My Reading List 2016

Over the past couple of years I have documented every film that I have watched and reviewed them all using Letterboxd.

As a way to motivate myself to read more, I thought I would do the same for what books I have been reading, using Goodreads as a way to set myself a reading challenge.

So, this year I set myself a challenge of reading 18 books, and for the first time since doing so, I have managed to exceed my target, hooray!

Here’s how my 2016 challenge went, with a short review and rating for each of the books:

1. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

Young adult dystopias are a trending topic at the minute. So how does The 5th Wave compare? The first chapter (the longest chapter in the book), at least, is incredible. This opening section details Cassie’s present day situation by giving us some background information about her life, moving on to when the alien invasion began. Detailing the first four waves, as Cassie writes in her diary from the present day whilst on her own and on the run, this first chapter really draws you in.

Read my full review of the book here.

2. Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone is nostalgic, imaginative, and it’s filled with atmosphere; the precise definition of what a children’s fantasy should be. The story has a bit of everything; there are friendships, rivalries, quests, magic, jokes, scares, and even a game of wizarding sport. The characters are engaging and likeable, but most of all they’re fun, courageous, and adventurous. It’s such a gripping and comforting read that Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone has become a book that we will pass on to our future generations with pure excitement at the thought of somebody discovering this world for themselves for the first time.

At this point in Rowling’s series, the plot is quite simple, making for a very light read and, as a piece of literature, it isn’t close to being technically revolutionary. But it’s rare that a story does what Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone does to a reader. Sure, as the series continues the stories get more complex, and Rowling’s writing becomes a lot more profound, but this is where it all began, and the book conjures such fantastic feelings that there’s no wonder that millions of people fell in love with Harry Potter.

Read my full review of the book here.

3. The Divergent Series: Allegiant by Veronica Roth

The book starts off with an epigraph from the Erudite faction manifesto: “Every question that can be answered must be answered or at least engaged. Illogical thought processes must be challenged when they arise.” Roth obviously had this intention in mind for her final book, but it quickly becomes apparent that Allegiant wasn’t going to provide all of the answers to the questions that we were deeply craving.

Allegiant does well to tie up some of the loose ends that the previous instalments have opened up, but there’s so much left to explore and to be resolved by the end that it feels like a whole book has been missed out. From the beginning, there is so little focus on what’s going on inside the wall between the factions and factionless, that what’s most important is quickly forgotten. With the group venturing outside of the wall quite early on, we miss out on the real story and only hear snippets of what’s going on from what’s available at the Bureau. And then when it’s about to get good, Four quickly convinces his mother otherwise and we skip over how the only characters we really care about find their resolutions.

Read my full review of the book here.

4. High-Rise by J.G. Ballard

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5. The Death And Life of Charlie St. Cloud by Ben Sherwood

The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud is a romantic and exhilarating book that follows the journey from death to life. Set against a background of bereavement and grief, there are many conversations about what happens to us after we die, exploring the different ways that these characters have learnt how to move on from the loss of somebody close, and at the conflict of holding on and letting go.

As much of a fantasy as it is a romance, The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud isn’t your typical love story. When Charlie meets Tess, their relationship develops with Charlie’s struggle to choose life over holding onto a memory. With the unusual premise in which they meet, there’s a very supernatural feeling to the story, making their romance all the more powerful.

Read my full review of the book here.

6. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

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7. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

The Lovely Bones is a chilling and haunting story, but it’s also an uplifting tale of acceptance and redemption. Susie is a beautifully created character full of optimism and hope and, as she experiences longings for the everyday things she can no longer do, it’s easy to find yourself drawn in by her character.

The story doesn’t work as a mystery, since we are detailed the crime as it happens, but it certainly has the feel of a thriller. With Susie narrating from heaven, we know who the monster is, but we are but spectators unable to do anything to help the other characters. and it is their struggles that we share.

As the police end their investigation into finding Susie’s killer, her father becomes filled with guilt and starts to obsess over trying to find the answers. Susie tries to help her father from heaven, but only tears her family apart more. Now, she must choose between her desire for vengeance or for letting her family heal and move on with their lives.re

Read my full review of the book here.

8. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Daphne Du Maurier‘s Rebecca is my number one favourite book of all time. Beautifully written, the story is centred on two of the most humanly complex characters ever written, begins with one of the most memorable opening lines in literature, and ends with an intensely powerful image.

Told in a first-person narrative, the story is told in the form of a flashback as the narrator retells her story of overcoming personal insecurities, discovering one’s identity amid social pressures and expectations, and what the meaning of true love really entails.

Looking back at her time at the beautiful mansion that is Manderley, we’re told that something drastic has happened as the narrator comments that she and her husband can never go back. But what? As she goes on to detail what is primarily a love story, as a reader you find yourself impatiently waiting for something to go wrong.

Read my full review of the book here.

9. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Me Before You is a story impossible not to fall in love with. The characters are so beautifully crafted that I cried more than once reading about how their relationship progressed. Even before there’s any inclination of romantic feelings from either characters, it’s obvious that they have a deep connection, and their emotions are explored so well that you can really get inside both of their minds.

Me Before You isn’t a young adult book, but it does share similar themes. Maybe it’s because the relationship is so unlikely and the romance is so ambitious, but the story does have a feel of fantasy to it, even if the characters’ struggles are realistic and insightful. That being said, it’s incredibly easy to engage with, which is why the two lead characters are such a joy to follow.

Read my full review of the book here.

10. All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

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11. Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon

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12. The Missing by C.L. Taylor

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13. Harry Potter And The Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany

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14. Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a book that you will want to read as soon as you have picked it up off of the shelf. With a beautiful production of its ghostly front cover and the use of high-quality photographs scattered inside, the whole look and feel of this book makes you want to jump into this intriguing world of peculiarity straight away. Even minutes after buying this book I found myself hooked and not wanting to put it down, restless to dive in as soon as I could to find out what these disturbingly creepy pictures were all about.

Read my full review of the book here.

15. The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins

Told in a first-person narrative from the point of view of three women – Rachel, Anna and Megan – The Girl On The Train constantly shifts perspectives as well as between timescales, jumping from after the murder to weeks before, slowly revealing the truth about the lives of these three women and the connection that they each have.

Rachel is our main narrator but, an alcoholic prone to blackouts, she’s an unreliable source so we never know whether to believe her or not. A broken, self-pitying character, Rachel once had everything but has since lost her home, job, dream of motherhood, and her self-respect. She now relies on a can of gin and tonic or two on her way home from work, and has become naive and insecure, holding on to the smallest glitches of attention and hope, as she lives in a world of fantasy to escape the harsh realities that face her.

Read my full review of the book here.

16. Story Of Your Life by Ted Chiang

Story Of Your Life is a short story like no other. You may think that you know what to expect from a science fiction novella set during an alien invasion like this, but you would be wrong. Instead, this short story is a joyous treat to read, filled with thought-provoking ideas beyond its short length and minimal premise.

Although Story Of Your Life and its upcoming film adaptation Arrival will be known for being a story about aliens, its science fiction setting is merely a background to something much bigger. We don’t know much about how or why these aliens have invaded Earth, nor do we know anything about their subsequent departure but, instead, Chiang uses their ‘arrival’ as a means to look at how we evaluate our own lives and being.

Read my full review of the book here.

17. The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey

We all love zombie films and stories, but handling the genre successfully is another matter. It’s hard to find a new spin on such popular genres these days when premises around zombies, vampires, and dystopian futures (to name a few) are so largely recycled. But that’s exactly what The Girl with All the Gifts manages to do.

Quite ambiguous in its premise at the start, it takes the story a while to open up for us to really understand what kind of future we are a part of and whose side we should be taking. What The Girl with All the Gifts does differently is that we don’t know whether our central character is a protagonist or antagonist, and the world could very easily come to an end at any point.

Read my full review of the book here.

18. The Hogwarts Library: Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them by J.K. Rowling

Review to come.

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19. The Hogwarts Library: The Tales Of Beedle The Bard by J.K. Rowling

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20. The Hogwarts Library: Quidditch Through The Years by J.K. Rowling

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21. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Written 30 years ago now, Diana Wynne Jones creates an old-fashioned kind of fantasy full of adventure. With wizards, demons, magic spells, and moving castles, Howl’s Moving Castle is an original and imaginative story that certainly takes you on a journey or two.

Whilst not a familiar fairy tale, the story of Sophie and Howl very much feels like one at times with its emphasis on morals and exploration of relationships but, on the other hand, it also feels much more adult, being filled with a lot of humour, brilliantly complex characters, and many secrets to be revealed.

Read my full review of the book here.

22. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

Told in the first person by Patrick Bateman, American Pyscho is a detailed narrative account of the repetitiveness of everyday life – from getting dressed in the morning, to going to work, to eating out and aimlessly getting through they year – combined with intensely detailed scenes of sex, torture, and murder.

Beginning as a repetitive sequence of Bateman’s outings with his colleagues at new and ‘hip’ restaurants and clubs, meeting ‘hard body’ girls, snorting coke in the toilets, talking about designer clothes and the celebrities they bump into, returning to work the next day only to see who can afford the better-designed business card, we are soon interrupted by episodes of psychopathic violence.

Read my full review of the book here.

23. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

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