As 2016 winds down, I wanted to reflect on my first year of running Leslie’s Bookcase.
I started my new website and blog on June 1, 2016. I planned to read and write about the books already sitting in my own bookcase. Well, as it turns out, 1) many of those books had been sitting there so long for a reason – because I wasn’t too excited about reading them; and 2) thanks to my new status as a “book blogger” I received access to some pre-releases. Well, this access resulted in my being super excited about reading new books (instead of the ones sitting in my bookcase), so I continued through 2016 reading mostly new releases.
To wrap up 2016, I decided to rank my favorite books published in the past year. Disclaimers: I have not read even close to all of the books that should be considered for such a list; I have not even made it through my fall-winter reading list yet. If my full-time job was to read books I would probably have a much different list! But, I read what I read, making a good effort to keep up with the buzz and what books most interested me.
To narrow to my five favorites, I imagined all of the new books I’ve read on a shelf, and if I was allowing myself to only keep five, what would they be? Which books would I be most confident handing to someone else and saying, “Here, read this”? With that said, here are my favorites from 2016:
Eligible: A Novel is “A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice.”
This does not – as I initially assumed – mean it will remind you of Pride and Prejudice like the way The Tea Planters Wife reminded me of Rebecca (at first anyway); the characters and plot of this new book are literally modeled after Pride and Prejudice.
This book is part of the Austen Project, which pairs six bestselling contemporary authors with Jane Austen’s six complete works.
RELATED POST: Emma and my love of the Norton Critical Edition
In this modern retelling, set in Cincinnati, Mrs. Bennet remains overbearing and super annoying about wanting all of her daughters, especially the older two, married yesterday. Bingley is a doctor who recently appeared on a reality dating show called Eligible, which is obviously modeled after the Bachelor (a super fun plot for me because I admit I am a fan!).
And instead of obsessing over handwritten letters as everybody figures everything out, this modern version, of course, uses text messages.
So does it work?
Literary cameos in HBO’s “The Night Of”
“Survival in here is all about your alliances….Those husky dogs knew that.” – Freddy from HBO’s popular new series “The Night Of” in reference to Jack London’s Call of the Wild
I get really excited when I see references to literature (or intertextuality) usefully inserted into an already great story line – it makes me pause, rewind, quote, and blog. So here goes:
If you are not watching HBO’s new drama “The Night Of” I STRONGLY recommend it (no serious spoilers here).
I want to reflect on a scene from episode 4 that offers some fascinating literary cameos when Naz, a soft-spoken university student who is in prison awaiting a trial for murder, meets with Freddy, a smooth, smart, and powerful longtime inmate who is essentially running the prison.
First, Freddie “educates” Naz on the “two most popular books in the prison library.”
I can count on one hand the number of books that gripped me the way All the Missing Girls just did. I read this mystery/thriller over three evenings/late nights, wishing I could clear my schedule to finish it sooner. So, consider this a warning to plan accordingly.
First I should address the structure. After an introduction to set the scene, the story line is presented backwards. Each day for two weeks is presented as a chapter labeled as “the day before.” As the days unfold, or fold?, the details are filled in. This structure may seem gimmicky or confusing, but I can assure you it works well and provides a reading experience rarely equaled.
“If you would tell me the heart of a man, tell me not what he reads, but what he re-reads.” – Francois Mauriac
Lately I have been reading books I feel like I SHOULD read. Granted I have enjoyed parts of them, am glad I am reading them, BUT are they books that draw me back towards them every hour of the day until I finish the last page? Are they books I will want to read again someday? Unfortunately, NO.
With this in mind, yesterday I wondered longingly over to my bookcases and pulled out these seven books that I not only enjoyed and could not put down, but that I would love to (or already have) re-read:
The only books I generally check out of the library – for myself – are “walk-by grabs.” This means I grab the book off the shelf while chasing two preschoolers to the kids’ section.
Using this precarious selection method, I ended up with a cookbook titled Skinny Italian.
For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been living in two worlds: my usual world, of course, the one with the two lively preschoolers, and another world, the one of 15th century England, with its restless struggles for not only a kingdom’s power but its respect.
Many a night I escaped into this second world of Philippa Gregory’s The White Princess, but it is historical fiction rather than escapist literature. For one, this second world is much more stressful than my own world and not really a situation in which I’d want to live: A nice girl, with whom I can somehow relate even though she is born a princess, falls in love with a king (who I think may have also been her uncle but I’m still not totally clear on this), is forced to marry the new king who killed the king/lover/uncle, ends up loving the new king and having his children, and then has to worry about an invasion by her long-lost brother. Because kings with little support still have no intention of giving up their power, it’s really a no-win situation for her – either her husband dies or her brother dies.