I did it! I read 50 books in 2016. According to my Goodreads account, that’s more than 17,000 pages. When I factor in all of the books I started and stopped halfway through because they were terrible, I’d bet the page count is closer to 20,000.
Here’s the last 10 I read from Oct. 24 through Dec. 31:
41. The Gatekeepers: Inside the Admissions Process of a Premier College by Jacques Steinberg
OK, I read this my junior year of high school for a required reading assignment, but had forgotten pretty much everything. Also, it’s amazing to re-read college admissions related books after having gone through the admissions process, college experience and graduation. It made me realize how I wrote my own essays in a way I thought college admissions officers wanted even after I read this book that encouraged students to be more honest and direct in their aspirations.
42. Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love and Writing by Jennifer Weiner
Found Weiner’s memoir on how she went from awkward child to rookie reporter/part-time writer. An inspiring read about a woman who vowed to publish her first book by age 30 — and missed the deadline by a couple of weeks.
43. Laura Bush: An Intimate Portrait of a First Lady by Ronald Kessler
After reading American Wife, a fictional account of a character loosely based on Laura Bush, I knew I wanted to read a biography of Bush to compare. There were quite a few similarities — Sittenfeld had clearly done her research — but I found the biased slant of Kessler’s ideology to sour the reading experience. If you want to learn more about her, try a different Bush biography because this one was a disappointment.
44. Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America by Barbara Ehrenreich
Waiting tables in Key West. Cleaning homes in Maine. Working at a Minnesota Wal-Mart. A journalist goes undercover and works minimum wage jobs at three places across the country to see if a “living” wage is really liveable. The book was written in the ’90s, so the takeaways were a bit dated, but a fun read nonetheless.
45. William and Kate: A Royal Love Story by Christopher Andersen
I’ve always fancied this royal couple, so I enjoyed little tidbits from this biography, but as was my issue with the Bush biography, I found the author’s bias overwhelming. (I guess that’s the journalist in me trying to remain somewhat objective!) I might try another Will and/or Kate biography because I enjoyed the subject matter, but could do without Andersen’s writing.
46. Betrayal: The Crisis in the Catholic Church by The Boston Globe staff
A roundup of some of the amazing reporting done by the Globe’s Spotlight team. Reading it made me sick as it was much more detailed than the movies. Also, one of those weird situations where I enjoyed the movie more than the book. That’s probably because the movie highlighted journalist’s real lives and the struggles in the reporting process. The book was the reporting they did.
47. The Price of Admission: How America’s Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges — and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates by Daniel Golden
I stumbled upon this book after reading a post-election Propublica article by Golden addressing Jared Kushner’s acceptance to Harv`ard despite his lackluster grades, especially in comparison to some less affluent boarding school classmates that were turned away. In his story, he referenced his book that details how the rich and famous finagle their way into top colleges. Great read for anyone who wants to get their blood boiling a bit.
48. Who Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner
I’ve tried some of her other books and found them to be too light and fluffy, but I actually enjoyed this one about a couple that meets at eight years old in a Florida hospital and life keeps bringing them back together.
49. The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
This thriller got rave reviews. People called it the 2016 version of Gone Girl. Well, still haven’t read that one, so I can’t attest to whether it as up to that standard, but I will say I wasn’t impressed. Poor quality writing and too many characters made it difficult to wade through the mystery of a woman thrown overboard a Scandinavian cruise ship.
50. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Can you believe I almost went all of 2016 without reading any “classics”? Full disclosure: I Sparknoted most of the classics I was assigned to read in high school. For some reason, I can’t read when I’m assigned to read because I overanalyze dialogue and mistake insignificant details for symbolism. I can’t enjoy books when I’ve got essays to write about them. So, I figured I’d try a work I would’ve bypassed in high school now that there’s no pressure to produce an A. Still didn’t enjoy it. Maybe it’s the buildup of reading a classic and trying to take away some grand meaning. Maybe because it was my last book of the year and I was trying to power through it while on vacation with family. Whatever the reason, I didn’t love Bradbury’s beloved bestseller…but I also didn’t hate it. Baby steps, people.
So, 50 books – check. If I had to winnow down my selections, here’d be my six recommendations in order, from left to right, from most favorite to, well, sixth most favorite:
Now, onto 2017. I’m challenging myself a smidge more — to 52 books in 52 weeks.