This was a huge year for books, after many years of sitting comfortably in the fiction section of my favorite bookstores, I slowly ventured into the non-fiction aisle. Yes! I have finally graduated from my non-fiction slump. In fact I was able to pick up quite a lot this year, still mostly about history but there were a few surprises here and there along the way. From good books to the bad, I round up all the books I’ve read, some reviewed, and some still being read for this year. In the second part of my three part year in review series, let’s take a look back some of the best books I’ve read this 2016.
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- The Good German and Leaving Berlin by Joseph Kanon– this and Joseph Kanon’s other book, Leaving Berlin were not the best reads this 2016. In fact, it wasn’t so good that I completely forgot the plot and only remembered snippets of it. The two novels take place in post-war Berlin, a mystery and a missing person set off the story, where the protagonists have to weave in and out of early Cold War politics and the fragmentation of Berlin by the victorious countries. In the end, if you see these two books, steer clear from it, these are just really long and boring novels.
- Me Before You by Jojo Moyes – were it not for the novel’s trailer I would have never noticed this book by Jojo Moyes. A tear-inducing fatal love story of simple girl Lou and socialite but paralyzed Will. Me Before You is a story of how the two found meaning and a world of adventure through their witty conversations and adventures.
- Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden – I picked this book up during our long layover in Changi. The cover and the blurb was very interesting: Shin, a young boy, does not know about the world beyond the fences of Camp 14. Shin is a political prisoner in North Korea’s infamous camp and this book chronicles his life, from his earliest memories up to his reintroduction to modern society after his harrowing escape. It is at times a story that is terrifying but also filled with hope.
- Disney War by James B. Stewart – when news broke that Disney chief, Bob Iger, would continue on as chief executive of the world’s happiest company, I decided it was time to read the much hyped- Disney War by James Stewart. Set in the 1980s and spanning up to the early 2000s, Disney War covers the boardroom politics of infamous CEO Michael Eisner and how he single handedly brought triumph and near ruin to the House of Mouse.
- Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Smith – fresh from his YA novel, Forgive me, Leonard Peacock, Matthew Smith reels us back into his world of philosophical but angst-driven teenagers in book about finding that book that changes your perspective of the world.
- Eating Vietnam: Dispatches from a Blue Plastic Table by Graham Holliday – Having read Ivan Ramen the previous year, I couldn’t get enough of books about food. Graham Holliday’s culinary journey into Vietnam was an exciting and educational read. His accounts put readers into the thick of it all, squatting on low stools while smelling the aromatic fragrances of fried food or the rich stewing broth being ladled into a beautiful bowl of pho. This book had it all and it was an enjoyable read.
- Democracy by Alecos Papadatos – This graphic novel by Alecos Papadatos was a breath of fresh air in all my political science readings. Simply because it was in comic form and it made such a huge concept simple. Democracy follows the namesake form of government from its early beginnings in Greece to its adoption after a series of political upheavals. Though exciting at first, the comic becomes bogged down by names and a very boring storyline, great art but not something worth investing on.
- Halina Filipina by Arnold Arre – I borrowed this graphic novel from Tricia after she finished reading it. A beautiful story about balikbayans learning or relearning Filipino culture.
- Harry Potter and The Cursed Child by Jack Thorne and J.K. Rowling – the book that set the world on fire. Despite not being an actual novel, anything with the names Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling will surely bring any Potterphile to their knees. Set decades after the last novel, a new generation of Potters, Weasleys, and Malfoys take center stage and revisit the Wizarding World that we know and love so well.
- Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick – after Escape from Camp 14, comes another book on North Korea. This time, I follow the lives of three different people and how they lived and eventually escaped the oppression of the Kim regime.
- The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore – A historical fiction detailing the fight between AC and DC, Westinghouse versus Tesla. An exciting thriller set at the turn of the century, I learned everything I needed to know about the two different currents. Last Days of Night was a true page turner and shouldn’t be missed.
- Nimona by Noelle Stevenson – a cute but very deep and insightful comic based on the popular series by Noelle Stevenson. Nimona is a shapeshifter who helps her boss, the “evil” Sir Blackheart destroy or undermine the kingdom that wronged him. Despite my apprehensions reading a YA graphic novel, this was a cool surprise and a lovely read. It had no pretenses and was just straightforward in its story.
- Daredevil Yellow by Jeph Loeb – after reading Daredevil: The Man Without Fear and watching the highly-acclaimed online series, Yellow was a letdown. It did not advance the story much or build on the mythos of who Daredevil is. It had rehashed an already solid backstory done by Frank Miller. This was not Jeph Loeb’s finer works, considering I am coming from Batman Long Halloween as his gold standard. Nevertheless, it is a graphic novel worth revisiting and adding to the Daredevil foundations collection.
- The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone – This is my last entry for the year and I believe, at the pace I am going, my first for 2017. The Everything Store is everything Amazon and Jeff Bezos, the two are impossible to pry apart and reading about my favorite online store is really fun.
Of course this year isn’t immaculately clean, I had a few books along the way that I dropped. Here are a few of them that I am adding to my “dropped books” pile.
- Hiroshima Nagasaki by Paul Ham – a technical account of how the Americans built the first atomic bomb and the politics behind Japan’s surrender and the selection of the two cities out of many. I reached about 300 pages into the book when I couldn’t fathom anymore technicalities.
- A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson – along with Escape from Camp 14, I was excited to read this highly acclaimed novel. However my mind kept on wandering and unable to keep up with the dialogue in the first 20 or so pages. I tried, I honestly did but Kate Atkinson didn’t love me as much.
- The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro – the premise was interesting, medieval Europe, an old couple, a journey. It was simple as that but I found the story dragging and not as exciting as Never Let Me Go.