Time again to list my favorite books I read last year. Even though I struggle making the list at times, I like sharing with everyone the books I enjoyed reading the most in the past year. It’s a way of making sense of what I read as I prepare to figure out what to read in this year.
I read 19 books last year. There were two books I didn’t finish: The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George and Possession by A S Byatt. I blogged before about why I didn’t finish the first book, so I won’t go into that. As for Possession, even though I appreciated the work Byatt put into this novel about the discovery of a romance between two Victorian poets, I found the book to be too slow. Someone accurately described it on Instagram as “a slog”. After 200 pages, it was time to move on.
My goal last year was to read more classics. While not every book I read last year was a classic, I was happy I finally read Little Women and The Moonstone. I’m even glad that I read Mansfield Park, my least favorite Jane Austen novel. I want to keep reading classics because when you read great ones like Brave New World, you realize why these books are worth reading. So here is my list:
1) My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante. I am glad I waited to finish this book before putting together my list. This is the first book in the Neapolitan Series. The book takes place in a poor section of Naples after the war. The book is the story of a friendship between two women, Elena and Lila. It’s very rare to find a book about a friendship between two women. Ferrante is an excellent storyteller and you can imagine this neighborhood in vivid detail. I definitely want to read the other books in the series.
2) The Good Soldier by Ford Maddox Ford. This book haunted me months after reading it. It tells the story about 2 couples, one British and one American, who meet on holiday in Europe. This is a book about adultery, and oddly enough, loyalty. It’s about the messy lives we live and the tragic aftermath.
3) Little Women by Louisa Mae Alcott. I wanted to read this book before the PBS miniseries aired. I am so glad I did. You get caught up in the story about the five March sisters, each with a distinctive personality. When you read it you understand why it is a favorite with many people. Later this year there will be another adaptation with Sarosie Ronan and Timothee Chalamet.
4) Less by Andrew Sean Greer. I already blogged about this book but I enjoyed this comic novel about a gay novelist’s misadventures traveling around the World to avoid going to his ex-lover’s wedding. I found it both funny and touching.
5) The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. On my blog about the #Victober challenge, I said I was going to pick this book. I didn’t regret my choice. This novel is about a stolen diamond that originally came from India. It was one of those books that just sucked me in. It took me almost all month to read it but I loved all the novel’s twists and turns. I want to read his other famous book, The Woman in White one day.
6) A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J Gaines. I had never read anything by Gaines before but I want to read more by him. This is a powerful novel about a school teacher who goes to the local jail every week trying to school a young black man on death row how to meet his ultimate fate with dignity and like a man. This is another book you will think about long after you finish it.
7) How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alverez. This is the story of a family with 4 daughters who immigrated to the United States during the 60’s to escape the brutal government of the Dominican Republic. Ironically, I read this over the Summer, when the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents when they entered this country made headlines. The stories in this book go back in time and it makes you appreciate more the immigrants and their stories.
8) The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Burrows. This is another book I blogged about last year. Even though parts of the book were predictable, I loved the theme that books can be a source of comfort during hard times.
9) Brave New World by Adlous Huxley. This was the only book from last year that was a reread. I didn’t remember much from when I read it in my 20’s. I’m so glad I reread this dystopian masterpiece. Huxley created a horrifying look in a possible future where babies are genetically engineered and people of the higher class are encouraged to be promiscuous.
10) The Moon and Sixpence by W Somerset Maugham. Maugham is one of my favorite authors and this book didn’t disappoint me. It’s based on the life of Paul Gauguin. It’s about a 40-year-old stock broker who leaves his wife and children to be an artist in Paris. Sometimes great artists are not always the most moral people and the book doesn’t shy
away from exploring the artist’s dark side.
As always, there are some honorable mentions. I loved them but I couldn’t justify putting them on my list. They include The Plague by Albert Camus, Three Men on a Boat by Jerome K Jerome, Tab Hunter Confidential and The Late George Apley by John P Marquand. I hope you like my list and feel free to share your favorite books of last year.