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2016 was dominated by child rearing books for obvious reasons. And while I didn’t get through as many books this year as 2015, there were some standouts. 

Room by Emma Donoghue was a great listen. The voice acting was spectacular and made the experience memorable. Finishing up Stephen King’s Dark Tower series was bittersweet if only that there are no more adventures in the series to experience. New series Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson was slow getting into but I’m looking forward to listening to the last book in the trilogy. Ready Player One by Earnest Cline and Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski were other favorites. 

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern didn’t connect with me like I thought and The Haters by Jesse Andrews was a subject I was really excited about but went in a direction I didn’t quite want. 

Here’s the full reading/listening list for 2016. Any comments, questions, or recommendations are welcome. 

Books Read in 2016

 

1. Tell Your Dog You’re Pregnant by Dr. Lewis Kirkham – Very useful and full of tips for dog training. How accurate it is has yet to be seen but it gives me hope. 3.5 stars. Audio.

2. Lights Out by Ted Koppel – Interesting following the investigators approach to a apocalypse-style situation where the electric grid is taken out by terrorists. Of all the roads Mr. Koppel investigates (preppers, Mormons, scientists, military), none of them give much hope in long term survival if our nation’s power goes out for an extended, or even short amount of time. Offers few solutions because there really aren’t any. 4 stars. Audio.

3. Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy – Not one of my favorite Hardy novels but the only one I’ve read so far with a happy ending. A romance story you know how it will turn out, even with Hardy’s penchant for tragedy. 4 stars. Audio.

4. Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks – Descriptions and stories about the relationship between ailments and music. I enjoyed listening to descriptions of cases where music can be one of very few things that can stabilize a person or cut through their ailment where even loved ones cannot. Inspirational for any musician or one who puts a great importance on music. Can get technical with anatomy and medical phrases. 4 stars. Audio.

5. Witches’ Brew by Terry Brooks – One of the most enjoyable scenes in the Landover series so far involving characters from the fantasy world being transported to Seattle – Bumbershoot to be exact. A fun adventure, but not my favorite of the series. 3.5 stars. Audio.

6. The Big Disconnect by Catherine Steiner-Adair, EdD – An informative but scary view of children being raised in a society and family structure immersed in technology. Gives helpful hints about the amount of tech time an infant should have (zero) and also stories about the negative effects technology can have on older children’s higher functioning. Also, a teaching tool for parents and the importance tech should have in the family. Parents should NEVER choose a piece of technology over their child. 3.5 stars. Audio.

7. Indomitable by Terry Brooks – Better than his other short story about Allanon but still added very little to the universe of Shannara. About Jair adapting his magic into a more formidable weapon. 3 stars.

8. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – For whatever reason, I couldn’t really get into this one. The circus setting was fun and the idea of pitting two magical students against each other without them knowing whom the other was felt like a novel premise but I didn’t have much patience for it. Full of bright but uninteresting characters. The climax elevated the story but wasn’t enough to make me want to go back and read the parts I glazed over. 3 stars. Audio.

9. Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman – One American reporter’s observations on the way the French raise their children from newborn to kindergartener. There were useful tips about feedings every four hours four times a day, the “pause” when a child cries, introducing them to different foods, and discipline. More statistics or doctor interviews/advice would make this book a virtual bible of French parenting but it loses points for not citing more studies. 3.5 stars. Audio.

10. Room by Emma Donoghue – A strange tale about a mother and child living in a room told from the boy’s perspective. Sad how the boy interprets things when all he has ever known has occurred within his four walls. Where the story went took me by surprise but there also wasn’t a big climax at the end so the fact that it was ending took me by surprise. Maybe it says something about me that I could follow with great ease this novel told from the perspective of a well-versed five-year-old. Oh well, I still enjoyed it. 4 stars. Audio.

11. Paladins of Shannara: The Weapons Master’s Choice by Terry Brooks – Like his other short stories, it could have been longer. That said, this short story feels more complete than his other short works. It helps it is about one of his most memorable characters Garet Jax and his willingness to help woman looking to save her village from a brutal warlock. A decent prelude to the full novel The Wishsong of Shannara. 3.5 stars.

12. Wolves of the Calla: The Dark Tower V by Stephen King – Another fine chapter of the Dark Tower series. A very western setting with fantastic elements thrown in and surprising characters surprise. This novel, maybe more than the previous novels in this series, stir my curiosity about some of his other novels. 3.5 stars. Audio.

13. Song of Susannah: The Dark Tower VI by Stephen King – Contains one of my favorite scenes, maybe in all fiction. Much of the novel is confusing in its complexity but still fun to read. 3.5 stars. Audio.

14. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison – What I got out of this novel was that it isn’t a good idea to try to please everyone. You end up invisible, in a hole, isolated because you end up feeling apart from everyone. You will never do everything another person wants. You must live for yourself. The story follows a young black man as he navigates the racial tensions of early 70’s New York. The episodic nature of the story is read with glee by actor Joe Morton. 4 stars. Audio.

15. The Dark Tower: The Dark Tower VII by Stephen King – The conclusion to the epic series, this novel serves as a fitting end to the adventures of Roland. While the final confrontation with the multi-book villains feel anticlimactic, the end left me with an empty, frustrated feeling. The ending was as epic as I wanted as it resonated with me long after I finished. 4.5 stars. Audio.

16. Expecting Better by Emily Oster – A book meant to answer some common questions and concerns about pregnancy. Instead of relying on doctors and books, the author goes straight to the studies on each topic and lets the reader make their own decisions. I found it interesting and helpful for some things. I wish I would have read this sooner as it would have been useful to know about sushi or wine consumption early. Although several issues were addressed, there were numerous subjects that were not. 4 stars. Audio.

17. The Expectant Father by Armin A. Brott and Jennifer Ash – A treasure trove of information for expecting fathers. The book is set up by month, explains how you, the mother, and the child might be doing. And most of the time was pretty close. The information helped me get the upper hand on some discussions. A must for expectant fathers. 4.5 stars.

18. The Wind Through The Keyhole by Stephen King – An 8th book in the Dark Tower series that takes place between books four and five, this novel is a story within a story within a story. As such, it doesn’t add much to the story of the Dark Tower but it would have fit nicely if I had read this in the chronological order it was intended. 3.5 stars. Audio.

19. The Gunslinger by Stephen King – A reread with new passages to go with the completion of the Dark Tower saga. Maybe the most dreamlike story of the series. 4 stars. Audio.

20. The Haters by Jesse Andrews – A book I probably really would’ve liked five, ten, fifteen years ago. Follows three friends as they try to get their fledgling band going. I wish there were more storylines about how they got gigs, wrote songs, etc. instead of the relationship issues. Still, a fun novel. 3.5 stars. Audio.

21. The Langoliers by Stephen King – Very similar to the TV movie from the nineties. In fact, I think most of the dialogue is the same, word for word. A solid short story. 3.5 stars. Audio.

22. Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson – The first book in the Mistborn trilogy. The magic was handled in a practical way that made the story seem to have higher stakes. The climax felt a bit manufactured and events seemed to happen out of nowhere but overall the novel was compelling – in its handling of magic, not the “let’s overthrow an oppressive dictatorship” plot. 3.5 stars. Audio.

23. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen – Slow to start but I really got into the troubled and flawed characters and their relationships to each other. The story dissects their lives and choices, their past histories and why they do what they do. Engaging and while some events could be predicted, others seemed to happen out of nowhere. The literary machine in full effect here. 4.5 stars. Audio.

24. Cesar’s Way by Cesar Millan – A decent intro to how to train dogs. I liked hearing about his background, how he was raised, how he came to America and got his start. He gives good advice in some areas but reading some reviews of this book made me question the validity of his advice. Also not as much actual advice – more stories as examples then anything. 3 stars. Audio.

25. The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub – Similar in tone to King’s Dark Tower series but not as engaging. Maybe because I read those first. Or maybe because the storyline is very jumpy in places, possibly because of having two authors. 3 stars. Audio.

26. A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin – Epic. Long. Not as engaging as some of the other novels in this series but there were some exciting developments like Bariston’s chapters and Cersei’s walk of atonement. Plenty of this novel, however, is lost to minor characters and others that end up adding very little to the overall story. 3.5 stars. Audio.

27. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – A really fun read for nerds, geeks, and gamers who grew up in the eighties and nineties. I couldn’t help but get giddy from the geek culture references. This definitely helps get over the somewhat cookie cutter plot. 4.5 stars. Audio.

28. The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley – Fairly boring and took roughly half the novel for me to become interested. Reminds me of something from my college literature classes but less entertaining. 2 stars. Audio.

29. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch – Gets off to a creaky start but it is engaging enough to be entertaining. Some predictable plot, mixed with some surprising twists, make for an overall fun novel. 3.5 stars. Audio.

30. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom – Sentimental and corny but moving nonetheless. 4 stars.

31. Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski – Some of this dialog was hilarious! The reader helped with a fun and almost casual interpretation of the story told from the perspective of a boy on his journey to manhood. All centered around the way violence shapes his life. 4.5 stars. Audio.

32. Defenders of Shannara: The Sorcerer’s Daughter by Terry Brooks – Short but a decent finale to the Defenders trilogy. First Shannara book I listened to. Good characters but still lacked the element of exploration that define his earlier books. 4 stars. Audio.

33. The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson – More political drama than the first Mistborn novel but better, more satisfying action. The battle finale and mythos finale were both great. 4 stars. Audio.

34. Based On A True Story by Norm MacDonald – Not really a memoir and not really a humor book, this one confused me. There were plenty of funny moments as I count myself as a fan of Norm, but the jokes would be lost on most people. Some were even lost on me. But it was entertaining as he read it himself. 3 stars. Audio.

35. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling – A second reading for fun. The voice acting was great and the story was just as good as before. It’s the little details of this novel that really set it apart from the rest. 4 stars. Audio.

36. Under the Dome by Stephen King – A fun novel that feels like an experiment for the author as well as the characters. Meta. 3.5 stars. Audio.

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