We read some good, great, even excellent books this year. Here are a few WCL librarian favourites that we read this year, maybe they’ll make it on to your 2016 reading list! Happy new year from Wellington City Libraries!
Pen & ink : tattoos and the stories behind them / Isaac Fitzgerald, Wendy MacNaughton
A question like “what does your tattoo mean?” can be difficult to answer, especially if there is a deeply personal or painful reason behind it, and the people featured in this book tell stories that range from funny to heartbreaking. Reading this book feels like listening to ‘Desert Island Discs’ – oddly voyeuristic, and utterly engrossing and fascinating.
Finnikin of the rock / Melina Marchetta. (first in the Lumatere Chronicles)
Sometimes with teen fiction you can see where a story is heading, but I couldn’t with this one. The characters were layered and complex. I felt like the author revealed details about their pasts only after I had drawn my own (often incorrect) conclusions about them, so I was constantly rethinking my feelings about each character. A strong focus in the novel was the fate of refugees who cannot return home and this was thought provoking as well since I was reading it at the height of media coverage of the refugee crisis in Europe.
Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour bookstore / Robin Sloan.
This is a mystery with a touch of fantasy and magic. It is narrated by Clay Jannon, the main character, and describes his discovery of a 2nd hand book store, his eventual employment there and his deepening suspicions of a mystery involving the store and its owner. The ultimate revelations and outcomes were totally unexpected but satisfying. Also, if you borrow the book, check out the cover in the dark – gave me quite a surprise one night after I had put it down and turned out the light
A god in ruins : a novel / Kate Atkinson.
A sort of follow up to Life After Life but much more convincing. Follows the life of Teddy from age 11 to 98 and the effect his wartime experiences had on his philosophy and personality.
Future days : Krautrock and the building of modern Germany / David Stubbs.
A brilliant history of not only the music but the cultural evolution of post-War Germany and its effect on music and Western civilisation.
I also enjoyed Yeah yeah yeah: the story of modern pop by Bob Stanley and Clothes, clothes, clothes, music, music, music, boys, boys, boys by Viv Albertine.
Wonderstruck : a novel in words and pictures / Brian Selznick.
One of the best graphic novels/chapter books I’ve read this year! Selznick smartly weaves 2 parallel stories –one in letters, the other one in drawings- which are neatly synchronized, so that both characters somehow live the same, though in different time periods. Impressive!
The Z was zapped : a play in twenty-six acts / Chris Van Allsburg.
Amazing illustrations by one of the best: Chris Van Allsburg. This book – shelved under the “Sophisticated Picture Books” – will keep you guessing what is happening to each letter of the alphabet. We already know the Z was Zapped but it’s not as easy as you might think! Kids will surely learn some cool words in the process 😉
This one summer / Mariko Tamaki, Jillian Tamaki.
A coming of age graphic novel. Has the dreamy-ist tones with a touch of mystery and concern for growing up.
The edible woman / Margaret Atwood.
My first Atwood novel and it definitely lived up to expectation. The main character is almost too relatable in her confusing regarding her place in society. Though the things that were going on throughout the book could have been dramatic there was a calmness that made it a pleasure to read. I also enjoyed the little references to other books and authors scattered throughout.
The wrong place & The making of / Brecht Evens.
Such incredible artwork! Not your typical graphic novel in terms of layout, with some images spanning both pages and a sense of Where’s Wally about them which finds you staring for hours (or minutes, but let’s over exaggerate!). Not to mention that the stories are fantastic. Of the two I favoured The Making Of for its night time forest scenes. It’s really something that has to be seen rather than described.
Stranger than we can imagine : making sense of the twentieth century / John Higgs.
Every once in a while a book comes along that can cause one to become a bit annoying to friends as it seems perfectly obvious that everyone should read it and it should be made required reading in schools worldwide immediately. John Higgs book struck me this way and all I can say is, if you want to know why we live in such befuddled, mixed up times then you may find out by reading this book.
Saga / Brian K. Vaughan, writer ; Fiona Staples, artist.
In 2015 I finally discovered Saga, one of the most incredible (and beautifully drawn) comic stories I’ve ever read. It follows a couple whose differing races are in an intergalactic war with one another, and the couple’s struggle to survive and keep their family together while on the run from the ruthless robot prince. We’ve got volumes 1-5 in our collection so you can gorge on it too, for a bit.
More happy than not / Adam Silvera.
This is a young adult contemporary novel, but with a sci-fi twist. In this story, everything is as we know it, except that the technology to allow memory alterations exists. It’s hard to believe this is a debut novel – it’s extremely well written and gripping! I can’t wait to see what Adam Silvera writes next.
The conductor / Sarah Quigley.
New Zealand author Sarah Quigley gives a great insight into the gruelling reality of daily life during the brutal Siege of Leningrad, in 1941-2. The novel centres on conductor Karl Eliasberg, his love/hate relationship with composer Dmitri Shostakovich and the musical elite of Leningrad, and the way extraordinary circumstances change people for better or worse. One of the book’s themes is Shostakovich’s struggle to complete his Seventh (Leningrad) Symphony during the Siege and a CD is included so you can listen to this powerful symphony as you read.
How to thrive in the next economy : designing tomorrow’s world today / John Thackara.
A fascinating and easy read examining the ‘ecocidal’ practices of western/global systems and the contemporary initiatives that are actively reshaping them.
One of the few design perspectives out there that considers the health of our soils, forests, rivers and oceans as the backbone of quality of life, which urgently helps lead the way into a new economic age built around existing ecosystems.