It wouldn't be January if I didn't do my Book of the Year Bracket. I'm admitting this right out of the gate...my reading for last year was pretty pathetic. I only finished eighteen books during the entire year. That's just a wee bit shy of my goal of forty. Oops. But...tradition is tradition, so we're going to carry on, despite the reduced number of books to work with.
It's an odd mix this year. In order to fit in a standard bracket, I reduced the eighteen books to sixteen by removing two books from the list: an anthology and a pregnancy book...difficult ones to use as challengers. Still...that leaves me with a very...eclectic group of books. Out of the sixteen challengers, nine are fiction and seven are non-fiction. That's a lot of non-fiction. Included are two plays, a children's book, a travel book, a religion book, and five (what?!?) autobiographies. It was a weird year of reading, you guys. Even more surprising...only four of the fiction novels are young adult fiction. That might be a record low in YA fiction percentage. This is what happens when the majority of your reads come from course assignments.
I arranged the bracket using a random list generator based on when I completed each book. Once again, that totally bit me in the behind in that it (spoiler alert!) paired two of my favorites against each other in the bottom right bracket. I considered tweaking the bracket to suit my preferences, but...I kept my crap together and kept the bracket honest.
Here's where we start...
Now...let's meet the left side challengers...
Porko von Popbutton by William Pene du Bois
Genre: Children's book
Rating: 4 stars
I read this one as a recommendation from the boyfriend. It was his favorite childhood book. I have to say...it's a cute story, but it would totally not fly in today's PC society. One of a series of books based on the seven deadly sins, Porko von Popbutton focuses on gluttony. There is a set of moral lessons within the pages, just a somewhat questionable approach in light of today's approach to childhood obesity. But...it was published in the 60's, so I'll cut it a bit of slack.
The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement by Eliyahu M. Goldratt
Genre: Business / Fiction
Rating: 3 stars
I read The Goal as an assignment for my course in Supply Chain Management. It was better than I expected it to be, to be honest. There are a lot of good business lessons in it, along with a lot of basic economic principles demonstrated in practical ways, but it also reads like a good story. It actually took me a while to realize that it was a novel and not non-fiction. I guess that means it's fairly well-written. My biggest disappointment with this book? Rather lack luster ending. I am very picky about my endings.
Genre: Travel memoir
Rating: 3 stars
River Town was another course assignment, this time for my Asian history course. It follows the author's time as a Peace Corps associated teacher in China during the late nineties. I found this one interesting as my friend (and fellow blogger at In Search of the End of the Sidewalk) also spent some time under the same circumstances. I enjoyed hearing her views of the book, as she could see the narrative from a incredibly different perspective. Overall, the organization of the story was a bit rambling for me, but it gave me some decent exposure to a culture that I prior knew very little about.
Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling
Genre: Autobiography / Humor
Rating: 3 stars
Ah...a book I actually chose because I wanted to read it. Yes...those did exist last year. Why Not Me? was actually my final read of 2016. I read it on a plane on my way back to Idaho for Christmas. I have to say...it's a good airline read. Relaxed and entertaining, it's quippy and fun. But...ultimately, as much as I enjoy Mindy...you could tell this was a follow-up (likely obligated by some prior contract) and it just wasn't as much fun as her first book.
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Rating: 4 stars
This was the read for my final project in my literary analysis course. I ended up writing a huge term paper on it. Thank goodness it was an interesting book. I had never read Proulx before, but I had heard her talked up several times. With good reason. Her writing is beautiful. Her characters are odd, but still realistic. Her narrative just worked. Really well. She is a master at using literary devices and I enjoyed very much analyzing the characters, their interactions, and her subtle mastery of her craft. And now you're wondering why it wasn't rated 5 stars. Honestly? I just wasn't in love with the story. I enjoyed it quite a bit, but it didn't grip me in the way I feel a 5 star read should. Ultimately...I'm just getting stingier about my ratings.
Genre: Religious nonfiction
Rating: 2 stars
I'll be honest...this was likely my least favorite book of the year. It's more or less a primer for Islamic culture and the history of its religious sects. It was required reading for my Asian history course and I was highly disappointed in it. It's incredibly dense to read in the beginning and I trudged through it. Nonfiction is hard enough for me to make it through, and this approach was just too rigid.
Genre: Classic Fiction
Rating: 3 stars (technically 3.5 stars outside of Goodreads' system)
Another book from Literary Analysis. Let's call this one an oldie, but a goodie. It definitely has fantastic literary merit. Faulkner was very good at subtlety and there is a lot hidden within the pages. Without a doubt, this one is a novel which will reveal more with each subsequent read. I don't frequently do rereads, but I have a feeling this one may come along my TBR list again in the future.
If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Rating: 4 stars
This was a gifted book from another book blogger, the lovely Julianne from Outlandish Lit. I had heard about it for a while and was fairly curious. I was highly impressed. It's a brave narrative, but one that is becoming more accepted as our society becomes more tolerant. For that, I am grateful. Diverse books can always be a great thing. This one is among a small handful of trans literature out there. If I Was Your Girl is amazingly written with fantastically complex characters and realistic dialogue. I read this one in a single sitting, completely fascinated by the story. It's not overly in your face, nor is it highly politicized. It is simply the story of a teenager trying to be accepted. Absolutely worth the read.
Whew! Maybe it's a good thing I didn't read many books last year. This post got long really fast. That wraps up the left side of the bracket. You can probably already figure out a few of the winners and unfortunate losers that will take place in the first elimination, but undoubtedly there will still be a few unpredictables (just the way I like it).
Next up? The right side challengers. There's some good competition in that side as well...including the most heated bracket of the opener.