2016 was my most productive year yet for reading (at least since I started tracking on Goodreads). I kept up a pretty strict 3 book at a time, minimum of 25 pages in each per day routine throughout the year, while also working my way along several goals I’ve always had in terms of reading. I’m still working on reading the definitive biography on each U.S. president, all of the Hugo and Nebula award winners, and every Buffy novelization in chronological order, however I did knock out books by seven of my favorite Grantland writers, completed the first book from all 50 authors in the “Start Here: Read Your Way Through 25 Amazing Authors” and finished up several series of books I had started and wandered away from.
I do wonder how accurate the pages read section is, because my ten page Buffy book listed above was actually 110 pages, and my Blue Devil issue was actually my way of keep tracking of the entire 31 issue series that I read. Still it’s a fun stat to see, and I’ve still got about 70,000 pages to catch up to somebody like Emily May so that’s just goals for my retirement reading someday.
My top 5 Books of the year:
5. The Financial Lives of Poets by Jess Walter (2009) – This was one of the funniest books I’ve ever read. The book is entirely written in the first person, and despite having a main character that routinely makes terrible decisions, I continued to sympathize with him to some degree because of his sardonic outlook on the absurd situations he winds up in. The subplot about trying to flush out his wife’s possible new boyfriend at a local hardware store was my single favorite moment in a book I read this year.
4. “Pet Sematary” by Stephen King (1983) – I’d seen the movie before reading this, and the film is a fairly faithful retelling of the book. I’ve also read a ton of Stephen King books previously, so I was pretty sure I knew what to expect here. None of that prepared me for how creepy this book is, and how well written. I’ll admit, having a son the same age as the protagonist’s son put me in the perfect place to be devastated by what happens in this book. Despite other books like “It” and “The Shining” having bigger reputations, only “The Stand” rivals “Pet Sematary” in quality among King’s early works.
3. John Tyler: Champion of the Old South” by Oliver Perry Chitwood (1939) – I read a lot of presidential biographies this year, starting with two on John Quincy Adams and I’m on one about Millard Fillmore currently. After Andrew Jackson, I entered the stretch of one term presidents that they don’t teach us much about in school and didn’t know what I’d expect in terms of enjoyment. What I found was John Tyler had one of the most compelling stories of any man to hold the office, becoming the first Vice President to assume the Presidency following William Henry Harrison’s death. Sometimes referred to as “His Accidency,” Tyler’s term was filled with intrigue as his cabinet resigned in mass and his own party (led by Henry Clay) formally repudiated him, even slating somebody to run for his office at the end of his term. Despite all that, he did some impressive things while in office, in particular laying the groundwork for Texas to join the United States.
2. “Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes (1958) – This book had moments that broke my heart, as Charlie begins to understand how he has been treated his whole life and have memories to his parents treatment toward him as a child. Although a few interactions and relationships in the story are certainly of their era (particularly in the gender role/romance element) this was one of those books thats every plot point is so memorable that I can’t imagine ever forgetting Charlie’s story.
1. “Ten Years in the Tub: A Decade Soaking in Great Books” by Nick Hornby (2013) – Nick Hornby is easily one of my top ten favorite authors, so I was excited to read this collection of his writings on other people’s writing. On every page, Horny brings his wit and humor about other authors while keeping his thoughts positive even when the books don’t deserve it. Through reading this book, I discovered other great authors like Megan Abbot and Jess Walter (see my 5th favorite book of this year) and may have to reread this in the future to try out more of Hornby’s favorites as everything I’ve tried that he’s recommended so far has been phenomenal.
I don’t like to pile on other people’s favorite books, so I’ll just say my least favorites were a few award winners by Zelazny and Delaney from the 1960’s.