Hey, so would you look at that – I once again biffed my friends’ annual reading challenge, working through a measly 12 books! I very nearly made it to 13, but Christmas came, and the time for leisurely reading fell by the wayside. So 12 it is. Sorry Julie, sorry Jay, I’ll try, try again in 2019 with your next, just-announced reading challenge. Maybe next year I’ll get to 14!
But it’s not a numbers game, and it’s important to value quality over quantity, and some other trite expression that’s not coming to mind right now, but I did read a number of excellent novels this year, including The Night Circus, which was a beautiful, dreamy revelation; easily one of my favourite books of all time. Too Big to Fail was another bright spot; I was proud to have tackled a book about such a dense, weighty and frequently boring subject matter as the American financial system. I’ll Have What She’s Having was probably the most pointless of all the books I read this year; a humour novel without the humour is a puzzling animal, indeed.
Below you’ll find all of the books I read this year and the matching, inspired-by manicures I did for each one. If you click on the titles, a link will take you to my thoughts and reviews of each book, plus lots of pics of all that nail art. Once again, The Night Circus was the big winner here, its sumptuous, Victorian-esque carnival atmosphere providing ample inspiration for five different manicures, although I’m really quite partial to the gothic lettering of those Petunia (of Stephen King’s Christine fame) nails.
The Burning World by Isaac Marion – Another Warm Bodies novel, this one a sequel to the first Romeo and Juliet zombie romance, this entry suffers from having to act as a bridge between that novel and a third, planned book to be released later on this year. It’s a big exposition dump, and much of the bedrock on which Warm Bodies – a gentle, thoughtful novel about the downfall of humanity – is based is blown viciously asunder (presumably so it can be pieced back together in the final novel, but dang if some of those new revelations don’t smart extra hard; now I know how old school Star Wars fans felt during the overlording of George Lucas.) 😉 I read this book for week 26’s challenge theme of “A book title that sounds like the cool name of a band.”
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling – Hey now, another thing to be proud of in this reading challenge – I FINALLY finished the Harry Potter series! Just 15 or so years off the pace, no big. I read this novel for week three’s theme of “The next one in a series.”
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury – I burnt the edge of a page of one of TWO forewords to this novel and applied the singed bits to my nails. I think I might have missed the point of this book. I read Fahrenheit 451 for week 11’s theme of a banned book – it doesn’t get more banned than being torched with gigantic kerosene fascism hoses, now does it?
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – Not the most uplifting of stories, but so beautifully written. I was just in awe of Atwood’s writing. I re-read this novel for week 30’s prompt of “a book picked up in a thrift shop.” I got this copy of The Handmaid’s Tale from the university bookstore in second year, and there’s nothing thriftier than an English student trying to stretch their book budget.
I’ll Have What She’s Having by Rebecca Harrington – I’ve had this little humour novel sitting on my bookshelf for years, and I finally got around to reading it this year for week nine’s theme of a book from your to-be-read pile. I think there’s a lot of good comedy to be mined from mimicking the wacky diets of image-obsessed celebrities, but this slight book was less observational humour and more straight up observation. So Karl Lagerfeld is a (self-described) grumpy bastard. That’s most likely because he starves himself stupid and consumes nothing but Diet Coke. We’d all be grumpy bastards, too – this is practically a given. So wither the funny? Ultimately, there was not much humour here, just tepid commentary on predictable outcomes. Cute cover art, though.
The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King – Every ’80s kid’s favourite author is getting old, and he’s super worried about the real world things that go bump in the night. I read this zippy anthology of short stories for week eight’s theme of “A collection of short stories.”
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by anonymous, edited by W.S. Merwin – A 14th Century epic poem – both in its original Middle English and translated forms – for week 23’s challenge theme of “An epic tale.” Go medieval or go home, right?
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – Oh my goodness, I adored this book! It was utterly enchanting – appropriate given that it’s a tale about star-crossed magicians plying their trade at a mysterious, after hours Victorian carnival. This was a very gratifying read; I actually sighed with contentment as I closed the back cover for the final time. I read The Night Circus in service of week 28’s theme of “a work by a debuted author.”
Christine by Stephen King – I continued filling in the gaps in my Stephen King education this year by reading Christine, one of his earliest works. It was appropriately unnerving and gory in all the right places, but absent the killer car, I was struck by the simple human heartbreak that formed the core of Christine, which was just your average, emotionally deadlocked family trying – and failing – to grapple with shifting family dynamics. Whilst being hunted down and murdered by a sentient – and very vengeful – 1958 Plymouth Fury. As you do. I read Christine, a book I nabbed from my condo’s community bookshelves, in service of week 15’s theme of “A book from the library.”
Too Big to Fail by Andrew Ross Sorkin – I hate these nails (too heavy-handed, and the lighting is crap) but improbably, I really loved this book, which I read for week 14’s theme of “non-fiction to tickle the brain cells.” More like set my brain cells on fire – I spent a lot of time shouting out various aghast “OMG, did you know”s to Mr. Finger Candy as I stomped about the house, raging at the inequalities of the global financial system.
Blue Shoes and Happiness by Alexander McCall Smith – After the M.C. Escher-esque financial mindf**k that was Too Big to Fail, I was in need of a literary palette cleanser, which I found in Blue Shoes and Happiness. My mom loaned me this gentle little book from the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency Series, a favourite of hers set in rural Botswana. I read this book for week 27’s theme of “A book that was gifted to you.”
Small Spaces by Katherine Arden – Jay of The Scented Library gave me this spooky little book, ensuring that I’d absolutely hit week four’s theme of “a purple hued tome.” Also that I’d be thoroughly, delightfully creeped out, and also get some great nail art inspiration out of the bargain.