2016 was an epic year of reading. I typically read 50-60 books each year. This year I read more than I ever have – 79 books (31,293 pages).
The more I read, the more I want to read. Finishing a good book with thought provoking ideas and interesting characters makes me want to find another one like it.
When I tell people how much I read, they usually assume that I spend all my free time reading. That couldn’t be further from the truth. There were times this year that I couldn’t put a book down and spent a few hours on a weekend reading. There are always nights when I stay up later than I should to finish a chapter. But it’s amazing how much you can read if you just read a little every day.
Part of my nightly ritual is to read 20-30 minutes before bed. This is one of my favorite times to read. It always feels like my treat for finishing the day. I read when I have a few minutes of free time at lunch during the work week.
Thanks to technology, I always have a book with me on my Kindle or using the Kindle app on my iPhone. Instead of being annoyed when people are late, I read. I read when waiting in a long line. I read when I’m waiting for the ski lifts to open, when I’m traveling alone for work, on airplanes, at the pool, etc. I’m addicted to my Kindle and use it to check out most of the books I read from the library.
I listened to more audiobooks this year, which might account for my increase in reading. I still prefer reading to listening and comprehend more when reading. For that reason, I prefer to listen to books that tell a story (historical or fiction). I listen while cooking, getting ready for work in the morning, riding my bike, driving.
Little by little, I end up reading a lot. But I also exercise, ski, bike, watch tv, knit, play video games and have a full time job. So sadly I’m not a full time reader 😉
At the beginning of 2016, I decided I would write a little about every book I read. I had in mind a full book review, but that was far too ambitious. I started off writing a couple longer reviews, but very quickly fell behind and then stopped writing anything. I like the idea of writing a few sentences about the books I read so that I can remember whether I liked them or hated them and what ideas stood out. So I went back through all 79 books and wrote the blurbs below more for me than for anyone else (though it does help when people ask for recommendations!) It took longer than I thought it would even to just write a few sentences for every book. Lesson learned — don’t wait until December to do this next year.
I categorized my reading into a few high level categories. My 10 favorite books this year have an asterisk in the title.
- – Fiction
- – General Non-Fiction
- – History
- – Biography / Autobiography / Memoir
- – Religious
- – Business
- – Skip This Non-Fiction
- – Skip This Fiction
KRISTIN LAVRANSDATTER by Sigrid Undset
I bought this book in the beginning 2015 and didn’t start reading it until Christmas 2015. The length of it seemed daunting (1,168 pages). I finished it in January and really enjoyed the story of a Norwegian woman who lives during the middle ages. When I started reading the book, I didn’t know I would be traveling to Norway yet, but my trip there in May made this book all the more interesting. I found myself constantly thinking of it while driving around the country and visiting medieval stave churches and cities.
THE CIRCLE BY Dave Eggers
This is a dystopian novel about a world where technology rules and runs every aspect of our lives. It reminded me of a modern 1984. The plot is interesting, the characters a little less so, but I mostly liked this for the thought provoking ideas of how technology comes to dominate our lives in unhealthy ways if we aren’t careful.
THE SECRET GARDEN by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The last time I read this book was probably in elementary school. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it again as an adult. I need to reread more of my favorite classics next year.
BROOKLYN by Colm Toibin
Brooklyn was just ok. For me this story lacked depth and the characters were fairly shallow. What bothered me most about the book was the ending that felt abrupt and sudden. The protagonist is far more likable in the movie version, though the movie has a totally different ending than the book. I didn’t hate this one, just didn’t really love it either.
THE NEAPOLITAN NOVELS – MY BRILLIANT FRIEND, THE STORY OF A NEW NAME, THOSE WHO LEAVE AND THOSE WHO STAY, THE STORY OF THE LOST CHILD by Elena Ferrante
I enjoyed this series by the anonymous Italian author. My favorite books were the first and last. The series follows Elena and Lila’s complicated relationship from children as they mature, marry, have children and find careers. The characters can be incredibly frustrating, but the story is rich, complex, intense and well written.
CAREER OF EVIL by Robert Galbraith/JK Rowling
I enjoyed all of JK Rowling’s detective series for adults. She knows how to tell a story and develop flawed, but likable characters. This book sucked me in and I finished it in a weekend.
I AM PILGRIM by Terry Hayes
Hayes is a screenwriter and this thriller feels more like reading a screenplay than reading a book. The plot moves quickly and the book is filled with suspense. It’s a fun read and surprisingly fast for 800+ pages. I had a hard time putting it down and stayed up way too late several nights just to read one more chapter.
INVISIBLE MAN by Ralph Ellison
The nameless narrator of Invisible Man moves through life experiencing intolerance, racism and cultural blindness. As he says in the prologue, “I am an invisible man. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination–indeed, everything and anything except me.” Sadly, many of the racial injustices that existed in 1952 still exist today. I saw the Invisible Man exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago this summer after reading the book. The images and information behind the book were an interesting accompaniment to reading it.
THE SYMPATHIZER by Viet Thanh Nguyen*
This novel won the 2016 Pulitzer for Fiction. The pace moves quickly and the dark comedy is complex, slightly confusing and engrossing. It is unlike any of the other fiction books I read this year and I really enjoyed it.
HOMEGOING by Yaa Gyasi
The book traces the generations of two half sisters, one that was sold into slavery and the other married to a British slaver. One branch of the family stays in Africa while the other is in America. The book spans 300 years of history by telling individual stories of each generation. The stories show the complex roots of racism while telling a beautiful story.
KITCHENS OF THE GREAT MIDWEST by J. Ryan Stradal
I read this one after reading a series of heavy and long books. It is lighthearted and a quick read. It isn’t particularly deep, but I liked the characters and the story.
A MAN CALLED OVE by Fredrik Backman
Just try to read this book and not fall in love with Ove, the curmudgeon. This is a feel good story, charming and lovely.
HANNAH COULTER by Wendell Berry
I love Wendell Berry’s writing. I didn’t like Hannah Coulter quite as much as Jayber Crow. Berry has a gift for words and his characters are inspiring, realistic and deep.
WHAT IS THE WHAT by Dave Eggers*
Based on the true story of a Sudanese Lost Boy, this account is classified as fiction because the refugee telling his story did not know if his memory was accurate or complete enough for a biography. Forced to flee his home as a boy, the protagonist joins other boys on a trek to Ethiopia and lives in a refugee camp before immigrating to the United States. The story is moving and tragic.
ANNE OF GREEN GABLES, ANNE OF AVONLEA by LM Montgomery
Like the Secret Garden, I last read these books in elementary school. I love Anne and her adventures. I need to finish this series next year.
THE GIRL WHO SAVED THE KING OF SWEDEN by Jonas Jonasson
I will use my favorite word to describe this book. It is a farce. [def. a comic dramatic work using buffoonery and horseplay and typically including crude characterization and ludicrously improbable situations.] Jonasson’s writing is whimsical, playful, sarcastic and amusing. I enjoyed reading this lighthearted story.
BEING MORTAL by Atul Gawande*
Gawande writes about modern medicine and its role in end of life care. As a practicing surgeon, he has a unique perspective on the extraordinary efforts taken to keep people alive, even when it seems at odds with giving them a quality of life. Talking about death and the process of aging is uncomfortable, especially for modern Westerners. Because of this, we are unprepared to make difficult decisions for ourselves and our loved ones when they face a terminal illness or simply cannot function as they used to as they age. Though these issues are hard, they are important. Gawande, a practicing physician, shares research, stories from his experience as a doctor and stories from his own relatives to talk about how medicine can comfort and enhance lives, providing not only a good life, but also a good ending.
THE TIGER: A TRUE STORY OF VENGEANCE AND SURVIVAL by John Vaillant*
Someone should make this book into a movie (though I’m sure the book would be better…) The story of a tiger hunt in a remote Siberian village is remarkable. I learned a lot about Tigers (and my misconceptions about where Tigers live). The storytelling in this narrative is extremely well-done. I couldn’t put it down.
SHADOW DIVERS by Robert Kurson*
Shadow Divers follows a group of elite deep sea divers who discover a sunken U-boat off the coast of New Jersey. The mystery they must solve is how to identify the U-boat. The divers risk their lives to find clues. They travel to Germany, research archives of information and become engrossed in their quest to solve the mystery.
THE SPORTS GENE by David Epstein
A scientific exploration of what contributes to the performance of elite athletes. The book debates nature vs. nature and interviews elite Olympians and other athletes with rare genetic conditions or physical traits. Pretty interesting for those who are interested in sports or sports performance.
THE PERFECT PASS by S.C.Gwynne
Football fans will appreciate this history of how football changed from a primarily run-dominated game to the pass-dominated game we see today in modern games. The book focuses on two fairly unknown coaches who revolutionized play calling and strategy in football by deconstructing and rebuilding their approach to the game. You will only like this book if you really understand football.
MODERN ROMANCE by Aziz Ansari
An interesting and often humorous take on the search for love in today’s world of social media and online dating. Ansari has some insightful observations about how our culture approaches romance and he teamed up with a NYU sociologist on a research project to analyze dating behavior around the world.
BETTER THAN BEFORE by Gretchen Rubin
The central question the book asks is: How do we change? How do we form habits that allow us to live happier and healthier lives. The book is practical and has helpful ideas for identifying your tendencies and what motivates you to develop habits.
THE ROAD TO CHARACTER by David Brooks
This one wasn’t very compelling to me. I enjoyed the biographical stories, but didn’t always see how they related to the character traits the author advocates. He seems to confuse cause and effect at times and the arguments are weak.
TRIBE by Sebastian Junger
Junger’s thesis is that modern society is missing connection and lives in an increasingly isolated social context. He believes that humans have strong instincts to belong to small groups or ‘tribes’ and that belonging in these communities is the key to psychological survival. This book is short, but with some thought provoking ideas.
TEAM OF RIVALS by Doris Kearns Goodwin
I have read a few Abraham Lincoln books, but this one is interesting because it focuses on his life as a politician. The book begins describing how he beat three popular rivals to win the presidential nomination and goes on to show how he brought these men into his cabinet as friends and advisors. Much of the book highlights Lincoln’s skills at understanding the motives and desires of those around him and how he was able to use the talents of his cabinet to win the Civil War.
RIVER OF DOUBT by Candice Millard*
This narrative reads like an adventure novel. Theodore Roosevelt searches for an adventure after losing a third-party bid for the White House and ends up on an exploration of a tributary of the Amazon. The story was entirely new to me, but is a fascinating survival story that provides an interesting look into Roosevelt’s life.
INFERNO: THE WORLD AT WAR 1939-1945 by Max Hastings
WWII has long been my favorite historical era and I have read a wide variety of nonfiction and fiction about it. Hastings ambitiously covers the entire history of the war in this book. He focuses on some lesser known stories (e.g. the battle between Finland and the Soviet Union). While giving an overarching narrative about the military history, he also portrays detailed stories of everyday people and how they experienced the war. Hastings shed new light for me on the Soviet Union’s role in the war and the horrific experiences of the battle in Russia. This is long (over 800 pages), but an interesting history if you enjoy WWII history.
THE MONUMENTS MEN by Robert M. Edsel
I never knew there was a a division of the military dedicated to finding and preserving art during WWII. Hitler instructed his army to collect and hoard all of the finest art treasures as they invaded Europe. He planned to destroy many of the art works that he deemed “degenerate”. An American and British force made up of curators, museum directors and historians risked their lives to preserve artistic treasures as Hitler’s army retreated.
UNDAUNTED COURAGE by Stephen E. Ambrose
Undaunted Courage is a history of the Lewis and Clark expedition. The book focuses on Lewis from his relationship with Thomas Jefferson to the end of his life. The book uses journals from Lewis and those on his team to recount their adventurous journey to the coast of Washington. It’s amazing how much luck allowed them to complete the journey through dangerous Indian territory, snow covered mountain passes and along dangerous rivers.
THIS REPUBLIC OF SUFFERING by Drew Gilpin Faust
Over 600,000 soldiers died in the American Civil War (an equivalent proportion today would be 6 million deaths.) This book reveals how the scale of death during the Civil War changed the life of the United States. It also describes how people dealt with death practically and religiously during this time period.
THE WORST HARD TIME by Timothy Egan
I knew that dust storms were an issue in the Plains during the Depression, but I never learned much more besides that. This book relates how people came to live in the High Plans and how overuse of the land led to crippling dust storms that displaced many, caused death and destroyed property and crops.
WHY NATIONS FAIL by Daron Acemoglu
The author attempts to explain why some countries are rich and others are poor, why some are divided, why some succeed why others fail. In other words, he tries to make sweeping generalizations to discover a set of factors that contribute to success or failure of nations throughout history. It’s a complicated question without an easy answer. There are some interesting ideas in the book, but I think it’s trying to answer an unanswerable question.
Biography / Autobiography / Memoir
UP FROM SLAVERY by Booker T Washington
Washington writes about his rise from a slave to the president of the Tuskegee Institute of Alabama. He stresses the importance of education and encourages men to recognize the nobility in working hard for something instead of expecting charity.
BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Coates expresses his frustration and fear for his son as he describes the racial prejudice he has experienced. People in the majority culture often don’t take the time to listen or see the world from another’s perspective. This book is helpful in taking a step to develop more empathy and to see the need for change in ourselves and others.
ELON MUSK by Ashlee Vance
Interesting story of Elon Musk and what motivates and drives him. The book starts with an account of his childhood in South Africa and goes into detail about his Silicon Valley businesses.
JUST MERCY by Bryan Stevenson*
This is one of my favorite books of the year. Stevenson writes beautifully about his legal practice that defends the poor, the wrongly condemned, minorities, women and children who are trapped in our criminal justice system. It’s easy to see how someone in this line of work could become cynical and jaded. Yet in the midst of fighting these injustices, Stevenson has great hope. It isn’t often that a book brings me to tears, but this one did.
“I guess I’d always known but never fully considered that being broken is what makes us human. We all have our reasons. Sometimes we’re fractured by the choices we make; sometimes we’re shattered by things we would never have chosen. But our brokenness is also the source of our common humanity, the basis for our shared search for comfort, meaning, and healing. Our shared vulnerability and imperfection nurtures and sustains our capacity for compassion. We have a choice. We can embrace our humanness, which means embracing our broken natures and the compassion that remains our best hope for healing. Or we can deny our brokenness, forswear compassion, and, as a result, deny our own humanity.
I am more than broken. In fact, there is a strength, a power even, in understanding brokenness, because embracing our brokenness creates a need and desire for mercy, and perhaps a corresponding need to show mercy. When you experience mercy, you learn things that are hard to learn otherwise. You see things you can’t otherwise see; you hear things you can’t otherwise hear. You begin to recognize the humanity that resides in each of us.”
THE SNOWBALL by Alice Schroeder
This biography recounts the life of the famous Warren Buffett. Schroeder had insider access to Buffett, his family and friends to write a revealing account of Buffett’s life from childhood to the present. It is an incredibly long account (over 800 pages) and is slow at times, but interesting to learn about Buffett’s practices and philosophies that led to his success and fame.
WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR by Paul Kalanithi*
The memoir of a young neurosurgeon who learns he has terminal cancer. Kalanithi writes about how he found hope and beauty even in the dark circumstances of his diagnosis of cancer. He is forced to confront the question “what makes a life worth living?”
OPEN by Andre Agassi
Most of this book by Andre Agassi felt like an enormous brag session about his life. It was interesting from a sports perspective to learn about the preparation and training required as Agassi competed.
ONWARD by Howard Schultz
Many people know parts of the story of how Starbucks was founded. In this book, Schultz tells the story of how he returned to Starbucks as CEO to see it through some trying times. Pieces of it were interesting. Much of it felt like bragging. It’s okay, but not great.
ALEXANDER HAMILTON by Ron Chernow
Hamilton’s popularity is sky high this year with the new musical about his life. This is an in-depth book about Hamilton’s life. I wasn’t familiar with much of it until listening to this long audiobook. It’s interesting how different historians have interpreted the lives of the founding fathers. Chernow points out Hamilton’s character flaws, but maintains a positive overall opinion of his contributions to the US. He often writes negatively about John Adams, which is a stark contrast to David McCullough’s biography of Adams that I read a few years ago.
SHOE DOG by Phil Knight
I really enjoyed this memoir by the founder of Nike. His account is candid and makes you feel like you’re living through the events with him as you read it. Unlike many business memoirs, Knight seems to recognize that his company succeeded due to handwork and a significant amount of luck. There are interesting business lessons to learn throughout and it is told as a story that is far more captivating than most business books.
STEVE JOBS by Walter Isaacson
Isaacson writes about Steve Jobs using 2 years worth of interviews with Jobs and his family, friends and coworkers. Jobs had a unique vision for technology and how to market it. His obsession with design and details is evident throughout his life. Isaacson portrays Jobs both as a visionary man and at times a very ruthless man.
I AM MALALA by Malala Yousafzai
The memoir of the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Price is about her life growing up in Pakistan, her fight for the rights of girls to receive an education and her recovery after the Taliban tried to kill her. Accounts like this remind me how many rights and freedoms I take for granted.
HILLBILLY ELEGY by JD Vance*
I read this after the election when I wanted to learn more about the struggles of the working class in rural America. There are a few more books in this genre that I’d like to read next year. Vance writes about what upward mobility looks like in his life and about the struggles of growing up with alcoholism, poverty, drug abuse and other trauma. Thought provoking and riveting book.
THINGS I’VE BEEN SILENT ABOUT by Azar Nafisi
Nafisi describes her childhood growing up in Iran and the difficult relationship with her mother. It also touches on politics, history and Middle Eastern culture. I enjoyed the beginning, but the second half felt flat and was not as interesting.
NOTORIOUS RBG by Irin Carmon
Interesting account of the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and how she rose to become a Supreme Court Justice.
THE SONGS OF JESUS by Tim and Kathy Keller
A daily devotional with readings from the Psalms. These little chapters sometimes had the perfect message for me from the Psalms for the day. As the last entry says,
“The psalms are, in the end, a miniature of life. Every possible experience, if prayed to the God who is really there, is destined to end in praise. Confession leads to the joy of forgiveness. Laments lead to a deeper resting in him for our happiness. If we could praise God perfectly, we would love him completely and then our joy would be full.”
SEEING AND SAVORING JESUS CHRIST by John Piper
I don’t remember reading this book. So I guess that’s enough of an endorsement of it?
SEARCHING FOR SUNDAY by Rachel Held Evans
The author is a millennial who writes about how she became disenfranchised with the church and questions her faith in the process. Some of her questions are authentic and parts of the book are well written and thought provoking. As a whole, I found the book frustrating to read. The writing isn’t cohesive and the style is all over the place. Maybe my expectations were off for it based on the title? I thought it would cover her journey growing up in the church to leaving it to finding it. But she didn’t really ‘find’ it. She attends an Episcopal church now, but makes sure to let people know that she only goes sometimes when she feels like it and isn’t very plugged in. It also seems like she’s picking and choosing which parts of the Bible she wants to believe are true based on her own political and social beliefs.
UNVITED by Lysa TerKeurst
I didn’t expect to like this book, but it hits on some basic truths that we need to be reminded of about God. He loves us with a love that can never be diminished, tarnished, taken or shaken. It is a love that never rejects. The book points out many of the lies we believe and tell ourselves based on our experiences with other people rejecting us and not including us. And I read it at a time where I needed this reminder.
YOU ARE WHAT YOU LOVE by James K. A. Smith
Smith shows that who and what we love fundamentally shape our hearts. For me the most thought provoking part of this book was to think about how our rituals of daily life and the culture we live in shape what we love, incubate our loves and point us toward rival gods. The second part of the book focuses quite a bit on how to implement rituals in family life with children and didn’t feel very applicable to me.
SMARTER FASTER BETTER by Charles Duhigg
This book explores the science of productivity and how to accomplish more in life and business. It relies largely on anecdotes to prove points and reads more like a social-science self help book.
THINK LIKE A FREAK by Steven Dubner and Shane Levitt
Freakonomics was good, Superfreakonomics was ok, this was ‘meh’. Not very interesting or insightful.
THE DESIGN OF EVERYDAY THINGS by Don Norman*
Loved this book and it had many practical applications for the work I do in software design. When we fail to understand how a product works (which light switch to use, which knob turns on which burner, how to open a door, etc.), we usually blame ourselves. Instead, Norman argues that we should blame product design that ignores the needs of users and cognitive psychology. Good, usable design is possible and this book highlights the principles that effortlessly allow users to know how to use products.
HOW TO LIE WITH STATISTICS by Darrell Huff
These principles are familiar for those who have worked in statistics, but the book is full of useful reminders of how media and businesses manipulate statistics to sell a product or fake a news story. This book was published in 1954 and is amazingly still as relevant today.
ORIGINALS by Adam Grant*
Grant examines how people can promote new ideas that go against the grain, fight groupthink and battle conformity. It is full of surprising ideas that are not just applicable in business, but also life. Grant uses examples from sports, business, politics and entertainment. Really good read and I’m looking forward to reading his first book Give and Take next year.
THE HALO EFFECT by Phil Rosenzweig
Rosenzweig presents an interesting perspective on the common delusions found in the corporate world that affect business media, academic research and bestselling books. The Halo Effect is one of the most pervasive delusions. When a company’s sales and profits are up, people often conclude that it has a brilliant strategy, a visionary leader, capable employees, and a superb corporate culture. When performance falters, they conclude that the strategy was wrong, the leader became arrogant, the people were complacent, and the culture was stagnant. In fact, little may have changed — company performance creates a Halo that shapes the way we perceive strategy, leadership, people, culture, and more.
PRESENCE by Amy Cuddy
Cuddy reveals how we can stop worrying about the impression we’re making and have presence in stressful and high pressure moments. Instead of relying on momentous changes, this research focuses on how small changes to our posture, body language, and mind-set can have a large impact and help to develop presence.
THE LEAN STARTUP by Eric Ries
I think I read this about 5 years too late. The principles are good, but I felt like I already knew them all from reading other books and articles that reference this work.
THE COACHING HABIT by Michael Bungay Stanier
There are some good nuggets in this book to help coach and manage employees and provides questions to ask during regular 1v1 meetings.
CREATIVITY INC by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace*
This book tells the story of Pixar Animation studios and discusses techniques and strategies for companies that want to create environments that foster creativity and originality. Really interesting mix of telling the story of Pixar while also providing practical knowledge for those in any industry.
SWITCH by Chip and Dan Heath
Explores the question of how to make lasting change in our companies, communities and lives. Much of this is about what makes successful habits stick.
THINKING FAST AND SLOW by Daniel Kahneman
Kahneman is a psychologist (Nobel peace price winner in Economics) who relies heavily on academic research to illustrate the ideas in this book. He introduces two types of thinking. System 1 is fast, intuitive and emotional. System 2 is slower, more deliberate and more logical. Using these two types of thinking, he explores how our biases and overconfidence affect business decisions and even our own prediction of what will make us happy. This book is dense, but packed with great learnings.
Skip this Non-Fiction
It’s hard to land on my nonfiction hate list. If I learn something from a nonfiction book, I typically find it somewhat interesting. These books either completely lacked credibility or would have been better as a blog post, not a full book.
INSANELY SIMPLE by Ken Segall
This book’s main takeaway is that we should look for ways to eliminate complexity and that doing so is much harder than it seems. Ironically, the author did not take his own advice and included way too much filler material and humblebrags about working with Steve Jobs. A few good points, but could have been summarized in a blog post.
ESSENTIALISM by Greg McKeown
Meh, is the word to describe this book. The first chapter or so showed promise. However, the rest of the book falls short and reads more like a bad self-help book. Like Insanely Simple, it would have been a good article, not a full book.
CONFESSIONS OF AN ECONOMIC HIT MAN by John Perkins
The title drew me in, but this book was bad from beginning to end. The author isn’t credible and it reads like the rant of a conspiracy theorist. There is little to no evidence to support the 1-2 main ideas that he repeats for the book. As one Amazon reviewer wrote, “This book is great if you aren’t into evidence or sense or anything like that.” I only finished it because I was listening to an audio recording of it while doing a very long bike ride.
Skip this Fiction
ELIGIBLE by Curtis Sittenfeld
This book is a modern update of Pride and Prejudice that takes place in Cincinnati. I should have seen the red flags from a mile away. This book barely touches on the themes that make the original so wonderful. The writing lacks credulity. And I have no idea why reviews describe it as ‘engrossing’ or ‘blissful’. Remind me next time I see a modern take on one of my favorite books to just reread the classic.
A LITTLE LIFE by Hanya Yanagihara
A lot of people really liked this book, but it falls into the category of Donna Tartt books for me. The first 100 pages were interesting until you realized there are: no redeeming characters, unbelievable relationships, no character development, poor writing, a tedious plot without movement. The book is way too long and incredibly repetitive. (Don’t these authors have editors???) The very graphic sexual and physical abuse scenes were very disturbing and left me feeling scarred. I plodded through all 700+ pages because I wanted to see how it ended (much like I did with the Goldfinch and The Secret history). But I wish I hadn’t. Don’t waste your time with this one.
THE CLASP by Sloane Crosley
Don’t read this book! It’s about a bunch of selfish and self-absorbed 20-something year olds that are unlikable and annoying. It is tedious, unbelievable and has a contrived ending.
MR. PENUMBRA’S 24 HOUR BOOK STORE by Robin Sloane
I was excited to read a book about books, but this one falls flat. Some of the ideas around the plot are interesting, but the characters really bring the book down. It reads more like a script than a novel and lacks substance.
FIGHT CLUB by Chuck Palahniuk
I didn’t enjoy reading this book at all. It’s a rare case where the movie is better than the book. I found the book to be depressing, creepy and disturbing.
STONER by John Williams
Stoner is quite a bit better than the other books on my skip it list, but I’m not sure I would encourage others to read it. It’s strange, rather depressing, slow to develop and hard to care about the characters. I felt like I had to plod through it and spent most of the time frustrated over the characters’ decisions.
CROSSING TO SAFETY by Wallace Stegner
I appreciated the writing of Stegner. The characters in the novel fall flat for me with unconvincing relationships that didn’t drive the action or plot of the book forward. In some ways, the characters felt underdeveloped and it was hard to follow the movement through decades of time.