2016 Reading Highlights

In 2016, I broke out of my reading rut and found some new favourites.  Are any of these your favourites?  I’d love to hear about the highlights of your year in the comments below!

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The Beach by Alex Garland

the-beach-book-review-paiges-pagesTITLE: The Beach
AUTHOR: Alex Garland
PUBLISHER: Penguin Books
RELEASE DATE: 1996
GENRE: Adult Fiction, Thriller
PAGE COUNT: 436


Richard, a gap-year student travelling in Thailand, follows a map to a secret island community.  This paradise soon becomes a nightmare as tensions rise between the islanders.

Richard is our gripping but unreliable first person narrator.  The ghost of the island commune’s previous leader, Daffy, haunts his dreams.  Richard’s descent into madness is believable and insidious, so you don’t realise how fatal his actions are until it’s too late to turn back.  In this book, even the most boring details of the islanders’ lives are vividly brought to life.  Even background characters have depth.

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Slade House by David Mitchell

Slade House Review Paige's PagesTITLE: Slade House
AUTHOR
: David Mitchell
PUBLISHER
: Random House
RELEASE DATE
: October 27, 2015
GENRE
: Supernatural Horror
PAGE COUNT
: 233


Every nine years the mysterious residents of Slade House summon a guest.  However, the house is nothing more than a façade for a terrifying game of cat in mouse, with no chance of survival.

David Mitchell’s iconic split narrative style follows five doomed guests into Slade House.  Like a recurring fever dream, their stories repeat a sinister pattern.  I love how the repetition creates a sickly sense of foreboding that made my heart race from start to finish.

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We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

We Should All Be Feminists Book Review Paige's PagesTITLE: We Should All Be Feminists
AUTHOR
: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
PUBLISHER
: Fourth Estate
RELEASE DATE
: October 9, 2014
GENRE
: Essay, Politics
PAGE COUNT
: 52


Consider this your “feminism 101” or “starter kit for gender equality”.  We Should All Be Feminists is the pocket-sized essay developed from Adichie’s famous TEDx talk.  It takes less than an hour to read, but its message makes gender politics visible to a universal audience.  She clearly defines feminism, reminding us that gender politics affect everyone, and should be fought by all – not just women, and not just men.

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White Space by Ilsa J. Bick

White Space Review Paige's PagesTITLE: White Space
SERIES: The Dark Passages  #1
AUTHOR
: Ilsa J. Bick
PUBLISHER
: Egmont USA
RELEASE DATE
: February 11, 2014
GENRE
: Young Adult, Fantasy, Horror
PAGE COUNT
: 560


17-year-old Emma writes a story about kids trapped in a blizzard – which she unknowingly plagiarised from a dead author’s unpublished manuscript.  Now she finds herself trapped in a blizzard with a bunch of strangers, all with secrets of their own.  Will they survive to find out whose story they’re trapped inside?

This book is told from eight points of view, with intersecting timelines and alternate realities.  The story may sound mindboggling, but every aspect of this world is rich with detail and purpose.  References to Sylvia Plath and Lewis Carroll create a rich and eerie atmosphere.

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Eleven Hours by Pamela Erens

eleven-hours-review-paiges-pagesTITLE: Eleven Hours
AUTHOR: Pamela Erens
PUBLISHER: Atlantic Books
RELEASE DATE: July 7, 2016
GENRE: Adult Fiction
PAGE COUNT: 176


Eleven Hours tells the stories of two women from totally different walks of life.  The first is Lore, in labour with her first child.  The second is Franckline, her pregnant Haitian midwife.  The next eleven hours change both their lives.  

This book moved me with its insightful representation of women.  In a world where female opinions and consent often come second to male agendas, Lore’s self-assured character is refreshing.  Eleven Hours is a confronting but gripping story.

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The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

the-outsiders-book-review-paiges-pagesTITLE: The Outsiders
AUTHOR: S.E. Hinton
PUBLISHER: Penguin
RELEASE DATE: 1967
GENRE: Young Adult Fiction, Modern Classic
PAGE COUNT: 198


On the streets of ’60s Oklahoma, 14-year-old Ponyboy and his gang of endearing Greasers are at war with the upper-class Socs.  Then a tragic accident turns their lives upside down.

Ponyboy’s Greasers are a raw and empathetic cast of characters.  I was emotionally invested in the relationships between the boys, and their authentic bonds.  This is a must-read modern classic, told by one of my all-time favourite narrators.

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Walking Towards Ourselves: Indian Women Tell Their Stories edited by Catriona Mitchell

walking-towards-ourselves-book-review-paiges-pagesTITLE: Walking Towards Ourselves: Indian Women Tell Their Stories
EDITOR: Catriona Mitchell
PUBLISHER: Hardie Grant Publishing
RELEASE DATE: April 16, 2016
GENRE: Nonfiction, Memoir, Politics
PAGE COUNT: 272


This book kickstarted my passion for Own Voices narratives.  In one of the world’s most patriarchal societies, Indian women share their most intimate stories.  This powerful collection features diverse experiences of womanhood and motherhood in India, to educate and empower.  Sometimes heartbreaking and sometimes uplifting, Walking Towards Ourselves is powerfully positive.  Never hateful or aggressive, it doesn’t put others down in the process of raising its voice.

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More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

more-happy-than-not-review-paiges-pagesTITLE: More Happy Than Not
AUTHOR: Adam Silvera
PUBLISHER: Soho Teen
RELEASE DATE: June 2, 2015
GENRE: Young Adult Fiction, LGBTQI+
PAGE COUNT: 293


Following his father’s suicide and his own attempt to take his life, 16-year-old Aaron wonders if Leteo Institute’s revolutionary memory-wiping procedure could be the key to happiness?

More Happy Than Not is a heartbreaking mental illness narrative.  Aaron is an empathetic and realistic anti-hero with a character arc that I found intensely emotional.  This story captures depression rawly and accurately.

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A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

a-monster-calls-review-paiges-pagesTITLE: A Monster Calls
AUTHOR: Patrick Ness
PUBLISHER: Walker Books
RELEASE DATE: September 6, 2011
GENRE: Junior Fiction
PAGE COUNT: 216


A monster visits 13-year-old Connor to tell him three stories.  Then Connor will have to share a fourth story – the nightmare about his dying mother that haunts him every night.

This book is a must read for young and old, proving how even something as painful and complicated as grief can be discussed simply and sensitively through metaphor.  The images and descriptions are beautiful and demand reflection.

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Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

challenger-deep-review-paiges-pagesTITLE: Challenger Deep
AUTHOR: Neal Shusterman
PUBLISHER: Harper Teen
RELEASE DATE: April 21, 2015
GENRE: Young Adult Fiction
PAGE COUNT: 308


15-year-old Caden believes in an alternate reality – he’s a pirate on course to plunder the deepest point of the ocean.  As Caden’s unmedicated schizophrenia worsens, his realities bleed into each other more and more.

This is the entertaining as well as educating story of hitting rock bottom, and finding the way back.  Although this particular mental illness narrative explores schizophrenia’s impact on Caden and his family, readers with diverse mental health experiences will be able to relate to this story.

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Gaysia: Adventures in the Queer East by Benjamin Law

gaysia-review-paiges-pageTITLE: Gaysia: Adventures in the Queer East
AUTHOR: Benjamin Law
PUBLISHER: Black Inc
RELEASE DATE: January 1, 2012
GENRE: Nonfiction, LGBTQI+
PAGE COUNT: 288


Gaysia is the often hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking exploration of LGBTQI+ experiences in Asia.  In this powerful Own Voices narrative, Benjamin Law discovers how people with diverse gender and sexual identities live in a variety of cultures.  If you want to expand your awareness of the attitudes and challenges LBGTQI+ people face, this is a must read.

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For Today I Am A Boy by Kim Fu

for-today-i-am-a-boy-review-paiges-pagesTITLE: For Today I Am A Boy
AUTHOR: Kim Fu
PUBLISHER: Random House
RELEASE DATE: January 1, 2014
GENRE: Adult Fiction, LGBTQI+
PAGE COUNT: 241


As the much-longed for son of a traditional Chinese man, Peter’s identity as a transgender woman is carefully concealed for decades.  However, abusive relationships, religious entanglements, and growing kinship with his sisters force Peter to evaluate his life path.

While For Today I Am A Boy isn’t an enjoyable book, I recognise its importance as a raw and honest narrative that shows cultural experiences and aspects of the LGBTQI+ experience that I’ve never read before.

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