2016: Reflecting on my year in reading

As I was reflecting on 2016, I was surprised when I realized I read 12 books for fun over the course of the year. It felt like a very action-packed year for me, so I did not think I would be productive on the fun reading front, but here I am! Every single book I read was also pretty amazing, so I wanted to share them.

If any of these books sounds appealing to you, just let me know and I will lend you a copy if I have it. Also, if you have any book recommendations, please share them with me! Anyway, here are the books I read in 2016, in the order that I finished them:

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall: While I was training for The Cherry Blossom 10-Miler and The Tar Heel 10-Miler (two races that were about two weeks apart in April), I read this while I biked (for my training, I usually run every other day and bike on my off days). It was one of those books that just lights your soul on fire with excitement. Running is one of my passions — it has been since I started running cross country in high school — so to read about people who embody a love of running and can run 150 miles was awe-inspiring. McDougall is an incredible writer, and I also loved learning about how running related to evolution, and how we really are all born to run. And after finishing the book, I got to meet Scott Jurek when he spoke at my sister’s high school over spring break, which was amazing. If you have ever run in your life and even moderately enjoyed it, you will fall in love with this book.

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin: Game of Thrones is by far my favorite TV show, so when my friend recommended the book, I decided to try it out. I have since read the entire series without throwing any of the books out the window (though I had a few close calls). The first book mostly just made me heartbroken over Ned Stark’s death all over again. Still, if you are a fan of the show you will love these books.

A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin: My memory on this book is a little fuzzy, but if I am right this is the happiest of the books in the series (not that that means much). All the rebellions are starting, but the ending of these rebellions is ambiguous, so it is relatively optimistic. Also, Tyrion is really fun to read about, because he is the master.

A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin: This is the book in the series where pretty much everyone dies. So if you have grown emotionally attached to any characters, just wait. This one is the hardest to resist the urge to throw out the window.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini: I read this book in two days (it was one of my sister’s summer reading books that I stole… Sorry, Jane). The way that some of the characters in this book suffer is haunting. But it tells a moving story about loss, forgiveness and atonement. I think what makes the story so good is its complexity. I found myself hating Amir, then coming to love and forgive him.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker: This is quite possibly the greatest book I have ever read. I don’t cry over fiction stories (I have only cried in one movie, though I have teared up in other movies/books), but the last three to four chapters of this book had me sobbing. Then, when I started to talk to my sister about it, I would start crying again. Alice Walker crafted the most perfect ending I have ever read, down to the tiniest details. And the book follows some truly amazing women (Celie is one of my favorite characters of all time). If you have not read this yet, stop what you are doing right now and go freaking read it! (I can’t lend you a copy, though, because this is the other one of Jane’s summer reading books that I stole (sorry Wheebs)).

A Feast For Crows by George R.R. Martin: This was probably my least favorite of the series, simply because for this book, George R.R. Martin had so much to say that he split the book into two, so A Feast for Crows has all the characters in King’s Landing/Westeros, while the second part, A Dance with Dragons, has all the characters in Essos and on the wall, leaving this book to contain only two story lines that I really liked (Arya’s and Dorne’s). With some exceptions, the rest of the chapters were mostly characters that I considered either evil or annoying. Still, Martin is an exceptional writer, so I still enjoyed the book.

Racing Home: New Stories by Award-Winning North Carolina Writers edited by Sharlene Baker: These short stories were all fascinating reads, mainly because none offered a perfect resolution to the conflict presented. The stories challenged my thinking in different ways and followed compelling characters, and I enjoyed getting a feel for some contemporary North Carolina writing. Also, it was really nice to be able to read a short story or two when I had free time between classes. If you want to read a book but you don’t think you have time for it, I would recommend giving this one a try.

Shakespeare’s Sonnets by William Shakespeare: If you recall my bucket list from the fall, I wanted to read all of Shakespeare’s sonnets by the end of the semester, by reading two per night. Well, I did it! I highly recommend. Shakespeare is a beautiful writer (obviously), and it was a really relaxing way to end my day. I am going to start doing nightly poetry reading on a more regular basis.

A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin: There were some pretty epic story lines in the final book of the series thus far (sorry for the spoiler, but Danaerys rides a dragon!! It’s sick!). It was epic, and I now have some interesting theories as to what George R.R. Martin will throw our way next. I will say, however, that some of the chapters are very painful to read. Ramsay is way worse in the books, and some of the deaths that take place are particularly heinous. Again, if you are emotionally attached to any of the characters, be wary. This was the second hardest book to resist the urge to throw.

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis: What was so great about this book was the way C.S. Lewis breaks down even the most confusing things about Christianity, so that these concepts make sense (or make more sense). How can God be three Beings and one at the same time? How does God listen to millions of prayers at the same time? How do we still have free will if God knows everything that’s we’re going to do in the future? If you are a Christian, or you are curious about how Christianity works, this book is extremely helpful. I am still confused by some stuff (Lewis explains that we won’t be able to understand everything about God, because He is beyond our world and imagination), but I feel like I have a much better understanding about Christianity because of this book.

Missoula by Jon Krakauer: This book discusses the college rape epidemic as it occurred in Missoula, Montana (home of the University of Montana) between 2008 and 2012. It was infuriating. These women are subjected to horror and severe trauma when they are raped, and then the battle for justice brings even more cruel treatment. Furthermore, the survivors were blamed for their trauma when, in reality, it could happen to anyone. The most terrifying thing is that Missoula is not an anomaly — as Jon Krakauer points out, it is just like any other college town. I am so grateful to my mom for giving me this book. You need to read it, especially if you are in college.

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