Lots of travel and (f)unemployment means that (according to Goodreads) I read 44 books this year from my goal of 24. For the curious, my full list is here. There were good books, okay books, books I read for book club meetings I never went to. Here are four of the best I read in 2016:
Homegoing is gripping, beautiful, and sad. The story of two branches of a family, one sister sold into slavery, the other sold as wife to a British slaver in Ghana. In a series of stories and vignettes, Gyasi traces their descendants in both America and Ghana. I’ll be reviewing it fully next week. Look for this one to be on a lot of awards lists.
Best Nonfiction: The Unpersuadables: Adventures with the Enemies of Science by Will Storr (alternate title: The Heretics)
Why do people believe things that have been disproven? Journalist Will Storr sets out to find why, even in the face of contrary evidence, some people will believe something that seems ridiculous. Everyone knows someone (or is someone) who firmly believes something that has little to no evidence – or even contradictory evidence.
Best Memoir: Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh
I laughed, I cried, I read it again. Brosh is like me – a young person with variable mental health trying to cope with life. Some of the stories are repeats of blog posts, but it’s all fantastic. Her depiction of depression is spot-on.
Cixi wasn’t even the Emperor’s favorite concubine, but she was the only one who gave birth to a son. She leveraged her position when the Emperor died to rule a country that considered women to be property at best. Cixi brought China into modernity but ultimately ended her life with a mixed legacy. A fascinating look at a powerful, clever woman.