2016 Reading in Review: My Top 3 Books

2016 ended up being an interesting year of reading. Like previous years, I set a goal to read 52 books—one for each week. In that regard, I failed miserably with a mere 21. Between going back to work, being exhausted and sick for 9 months, moving across country, and then having a newborn at home, I just fell short. But it wasn’t a total bust because I broadened my horizons and explored a new format: the graphic novel.

I have attempted to read graphic novels in the past, but found them frustrating. Text heavy panels made the art feel secondary and sluggish. I felt like I spent so much time reading the text that I would only do a cursory glance at the images before moving forward. Simply put, the text was the driving force in the storytelling, which is fine if I am reading a novel, but why have the artwork? Clearly, I hadn’t been reading the right graphic novels.

This year, I discovered a number of graphic novels that had a perfect balance of text and art. In my opinion, a good graphic novel is a lot like a good picture book. All of the fat is trimmed off of the text so that the artwork is able to progress the story just as much, if not more, than the words. In most of the graphic novels I read this year, the text in each panel was necessary to drive the story forward, but allowed the artwork to shine and also further the plot. One graphic novel* even made my top 3 books for the year.

So, without further ado, here’s Becky’s Top 3 Books Read in 2016

Honorable Mention—Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance

Normally, my reading preferences are strictly fiction. I am slightly embarrassed to say I do not remember the last nonfiction book I read before this one. Hillbilly Elegy is a memoir of a Yale Law School graduate who grew up in Appalachia and later moved when his family attempted to escape the poverty of the region.

Hillbilly Elegy resonated with me because I saw my own family is Vance’s family. I grew up in Appalachia and my family moved to Florida for many of the same reasons Vance’s family moved to the Rust Belt. And, like him, the Appalachian culture followed my family when we moved. While the book doesn’t present any solutions to the problems facing Appalachian families, it does give insight into a group that is oft-times mistakenly looked down upon and disregarded as a bunch of illiterate hillbillies.

#3—The Casquette Girls by Alys Arden

I stumbled across The Casquette Girls by accident while perusing the new Prime Reading on Amazon. I knew nothing about the book and borrowed it on a whim. My biggest problem-not-problem with the book is that I did not know that it was the 1st in a series when I started reading—and the next book in the series doesn’t come out until May! It is a Southern Gothic set in New Orleans after a massive hurricane demolishes the landscape. I especially enjoyed how Arden weaves New Orleans history into the story. This could have easily been my top choice for the year.

#2—The October Faction—Steve Niles and Damien Worm

So here’s the graphic novel* that made the list.  I loved this! The October Faction is Indiana Jones if he was a monster hunter instead of an archaeologist and if his family was the Addams Family instead of Sean Connery. The artwork is fantastically creepy. Honestly, I debated with making this my top choice of the year, it was that good. I guess I am just a sucker for good horror, and this one fits the bill. I already have The October Faction: Deadly Season (the next story arc) on order at my local comic book shop.

*To be fair, this is a comic book series but I am looking at the entire story arc—and the subsequent compiled volumes—as a completed, stand alone, work.*

#1—Shutter by Courtney Alameda

I picked this book up because it was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award and I am glad that I did! I love a fresh take on things that are overdone and Alameda really succeeds in adding some new twists to her paranormal tale. Shutter is a ghost hunter story where the ghosts are exorcised when their energy is captured on film. How incredibly inventive is that?! I can look past mediocre writing if the ideas in the book are highly original. Thankfully, this book was both unique and well written. Since Shutter was so enjoyable, I hope to read a few more from the Bram Stoker Awards list this coming year.

While I didn’t hit 52 books, I feel like I still had a successful year of reading. Below is a short summary of my reading goals for 2017.

  • Read 52 books total
  • Read 4 nonfiction books
  • Read 8 graphic novels
  • Read 4 books in genres that I do not usually read
  • Read 4 books originally written in a non-English speaking country

What are your reading goals for 2017? Let me know in the comments below!

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