Books · Uncategorized

Best Reads of 2016

Information Store staff LOVE to read! As 2016 draws to a close, we present a list of (some of) our favourite reads from the past year. Check them out below, then share your favourite reads  with us over on Facebook or Twitter.

Non-fiction

Not That Kind of Girl: A young woman tells you what she’s “learned” by Lena Dunham- nominated by Cat

It’s invigorating to hear someone so young who believes (and argues) that she has something to say. This book is laugh out loud funny and I would recommend it to any Lena Dunham fans and fans of the TV series Girls. In fact I try to recommend it to most people! Whilst there are some lacklustre essays (there nearly always are) I thought overall this was a heroic and honest collection of sporadic ramblings!

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Screenwriter and actor Lena Dunham, pictured here with her dog, Lamby,and Sith Lord Adam Driver

Framed: A Mystery in Six Parts by Christopher Goffard- nominated by Victoria

I subscribe to the Longreads blog, which compiles the best articles and essays from around the web. I usually stay away from ‘true crime’ stories, but this one was too bizarre to ignore. It’s beautifully presented- the scrolling format works great on both desktop and mobile- and the author kept me hooked without resorting to “clickbait” style cliff-hangers. Recommended to anyone who binge-watched Making a Murderer in 2016.

Creativity, Inc: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull- nominated by Eleanor

The story of the founding of Pixar Animation Studios, this is a fascinating look behind the scenes at a number of linked industries: Disney on the brink of its renaissance, the Silicon Valley computing industry in the midst of its rise, and the birth of computer animation that pioneered the technology that brought some of our favourite Pixar stories to life. Written by the president of Pixar, Edwin ‘Ed’ Catmull, Creativity Inc. is a mix of down-to-earth management advice and a very personal acccount of Pixar and people like Steve Jobs and John Lasseter. It’s always engaging and occasionally very funny, filled with anecdotes that add another layer to my appreciation of Pixar’s films! Check out Pixar films like The Incredibles, Ratatouille and WALL-E in the DVD Lobby at 791.433, as well as the first volume of Pixar’s short films, each of which is a tiny marvel.

From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time by Sean Carroll- nominated by Jess

A hefty, but very interesting read about the nature of time and physics. It explains some of the fundamentals principles of modern physics, and answers those odd question you might think about from time to time, like “Why can I not unscramble an egg?” It is aimed at a general audience, and the graphics certainly helped me to understand, although you do have to like the subject matter to finish the book!

The Richard Burton Diaries – nominated by Cat

I think this is the book I enjoyed the most this year. Richard Burton is one of my all-time favourite actors and his writing was really descriptive and insightful. His look at Hollywood is fascinating!

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Richard Burton’s marriage(s) to Elizabeth Taylor is still the stuff of Hollywood legend.

Other recommendations-

My Little Book of Big Freedoms: The Human Rights Act in Pictures by Chris Riddell

Fiction

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons- nominated by Avril

This book is funnier if you have read one or two books by Thomas Hardy, Mary Webb or even Wuthering Heights…it cuts through all the overblown melodramatic stuff! The heroine is a townie, armed with some sharp one-liners and determined to sort out all the problems of her clan of gothic, gloomy relatives, the Starkadders. Apparently Gibbons wrote it while working for the Evening Standard, after having been given the task of summarising Mary Webb’s books. I was worried it would spoil Precious Bane for me forever – it didn’t – I can still read and enjoy both of them.

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes- nominated by Pam

Although this is in part a romantic story dealing with a tragic situation (a young man who becomes a quadriplegic as a result of a road accident and how this has changed his life) it was realistic and without the usual  predictable happy ending.  I haven’t seen the film but I hope this message still comes through! Me Before You is available to borrow from the BOOK ZONE 823.92 MOY

The Pope’s Daughter by Dario Fo- nominated by Chris

Communist writer (and Nobel Prize winner) Dario Fo died on 13th October this year aged 90. Fo’s story concerns the life of Lucrezia Borgia. I had expected loads of historical detail, instead it proved a deliberately minimalized tale that used simple dialogue and situations to illustrate the woman and her family. Having geared myself up for a heavy read I did initially feel a bit at sea, however I did finish the book appreciating Fo’s deftness- and having seen a different perspective to a woman usually portrayed as one of history’s baddies.

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Lucrezia Borgia was subject to scandal for most of her life. Was she truly a villain? 

Pantomime by Laura Lam- nominated by Victoria

Iphigenia ‘Gene’ Laurum was born with an intersex condition that may be the source of her hidden magical abilities. Her family are desperate to climb the social ladder, and when Gene learns of a plan to force her to undergo surgery, she runs away and joins a run-down travelling circus. Gene rebrands herself as male street urchin Michah Grey, and gets close to both her female circus trainer and another male runaway. While I’m not normally a fan of love triangles, I loved the fact that sexuality simply wasn’t a big deal in this book. The plot touches on some heavy themes, including sexual assault and domestic violence, but it’s a quick and easy read that’s often very funny. The sequel is out at the end of December- I wonder if it will make my ‘best of’ list in 2017?

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins- nominated by Vicky

I haven’t read for a long time due to having two young children but a friend lent me The Girl on the Train recently and I literally couldn’t put it down. I stopped doing everything and read it in 24 hours as I was desperate to find out what happened!

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke- nominated by Avril

One for the younger readers…or is it?! I have always had a soft spot for Inkheart, and re-read it this year. Meggie and her father never live long in one place because her dad has the gift (or curse!) of being able to conjure up characters from a book so well that they come to life. It’s a gentle children’s story on one level- baddies, a mysterious juggler and fire eater and Meggie’s search for her lost mother- but it raises interesting questions about creation and the responsibility that comes with it. A bit like Frankenstein, but a much easier read!

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You can find Inkheart in our EXPRESS FICTION section- the film adaptation, starring Paul Bettany, is available in the DVD LOBBY 

Other recommendations-

Room by Emma Donoghue

A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James

Behind Closed Doors by BA Paris

The Letter by Kathryn Hughes

Graphic novels

Silver Spoon by Hiromu Arakawa- nominated by Victoria

I’ve never read Full Metal Alchemist, but I know that it’s phenomenally popular. I think this latest series by mangaka Hiromu Arakawa deserves just as much attention! Bright student Hachiken makes a somewhat rash decision to attend an agricultural college instead of traditional high school. His attitude towards the ‘countrified’ students changes when he finds out just how much hard work he’s let himself in for. Readers learn about the gruesome side of farming when Hachiken’s piglet Porkbowl grows fat enough for the slaughter, but the arguments for and against the consumption of meat are presented neutrally, highlighting the importance of animal welfare above all else. I’ve been vegetarian for almost half my life and this series hasn’t convinced me to start eating meat again- however, it has changed my attitude towards those who do (just slightly!) The anime adaptation is ridiculously cute, and the soundtrack is particularly effective. I might have shed a tear or two for poor Porkbowl…

The Wicked + The Divine (Vol 3) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie- nominated by Jess

The Wicked + The Divine is an interesting mix of old school mythology and modern day society. Without trying to give too much away, there are a lot of mysterious and intriguing politics going on; characters need to deal with stardom, the pressure from fans and the media, and the consequences of their own supernatural abilities. The story is fascinating, and the artwork spectacular. This ongoing series is definitely worth picking up!

Flight, edited by Kazu Kibuishi- nominated by Eleanor

A graphic novel collection of individual stories themed around flight, this is beautiful and touching, with stories that range from historical fiction to fantasy and sci-fi. The authors and artists represented fall into a diverse range and were clearly allowed to bring their own spin to the theme and style, because no two stories are alike in content, theme, tone or look. Some have no words at all, in the style of Shaun Tan’s The Arrival, and leave the reader to interpret their meaning, and others have snappy dialogue or beautiful narration, all accompanied by stunning art. It’s well worth taking the time to appreciate each of these stories, because each is only a few pages long but every one is utterly individual. Find Flight in our Quick Reads – Graphic Novels section at 741.5973.

References

alien_artifact (2014) lena_dunham_0214_vogue_us_03 Available at: https://flic.kr/p/jTi1xU (Accessed: 9 December 2016)

Cox, K (2009) inkheart Available at: https://flic.kr/p/6Cvdqi (Accessed: 9 December 2016)

Irina (2014) Bartolomeo Veneto – Lucrezia Borgia Available at: https://flic.kr/p/ncCwWD (Accessed: 9 December 2016)

Segovia, A (2012) Richard Burton y Liz Taylor en Cleopatra – Life en Español Available at: https://flic.kr/p/bxahhL (Accessed: 9 December 2016)

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