I can’t quite believe that 2016 (and my first full year of blogging) is coming to an end. Books by the Window has definitely been a great motivation for me to not only keep up with reading but to be thinking more deeply about what I’m reading. I’ve enjoyed many of the books I’ve read over the course of this year so I thought I would make a post with my five favourites; I also love a good adaptation so I’ve thrown in my favourites of those too.
I think this might be my favourite book that I read all year. Even now, many months on from when I first read it, I am still thinking about Maggie and her struggles; it has not only left a lasting impression with me but has grown in my estimation the more I’ve thought about the narrative. It took me a while to read, but it was definitely worth the effort. Maggie is one of the most relatable characters I’ve encountered in a novel and I suspect this will be a book I reread multiple times.
I loved reading the first of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Series; I had no idea what to expect from this novel, but I was so pleasantly surprised as I read. The trials of Lila and Elena as they navigate their friendship as well as careers, disappointments, and romantic relationships are well portrayed and their community feels entirely real. As I mentioned in my original review, I particularly loved the use of objects as symbols for the big themes in the girls’ lives.
I’ve mentioned many times that I wish I had read this book as a child. I think I would have loved the imaginative world that Saint-Exupéry created even more than I did when I read it earlier this year. It was a surprisingly emotional read, but I enjoyed the friendship portrayed and I thought that Saint-Exupéry had a wonderful writing style. I’m so glad I finally got around to reading this little book.
I have to say, I actually wasn’t initially expecting this novel to make it on the list. However, in a similar fashion to The Mill on the Floss, this is a book that I’ve still been thinking about months on from when I initially read it. It wasn’t a comfortable read by any stretch of the imagination, but it was thought-provoking and gave voice to those who were never heard in their own time.
Yes, I had never read this very famous novel before this year. I’m a bad English Literature student. However, I enjoyed reading Frankenstein so much more than I was expecting, and it has quickly become a favourite of mine. It is such a clever examination of what it means to be human, with real emotional stakes that rarely felt forced. The narrative set-up of a story within a story within a story was fascinating since it meant that the narration was being filtered through so many different characters.
I’ve always found publications from CCEF to be helpful in terms of thinking through big issues from a Biblical perspective, and this book was no exception. It was a very timely read for me: I found myself picking this book back up this year after starting it a while back due to a period of increased anxiety and stress. This was the perfect book to read during that time as Welch is really clear in his encouragement of the anxious reader but also asking you to challenge your worries and fears in the light of our great God of rest. It didn’t solve my anxiety, but it did help me think more carefully about the root of it all. This was definitely the most personally helpful book I’ve read this year.
Stage: Hamlet (RSC, 2016)
I managed to see this through the Theatre on Screen programme, and I am so glad that I did. It was clever, fun, and emotional, engaging the audience fully throughout the performance; there was a school group sat in front of me and one of the teenage boys commented to his teacher that he had never liked or understood Hamlet properly until he saw this adaptation. As someone who loves Hamlet, this was an incredible adaptation to watch, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Film: The Little Prince (2015)
This was a beautiful, creative, and emotional adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s writing. Everything about the film, from the tone to the animation to the music, served to bring this imaginative world to life through the eyes of a young girl. I loved being able to spend a slightly jet-lagged evening watching this, and I will definitely be rewatching it at some point: I feel as though it is one of those films where you notice more and more the more you rewatch it.
TV Series: North and South (BBC, 2004)
I haven’t watched many TV adaptations this year, but of those I have watched North and South is definitely the stand out (also, it is the only one I got round to reviewing, but I did watch a few others). It is aesthetically stunning: beautifully shot with an incredible soundtrack. Although it does veer off the source material (particularly towards the end of the series), the series as a whole is strong enough that I didn’t mind too much.
I watch a lot of Literary-Inspired Web Series, but the two series released by The Borrowers That Lend this year have been highlights for me. As an adaptation of Hamlet, A Document of Madness is an endearing and thoughtful exploration of grief with engaging characters and great acting. It’s sequel, The Better Strangers, is a currently-airing adaptation of As You Like It. Similar in style, The Better Strangers is a little more light-hearted than its predecessor, although still dealing with some difficult but necessary themes.