The Great 56: What I Read this Year

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I had set a goal of reading 75 books this year.  I did not make it – I blame the fact that I went on a close to two month reading hiatus where I just couldn’t get into reading.  Oh well!  I did manage to finish 56 books, listed and categorized below.  I provided some commentary for the ones I could actually remember!

I’m a bit heavy on the popular fiction and am going to try to branch out a bit more next year when 75 will be reached!

Thanks to OverDrive for letting me download books for free, thus enabling me not to go broke on books this year.  And thanks to Goodreads, for making it so easy to keep track of what I read!  I think I got them all.

My absolute favorite books this year. 

  • We Were Liars (E. Lockhart) – I adored this young adult suspense novel I read over the summer.  Kept me intrigued and surprised me in the end. Plus I loved the island setting close to Martha’s Vineyard – one of my favorite summer destinations.
  • The Nightingale (Kristin Hannah) – Great World War II read.  I am a sucker for this genre, and I have always liked Hannah’s work – though usually I find them more guilty pleasure readings and less thoughtful works.  This was both a bit of a guilty pleasure and a unique look at World War II.  Very well done.
  • Between Shades of Gray (Ruta Sepetys) – Another World War II read, this time by brilliant young adult author Sepetys, this book was recommended by a former student (with a note that it has nothing to do with 50 Shades of Grey).  It is a simply gorgeous book that I fell in love with.  Cannot wait for Sepetys’ new one this year.
  • Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do (Claude M. Steele) – This book changed the way I think about stereotyping and is a must-read for any teacher, or anyone really.  Fascinating look behind stereotype threat and the effect it has on various identities.  And I read this on the beach – that’s how interesting it is.  Please do yourself a favor, read this book, and grow.

Books that made me think.

  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Sherman Alexie) – This book was required summer reading for my 8th grade students’ Global Studies class.  LOVED it.  Laugh out loud funny while forcing you to think.  Gave me a whole different perspective to thinking about how to teach through a diverse lens.  This book also encouraged me to seek out other books that allow my students to see things from a different perspective.
  • Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology (Leah Remini) – I have loved Remini since Stacy Kerosi caroused on the Bayside Beach with Zach Morris.  I have also found scientology interesting but didn’t know much about it.  This book was fascinating, and though I know it is told from a single perspective, it made me question the practices of this so-called religion and whether or not Leah’s claims are truthful. I will be doing more reading on this subject, for sure.
  • The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable (Patrick Lencioni) – Read this if you want to better understand how to work with others and what each team member brings to the table.  It’s short, funny, easy, and thought provoking.

Books that reminded me what it is like to be a young adult.

  • Out of the Easy (Ruta Sepetys) – an interesting look at life in New Orleans French Quarter in the 50s.
  • The Beginning of Everything (Robin Schneider)
  • The Impossible Knife of Memory (Laurie Halse Anderson)
  • Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass (Meg Medina) – Fantastic book about the real threat of bullying in schools.  Piddy is a character everyone should read.
  • Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (Jesse Andrews) – Another young adult book about kids with cancer.  I enjoyed this so much more than The Fault in Our Stars – it just seemed more real and less melodramatic (though I do love that book too.
  • Fangirl (Rainbow Rowell) – It was good; for me it wasn’t great.  Maybe because I don’t really understand the Fangirl world, I couldn’t get it into it. I found myself skimming through the Simon Snow excerpts.  But I know many adore this book – maybe it’s for a younger crowd.
  • I Love You, Beth Cooper (Larry Doyle) – Didn’t love it, didn’t hate it.

Books I couldn’t stop reading.

  • The Vacationers (Emma Straub) – Thouroughly enjoyed this read about a dysfunctional family vacationing in Mallorca.  Beautiful scenery, well-written, at times laugh out loud funny, and a great depiction of true family life.
  • Unbroken (Laura Hillenbrand) – I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book as usually I have a hard time with particularly gruesome war stories.  But this was masterfully written and such an amazing story, I couldn’t put it down.  Another World War II addition to my list and an inspiring look at the human spirit.
  • Where’d You Go Bernadette? (Maria Semple) – Fantastic, couldn’t put down book.  Her flaws make Bernadette easy to root for and identify with.  Original plot and superb characterization left me recommending this book to many.
  • Home Front (Kristin Hannah) – An interesting multi-perspective book about the relationship between a married US soldier deployed in Iraq and her stay at home husband.  Hard to put down.
  •  Defending Jacob (William Landay)  – I really loved this book.  So suspenseful and an ending I did not see coming.

Books I finally read.

  • The Catcher in the Rye (JD Salinger) – I finally read the classic!  This was one of my reading goals for the year and I absolutely loved it.  Holden Caulfield is one of the most mesmerizing characters I have read.  I also now feel good knowing that I won’t be left out of the many jokes other English teachers tend to tell about Catcher.
  • Hoot (Carl Hiassen) – Loved it!  Great characterizations and great middle grades novel.
  • All the Light We Cannot See (Anthony Doerr) – It took me several tries to get into this book, and once I did it took me some time to finish, but I did thoroughly enjoy the Pullitzer.  Another interesting look at World War II, and I am a big fan of multiple perspectives.  Beautifully written and well deserving of all the accolades it received.
  • From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (E.L Konisburg) – Can’t believe I never read this as a child.  Thankfully, I got to teach it last year.  LOVED it!  The magic, the imagination, the MET.  So much fun!

Books I loved so much I had to re-read them this year.

  • Eleanor and Park (Rainbow Rowell) – Rowell is a young adult genius.  Eleanor is my hero.
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky) – I may read this every year.
  • Seedfolks (Paul Fleischmann) – Anyone can read this book in one day and should.  Imagine if we actually took time to get to know the people around us and see how much we have in common.  The world would be a better place.

Memoirs that inspire me and make me love being a girl.

  • Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (Mindy Kaling) – I find Kaling hilarious but not in the overly forced way I sometimes feel about Tina Fey and Amy Pohler.  I love reading Kaling’s life story and laughing along with her.  Maybe it’s because she has the inner academic snobbiness of a true Masshole – whatever it is, I will read every book she writes.
  • Why Not Me? (Mindy Kaling) – See above.
  • Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail (Cheryl Strayed) – Haven’t seen the movie yet.  Not sure if I want to because I loved the book so much.  This book inspired me in ways not many books do.  Who knows what is possible when you just say you are going to do something?
  • Bossy Pants (Tina Fey) – I do love Tina Fey.  She is truly an inspiring woman who is doing a lot for the female population.  I just sometimes find her comedy forced and think she is much funnier when she seems to be just being herself.  Nevertheless, Bossy Pants makes for fun reading and an interesting look at her life.

Books that no one would consider literature but that I love nonetheless ! Code for: What I Read in the Summer.

  • Wedding Night (Sophie Kinsella) – Kinsella always makes me laugh out loud.
  • Summer House (Nancy Thayer) – Just started reading Thayer this year – great summer author.
  • Summer Rental (Mary Kay Andrews)
  • The Rumor (Elin Hilderbrand) – Love reading about life on Nantucket.  A girl can dream can’t she.
  • Beach Town (Mary Kay Andrews) – Can you sense a theme of my summer time reads? When one can’t get to the beach or when one is on the beach read about the beach!
  • Hissy Fit (Mary Kay Andrews)
  • Save the Date (Mary Kay Andrews)
  • The Fixer Upper (Mary Kay Andrews)
  • Heatwave (Nancy Thayer)
  • Big Girl Panties (Stephanie Evanovich) –   HILARIOUS
  • Summer Breeze (Nancy Thayer)
  • Moonshell Beach (Nancy Thayer)
  • Beachcombers (Nancy Thayer)

Books I can’t find a category for.

  • Calico Joe (John Grisham) – I am a sucker for a Grisham novel but hadn’t picked this one up because I wasn’t sure I would like how he strayed from his typical subject matter.  I do love baseball, however, and loved this book.  Great story, great characters, great book.
  • Me Before You (Jojo Moyes)- I had seen this on kindle for awhile and did not regret finally downloading it.  Loved the story between Louisa and Will Traynor – love can be found in unexpected places.
  • The Girl on the Train (Paula Hawkins) – Very suspenseful.  I just wished I hadn’t figured out the mystery three quarters of the way through.  I enjoyed the challenge of the multiple perspectives told at different times of the year and found it a unique reading experience.
  • Every Fifteen Minutes (Lisa Scottoline) – A good mystery.
  • Landline (Rainbow Rowell) – An adult read by Rowell.  Kept me entertained but I found it a bit far-fetched and couldn’t really suspend my reality.
  • Smart Women (Judy Blume) – It’s Judy.  She’s never going to be terrible.
  • Rogue Lawyer (John Grisham) – It’s a Grisham.  It’s not a classic but it will keep you entertained and Sebastian Rudd is a great character.
  • Who Do You Love (Jennifer Weiner)
  • Life and Other Near Death Experiences (Camille Pagan) – This was a free Prime read and it lived up to its expectations for that.

Sequels that didn’t live up to my love for the original.

  • The Rosie Effect (Graeme Simsion) – I am a HUGE fan of The Rosie Project.  LOVED it.  It was fun reading about Don and Rosie again in the sequel. Don literally makes me laugh out loud, but I didn’t find this nearly as good as the original.  I was probably expecting too much, as I still rated it four stars on goodreads.
  • After You (JoJo Moyes) – Not as entertaining as the original, but I enjoyed it simply because I like Louisa as a character.  I’ll be honest, I found myself just wanting it to end at times.

May your 2016 be filled with great books!

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