Friday, January 1, 2016

Review of All the Books I Read in 2015

So, every year on my blog I do a review of all the books I've read in the year, usually going over the books I thought were the best, worst, and a few other categories. This year, I wanted to do a more in-depth reflection because it's not always that easy to divide the books I read into best and worst, because each book I read impacts me in a different, unique way.

This year my tastes changed significantly, as they do every year. This year I probably read the most adult books I've ever read in a year, although of course I still read quite a few young adult books. I'm definitely starting to grow out of YA, though. I'm finding it increasingly harder to get into the snarky voices and repetitive drama that tends to appear in a lot of YA. (see: @broodingYAhero)

I started out the year on the right foot, reading a lot of good books, like Cristina Moracho's Althea and Oliver, and Gary D. Schmidt's Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy. I also read Catherine Gilbert Murdock's Dairy Queen, which entirely changed my view on what YA should and can be (I really need to read it again).

I also started the year with a commitment to do the Around the World Reading Challenge. I did pretty well with it at the beginning of the year, although the only mini-challenge I was able to complete was reading a book from every Canadian province and territory. Doing that challenge got me into the CanLit world, which is really cool. Now my TBR list is filled with books written by Canadians, and CanLit is on my radar a lot more. I read a ton of really good CanLit this year, which you can read about in my wrap-up post for my Across Canada challenge.

While I didn't read a ton of books outside of Canada or the US, I did read some really good books with international settings. The Taliban Cricket Club by Timeri N. Murari was one of those books, about a young woman in Afghanistan, Rukshana, who, supported by some men in her family, pretends to be a boy to play cricket. I loved the character Rukshana, and it was a great, funny read. And I found it just by pulling it off the shelf at the library, which is not usually how I find books anymore. Another book with an international setting that I loved was Listen, Slowly by Thanha Lai, about a young girl, Mai, going to visit her family in Vietnam for a summer. It had everything I love in MG - cute, spunky characters, lots of awkward silliness, and great family dynamics.

And of course, A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea by Dina Nayeri, set in Iran in the 1980s, which was heartachingly beautiful, made me cry, and became my best and favourite book of 2015 and which I will now recommend to everyone I possibly can. (Read my review here).

Unfortunately, at the end of summer and then into the school year in the fall, I kind of ran out of steam for my Around the World challenge and couldn't really get into any books. All the YA books seemed too young or annoying, and the adult books seemed too hard to get into. I think at that point in the year, I wanted an easy read where my brain didn't have to work too hard. I just wanted something that would completely sweep me away and forget reality, and I couldn't find any book to do that. So, I ended up falling back on my favourite books, and reread The Queen's Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner, and The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater (The Raven King needs to come out like, yesterday).

School this semester sucked all the desire for reading for fun from me, but hopefully with the break I can buy some good books with my Christmas gift cards, get to the library, and get back to actually enjoying reading.

When I look back on this year of reading, I didn't really fall head over heels with very many books, but I read a lot of good books that made me think about different things, which I think is really cool and extremely valuable. I mean, when I look back on the books I read this year, I learned a lot. I learned about...
  • The Quebec separatist movement 
  • Afghanistan during the Taliban regime
  • the Iranian revolution of 1979
  • Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail
  • What it's like growing up in a Mennonite community
  • What it's like to be a Canadian immigrant
  • What it's like living in the north of Canada
  • How to be an urban cyclist
  • Louis Riel and the Red River Rebellion
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his work in the German church and his role in a plan to assassinate Hitler during WWII
  • The history of Down Syndrome
  • What it's like growing up Aboriginal in Canada
  • What it's like to deal with generational and cross cultural clashes
  • What it means to wear a hijab
  • What it means to be queer
  • What depression is like
  • How cruel and how amazing people can be

And that's not even everything. I love reading.

Happy New Year! I hope you read lots of amazing books this year. Let me know in the comments or on Twitter what you learned this year while reading!

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