooed, bespectacled nerd who loves comics. There are variations to the window dressing, but believe me, he wants Cool Girl, who is basically the girl who likes every fucking thing he likes and doesn’t ever complain.

(How do you know you’re not Cool Girl? Because he says things like: “I like strong women.” If he says that to you, he will at some point fuck someone else. Because “I like strong women” is code for “I hate strong women.)”

There you go, I gave it to you.  This is the only part of Gone Girl that matters.  3 stars.

10. Sweetbitter – Stephanie Danler

Danler does a good job of showing the feelings of a woman in her early 20’s, but I felt like she was trying too hard to be artsy and experimental sometimes.  Read in the summer.  4 stars.

11. The Argonauts – Maggie Nelson

Marketed as a fun think-piece on gender, but actually reads like something you’d read in an upper-level gender studies class.  I need someone with credentials to explain most of this to me. Read if you have a background in gender theory. 2 stars.

12. In the Woods (Dublin Murder Squad #1) – Tana French

My introduction to Tana French aka the best decision I made in 2016.  This is her weakest book out of the five I’ve read, but her weakest is still better than most author’s strongest.  Read if you like mysteries and reading (so, most people). 4 stars.

13. The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins

Another book I thought I’d like because everyone else raved over it (see: Gone Girl). The main character is infuriating, I never want to read another sentence from her point of view.  Hawkins has a journalism background and can be seen through the dry writing. Read if there’s nothing else to read and Freeform isn’t doing a Harry Potter weekend.  2 stars.

14. Questions For Ada – Ijeoma Umebinyuo

The only poetry book I completed this year.  Read if you are a woman or love women (which should be everyone on the planet). 5 stars.

15. Rubyfruit Jungle – Rita Mae Brown

The internet told me that this is an LGBT classic and I can see why.  The author lives in Virginia, which is cool.  Her writing has that “summary” feel, so I wouldn’t read it again.  Read if it’s summer and you’re a high school student.  3.5 stars.

16. The Likeness (Dublin Murder Squad #2) – Tana French

Wow, I love this woman.  Read if you want to see what good writing looks like.  5 stars.

17. Faithful Place (Dublin Murder Squad #3) – Tana French

Wow, I love this woman, again.  Read if you’re interested in Irish subcultures.  4 stars.

18. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic – Alison Bechdel

My first graphic novel, now I want to read more.  Bechdel lays herself and her father bare for the reader. 3.8 stars.

19. How to Be a Woman – Caitlin Moran

Light, fun feminism.  Don’t feel bad for skipping a few essays. She’s from Wolverhampton, which is where Liam Payne is from.  Read if you’re 13 and don’t know what feminism is, this is your warm-up.  4 stars.

20. The Madness Underneath (Shades of London #2) – Maureen Johnson

Don’t get me started.  I talked more about it in this post.  Read if: just don’t. 1 star.

21. The Secret History – Donna Tartt

This book is so layered.  It’s a murder mystery but Tartt tells you who murdered who in the very beginning.  The whole mystery is “why”.  Read during the winter and if you are mildly pretentious, like me.  4.5 stars.

22. The Song of Achilles – Madeline Miller

I read this book SUPER slowly since I knew how it ended and was dreading the pain.  (It’s based on the Iliad, if that gives you any idea.)  The writing style feels too forced but the story is still good.  Read if you like pain.  4.5 stars

23. Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl – Carrie Brownstein

After I finished this book I immediately wanted to join an all-female punk band.  Read if you’re female or like punk or both. 5 stars.

24. The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World – Eric Weiner

This is better than anything Bill Bryson has ever or will ever put out.  Weiner visits the a happiest countries, the saddest countries, and countries that fall in between.  He shows how much your values and location can affect your happiness.  Read if you’re obsessed with the concept of happiness.  5  stars.

25. Bad Feminist – Roxane Gay

Despite the title, this book doesn’t solely focus on feminism.  Gay covers almost every topic that you would want covered plus more.  I actually met her at a reading right after I read this book.  I was nervous so all I could say was “hi I think you’re really cool”.  This made her laugh so I think it was a success.  Read if you’re a person.  5 stars.

26. The Color Purple – Alice Walker

I’m not sure why this book isn’t on more public high schools’ reading lists.  No American high school student (especially in the South) should be able to graduate without having read this.  Read if you want to feel cultured and woke.  4 stars.

27. How to Build a Girl – Caitlin Moran

Basically the fictionalized version of Moran’s life with a dash of How to Be a Woman.  It’s a book about a teenage girl just being a teenage girl, which we don’t have enough of.  Read if you’re tired of reading about American teenagers and would rather read about British teenagers.  4 stars.

28. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe – Benjamin Alire Saenz

Quick read because the writing is simple, but Saenz still manages to make it beautiful.  The family dynamics feel real, which is an anomaly for YA books.  Read if you’re in a reading slump and need a book that you know is going to be good and quick.  5 stars.

29. Broken Harbour (Dublin Murder Squad #4) – Tana French

Just like in Faithful Place, French explores family demons but in a different way.  Read if you’ve already read another Tana French book.  4 stars.

30. Not That Kind of Girl – Lena Dunham

Listen, I know the drama that surrounds Dunham, but that doesn’t stop her from being a damn good writer.  Read if other memoirs have disappointed you.  5 stars.

31. Every Day – David Levithan

Meh.  Levithan could’ve made the concept more interesting, but he chose not to.  Read more of my thoughts on it here.  Read if you’re in 9th grade and bored.  2 stars.

32. I’ll Give You the Sun – Jandy Nelson

This book is YA done right.  I haven’t read a book this good since I first read Tana French.  I talked more about I’ll Give You the Sun over here.  Read if you like books.  (Which, duh.)

33. The Secret Place (Dublin Murder Squad #5) – Tana French

The Secret Place is even better than The Likeness, if that’s possible.  The story focuses on female teenage friendship, but doesn’t belittle girls in the process.  On the contrary, French perfectly exhibits why teen girls are a force to be reckoned with.  Read if you like boarding school stories (Harry Potter, Look for Alaska, ect.) and murder.  5 stars.

34. The Sea is Quiet Tonight – Michael H. Ward

I requested this book from NetGalley.  Ward lost his partner to AIDs in the 80’s.  This story follows their love story, from the sweet, exciting beginning to the unsurprising tragic end.  I know little about the AIDs epidemic other than it happened and the government doesn’t like to talk about it, but background information isn’t necessary since at it’s core this is a love story set in extreme circumstances.  Ward’s writing is fairly dry and straight to the point, but he is still capable of drawing emotion from the reader.  At the times I wasn’t crying while reading, my eyes were still watery.  I think that’s the point of this book, really.  To humanize an epidemic.  4 stars.

35. Memoirs of an Addicted Brain – Marc Lewis

I read this for my Neuro class on addiction.  Neuroscience is usually a very textbook heavy major (understandably), so it was nice to learn through narrative.  Lewis takes you through his journey of addiction, starting during his teen years at boarding school, transitioning into his hippie college years at Berkeley, moving to Malaysia with his doctor father, exploring the cheap and pure drugs of south Asia, and then finally winding up back in the US.  This is the perfect book for beginner level brain enthusiasts.  Lewis, who has a PhD, so he knows what he’s talking about, doesn’t dumb down the neuro-talk, but he does explain it in enough detail in a way that won’t make you feel overwhelmed.  Read if you like drugs or brains.  4 stars.

36. Year of Yes – Shonda Rhimes

I talked more about this book in my Top 5 Books of 2016, because, honestly, this book is the bomb.  I will be reading this book over and over again for the rest of my life.  Rhimes writes more like a blog post than a book, but it’s Shonda Rhimes so she can do whatever the hell she wants.  Just read this book and thank me later.  Read if you want to back your life better.  5 stars.

37. Carry On – Rainbow Rowell

I have read almost all of Rowell’s books and I see why she’s so big among the YA crowd; her writing is easy, entertaining, and witty, but none of her books have clicked with me.  I usually HATE her protagonists, but that wasn’t the case with Carry On.  This is definitely her best book, but if you’re new to Rainbow Rowell I suggest that you read Fangirl first.  Read if you like fantasy or if you usually don’t like fantasy because it feels too complicated.  5 stars.

38. I Feel Bad About My Neck – Nora Ephron

Shockingly, this was my first Nora Ephron book.  I fell in love with her personality after watching the documentary on her life, Everything is Copy, made by her son.  Thankfully I found this book at Goodwill at few days before Christmas.  Ephron is obviously a talented writer.  I can only hope to live a life as prolific as hers.  Read if you need something quick and good.  4 stars.

How many books did you read this year?  What were your favorites?  Least favorites?

  • Amber

    I feel oh so qualified to comment on this post since I actually hit my reading goal this year. I wanted to read 20 books since I turned 20 and I exceeded my own expectations. I read a lot of the same books as you so my best recommendation for you is Neil Gaiman. This past year I read The Ocean at the End of the Lane and it was amazing! I fell in love with his writing style and another good one to read by him is Good Omens which he co-wrote with Terry Pratchett.

    • Victoria

      Neil is definitely on my reading list. I’ve heard great things about American Gods and Neverwhere.