As we’re getting into all of my favorites posts for the end of the year, I have just about gotten my final lists ready to go. There’s still some opportunity for change since I’m hoping to finish a few books before the end of the year. But as of right now, I’m pretty sure I know what’s going on them. Unfortunately, not all books could make the top ten. So I decided to write the post of runners-up.
Honestly, I didn’t read all that many amazing books this year. If you’ve been reading my experiment posts, you probably know why. It was actually more difficult to narrow down my least favorites list than my favorites lists. But there were still a few books I’m still thinking about months later that did not make it into the favorites. So here are my eight almost-favorites.
The Huntress by Kate Quinn
This book was so close to being a five-star read. I thoroughly enjoyed a WWII novel that revolved around three very different female characters: a Russian fighter pilot, an American photographer, and a Nazi assassin. Their stories alternate until they all come together at the end. And we all know there is usually one perspective in an alternating perspectives narrative that you don’t enjoy as much and kind of skip over (don’t worry, I won’t tell). But that was not the case here.
However, the thing that kept me from giving this five stars was that I don’t think it was edited particularly well. There were a few things that were repetitive or inconsistent. The writing was good, and the story was great, but there were little errors that kept catching my eye. To be fair, getting a masters in English has ruined reading for me in that it has trained my eye to catch all of those mistakes. But it did keep me from loving this book as much as I wanted to.
If Cats Disappeared from the World by Genki Kawamura
I will be doing a reading experiment wrap up soon, but I think we all know what my most popular one of the year was: the one where I read a bunch of Japanese books about cats. It was such a fun experiment and such a fun post. And this book came out as an unexpected favorite. It’s all about what you would be willing to give up for a few days more of life, and what you would chose to do with that time.
I thought this was a really profound story, told in a unique and interesting way. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. And I liked that it made me think more about what I value. (Note: I don’t think I would make all the cats disappear just so I could have one more day.) This was a fun, albeit slightly weird, read, and I really do recommend it if you like weird books, books with stories that delve into philosophy, or just want to read more translated works.
The Birds & Other Stories by Daphne du Maurier
I didn’t absolutely love all of the stories in this book. But there is one I’m still thinking about months later. ‘Mount Verita’ was weird and dark and right up my alley. It reminded me of what I like about Daphne du Maurier’s writing. I think that if we were talking about a whole book of just a novel-length ‘Mount Verita’, that would have been an easy favorite. But as it is, there were other stories in this book that I didn’t love as much.
Still it was a fun read. I did not enjoy ‘The Birds’ as much as I was hoping to, but it was still good. And it was fun to read the inspiration for one of Hitchcock’s most well-know films. He basically just took the premise and made a whole new story. Overall, I really liked this, but I really only remember ‘The Birds’ and ‘Mount Verita’ out of all the stories in this collection.
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
This was such an interesting historical novel. It’s based off the true story of Agnes Magnusdottir, Iceland’s last female convicted murderer. This story was really heartbreaking, and it definitely stuck with me. I’m not quite sure why I gave it four stars instead of five – I read it very early on in the year, so I don’t remember – but for whatever reason, this book just didn’t quite hit that mark for me. But it was still a really, really good book. I’m also very happy I read it because it had been sitting on my shelf for ages, so it felt good to finally be able to stop starting at it thinking “I should read that”.
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
Out of all the books on this list, this one probably surprised me the most. I honestly thought this was just going to be a huge classic I struggled through and felt a sense of achievement when I finally finished it. And that is true. But I also thoroughly enjoyed it. I read the biggest chunk of this book back in September when I was going through a rough time at work. And it was kind of therapeutic to read about revenge since I wasn’t able to take some myself.
But now that I have read this book, I can definitely see why I it’s such a beloved classic. My only regret is putting this on my reading list on the same year I decided to read Harvard’s entire summer reading list (which was almost entirely medieval classics). That was just dumb. Going forward, I’m sticking to one classic over a thousand pages per year. But I am still glad I read this one, because it was my favorite.
The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clementine Wamariya
This is a memoir that has been on my radar for a while, about a girl who escaped the Rwandan genocide at the age of six. As expected, this was really difficult to read. But it was also very beautifully written. I enjoyed the writing, even as the story was breaking my heart. I think the reason this didn’t make my favorites list is that, for some reason, it wasn’t as memorable as I thought it would be. Favorites are subjective, and this one just didn’t quite stick the way I felt like it should. Still excellent, though.
When They Call You a Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele
And of course we have yet another memoir. I actually just realized that my current top ten favorites list does not contain a single memoir (and only one nonfiction – again, this is subject to change, I still have time to read more!). Anyway, this one is about the Black Lives Matter movement, specifically, how it was founded. Which was really cool to read about.
You know me, whenever there is something I support or believe in, I want to learn more about it (because then I am better equip to intelligently argue with – and eviscerate – the assholes who do not agree with things like feminism or that Black Lives Matter). And while I didn’t quite learn anything new on that front, I did really enjoy reading more about the people who founded the movement we have all heard about, and what led them to do so.
I Never Said I Loved You by Rhik Samadder
I hadn’t heard of this book before I picked it up for a reading experiment last month. So it was a pretty unexpected five-star read for me. It’s an incredibly well-written memoir about having depression and recovering from it. As someone who has been through that journey, I identified with this book so much. I also appreciated how the author brought humor to a dark topic.
Personally, I think what I loved most about this book was that Samadder was able to write down his experience. For me, it was really nice to read about something that validated my own experience, because I didn’t get all that much support, and it helped to see that experience reflected in someone else’s. And I also think this book is great for anyone who has not experienced depression, because I think it’s important to understand what others go through. And maybe you can help a family member or friend who feels like they’re not being seen. Just an overall really great book, but I just didn’t love it quite enough for it to make my top ten books of the year.
I hope you enjoyed this post! I felt like I wanted to talk about these books a little now that we’ve reached the end of the year, even though you won’t find them on any of my favorites lists.
Did you read any books this year that you loved, but weren’t quite favorites?
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