2016 Favourite Reads

It’s been quite the year, hasn’t it? We’ve lost so many wonderful celebrities (come back to us, David Bowie!), and last night Donald Trump was elected President. But you know what makes me feel better?

Books.

And alcohol.

But mostly books.

(but, like, also alcohol.)

I’ve read a lot of books this year, and with a month, and five books on my Goodreads challenge, left to go, I’m sure I’ll discover more books to add to this list, but for now, here are my favourites from 2016.

POETRY

My first two picks in this category actually go together:

GRIEF IS THE THING WITH FEATHERS by Max Porter
CROW by Ted Hughes

GRIEF IS THE THING WITH FEATHERS is about a father dealing with the sudden death of his wife. He and his two sons are visited by Crow in the midst of their grief. Crow is based on the very same Crow from Ted Hughes’ poetry collection. The father also happens to be a Ted Hughes scholar. GRIEF is a beautiful little book that blurs the lines between poetry and fiction, which is why I’m including it in this category. Immediately upon finishing GRIEF, I bought CROW. I’d never read anything by Hughes before, mostly on principle (I talk about that in another post), but I found myself just loving his poetry. Between you and me, I think I like his stuff more than I like Sylvia’s, but maybe don’t tell her I said that. Here’s a excerpt from GRIEF IS THE THING WITH FEATHERS. This one is told from the perspective of one of the boys:

She was beaten to death, I once told some
boys at a party.
Oh shit mate, they said.
I lie about how you died, I whispered to
Mum.
I would do the same, she whispered back.

AT NIGHT by Lisa Ciccarello

My absolute favourite bookstore here in Austin is a place called Malvern. The shop is small, quiet, inviting, cozy, but best of all, they have a WONDERFUL poetry section. It’s full of new poets, some of them local, and I almost always find the collections I’m looking for, no matter how obscure they are. If you live in or around Austin, check these guys out. They’re the greatest. Anyway. AT NIGHT. I found this collection while I was browsing for some dark poetry. My depression has been kicking my ass lately, so I was in the mood for something that would fit my mood, but I always wanted something for Halloween, since that was coming up. Boy, did I choose the right one! The collection focuses on tales of witchcraft and the dead, and it’s every bit as beautiful as is it creepy. Some of my favourite lines:

“I got an eye that speaks its mind but a body that does what it’s told.”
“At night, the dark has a sound: like being underwater.”
“This much white is a kind of darkness.”

Definitely check this one out if you like dark, creepy poetry.

HOLD YOUR OWN by Kate Tempest.

Oh, Kate Tempest. You beautiful creature, you. I absolutely love mythology, so the fact that this collection takes its inspiration from the myth of the prophet, Tiresias, was enough to pull me in, but Tempest also weaves her life and her own experiences into the story. Her writing is raw and powerful, and I about copied this entire book into my journal. So many wonderful lines:

“Let it be magic
These are not engines we’re building.”

“It’s okay to feel alone
Usually you are
That’s what poetry’s for.”

AFTER-CAVE by Michelle Detorie

Another great find at Malvern! They had this one faced out, and it caught my eye immediately, because it has a very colourful cover. Two reviews on the back described it as “dystopian” and “apocalyptic,” and I was like “yep, I’m buying this one.” If you like experimental stuff, you’ll like this collection. Some lines for your enjoyment:

“every time
someone is kind
to me I feel
like breaking.”

“how long before it’s too long
to come back.”

“A book is a room,
I am a house.”

FICTION 

THE VEGETARIAN by Han Kang

I talked about this one in a lot of detail in a previous post , so I won’t get into it here, BUT I will say that it’s probably my absolute favourite book of this year. So so good. Read it if you can.

SPHINX by Anne Garreta

I’ve been meaning to do a write-up of this on here for the last month. HNNNNNNNNNNG this book was amazing. Anne Garreta was part of an artist group, called Oulipo, and is actually the first female member of the group to have her book translated into English. Pretty cool. SPHINX is about a pair of lovers in Paris. Here’s the catch: the genders of the lovers is never revealed. Our narrator doesn’t have a name, and their partner is only ever referred to as A***.  All we know about A*** is that they are about ten years older than our narrator, they’re American, and they are black. I believe our narrator to be white, but I actually can’t remember if that ever comes up in the book. I think it does. Now when I was reading it, I imagined both characters to be female, because they feel very feminine, but I think that’s just because I’m a woman and the author is a woman. The way it’s written reminded me very much of THE FALL by Albert Camus. It’s told exclusively from the narrator’s point of view, and rarely do we get dialogue from other characters. If I hadn’t also read THE VEGETARIAN this year, SPHINX would absolutely be my favourite. So different from anything I’ve ever read before, and you should definitely check it out.

And that’s all, folks! Let me know what you’ve been reading in the comments.

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