It has been a very quiet year when it comes to this website. I began a new career path last year, and it took up much of my focus. I hope in the future to be able to post more regularly, now that I am somewhat established in that sector of my life.
Nevertheless, though I did not read as much this past year as the two prior, I still accrued a modest number of books and wish to share my favorites.
5: David Copperfield
A Christmas Carol aside (since I’ve acted in it twice, but I do sincerely think it holds a different kind of standing, kind of like how Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You is treated as its own thing in comparison to the rest of her catalogue) – A Christmas Carol aside, I hadn’t actually ever read any Charles Dickens. I figured he would be one of those prototypical authors who, although good for their day, were wasteful with words and made thick books for English Majors to slog through painfully to prove they know literature. Not so. It was quite humorous, the plot progressed at a good pace, and the characters were phenomenal. I fully expect to Mr. Dickens to appear again in these lists at some point.
Anyone who knows me will be surprised to see a nonfiction book on this list, because I rarely read them. I am incredibly thankful I prioritized this one though. I’ve always loved Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast, Revisionist History and the book did not let me down one bit. It was fascinating, thought-provoking, perspective-shifting, and well-written to boot. Some of the case studies everyone would benefit learning from, like how a relationship’s success can be determined by the amount of disdain shown on the faces of partners in a 15-minute argument. The more I think about it, the more I wonder if I should’ve rated it even higher…
3: Vanity Fair
William Makepeace Thackery manages to accomplish a lot in his book. First off, I was lucky enough to have a version that includes some of his original illustrations, which Thackery did himself (and was nearly hired by Dickens for one of his, funny enough). These are definitely worth having. But even if you don't get them, the text itself is full of wit, memorable characters who are both preposterous and as human as possible, and phenomenal foils that end up displaying all the different ways each of us fall prey to vanity and act out roles in public. More than any other book I read this year, this inspired me the most to incorporate into future writing. I am clearly not the only one either, because while reading it I could clearly see the influences it had on War and Peace, Harry Potter, and…
2: Jane Eyre
I was fearful going into this one, simply because I was not the greatest fan of Charlotte Brönte's sister’s book, Wuthering Heights. Jane Eyre, though, is a well-told story with powerful characters. And to enhance it even further, make sure to read Wide Sargasso Sea after, since it involves several of the same characters, but from a totally modern and fresh perspective. (Although it didn’t make this year’s cut, it’s an astounding example of building on the shoulders of greatness, like Faulkner does with Absalom, Absalom! in response to his own The Sound and the Fury.) Remarkably fresh and modern for its age, it convinced me halfway through this year to delve into more British literature.
1: Henderson the Rain King –
I did not realize I loved picaresque novels until this year. I was highly amused by The Golden Ass in my Roman History class, adored A Confederacy of Dunces, and a quick view into the last two years of these lists attests to my appreciation for The White Tiger and Don Quixote. This year, I doubled down and read several more picaresque novels. Henderson, however, came out on top. The writing was so delicious and the humor so striking that it reminded me of Nabokov and Roth. I wouldn’t say I learned much about Africa at all through reading it. Instead I saw a bumbling man trying to understand himself and figure out how to stop destroying everything around him. For example, to help a village get rid of frogs, he blows up an entire pond. Who can’t relate to disastrous consequences arising from the best of intentions?