Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 Wrap-up: Stats and thoughts

It's a wrap... 

2016 has not been my most productive year in terms of reading or blogging, but it certainly has been fun. I tried to remove pressure and stress from my hobby  this year and, for the most part, succeeded:

  • I accepted my last review book ten months ago and have remained commitment-free ever since. 
  • I didn't join any challenges in 2016, not even the goodreads challenge. No more avoiding long books!
  • I joined fewer events and readalongs, carefully selecting those that truly interested me.
  • I wrote fewer book reviews, opting instead for shorter 'book briefs'.
  • I mostly read what I wanted, when I wanted... free-range reading!

Number Of Books Read
51 - one book per week is a comfortable pace

70% / 30%
Nonfiction is down slightly from last year, but I'm still happy with 30%.

Female/Male authors 
66% / 34%

New authors/ tried-and-true authors
26 / 22

In translation
5 - down 50% from last year

7 - not as many as last year, but I have read 46/50 from my Classics Club list

22 - 8 as audio only, 14 were read/listen combinations

Shortest & longest book:
Ten Days in a Mad House by Nellie Bly - 101 pages
City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg - 944 pages

Most popular & least popular book: 
(based on number of goodreads ratings)
The Nightingale by Kristin Hanna  - 521,084 ratings
Kings of Queens: Life Beyond Baseball with the '86 Mets by Erik Sherman - 19 ratings

Favorite Books Read In 2016:
Fiction: The Emperor's Children  by Claire Messud
Classic: Germinal by Emile Zola
Nonfiction: Just Mercy  by Bryan Stevenson
(my full list of 2016 favorites is here)

Most surprising book (in a good way):
City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg
My first, and longest, book of 2016... I waded through 900+ pages/nearly 24 hours of audio of this debut novel, only to be disappointed by the non-ending. Now, nearly a year later,  I'm still thinking about the characters and excellent writing. (my review)

2016 bookish highlights:
Germinal readalong
Nonfiction November
The Classics Club/Classics Club Spins
Litsy... have you joined yet?

Plans for 2017:
I don't anticipate any major changes at Lakeside Musing... more free-range reading, readalongs with friends, blogging events, and continued bookish chatter.

Thank you for reading and talking about books with me this year.
Happy 2017!


Friday, December 30, 2016

My Favorite Books of 2016

It's finally time to say good-bye to 2016... and I am more than ready to move on! As for reading, it's been a fairly average year in both quantity and quality. There were no stand-out reading experiences like last year's "Trolloping with friends" through the Chronicles of Barsetshire, though there were plenty of great books and a few memorable readalongs.

Here are my favorite books read in 2016. Of course, they were not all published this year. An asterisk denotes a read/listen combination. You know how much I love alternating between print and audio, especially with nonfiction.


The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud
my favorite novel read in 2016

Shelter by Jung Yun
my favorite 2016 debut novel

*Germinal by Emile Zola
my favorite classic and most memorable readalong of 2016

Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift
most beautifully written novel and top author discovery of 2016

Miller's Valley by Anna Quindlen
my favorite Quindlen novel in twenty years

The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar
another top author discovery

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
Ann Patchett keeps getting better and better!


my favorite nonfiction read in 2016

I went on a "Supreme Women" reading spree this year...

by Irin Carmon, Shana Knizhnik
RBG is my hero.

*When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
the saddest book I read this year

Infuriating, but important..


Nobody's Fool by Richard Russo
narrated by Ron McLarty

Belgravia by Julian Fellowes
narrated by Juliet Stevenson

Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson
narrated by Tavia Gilbert

Monday, December 26, 2016

Year-end Book Briefs: Fiction Edition

As 2016 winds down there are still several books I'd like to talk about, but precious little time for blogging.  Here are the novels I read in December... each dropping a rung on the ladder of "fine literature", but all enjoyable reads.

by Ann Patchett
Harper, 2016
322 pages
source: purchased

I've been reading Ann Patchett since the 1990s and over the years she has become one of my favorite authors. Her latest novel, Commonwealth, is a masterfully crafted work. The writing is fabulous, her many characters are well-defined and unique, and the story about a blended family kept me happily turning the pages. I paused several times to reflect on various quotes or passages. Overall, a very satisfying read and a 2016 favorite.
My rating:

by Zoe Fishman
William Morrow Paperbacks. 2016
320 pages
source: ebook borrowed from the library

One sentence summary:
A single mother inherits a beautiful beach house in Sag Harbor, but there is a catch—she must take care of the elderly woman, recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, who lives in it.

I love a quick, entertaining read, especially one that provides a little fodder for discussion, and Inheriting Edith  was all of that. A perfect travel day read, it made our two flights and long layover pass quickly. I didn't note any quotes or passages, but thoroughly enjoyed the story and have already recommended the book to several friends.
My rating:

by Elin Hilderbrand
Little, Brown and Company, 2014
256 pages
source: ebook borrowed from library 

One sentence summary (from goodreads);
In bestseller Elin Hilderbrand's first Christmas novel, a family gathers on Nantucket for a holiday filled with surprises.

After two weeks of not being able to focus on several different novels, I decided to try something lighter. I rarely read women's fiction, but Winter Street  was exactly what I needed during the busy holiday season. A fast-paced family story - relationships beginning and ending, unexpected pregnancy, sibling rivalry, white-collar crime - set in a cozy inn on Nantucket at Christmas. I devoured it in two sittings. The first of a trilogy, this book ends with a major cliff-hanger. No quotes to share and not much discussion value, but the second book, Winter Stroll, just became available from my library via Overdrive. I think I'll start it this afternoon. Literary fiction can wait a few more days...
My rating:


Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud

The Emperor's Children
by Claire Messud
Borzoi/Knopf, 2006
431 pages
source: borrowed from the library

Summary (from goodreads):
The Emperor’s Children is a dazzling, masterful novel about the intersections in the lives of three friends, now on the cusp of their thirties, making their way—and not—in New York City.

There is beautiful, sophisticated Marina Thwaite—an “It” girl finishing her first book; the daughter of Murray Thwaite, celebrated intellectual and journalist—and her two closest friends from Brown, Danielle, a quietly appealing television producer, and Julius, a cash-strapped freelance critic. The delicious complications that arise among them become dangerous when Murray’s nephew, Frederick “Bootie” Tubb, an idealistic college dropout determined to make his mark, comes to town. As the skies darken, it is Bootie’s unexpected decisions—and their stunning, heartbreaking outcome—that will change each of their lives forever.

A richly drawn, brilliantly observed novel of fate and fortune—of innocence and experience, seduction and self-invention; of ambition, including literary ambition; of glamour, disaster, and promise—The Emperor’s Children is a tour de force that brings to life a city, a generation, and the way we live in this moment.

My thoughts:
“The apartment was entirely, was only, for her: a wall of books, both read and unread, all of them dear to her not only in themselves, their tender spines, but in the moments or periods they evoked."
I didn't know what to expect going into this novel. Opinions vary widely, to say the least, but I loved it. Messud's writing, as always, is excellent - smart and incisive (though on the flip side, it's also been described as "over-stylized" and "old fashioned.")  As in The Woman Upstairs, the characters are not particularly likable, but they are endlessly interesting. Messud gets the settings right, too. I love her depiction of pre-9/11 New York City and she positively nailed the bleakness of Watertown, NY,  in upstate's "north country".

Sometimes you just know when a book is going to work for you, and that happened here within ten pages. In addition to the wonderful writing, Messud's story drew me in immediately and then held me for the entire 400 pages.

For me, this book was reminiscent of Meg Wolitzer's 2013 novel The Interestingsanother personal favorite with somewhat mixed reviews. Now I can't help but wonder if Wolitzer was influenced by this novel. I think it's safe to say if you loved The Interestings, you'll love The Emperor's Children.

Bottom line: This is one of the best novels I've read in a  long time and my favorite book of 2016.

My rating:

Thursday, December 15, 2016

#AMonthofFaves2016: “New to Me” Author Discoveries

#AMonthofFaves2016, hosted by Andi, Tanya Patrice, and Tamara continues today with author discoveries. As it turns out, I read a lot of new authors this year, but these are the standouts:

Author Discoveries 2016

Graham Swift (Mothering Sunday)
Without a doubt, Swift is my top author discovery of the year. Mothering Sunday was a favorite of 2016 and I want to read his entire backlist. (my review)

Thrity Umrigar (The Story Hour)
Why did it take me so long to read Ms. Umrigar? So many of you have raved about her for ages. I'll try The Space Between Us next.

Garth Risk Hallberg (City on Fire)
This guy can write! I chose his debut novel (a doorstopper by any standard) for my 2016 First Book. The non-ending was incredibly frustrating, but nearly twelve months later I'm still thinking about those characters. And did I mention the writing was excellent? I'll read whatever Hallberg writes next, but hope it comes in under 500 pages. (my review)

Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney (The Nest)
This book got SO much hype... and while I really enjoyed the novel, I'm not sure it was warranted. Still, I love the fact that she is a 50-something debut author. (my book brief)

Jung Yun (Shelter)
This book just blew me away! It's darker than my usual fare... and in the running for my #1 novel of the year. (my book brief)

Bryan Stevenson (Just Mercy
My favorite nonfiction read of's my book brief.

Which authors have you discovered this year?
The complete schedule for #AMonthfFaves2016 is here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

#AMonthofFaves2016: 5 Books on My Winter Reading List

#AMonthofFaves is back! It's taken me nearly half the month to figure that out, but better late than never, right? AndiTanya Patrice, and Tamara are rotating the daily hosting duties once again. The best part of this event (besides reading all the posts, of course) is that it's perfectly fine to come and go... play along one day or every day, whatever fits your schedule. The complete schedule is here.

5 Books on My Winter Reading List

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
This is a 2016 must read that I just couldn't get to in time. I only managed to read one chapter before the library book was due, but it was amazing. Hopefully Santa will bring me a copy for Christmas.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
This book is waiting for me in Florida! Towles' debut, Rules of Civility, was a favorite a few years ago and I can't wait to dive into his new novel.

Can You Forgive Her? by Anthony Trollope
I had so much fun reading the Barsetshire novels with Audrey and a few others last year, that we've decided to test the waters for a #PalliserParty! I'm not committing to the entire series just yet, but plan to begin this first book in mid-January.

The Mothers by Brit Bennett
My daughter is reading this now and will bring her copy home for me at Christmas. It sounds like a book I'll love.

I'm not going to forget about nonfiction just because November is over. This book has been on my wish list for a long time, but now I own both the ebook and audiobook (thanks to those daily deals!) and am ready to go.

What books are on your winter reading list?

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Weekly Update: December 11, 2016

Hello again! After experiencing an early island-style Christmas, we are back in the Great White North and ready to begin preparation for our more traditional celebration. We enjoyed nearly a week of sunshine and gulf breezes, but now it seems a little harder to face the windchill and snow squalls. Sigh.

Finished this week//

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
This masterfully crafted story about a blended family was a real pleasure to read. 
Ann Patchett has done it again!

Inheriting Edith by Zoe Fishman
I read most of this on the flight home last night, then finished the last few chapters this morning. It felt like I was living within the pages! This novel features one of the most unusual premises I've come across... book clubs will find much to discuss here.

I will try to post mini-reviews of both books (and several others) this week. I've fallen behind again!

What am I going to read next?
I'm not sure, but here are a few titles under consideration:

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris
I picked this up recently as a kindle deal and read the first 10% on Friday. Very intriguing and a little creepy, too... but do I really want to read a psychological thriller so close to Christmas?

I swore off Amy Tan several years ago when her books started to become indistinguishable from one another, but this is a book club selection. The blurb doesn't sound all that appealing and I'm not sure I can finish it before the meeting next week anyway. It sounds like I'm trying to talk myself out of this one... Have you read it? What did you think?

Wishin' and Hopin' by Wally Lamb
I loved this book when I read it back in 2009 and grabbed it on impulse while perusing the library's holiday book display.  Felix Funicello, the main character, is featured once again in Lamb's new novel, I'll Take You There.  Hmm... typing this just helped me make a decision :)

How was your week? What are you reading?

This post will link to It's Monday, What Are You Reading?  hosted by Kathryn at Book Date.


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