This is very long overdue but I was blog hopping and came across The Daily Prophecy ran by Mel. Her latest post was a quick survey of all the books she read in 2016. At the end of her post, she posed the question:
What is the best book you read in 2016?
This is a very tough question for me to answer. I read a couple of very good books this year. Some notable mentions are:
- 1984 by George Orwell
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
- Emma by Jane Austen
- Waiting by Ha Jin
- A Fisherman of the Inland Sea by Ursula K. Le Guin
However, there were two books that really stood out to me this year: Emma and Waiting. I can’t decide which was the better book for me.
Waiting by Ha Jin
This book tells the story of a man in an affair and a marriage that he cannot seem to get out of. He had been trying to divorce his wife for years so that he could marry the woman that he actually loves. However, he can’t seem to get past the law and the pity he has for his wife and his daughter who live in near poverty.
This love story was extremely touching and it really made me think about marriage. One of my worst fears is marrying the wrong the person. Another one of my fears is getting married. What does it mean to marry a person? In the eyes of the law it’s just seen as a formal union. To society, it may just be something you are expected to do and something to uphold at all costs. To others, it’s something that you need in order to express your utmost love for another person.
Jin’s voice is very authentic. As someone who is unfamiliar with the setting of the story, communist China in the 1960’s, it was very easy to get a sense of the culture and values. His characters were sympathetic and their struggles were, although a bit out of place in the context of a modern Western society, very real. This book left a strong impression on my mind.
Emma by Jane Austen
I was immediately charmed by Emma. Although, she is a bit over the top (like her over confidence in her abilities and tendency to over analyze), it made her character all the more enjoyable. Her antics and the way she interacts with others is almost laughable, but all in good fun.
For someone so disinterested in marriage, marriage is all around Emma. Marriages are conducted in her presence and married are made from her presence (or so she says). Her meddlesome behaviour into other people’s affairs opens her eyes to realize things about not only herself but of others too.
There’s not much that I can say about this book that is very thought provoking. Jane Austen adopts a light hearted and comedic tone with ease and the language of classic literature is always hard to resist. Overall, I think Emma made for great entertainment and was a fun book to read.
Conclusion: The Best Book of 2016
Even after writing all of this, I am still unsure. I think Waiting had more personal impact whereas Emma was a pleasure to lay my eyes on. I read stories to experience things that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I read to be entertained, to think deeply, to feel, and to find bits of myself. Both of these books have hits and misses in this regard. Overall, I think I just might have to give the best book of 2016 to Ha Jin’s Waiting.