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Books I read: 2016 Part II

January 8, 2017

HAPPY NEW YEAR FRIENDS! Cheers to a beautiful 2017 filled with lots of adventures!

I grew up surrounded with books: My mom would take me to the local store to pick up a story book if I promised to be a good girl and not cry in the doctor’s office. My dad often dropped me off at a book rental place (like a library of some sort, but not really) and gave me free reign in choosing whichever Japanese comic books I wanted to get (always Doraemon, sometimes Kariage-Kun). I’ve always loved reading – it brings me to an entirely different world and allows me to let my imagination run wild.

The second half of the year saw summer in full swing, quite a busy fall with a lull in books availability from the library, and an awesome winter thus far.

Here are the books I read in the past 6 months. See my first half of 2016 here.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany 

I loved the Harry Potter series. I could read those books over and over again and I wouldn’t get bored. So I won’t lie – I was pretty excited when I finally got a hold of the book through Sarah and finished reading it in less than a week.

The verdict? I didn’t like it. It’s a play, so it’s a totally different style of literature. And it’s sorely missing that magical J.K. Rowling touch. She used to describe everything in a wondrous way, working your imagination, and taking you into the world of Harry Potter and friends. Cursed Child doesn’t have any of that.

While I was happy to be back in the Potter world for a brief time (it honestly felt like a reunion), I was disappointed with the plot. The story line lacks depth and the entire book reads like a fan fiction more than anything else.

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfield 

It’s the re-telling of Pride and Prejudice in a modern era. The Bennets live complicated lives marred with potential bankruptcy and not to mention the dismay of Mrs. Bennet because two of her eldest daughters are not married yet and are pushing 40. I must say Sittenfield did a great job portraying Darcy. I found him annoying and charming, exactly as Jane Austen had it. It’s an entertaining summer read and I’m glad I got a hold of it.

Only in Naples: Lessons in Food and Familgia from my Italian Mother-in-Law by Katherine Wilson 

Katherine moved to Naples as a part of her internship year and met her now- husband Salvatore and his family. The book reads like a series of short stories, each one focusing on an aspect of the Italian life, the Napoli way. I love books like this because it allows me to look at the culture from a very personal level.

Perfectly Yourself: 9 Lessons for Enduring Happiness by Matthew Kelly 

I’ve been having an issue with myself lately. How can I be the best version of myself yet remain authentic? I easily fall into the tendency of putting on a mask and a different facade and hiding my feelings away to please others. Without going into any spiritual things – Matthew Kelly is a well known Catholic speaker – Kelly dives deep into why we hide our true selves and gives us 9 ways to come out and be our authentic self. One thing he stressed throughout the book is to routinely have some time in the classroom of silence, be it through prayer or meditation. It is a necessity and a prerequisite to rediscover ourselves in the midst of a very noisy world.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah 

I tend to stay away from war time books because the last one I read (I think it was a Jodi Picoult, I may be completely wrong though, I really can’t remember the title) had me all sad and gloomy for the week. I gravitate towards happy and cheery books, the ones that tell you to go travel, enjoy life, and have a grand, grand adventure.

It’s lunch o’clock and I can’t put this book down 😘😱

A photo posted by Pauline (@talesofapilgrim) on

I also love it when people recommend books to me. Some of my best reads have come through recommendations or from reading other bloggers’ “Books I read” post. The Nightingale came with high praises from Kristin Luna of Camels and Chocolate. If I was going to take any book recos, I would take it from her and she didn’t disappoint.

For 4 days, I couldn’t put the book down, going as far as foregoing my nightly Netflix ritual in exchange of getting through the book. The Nightingale tells the story of a courageous yet broken family, the Rossignols. Julien, the father, was forever changed when he came back to his family after World War I and had to live through the horrors of World War II. Vianne, the older sister, had an idyllic life in Carriveau, a small and beautiful French village, with the love of her life, Antoine, and their daughter Sophie, all of which are completely ruined when the war started. Isabelle, the younger and rebellious sister, hopped on from one boarding schools to the next before finally finding her true vocation in the war. It’s dark and depressing, but the ending is uplifting and gives credits to those who are courageous beyond measure. An excellent read overall. Thanks for the recommendation, Kristin!

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

I randomly saw this book on one of the shelves in the library and thought I should check it out. I read maybe a quarter of it before giving up entirely. Gilbert talks about creativity like it is a sacred deity in the entire creative process. I’ve read lots of great reviews on the book, but I just couldn’t get into it. I find the concepts too abstract and something that I cannot relate to. Nothing against Gilbert though, I enjoyed her other books all the same.

The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

One of my patients came in with this book tucked under his arm. He was this tall burly guy and if you have seen the cover of the Nest, this isn’t a book you’d picture him reading. I got curious and asked him about it. His rave reviews (and okay, I won’t lie, the pretty cover) ultimately made me put it on hold.

The Nest talks about the dysfunctional Plumb siblings (there are 4 of them) who are waiting for their portion of “the nest” – Their father had invested a modest sum of money that had grown into a significant amount over the years. From sending their daughters to ivy league schools to paying off a summer homes, each of the Plumb siblings had an idea of what to do once they receive the hefty sum of money. Except the money never materialized and they are left to scramble and pick up the pieces of their lives.

It’s a book about transformation of families and it ends up being better than I expected.

32 Yolks by Eric Ripert

What turned out to be a tough childhood eventually shaped Rupert to be the world-renowned chef that he is today. This autobiography was written with a very personal tone and reading it makes me feel like it was Rupert himself who sat across from me and telling me his life story.

I love reading autobiographies mainly because the character development is real. Whatever that person went through actually happened and was recounted to the readers plus everything else they did to resolve it. Autobiographies portray resilience and what success looks like in a person’s life, something that doesn’t have a uniform look in our lives.

The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux 

Whenever, wherever 😊 #susantoeurotrip #paukepasarnatal

A photo posted by Pauline (@talesofapilgrim) on

There is a reason why Theroux is hailed to be one of the best travel writers out there.  I picked up The Great Railway Bazaar on a whim just before I left for my Euro trip and it proved to be a great company during all those times I felt lonely.

The book chronicles his journey to go overland from Europe to Australia and everything in between. His accounts of Istanbul makes me want to go there that much more (one day!), his experience through India makes me cringe, and his explanation of the the antics of his fellow passengers gave me the giggles. I appreciate the fact that he gives an accurate description of train travels without sugar coating it. But still, doesn’t the notion of traveling the world with a train sound romantic to you?

Grape, Olive, Pig: Deep Travels through Spain’s Food Culture by Matt Goulding

It’s safe to say I ended the my year of reading with a bang. Grape Olive Pig is one of the best books I read in 2016 complete with beautiful pictures and witty narrative that is so typical of Roads and Kingdoms (the author, Matt Goulding, is the website’s co-founder).

Goulding begins the book in Barcelona, a city where he fell in love literally – his wife is Catalunyan – and figuratively – it was his first visit to Barcelona that ignited his love for Spain (same with me) – and ends it in Andalusia, a place where shepherds dwell in caves and sustain themselves on a diet of migas, bread-like food made with olive oil and flour.

In his interview with Matt Kepnes of Nomadic Matt, he said: “At the very minimum, I want to arouse in the reader an uncontrollable desire to travel to Spain. If someone reads the book and buys a plane ticket, then I am happy. But the easiest part of a travel writer’s job is to evoke wanderlust, just as the easiest part of a food writer’s job is to stir hunger. The more challenging part is to write a book that goes beyond food or travel—to give the reader a deeper understanding of Spain, its people, its ebbs and flows.”

Can I get an Amen?

Also, because I cannot get over how much I like this book, I need to share one more quote with you:

“Somewhere out there, in the never ending Pueblo of Madrid, a man with a mohawk shows his cooks how to turn a cocktail into a salad, a mezcal-soaked restaurant owner captivates clients with tales of the greatness of Spain , a pot of simmering bones give up their marrows for tomorrow, and a group of suits still crisp from the workday decide there is enough time for one last round.”

This. This is everything I love about Spain.

I had a pretty solid count of 25 books in 2016. Not bad at all! I’m looking forward to a winter filled with books and cozy blankets. Next up on my list includes: Truly Madly Guiltily and The Smart Renter. I’m just waiting for them to be available from the library so I can get right into them!

What have you been reading? 

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