Our Best Books of 2016

Jan:

My goal this year was 100 books, and I’m one book away from my goal! I may be ringing in the New year with a book in hand.

My top five books I read this year:

Best Overall – Bone and Bread by Saleema Nawaz

I picked up Bone and Bread after it was nominated for Canada Reads and it was a compelling story that I could not put down. I want to read more stories like this that are so unlike my own experience of the world. My goal next year is too seek out as many authors as I can that don’t look or sound like me.

Best Children’s Book – The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Ivan is based on a true story of a gorilla who lived in a mall. It is told entirely from the perspective of Ivan, touching on other animal and human characters who surround him. It is poignant, touching and brought me to tears by the end, yet is still age-appropriate.

Best Book I Re-Read – Silence by Shusako Endo

I first read Silence for a university class and I wish I could go back and re-write an essay on it. It tells the story of a priest in 17th Century Japan who is running from persecution, only to come face-to-face with what Jesus is truly asking of him. It is one of the best books I’ve ever read and it is on the list of a select few books that have truly shaped my faith.

Best YA – Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Rainbow Rowell continues to be one of my favourite authors, and Carry On did not disappoint. It is unlike her previous works, as it is more speculative, but it still retains her spot-on ability to craft characters.

Best Graphic Novel – Plutona by Jeff Lemire and Emi Lenox

Jeff Lemire is amazing. Everything he writes/illustrates is beautiful and tragic and reads like the meatiest of literature. I read Plutona as it came out this year in 5 issues, and every part built perfectly on the last.

Honourable Mention – To Be and/or Not to Be by Ryan North

How do you even categorize a choose-your-own-adventure Shakespeare play? I give it an honourable mention simply because it was the most fun I had reading a book. Ryan North is one of the funniest writers out there and his deconstruction/reconstruction/retelling of Hamlet had me in stitches.

 

Annemarie’s top five:

Best Overall: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

This book devastated me. I cried harder than I have ever cried in a book, and it has changed the way I parent. I recommend it strongly but also with reservations: it is not an easy read. I will never forget it.

Best Graphic Novel: Persepholis by Marjane Satrapi

I learned a lot from this book. It was so interesting and sad.

Best Nonfiction: Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski

This book is about sex, but I got so much more out of it than the (fascinating) science behind women’s sexual health. The way it explains how stress and attachment influence behaviours was so succinct and practical that it literally changed my life.

Best Fantasy: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The world in this book is so magical and stunning that I broke my book buying ban to snatch up the first copy I found. I had to own it so I can reread it over and over and over again.

Best YA: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

It’s about horses and I kind of don’t need to say any more. I hear this book is going to be a movie, and I really hope they do it justice. It has the potential to be a really excellent one.

Honourable Mention: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

This is a gorgeous meditation on life and death. His writing is beautiful.

 

Steph’s top five:

Best Overall: Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit

So much more than the title essay, although that one is A+ too. “Woolf’s Darkness; Embracing the Inexplicable” blew my mind and her argument for marriage equality is the best and most humanly refreshing that I have heard.

Best Mystery: Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny

I love me some Gamache, and I really loved the setting in old Quebec city. The central mystery of the novel is woven together with the mystery surrounding the founding of Quebec in a lovely way.

Best Literary Fiction: The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante

By the end I was flipping pages so fast I felt a light breeze. Ferrante is a gem and this portrayal of a friendship is stunning.

Best Sci-Fi: The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

The characters in this book are really well written, and the story is gripping. A bonus is the exploration of the highs and lows of faith.

Best YA: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

I read a lot of Rainbow Rowell this year, and I had a hard time picking out my fave, but Fangirl edged out Eleanor and Park by just a tad! The Jane Austen parallels did it for me.

Honourable Mention: Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

The combination of science, spirituality, and great writing in this book made it stand out.

November Book Reviews

What was the best book you read in November, and why?

What book are you excited about in December?

Steph:

kindred-octavia-e-butler-124291_408_600

As predicted, Kindred was the winner in November. Octavia Butler’s prose is spare, and every word is there for a reason. It took a bit to get used to, especially in the dialogue, but I really appreciated it once I was a few pages in! This book is really pertinent to the times we are living in now (depressingly, since it was published in 1976). Dana, the main character, keeps getting pulled back into the ante bellum south, and has to learn how to survive there as a black woman. Butler does an amazing job of portraying the past and drawing parallels between the past and the present. I would recommend this highly, and I will definitely be seeking out more Butler, Read more

Does it count as a hiatus if it’s retroactive?

 

Widdershire is the brain-child of three intelligent, insightful women. Women who have dreamed of being writers since their chubby little fingers could hold a pencil. Women who have filled notebooks with scribbled thoughts and devoured fiction for decades.

But these glorious, intelligent women have busy lives. We started a website without fully realizing that there would be moments of “I just can’t write this week!” and “My kid has been sick for 48 hours straight and the last thing I want to do is think about that website I started with my friends.”

So, we took the summer off. But we’re back. Fall is the default start of the year because of school starting and we’re using it as a relaunch after a summer of absence. Plus as we all know, fall is the best season. So, as you sip your pumpkin-spice-whatever and listen to the sounds of crunchy leaves under your feet, rejoin us in Widdershire as we publish our creative works. We have a few new features we’ll be rolling out over the coming months and we hope you’ll return to read them. We love stories and we love sharing them with you.

Thanks for reading, thanks for returning.
The Women of Widdershire: Annemarie, Jan and Steph.

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