2015 :: My Year in Books

2015 was the best reading year I’ve ever had in my life! I successfully read 25 books this year and even joined book/beer club called Titles on Tap, which has largely contributed to so many books under my belt. Taking the train every day and having 40 minutes of quiet time both ways also provided the perfect time for reading. Since I’ve read such a wide range, I decided to share the best and worst of the year, and what I hope to accomplish in 2016.

Best Reads of 2015

  1. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel // This novel was on many “best of” lists this year. And rightfully so! It’s lyrical, haunting, and impossible to put down. There are a lot of post-apocolyptic novels out there, but this is the first I’ve read that really explored the things we take for granted in modern society. This was one of those books, that was truly an amazing reading experience.
  2. Horns by Joe Hill // I don’t know what it was, but I feel like I read this book at the perfect time in my life. The New England imagery, twenty-something year old ennui, themes of Catholic guilt, a healthy dose of magical realism; it just spoke to me. If you saw the terrible disappointment 0f a movie this was, don’t be dissuaded. I couldn’t believe how much they changed. It was practically a different story! But if you want a very juicy, dark tale, this novel will hit you.
  3. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood // This is supposedly a work of fiction, but it is very much on its way to being a reality. With the upcoming election looming over us, this classic work is more poignant than ever. With it’s powerful themes and symbols, it’s easy to see why this book has become a must-read in everyone’s lifetime. You can read more of my thoughts on The Handmaid’s Tale in my book pairings post.

Worst of 2015

I usually have more to say about books I don’t like…

  1. Dietland by Sarai Walker // Ugh. This book was so misguided. Many have praised it as Margaret Atwood meets that biddy who wrote the Something BorrowedSomething Blue books – the modern feminist manifesto. Well as we know, I adored The Handmaid’s Tale and Margaret Atwood this was not. I guess it had potential; I’m always down for women overthrowing the patriarchy, but this book had a serious tone problem. For an earnest attempt at satire, it lacked the necessary snark. The good? It is a voice out there campaigning for change. But is this the kind of feminism that we want? One that believes their way is the only way? One that has an extremely narrow view on mental health, body acceptance, and sexual expression? I implore that this book be kept out of the hands of baby feminists so they don’t make it their doctrine.
  2. Breed by Chase Novak // What an ill-written, hot mess. To be fair, it was for book club and I probably wouldn’t have picked it up otherwise. The narrative style changed throughout, not a care was given for the characters, the story was figutatively and geologically all over the place, and for a horror novel, it was about as scary as your 6 year old neighbor with a sheet over his head. Snore.
  3. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn // Dark is right. I don’t know what disturbed me more: pedophilia and assisted suicide, or Middle America? At least it inspired my first Book Pairings Post!

2016 Reading Goals

  1. 24 Books! 2 Books a month. I think that’s a good pace.
  2. More non-fiction.
  3. Read the Cormoran Strike series.
  4. Try to dive into graphic novels.

Happy New Year, bookworms!

Book Pairings :: The Handmaid’s Tale

Just like a sommelier recommends the perfect wine for your meal, I am here to pair the ideal drink for your reading pleasure. Book Pairings is an unconventional book review that expresses my thoughts and feelings about a novel in terms of booze.

IMG_0666

The Book: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Booze: Red Wine. Any Red Wine.

Grab your red wine. Grab your red wine and hold it close, because there may be a day when all the simple pleasures in life are stripped from you. Every basic right you have—reading, writing, your own name—that you take for granted, can someday, in the not too distant future, be taken away. This is the fate that befalls the United States in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. The distopian world left in its wake is that of the religious fundamentalist extreme. Women can no longer work or hold property, all carnal pleasures, such as sex, alcohol, and tobacco, are absolutely forbiddden, no one is allowed to read or write, money is no longer used, and an elaborate class system, distinguished by the color they wear, seperates those in power from those not even entitled a name. Our heroine, Offred, is the lowest of the low: a handmaid, who’s only purpose in life is to be a walking womb. Since no one’s allowed to have sex, someone has to be responsible for repopulation… other than old white men, of course. And because of her position, she is viewed as a whore and a savage, completely driven by physical appetite. It is amazing how the people of this new world have abandoned their sense of justice in order to selfishly protect themselves. But many, including Offred, remember their old lives and will try to reclaim it in their own ways.

Red is the color of the handmaids’ cloaks, the color that labels them a pariah, and red is the color of the wine you should savor while reading The Handmaid’s Tale. It doesn’t matter if it is a sweet pinot noir or a robust shiraz, if it’s been aged for centuries or a bottle of two-buck chuck you picked up at the supermarket this afternoon; it should be treated as a luxury no matter what. The handmaids go through their average day with only limited, pious interaction, but once in a blue moon, when one of them gives birth, they are allowed to congregate and speak freely among each other. Over a shared flask of wine, passed among the crowd, they can reminisce about the lost days and learn the whereabouts of missing friends and family. The wine is an important part of holding onto their identity.

Margaret Atwood’s novel is highly regarded as a feminist anthem, but it’s so much more than just that. It’s a beautifully written, and sometimes humorous, tale of perseverence, as well as a sobering reminder of what can eventually happen if we mix religion with politics and neglect the basic rights of all our citizens. I can’t describe how much I enjoyed this book! I was so lucky that a friend read it around the same time I did, becuse all I wanted to do was discuss the fate of the characters, draw parallels to today’s society, and argue whether we could muster sympathy towards those who created this world. Everyone needs to read The Handmaid’s Tale in their lifetime.

So raise a glass and toast to to those protecting the rights of women, both in real life and in The Handmaid’s Tale.