Year End Book Report: The Best Books I Read in 2016
Here I go, writing another one of these year end round up articles that I’m shocked to be writing every year. 2017. CRAZY. What a ride 2016 was. Hopefully 2017 will give us a bit of a break.
This past year was an interesting year for my book/comics list. After so many years of logging my books and comics reading via Google Spreadsheet, I actually converted my logs over to an online data tool called Airtable. It’s similar to Access in that it is a relational database but the user entry interface is very simple to create and similar to Excel. Plus being able to link specific information between tables really helps in cross referencing and spelling. You have no idea how many times I misspelled author names throughout my logs.
Here’s what my book log looks like now on Airtable. I’ve converted all my logs back to when I first started in 2007.
The blue colored fields in the screenshot are actually linked to another table. I was able to also create the Rating field on the right with different color coded ratings to make it easy at a glance to see what is going to make my year end list and what isn’t. Plus, Airtable makes all of this data entry even easier with a nice app for my iPhone or iPad that makes it easy to log entries on the go. Google Sheets had one as well but Airtable’s works better.
So that’s all the behind the scenes stuff. I had a better year for novels. I was able to pick 5 this year. Again, comics were booming and I had a tough time paring down to 5. But I did it.
So, without further ado, here’s the list!
The Old Man and the Sea (1952) – Ernest Hemingway – I don’t read classics as often as I used to. I really need to remedy that. There are two reasons why I read this. #1, it was featured in the movie The Equalizer starring Denzel Washington as a book he’s reading. #2, Steph checked it out from the library with a bunch of other books and I, on a whim, picked it up to read. It’s actually really good. I quite enjoyed it. I’m probably not going to pick up any other Hemingway, but I’ll definitely try to read more classic lit this coming year. I’ve been wanting to re-read Twain’s Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, so maybe I can get that done.
Steve Jobs (2011) – Walter Isaacson – I’ve now read two of Isaacson’s famous biographies and let me say that I’m hooked. Back in 2014 I read his biography of Benjamin Franklin and it nearly made my year end best of list. This one about Apple founder Steve Jobs actually cracks the list. It’s not only a great portrait of a complicated man, but it’s also a great look at the beginnings of our technological age we live in now. I would love for Isaacson to tackle Bill Gates in a full book, but I’m not sure that’ll happen. Isaacson did write a book called The Innovators that really digs into the people who created the computer and the Internet; going as far back as Alan Turing and jumping forward to people like Larry Page and Bill Gates. That will probably be next on my Isaacson reading list and the closest I’ll get to a full Gates biography by him.
Star Wars: Catalyst – A Rogue One Novel (2016) – James Luceno – The “New Canon” of Star Wars books since Disney has taken over has been very…hit or miss. Since those books started in Fall 2014, only one has made my year end list. And honestly, I think that one novel (Star Wars: Tarkin), also written by James Luceno, would work perfectly as a side-quel to this book. This is the written prequel to the movie Rogue One and it’s pretty great. It digs deep into the relationship between Galen Erso and Director Krennic. It also explores a bit more the rivalry between Krennic and Tarkin all while adding in backstory to how the Death Star was built and how it works and what they use to power the planet killing laser. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Magic Kingdom for Sale–Sold! (Landover series Book 1) (1986) – Terry Brooks – I talked about this book earlier in my High Fantasy Month article back in March. It’s a different setup for a fantasy series and I really enjoyed it. I had bought the collection of the first three books in the series, but I’ve not delved into the second book yet. However, it’s on the plan for this year.
To Hell on a Fast Horse: The Untold Story of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett (2010) – Mark Lee Gardner – I’m putting this on the list because it was a fascinating read. Honestly, it’s not the most exciting read, but it’s fascinating. This book is one of the more exhaustive accounts of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett’s lives that I’ve ever read. Gardner culls together hundreds of newspaper and book accounts and puts together a timeline of events that fleshes out both characters and does something I’ve never read before, fills in details on Garrett’s life after he killed Billy. That alone was worth the read. But be warned, it’s written like a text book or a bunch of newspaper articles, so it’s not super exciting.
Harry Potter Books 1-7 -I want to give a quick honorable mention. For this list, I usually stick to only books I’ve read for the first time. However, this year I did a re-read of all seven of the Harry Potter books. It’s amazing how well these books hold up. This would be my third re-read of the series since I started reading them back in 98 or 99. Rowling weaves such a beautiful, fun and dark story and I love it beginning to end every time I read it. I still haven’t read any of the supplemental books like Tales of Beedle the Bard or even The Cursed Child, but I hope to get to those this year.
Let’s move on to comics!
Comic Books/Graphic Novels
Hip Hop Family Tree Book 1: 1970s-1981 (2013) – Ed Piskor – I’ve had my eye on this a while but earlier in 2016 I tried Comixology Unlimited for a trial period and this was on there, so I dug in. It’s pretty amazing. It’s a huge read. Lots of fun. Crazy detailed. The art style in this book is reminiscent of the time period it’s reporting on, the late 70s – early 80s. It’s so good to see an engaging story that fills me in on where the hip hop culture and scene started. There are several more volumes of this and I finally was able to grab Book 2, so I’ll hopefully be reading that this year.
Wolverine: Old Man Logan (2009) – Mark Millar (writer), Steve McNiven (art) – Again, this is one I’ve wanted to read for a while but never did. Then with the Wolverine 3 movie on the horizon and taking at least part of its story from this book, I felt like I had to read it. And it’s spectacular. Millar really goes nuts creating a future Marvel world that is now run by super villains and is populated with amazing things like a T-Rex that is joined to a Venom symbiote. Just balls out awesome.
Grendel vs. The Shadow (2015) – Matt Wagner – I love the Shadow, but I’d never read Wagner’s Grendel even though I’d always wanted to. I love the look of the character and thought he just sounded awesome. However, the publication and breadth of stories to this character was always pretty daunting so I just never started. This seemed like a good jumping on point as it’s written and drawn by Grendel’s creator, Matt Wagner. And the book is all kinds of awesome. I loved every page of it. The characterizations, the art, the story. So much fun and I loved Grendel in it. For those in the know, the Grendel in this story is the original guy, Hunter Rose. I’m now going to have to check out more of Wagner’s Grendel. However, that being said, I did check out the first Batman/Grendel story from 1993 also drawn by Wagner. It’s good, but not great. I realize it’s really early stuff, but it felt very derivative of Miller’s Dark Knight Returns and Grendel wasn’t nearly as awesome in it.
Thor: God of Thunder Volume 3: The Accursed (2013) – Jason Aaron (writer), Nic Klein (art) – I’ve spent this year in comics sort of exploring my love of fellow Bama boy Jason Aaron. From the Marvel Star Wars ongoing title to the new Dr Strange ongoing to his creator owned stuff at Image like Southern Bastards I’ve just gorged myself on Jason Aaron. He has quickly jumped to the top of my favorite comic writers list. I finally finished up Aaron’s Thor: God of Thunder title this year and this particular volume featuring Malekith the Dark Elf is just balls out amazing. This is what Thor: The Dark World should have been but honestly never could have. The whole God of Thunder title is great, but especially this run of issues. It speaks to his greatness that Aaron is still writing Thor today.
The Sixth Gun series (2010-2016) – Cullen Bunn (writer), Brian Hurtt (art) – I’ve talked about this series for a while. I had started reading it back in 2013 but stopped about half way through to let it finish up. Bunn and Hurtt finally finished the series this year with issue #50. So, I went back and read from issue #1 all the way through to the final issue. This is such a good comic. I love it and completely give it a high recommend as a fun, inventive, weird and dark western.
So that wraps up my “best of” books list. Stay tuned for my “best of” movies list.