The Swedish novel A Man Called Ove turned out to be my favorite book of 2016. I only finished it yesterday, so I did indeed save the best for last. When it came to this year’s goal of finding more reading time, I got creative to say the least. In order to reach my goal of fifty books, I included works published by clients as well as a steady selection of audiobooks. That aside, my list of books actually “read” comes in closer to 25. In any case, it’s been a great year for many reasons. I’m going to take a couple off weeks off, but will be back come January. Happy holidays and many continued thanks for all your support.
A Man Called Ove’s Curmudgeonly Charm and More…
As I did with June’s post, I’m highlighting five memorable books from the last six months of reading. The reviews are of the casual variety I post to Amazon and Goodreads, though some of you will recall the in-depth critical book reviews I used to post on books such as Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides. From time to time, I am still posting literary criticism pieces such as the one I wrote on John’s Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath.
The books that touch us the most tend to be the ones that find us at the right time in our lives. I connected with the novel’s themes of love, community, and friendship on many levels. Ove’s wife has died, so he too wants to do the same. Yet, offing one’s self proves to be quite the challenge. A series of events bring new people into Ove’s life as well as a mangy cat. As this closed-off man starts to give more of himself to the people around him, his backstory is revealed. The story is comical, sentimental, and the ending as it should be given Ove’s wish that drives the plot. My main pet peeve would be Ove’s age. At 59, he comes across as nearly 20 years older. This is a solid story for those who enjoy slice-of-life literature.
This is the first book by Neil Gaiman I’ve given a go. I am not normally a fan of fantasy stories, but found this work to my liking. It’s clear Gaiman is a master writer capable of spinning a layered plot. His characters jump off the page and his imagery pulls a reader into every scene with his writings cinematic style. The full-cast audiobook did not disappoint and provided a great way to pass time on a long road trip. Perhaps fewer characters could have helped me connect more to the book, but all-in-all it’s an epic story worth a read.
The mystery and suspense elements in Hawkins’ book work rather well and didn’t feel overly predictable. The ending did come off as a little too obvious, but overall, the pacing kept me reading. All three female characters leave a lot to be desired, as does dear old Tom. And yet, it makes sense that such passive women would be the ones drawn to Tom time and again. What I struggled with the most is how all three of the narrator’s issues had to revolve around children. In this day and age, it’s refreshing when a female character doesn’t have to be defined by the role kids have played in her life.
Fight Club is funny, raunchy, and clever. At it’s core, the novel serves as a commentary for the empty, consumer-driven lives we lead. The use of first and second person allows a depth to the narration as the reader gets to know Tyler and the unnamed narrator. It’s perhaps a book that calls out more to younger readers, but it’s a remarkable accomplishment nonetheless.
As with every other celebrity memoir I read, this one was a mixed bag of good and not-so-good writing. The book’s strongest point, as with her comedy, is how honest Schumer is about her life. She goes straight for the uncomfortable and comments on rather traumatic events with wit and humor, only she does so with far less skill than when she’s on stage. In any case, the attention she brings to sexual assault is worthwhile. She is brave to share so much about herself as a way to disarm critics.
All of the books I read this year can be viewed on my Goodreads Reading Challenge. While you there, make sure to add me as a friend if we haven’t already connected.
Have you read A Man Called Ove? What recent reads would you recommend and why?
Please share responsibly. Jeri Walker, 2016.
The only book on this list I’ve read is Girl on the Train. I enjoyed it. I think I might also like A Man Called Ove. A book I’ve read recently and enjoyed is My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout.
I read The Girl on the Train last and and then again this year when my book club picked it. The reaction of the group was on the loved it or hated it side, with not many in the middle. I of course, was in the middle 😉
Thanks for sharing the review of those books Jeri. I have only read The Girl On The Train and found it easy, quick reading, quite predictable. I have never kept a track of how many books did I read in a year. I am getting inspired to do so without setting any deadlines.
Recently I have finished reading The Light Between The Oceans, which was much easier than the classic I was reading side by side…The Rainbow by D.H. Lawrence. When I had read Lawrence as a student of Literature, it was more of an obligation, a compulsion and I didn’t like him but now what pulled me was what was there in some of his books to get banned! But I found his language and style worth reading. Next on my list is Lady Chatterlay’s Lover.
Happy holidays dear friend and happy reading!
Balroop, I remember seeing the trailer for the movie version of The Light Between The Oceans and thinking I might like it. I didn’t know it was a book, but could have guessed. I’ve not read Lady Chatterlay’s Lover either, but it’s been on my TBR list for ages. Happy holidays to you as well!
Ove is a wonderful story. The movie is pretty good as well. In addition to everything else it is a fitting response to the xenophobia that seems to have spread through our country.
Ken, I’ve not seen the movie version of Ove yet, but I just added it to my NetFlix queue. As for xenophobia, as I was reading the book I pause a few times and thought about the often extremely arbitrary reasons I will shut myself off from other people. The book reminds me how great getting to know random people can be.
I read a new (for me) Swedish author this year and, unfortunately, can’t remember his name. I find the Swedes are terrific at writing mysteries (obviously headed by Stieg Larsson). I’ve decided to re-read several of my favorite novelists, books that I may have read 20 years ago. So I recently re-read Michael Connelly’s first novel “Black Echo,” and enjoyed it just as much the second time around.
Jeannette, I would agree about the Swedish propensity for writing good mysteries. I recently re-read Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. It impacted me deeply 20 years ago, and it did upon reading it again this year, but for entirely different reasons. My perspective on love had shifted a lot in twenty years.
The first book looks like one I would love, Jeri. Even though 59 is still relatively young, some people really are ‘old’ and act much older than their years. 😉 I think that’s quite believable since I was married to someone similar. Girl on the Train, I read a couple of years ago. The pace was good, the mystery awesome, but it really was overall a dark read. I really like Amy Schumer so nice to know this is a worthwhile read. We are connected on Good Reads…I love that site!
Have a wonderful Holiday break Jeri, and I’ll look forward to seeing you in the New Year. 2017, here we come!!
Lisa, I hope you do pick up A Man Called Ove. I enjoyed it quite a lot. I’ll see you in 2017 as well. Cheers1
A nice range of genres! Like you, I try to read different kinds of books and I’m sometimes pleasantly surprised. Sounds like you were, too.
Candy, oh yes I definitely love a pleasant genre curveball every now and again when it comes to reading. I’m the same with with music too. It’s good to mix things up a bit.
Great selection of books Jeri, & the best part is I haven’t read any of them! A Man Called Obe looks particularly interesting & now on my to read list
Kathy, I’m happy to bring some possible new books to read your way. There’s a second Fight Club book I haven’t checked out yet, mainly since it’s in graphic novel form, which is not up my alley.
“The books that touch us the most tend to be the ones that find us at the right time in our lives”: such a great and quite true statement, dear Jeri. I could not agree more… the best books might probably have that same effect, no matter the time, I am guessing (at least to a certain point). ?Thanks so much for sharing these reviews with us. Happy holidays and enjoy your break ?⭐️
Aqui, here’s to good books and a happy holiday break. See you in 2017! Thanks for all of your support time and time and time again 🙂
I’ll definitely take a look at A Man Called Ove for reading over the Christmas/NY break. The past couple of months I’ve been doing more rereading because I’ve been up to my eyeballs finishing year-end projects, and I still have two to go. Somehow, rereading my favorite books is comforting, like visiting with old friends, and they’ve helped me through more than a few stressful days.
Marty, I feel that way about audiobooks. I will often pick ones I’ve read before. It’s at once comforting and insurance against a too flighty attention span at times while listening 😉
I have not read any of these books. I need to read more! After blogging, working full-time, church ministry and reading the bible, I have very little free time. The time I do have I use to watch films!
I know a few people who have read “Girl on the Train”. Apparantely the book has far more depth than the film which is to be expected.
I always enjoy reading your interviews – it encourages me to write even when I question whether I have what it takes.
Phoenicia, I saw the movie version of The Girl on the Train with my bookclub. It wasn’t as satisfying as the book, but did stay true to many of the main points. It was disappointing that it was set in New York rather than London.
Jeri, I haven’t read any of the above books in terms of reading books my year 2016 was not good as I have read quite a few books.
Thank you for sharing these amazing books looking forward to reading them.
See you in 2017, Merry Christmas and Happy New year in advance!
Sushmita, Happy New Year in advance to you as well. Thank you for becoming part of my blogging community these last couple of months.
I like what you said about how sometimes a book finds us at the right time, so true. Great reviews Jeri, I haven’t read these books but have Girl on a Train still awaiting me on my bookshelf. 🙂
DG, I’d love to know how The Girl on the Train strikes you when you get a chance to read it. I liked a lot of it, but hated other aspects. It balanced out to a decent read for me in the end.
That’s quite a range of genres – and 50 books in a year, what an accomplishment. I have to really try to make time to read more, I enjoy it so much. Of all the books you’ve listed, I have to say the first one, “A Man Called Ove,” appeals the most. But maybe if I read your more detailed reviews, I’ll find more. I hope so : ))
Krystyna, as my post notes it’s more like 25 that were actually “read” when audiobooks and published client work is not counted. So maybe I’m a cheater, eh. I miss writing detailed reviews, but they are too labor intensive.
I’m intrigued, as always Jeri! I haven’t read any of these, but now I’d like to. I’m so curious to know more about A Man Called Ove. Maybe that will be my Christmas break reading. Thanks for sharing and have a wonderful holiday season!
I don’t know that I’ll ever pick up A Man Called Ove, however learning that Fight Club was written in both first- and second-person narrative makes me interested to give that book a whirl! 🙂
Laura, Fight Club was indeed pretty awesome.
Ohhh I like that you have quite the assortment of reads, just like I do. It’s neat that your last read (or one of the last ones) of the year was your favorite of the year 🙂 Good things take time. On a separate note, I saw you are ending your other blog and think the burial process will be a healing one on many levels. I hope you will continue blogging here!
Christy, I am definitely going to continue blogging here. The photography blog was more of a hobby. I’m glad I stuck with it for so long, but it had run its course.
Great to hear that this blog will continue 🙂 Happy holidays, dear Jeri!
These are a wonderful selection of books. I have been waiting to read Amy Schumer’s novel.
Thanks for sharing this with us, I cannot wait to see what you will read next year.
I’m always looking for good books! A Man Called Ove sounds like my kind of book. I’ll have to see how I feel about the age of the character. I’ve been there before where I think a character is really old and find he is really just middle aged. But then again, some people really do become prematurely old so I guess there’s that. Thanks for the reviews and suggestions!
Erica, it’s hard to say how the sympathy of the reader would or wouldn’t change had Ove’s character been a bit older. I think I would have connected to him even more if he’d been at least five, if not ten, years older.
I haven’t read any of these, but enjoy your reviews–and follow you on Goodreads–of them. I’m reading one now that I may have to give up on because so far the main character is awful with zero redeeming qualities. That said, I’ll soon be posting a review of “Choose Joy.” This book both ripped my heart open and caused it to heal. Non-fiction and well done.
Rose Mary, I just opened your review of Choose Joy. I can tell it’s a book I would enjoy.
Thx for sharing your lineup of books, Jeri. I love how the last book you finished this year turned out to be your fav.
I also love that quote about us always thinking we’ll have enough time for everything. That never happens, does it?
Doreen, time can be so fleeting. It’s good when stories can remind us of that and make us think about how we tend not to make the time we need to enjoy and connect with others.
Hi Jeri, such a wide variety of books. I’ve heard a lot of good reviews about The Girl on the Train and had been trying to make time for it. Sometimes it seems all I have time to read are cookbooks. The only suspense there is if the recipe will turn out like the picture. Lol. The Ove book sounds interesting and I trust your recommendation. I might have to squeeze this in.
Susan, I hope you can squeeze a novel or two in. I tend to make so many excuses for not getting my reading done. It’s always a battle.
I’m on the list at the library for A Man Called Ove. I’ve heard great things about this book and NOW with you loving it, I’m convinced!
LOVED Girl on a Train.
And I shall def. read Amy’s book. I love her authenticity. You know what I mean?
I’ve been told The Vegetarian is brilliant. It won the National Book Award I believe.
—But nothing has blown my socks off recently…
xx Keep well, dear.
Kim, you will probably enjoy Ove quite a lot. I’ve heard great things about The Vegetarian and it is on my never ending TBR list. Happy New Year!
What a great review! Thank you! I love books that are positive in a very unconventional way. Well, I don’t know if that explains clearly enough what I mean. But anyway, thanks for your review, I like them all.
Cecilia, thanks for stopping by. Your comment is clear, and Ove is indeed a positive, yet unconventional, book.