I’m taking a break from all of the holiday festivities to reflect on the books I read this year. While the amount of non-fiction books has gone up from the books I read in 2017 (and in 2016), I’m clearly still primarily a fiction reader…and probably always will be.
The longest book I read
Skippy Dies by Paul Murray (661 pages)
The shortest book I read
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (96 pages)
The book I expected to hate but didn’t
All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg. Why did I think I would hate it? I think it might have partly been the cover. It’s not that it’s an unattractive cover, but when I paired it with the title, I thought this was going to be a quirky story about a young woman who moves to the big city and learns to make it on her own. And I just didn’t feel like that was a story I wanted to read. But then I kept hearing how great this book was, so I decided to give it a chance. I’m so glad I did! I loved the character of Andrea and felt very connected to her.
The book I expected to love but didn’t
Census by Jesse Ball. I’d only read one book by Ball before this one (How to Set a Fire and Why). But I wanted to read this one mostly because there was a lot of buzz around it and the aspect of the father-son relationship and road trip sounded interesting. But I just couldn’t get into it. I partly blame myself for this, though, as I don’t know if I gave the book the concentration it deserved.
The book that had been on my TBR list for too long
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. I bought this more than a decade ago, when I was in university, but I never got around to it. I finally read it this year when it was selected for one of my book clubs. And, of course, I loved it and couldn’t believe I’d waited this long to read it.
The book that surprised me the most
Warlight by Michael Ondaatje. The only other Ondaatje book I’ve read is In the Skin of a Lion, which I picked up years ago. All I remember of it now is feeling confused and not enjoying it. So when I found out that Warlight was selected for book club, I wasn’t too keen to crack it open. But when I did, I was pleasantly surprised. I was immediately drawn by 14-year-old narrator Nathaniel and the mystery of his parents abandoning him and his sister, leaving them under the watch of a strange man they call “The Moth.” This wasn’t one of my favourite books that I read this year, but I did look forward to getting back to it–and it has made me more willing to pick up other Ondaatje titles.
The books with the most interesting structure
The Western Wind by Samantha Harvey and Machine Without Horses by Helen Humphreys. (I can’t choose just one.)
The Western Wind is a mystery told in reverse. The novel takes place in the 1400s in an English village after a man has drowned in the river. The story is told from the perspective of a priest as he tries to uncover whether the man has died by accident, suicide, or murder,
Machine Without Horses is a book in two parts. The first half is non-fiction, with Humphreys explaining her process of writing as she researches the life of salmon-fly dresser Megan Boyd. The second portion is the fictionalized account of Boyd’s life that Humphreys has based on her research.
The book I read at just the right time
For the Love of Mary by Christopher Meades. I bought this book last year, when the publisher, ECW Press, was having a sale. I hadn’t heard of the book before, but the marketing copy described it as a coming-of-age story that included family secrets, and that sounded like my kind of book. I didn’t read it until this summer, when I was in a bit of a reading slump and also feeling a bit down in general, and this book was hilarious and heartwarming and exactly what I needed to read at that time.
The books that had me saying “Just one more chapter”
- Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller (a girl returns to civilization after living in the woods for nearly a decade after being kidnapped by her survivalist father)
- You Should Have Left by Daniel Kehlmann (a creepy novella about a screenwriter and his family renting a house for a week that may be haunted)
- The Beloveds by Maureen Lindley (a thriller about sibling rivalry, delving into the mind of a woman whose envy of her sister is terrifying)
My 5 favourite books read in 2018
- I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell (a memoir exploring 17 of the author’s near-death experiences)
- Machine Without Horses by Helen Humphreys (an exploration of the life of a salmon-fly dresser and the author’s process of writing the story)
- That Time I Loved You by Carrianne Leung (a collection of linked stories following the lives of suburban neighbours)
- Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan (a man takes over his sister’s life as he tries to find out what happened to her after she was mysteriously stabbed to death)
- The Library Book by Susan Orlean (part true crime, part memoir, and part meditation of the author’s love of libraries as she researches the 1986 fire in the Los Angeles Public Library)
By the numbers
Books bought: 53% (bought new: 48%, bought used: 5%)
Books borrowed from the library: 41%
Books received as gifts: 3%
Books won as prizes: 1.5%
Books borrowed from friends: 1.5%
Books written by Canadian writers: 30%
Books written by women: 65%
Books published in 2018: 47%
For 2019, I’d like to read some longer novels–ones I can really sink into–and I continue to want to get more into non-fiction. But, to be honest, more than anything I just want to keep reading whatever piques my interest.