Despite restricting myself to only 35 new-to-me books in 2016, I had trouble narrowing down a top and bottom five. I also set out to document my 35 books on Instagram but kind of failed… I managed to get a few decent pictures though!
Best books of 2016, in order of when they were read:
- Birdie by Tracey Lindberg: Like nothing I’ve read before. A travesty that it didn’t win Canada Reads, Alberta Reader’s Choice Awards, and wasn’t nominated for many others. If there ever was a book that Canadians need now, and that has literary merit and does something new with the novel. this is it!
- Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood: Yes, we’re all mad at her right now. And this book, about how horrible women and girls are to each other, is perhaps fitting. I went through the strangest emotions while reading this: a mixture of sadness and relief that I’ll never have a daughter.
- After Claude by Iris Owens: So good I read it twice this year. So funny for the first two thirds that I forgot how devastating the last third is.
- The Diviners by Margaret Laurence: There are a lot of reasons to love this book. I’ll choose the fact that we witness the heroine lose her virginity in a scene where she is in total control, and she doesn’t 1) instantly orgasm 2) marry the guy 3) pay for it for the rest of the book. Sex positive CanLit circa 1973.
- Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys: Speaking of books that are ahead of their time! All these books are about strong women (but not “strong women”) and Sasha is the strongest and brittlest of them all.
Disappointing books of 2016, in order of when they were read. I don’t have pictures of all these, because, ugh.
- The Outside Circle by Patti LaBoucane-Benson: Read more like an educational pamphlet than a graphic novel.
- The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls: I love an unreliable narrator. In fiction. In memoir, not so much…
- Bluets by Maggie Nelson: I just didn’t get it. Nelson is a writer I think I *should* like but just… don’t. And the fawning over her is just too much. I listened to her on a few podcasts this year and the hosts just grovel, Wayne’s World “we’re not worthy” style.
- In-Between Days by Teva Harrison: I didn’t connect with the drawing style. When you look forward to the text-only pages in a graphic novel, that’s not good.
- The Dead Ladies Project by Jessa Crispin: If Eat Pray Love was re-imagined as Eat Read Fuck. Which is funny since Crispin wrote a takedown of EPL (and even stranger, a defense of it six years ago.) This was my biggest disappointment. Crispin is an OG book blogger who’s gone on to be a respected literary critic. She is contrarian and sarcastic and smart. But this book swung between too show-offy and obscure and too juvenile (pretending not to know what the solution is to an affair with a married man that won’t leave his wife…) Won’t stop me from pre-ordering Why I Am Not A Feminist, though!
And now, the 2016 Reading in Bed Book of the Year:
Sophie Kinsella cites Jane Austen as a major influence on her writing, and her Shopaholic series in particular. It makes sense: Becky Bloomwood is, like Austen heroines, a quirky, endearing character with a fatal flaw – not pride, or predjudice, but a propensity to overspend. Kinsella’s books, like Austen’s, skewer contemporary society while guaranteeing a happy ending.
And it’s totally on-brand. Shopaholic titles are aimed directly at people who love Jane Austen (or think they would, if they get around to reading her.)
But I think Kinsella took some inspiration from another pioneering British woman author. One who might not resonate so well with her readers, being far too dark and dreary and depressing.
I read Good Morning, Midnight for Reading Rhys Week and in many ways it was a singular reading experience; but destructive heroine Sasha Jensen reminded me of something I’d read before. The fixation on clothes, accessories, and hair. The reliance on handouts from friends and family. The failed attempt at being a shopgirl. The time and effort spent on hiding from both her past and her future.
I thought it was all a coincidence till I got to the part where Sasha lies about knowing a second language to impress an employer. Just like Becky Bloomwood does in Confessions of a Shopaholic.
Then it dawned on me: Sasha Jensen is an older, broken Becky Bloomwood.
Don’t believe me? Let’s play a game.
Who said it: Becky Bloomwood or Sasha Jensen?
For each category, I chose one quote from Good Morning, Midnight, and one quote from Confessions of a Shopaholic. Can you guess who said it? Answers at bottom. Continue reading