The last books of 2016

I set myself the challenge of reading 27 books for my 27th year on Planet Earth. Well, I far surpassed that and ended up reading a crazy amount this year. As the end of the year is now here and the new reading goals of 2017 are drawing closer I thought that I would bring the books of 2016 to a close. Now, there are quite a few of them so I’m going to try and keep the reviews as short as I possibly can.

Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

Fiction/Young Adult/Mental Health

“We don’t have to reveal everything to each other. It’s OK to be private. It’s OK to say no. It’s OK to say, ‘I’m not going to share that.”

finding-audrey

I read this in one sitting on the flight back from Los Angeles to London. I really loved it and it is a crazy good YA book that all teenagers should read. It is about mental health, bullying and the impact that it can have on young people, especially girls. I loved it!

The Girl On the Train by Paula Hawkins

Fiction/Thriller/Mystery/Crime

“I have never understood how people can blithely disregard the damage they do by following their hearts.”

Now lets talk about a book that has a lot of hype. I didn’t read this as quickly as I did Gone Girl and I didn’t enjoy it as much either. It took me a month to get through and I predicted the ending quite early on. The film was alright. Not fabulous but an enjoyable watch- although I hated how they moved it away from a London suburb and moved it to expensive mansions in New York- STOP. IT. HOLLYWOOD!

Writing my Wrongs: Life, Death and Redemption in An American Prison by Shaka Senghor

Non Fiction/Politics/Memoir/Human Rights 

“I’m a human being who grew up in some unfortunate circumstances and made some poor decisions. I refuse to allow that to define me for the rest of my ife. I just refuse to allow that to dictate what I can and cannot do.”

writing-my-wrongs

This book is one of the greatest that I have read this year! I have always been hugely interested in the American Prison system and I adored this hard hitting insight into it. Shaka is a man that I greatly respect and I can’t wait to find our more about him. If you are interested in Human Rights, education and an inspiring personal story then this book is for you! A right cracker.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flannigan

Fiction/Historical/War

“He believed books had an aura that protected him, that without one beside him he would die. He happily slept without women. He never slept without a book.”

LOVED IT! A fully deserving prize winner. No book has made me cry so much, at times I had to give myself breaks from the horror of the story but at the same I couldn’t put it down at all. I loved reading a story about the relationships of people and human resilience.

Girl Up by Laura Bates

Nonfiction/Feminism

“A slut isn’t a person, it’s in the eye of the beholder. Like beauty, or an annoying eyelash. We decide who a girl is based on something she’s done (or even just rumoured to have done) and then brand her with it as if it’s a permanent part of her identity. Guys, on the other hand, get to wear their relationships and ‘conquests’ like medals or badges of honour, which are much easier to take off, and hurt a lot less.”

girl-up-9781471149504_hr

Now this is a book that all women, old and young, must read. All fathers of daughters should read it too. I have used it to add to the lessons on sexual assault, rape and consent to the 16 year old girls that I teach and they have all ran to the bookshop to pick up their own copy too. It has created some important discussions and it is serious without losing an ounce of humour. Laura Bates is one of my biggest heroes!

The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson

Fiction/YoungAdult/LGBTQ+

“Normal is such a stupid word,” says Leo. “What does it even mean?”

What a gorgeous book and how refreshing to find some YA fiction that has transgender youths at its centre. I read this super quickly and really loved the duel narrative and how it handles such important themes such as: sexuality, gender identity, bullying, family relationships, poverty and abandonment. It made me feel angry, it made me feel overwhelmed with joy. Pick it up!

The Promise of a Pencil by Adam Braun

Nonfiction/Business/Education/Memoir/Charity

“Your life should be a story you are excited to tell.”

An inspiring read from Adam who set up the POP charity. At times it left me frustrated but warmed my heart to read about a man who got off his butt and did something to improve life for other people.

The Vegetarian by Han Kang

Fiction/Contemporary/Mental Health

“I want to swallow you, have you melt into me and flow through my veins.”

Man this is an odd book. I enjoyed reading a short story and read it in its entirety whilst at the spa with my mum. Not your usual spa read but I was excited to read it and was left really disappointed. It is written in 3 parts- from the point of view of three different characters. Part 2 and 3 are hugely more successful than the first. Part 1 was terrible. It was an interesting look at mental health but other than that I can’t say that I enjoyed it at all. Give it a miss!

Thrive by Adrianna Huffington

Nonfiction/Business/Self Help/Mental Health

“Have you notices that when we die, our eulogies celebrate our lives very differently from the way society defines success?”

thrive-book-cover

I read this after the Headmistress at my school recommended it to me. Its great and refreshing to read a woman who achieved great things remind us all that we sometimes need to say no, take regular breaks, and make yourself the priority…would probs be a little easier to do if I had her bank balance too!

 

Man there is still a lot of books to review. I need to make them shorter!

 

Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard

Fiction/Young Adult/Friendship

“But people we love come and go, Caddy. That doesn’t mean we loved them any less at the time.”

Another YA book and fabulous to read a story about the friendship of girls rather than teenage love interests. Thumbs up for being set in Brighton too. It really is refreshing (how many times can I use that word in a blog post) to read so many YA books based on teenage mental health. I wish this was the case when I was growing up!

Positive Education: Geelong Grammer School

Nonfiction/Education/Positive Psychology

Only those interested in education and positive psychology would be interested in this gem of a book. It has completely changed how I approach my teaching. Hit me up if you want more of a review on this and I will do it privately for you as very few people will be interested, although they should be!

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Fiction/Contemporary/Suspense

“And the flavor of Pippa’s kiss–bittersweet and strange–stayed with me all the way back uptown, swaying and sleepy as I sailed home on the bus, melting with sorrow and loveliness, a starry ache that lifted me up above the windswept city like a kite: my head in the rainclouds, my heart in the sky.”

the-goldfinch-by-donna-tartt

This book has received really mixed reviews but I really loved it and never before have I read a 900 page book in 4 days! Fast paced, funny, heartbreaking but with a really weak ending. Would make a fabulous film.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Nonfiction/Writing/Self Help

“Be the weirdo who dares to enjoy.”

What a pile of rubbish this book is. Sorry Elizabeth but what was your actual message? What did you want me to take away from reading this. Crap! Don’t pick it up unless you like fluffy nonsense!

Mind Your Head by Juno Dawson

Nonfiction/Young Adult/Mental Health

YES JUNO DAWSON! My first of two books by Juno and yet another book on teenage mental health…can you guess what I teach? To the point, honest and funny, Juno delivers a sucker punch of a book that should be taught in every school around the country. Pure brilliance!

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Fiction/Romance

“He smelt of the sun, as if it had seeped deep into his skin, and I found myself inhaling silently, as if he were something delicious.”

I read this at yet another spa trip with my darling mother and couldn’t put it down. I read the whole thing from start to finish in one sitting and sobbed when I got to the end. I am sure that you have all heard of this one and most will have probably read it. Watched the film two days ago too and sobbed again. I’m in touch with my emotions!

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Fiction/Historical/War/Culture

“…my point is that the only authentic identity for the African is the tribe…I am Nigerian because a white man created Nigeria and gave me that identity. I am black because the white man constructed black to be as different as possible from his white. But I was Igbo before the white man came.”

new-yellow-sun

This is without a doubt one of the best books that I have ever read and Chimamanda has fully cemented herself as my favourite author. I just can’t believe that I only have two books of hers left to read! If you are able to read this book without drowning in your tears then you are a stronger person than I am! It is heartbreaking, truthful and raw. It doesn’t try to hide the different narrators pain and that allows you as a reader to completely buy into the book. YES!

The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman

Fiction/Romance/Historical

“You only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day, every day. You have to keep remembering all the bad things.”

I read this as I was going to see it at the cinema but when I had finished reading it (after 3 days of reading) it was no longer at the cinema. An easy, sweet story that yes, made me cry again. Waiting for it to come out on DVD!

This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson

Nonfiction/LGBTQ+/Self Help/Young Adult

“However you identify, be it lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, asexual, curious, or carrot, we all have something in common—we are a minority, and we have made brave steps to identify as such; we have refused to hide and made a declaration of who we are.”

The second of the Juno Dawson books in this pile of reviews. This book gave me hope that we are starting to get there with LGBTQ+ rights, that we are beginning to address the overwhelmingly scary issues and problems that these young people face. I have been able to use this book in a lot of my teaching and it has made me more determined then ever to create a more LGBTQ+ friendly school.

The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan

Fiction/Short Novel

“Girls can wear jeans and cut their hair short and wear shirts and boots because it’s okay to be a boy; for girls it’s like promotion. But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading, according to you, because secretly you believe that being a girl is degrading.”

A short story that is twisted, dark and utterly fab! I love McEwan but this is him writing in a tone that I have not read of his before. Completely draws you in. Read this in a few hours!

HeadSpace by Andy Puddicombe

Nonfiction/Mental Health/Mindfulness

“When it comes to meditation, though, the goal and the journey are the same thing.”

Yet another book to do with mental health! Andy is the brain behind HeadSpace- the meditation app that I use everyday. I loved reading more about his philosophy, brand and ideas. If you are new to mindfulness then this book would be a great place to start. I have been researching into it for years so feel as if I already knew most of it!

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

Fiction/Historical/Classic

“O God, make me good, but not yet.”

brideshead

A complete classic…makes mental note to read more classics as I really do love them. Evelyn Waugh seduced me with her prose, energy to lost youth and dreams and the glamour of the between war setting.

How To Be Parisian by Anne Berest

Nonfiction/Fashion/Lifestyle

“Enjoy the face you have today. It’s the one you’ll wish you have ten years from now.”

This book did the rounds on blogs a year or two ago and it has been sat on my bookshelf for a while as I really can’t read anything that is ‘doing the rounds’. I’m glad that I waited and I didn’t treat this like a bible…as some do…it is tongue in cheek and I adore its humour.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Fiction/Dystopia

“People were always getting ready for tomorrow. I didn’t believe in that. Tomorrow wasn’t getting ready for them. It didn’t even know they were there.”

With not an ounce of humour in it, The Road is bleak, stark and powerful. I loved the focus being on a farther and son and of course I cried at the ending…I always do!

Late Fragments by Kate Gross

Nonfiction/Memoir

If I thought I cried whilst reading The Road I full on sobbed throughout this autobiography. Kate was unfortunaley diagnosed with cancer and wrote this book before she passed away for her two twin sons to read when they were older. How brave it must be to dedicate your last few days to leaving such a beautiful legacy behind.

The Full Spectrum by David Levithan & Billy Merrell

Nonfiction/LGBTQ+/Short Stories

A picture of poetry, short stories, diary entries and letters written by LGBTQ+ youths. I adored its honesty and was completely shocked at how much religion still impacts how LGBTQ+ people are treated and how it can make them view themselves. I guess this shouldn’t be shocking but as a complete non-religious folk it is sometimes important to be reminded!

Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegi

Fiction/Mystery

“Some families are so sick, so twisted, the only way out is for someone to die.”

eileen

A part of me adored this book a part of me hated it. It was impossible to like any of characters in it but I liked the way that Moshfegh kept the suspense throughout the novel and I kind of liked hating the characters. It made a nice change. I will read whatever the author does next as it was different to anything else that I have read this year so far!

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

Fiction/Young Adult/Mental Health/Romance

“It’s about the important things, like the way their face lights up when they laugh, or the way they move as they’re walking towards you, or the way their freckles create a map of the stars.”

This is the last book that I read in 2016 and finishing this meant that I read 50 books in a year which was my Goodreads target. I couldn’t have asked to end the reading year on such a charming book. It is about a girl called Libby- America’s largest teen and a boy called Jack who has his own illnesses to combat. The story is charming and once again Jennifer Niven brings young adult’s mental health to the forefront of her storytelling.


 

So there you have it. I applaud you if you have made it to the end! If you have comment down below saying that you did and if you have read/want to read any of these books below. Book blogging is how I started blogging and is something that I want to start doing more of again. It has killed me a little writing almost 3000 words in one big blog post that I know not many people will read so I think that I will do a new post every other month updating people on what I have read as I know people do enjoy these posts and it will give me time, room and more of your patience to write more words and more indepth reviews!

What’s been your favourite book of 2016? Let me know! I am dying to check them out.

Sophie x

Other 2016 book posts that you may enjoy:

27 BOOKS: 1-11

27 BOOKS: 12-27

27 BOOKS: THE EXTRA ONES

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