Book Reviews: My Year in Books (pt. 1)

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From crying to laughing, from apartheid in South Africa to magic in the Final Empire, books have taken me on lots of adventures this year.

My year in books – links to all three parts
Part 1 // Part 2 // Part 3

I use Goodreads to keep track of all my reading, and a few days ago and email ticked in. Its title read: Take a look back at Your Year in Books!

It contained link to a nice page presenting all the books I’ve read in 2018, and it inspired me to look back at what I’ve read this year, and whether or not they’re worth a recommendation.

Anne - My year in books 2018

In 2018, I read 5,726 pages across 17 books

The average rating I’ve given books is 4.1 stars. This is quite high, but at the same time, I’ve read some pretty amazing things this year. Additionally, I don’t want to force myself to read something that sucks just for the sake of it. I read for enjoyment and/or for learning.

What I read in 2018

I am Malala

I Am Malala

– The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban

By: Malala Yousafzai & Christina Lamb
Pages: 327
Published: October 8th 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Genres: Nonfiction, Biography, Memoir, Feminism

I Am Malala is the remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls’ education, of a father who, himself a school owner, championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons.

This a fascinating, engrossing read. First of all, Malala is badass. Secondly, I thought I already knew the highlights of her story from random bits on the news. I’m 100% showing my ignorance/privilege here, and I’m so sorry. You know, some young Pakistani girl stood up to and was shot by the Taliban, survived, now does UN/human rights stuff, fighting for more education for girls.

But there is so much more leading up to that. Malala isn’t just some girl, she’s been fighting for equality and girls’ right to education since she was very young – even before she knew what she was doing. She didn’t just stand up to the Taliban on that day, her and her family had done that for a long time. I am in awe of how she’s gone through so much, and without becoming bitter or hateful. She’s actually the opposite, and doing so much to make the world a better place.

My rating: ★★★★★

“Let us pick up our books and our pens,” I said. “They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.”

Malala Yousafzai
We have no idea book cover

We Have No Idea

– A Guide to the Unknown Universe

By: Jorge Cham, & Daniel Whiteson
Pages: 368
Published: May 6th 2017
Publisher: John Murray
Genres: Nonfiction, Science, Physics, Astronomy

So what happens when a cartoonist and a physicist walk into this strange, mostly unknown universe? Jorge Cham and Daniel Whiteson gleefully explore the biggest unknowns, why these things are still mysteries, and what a lot of smart people are doing to figure out the answers (or at least ask the right questions).

I don’t often think about it, but the universe is a huge (that word isn’t even strong enough to describe the vastness of the universe) place. But it’s incredibly cool, and seeing the universe through the lense of astronomy and quantum physics gives me a whole new perspective on my own life. Like that embarrassing thing I said to the cashier years ago means nothing to do the universe. A form of optimistic nihilism, I suppose.

This book can get heavy at times, but the authors are doing a good job of making complicated subjects relatable, and the comics are brilliant.

My rating: ★★★☆☆

Theorists are a smart bunch (in theory)

Jorge Cham, We Have No Idea: A Guide to the Unknown Universe
Reasons to stay alive Matt Haig book cover

Reasons to Stay Alive

By: Matt Haig
Pages: 266
Published: March 5th 2015
Publisher: Canongate Books
Genres: Nonfiction, Mental Health, Memoir

Reasons to Stay Alive is about making the most of your time on earth. In the western world the suicide rate is highest amongst men under the age of 35. Matt Haig could have added to that statistic when, aged 24, he found himself staring at a cliff-edge about to jump off. This is the story of why he didn’t, how he recovered and learned to live with anxiety and depression. It’s also an upbeat, joyous and very funny exploration of how to live better, love better, read better and feel more.

This book is part memoir, part a critique of today’s society and stigmatization of mental health issues. Sometimes my head is not the kindest place to be, but this quickly touched my heart. This is the best book I’ve read about depression, where Matt writes an honest description of his own experience, acknowledge that everyone feels depression differently, and doesn’t try to sell a one-size-fits-all-psychobabble cure. I wanted to tear out multiple pages so I could read them every day (but I think the library would disprove of that).

If you feel alone with your mental health struggles (or want a better understanding how loved one feels), this is a must read book

My rating: ★★★★☆

You will one day experience joy that matches this pain. […] Life is waiting for you. You might be stuck here for a while, but the world isn’t going anywhere. Hang on in there if you can. Life is always worth it.

Matt Haig, Reasons to Stay Alive
Little moments of love Catana comics book cover.

Little Moments of Love

– A Guide to the Unknown Universe

By: Catana Chetwynd
Pages: 160
Published: June 19th 2018
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Genres: Comics, Romance, Humor

What began as stray doodles on scraps of paper became an internet sensation when Catana Chetwynd’s boyfriend shared her drawings online. Now, Catana Comics touches millions of readers with its sweet, relatable humor. Little Moments of Love collects just that – the little moments that are the best parts of being with the person you love.

I received this book as a birthday present from S (awwww 🤮). It only took a small hint and constantly tagging him in their new Instagram posts. And it’s the cutest. It’s full of comics that portray those silly everyday moments that shows you’ve found the person whose crazy matches your crazy. It’s lighthearted, sweet and funny, and I love it.

My rating: ★★★★★

It doesn’t make sense to include a quote from a comic-book, so here’s a drawing from Catana’s Instagram instead.

Call Me By Your Name

By: André Aciman
Pages: 302
Published: August 16th 2018
Publisher: Rosinante (Danish version)
Genres: Fiction, lgbt, Romance, Contemporary

Call Me by Your Name is the story of a sudden and powerful romance that blossoms between an adolescent boy and a summer guest at his parents’ cliff-side mansion on the Italian Riviera. Unprepared for the consequences of their attraction, at first each feigns indifference. But during the restless summer weeks that follow, unrelenting buried currents of obsession and fear, fascination and desire, intensify their passion as they test the charged ground between them.

I heard so much praise for this story (and movie), that I desperately wanted to love it… But I never fully felt it.

Maybe it’s because I had the a wrong idea of what it should be.

Maybe it’s because I read it in the Danish, and Aciman’s magic writing didn’t properly translate.

Maybe it’s because I struggled to connect with Elio, the main character and narrator of the book. The story was too slow, practically boring at it times, and it was too pretentious for me.

It’s an okay book, it just wasn’t for me.

My rating: ★★★☆☆

He came. He left. Nothing else had changed. I had not changed. The world hadn’t changed. Yet nothing would be the same. All that remains is dreammaking and strange remembrance.

André Aciman, Call Me by Your Name

Born A Crime

– Stories From a South African Childhood

By: Trevor Noah
Pages: 304
Published: November 15th 2016
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Genres: Nonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir

Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

I’ve enjoyed seeing Trevor Noah on The Daily Show and his stand up shows on Netflix, and he has such a radiating presence. But I didn’t know much more about his story and upbringing than he was from South Africa. Born a crime to white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother during Apartheid.

This is both a book of comedic gold (dancing Hitler and the one about his dogs are my favorite). And at the same time, he tackles immensely hard and complicated topics about race, culture, poverty and gender roles (Trevor Noah’s mother is one of a kind!). It manages to be a warm, honest and lovable book while addressing huge sociopolitical issues from a kid who grew up neither white nor black enough to be considered either.

My rating: ★★★★★

In any society built on institutionalized racism, race mixing doesn’t merely challenge the system as unjust, it reveals the system as unsustainable and incoherent. Race mixing proves that races can mix, and in a lot of cases want to mix. Because a mixed person embodies that rebuke to the logic of the system, race mixing becomes a crime worse than treason.

Trevor Noah, Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood

Before this turns into a mile-long blog post, we’ll pause here for now. Don’y worry though, the list will continue in a new blog post soon.

What was your favorite read of the year? Let me know in the comments!

Gif that says lots of love, Anne xx

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Book Reviews: My Year in Books (pt. 1)
Book Reviews: My Year in Books (pt. 1)
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