This year brings the best in music department as I listened to 24,135 songs this year according to my last.fm. I just purchased a Play Station 4, and have finished 3 games so far, each game takes around 60 hours to complete. And I watched movies and TV series a lot this year. So, when I'm just only able to finish 69 books this years, 6 books shy from last year's accomplishment, I am not proud. I remember at the beginning of the year that my resolution is to start to read heavier books this year, like the humongous Infinite Jest, for instance, or Tolstoy's War & Peace, but I never find the courage. I cheat and read The Little Prince, instead. In my defense, The Little Prince may not look like an austere book, but it's arguably a heavy book. Well, even so I don't read many books this year, I'm still able to find some treasure and I will summarize some of books that I enjoy this year.
10. "The Light Between Oceans" - M. L. Stedman
Stedman's The Light Between Oceans is the ultimate love story between a mother and a child, a wife and a husband, a family. Set in the Australian shore at the beginning of the 20th century, The Light Between Oceans is just too painful, it's like a serrated knife that stabs and twists my guts. People's opinion of the book may be polarized: some people praise for Stedman's knack for her kaleidoscopic description--so colorful, beautiful, and rich in building Australia setting at the beginning of the 20th century, while some others criticize her book for unbearable characters and the illogical decision they all make, but for me The Light Between Oceans efficaciously proves that there's still sincereness in this old cold world.
9. "A Untuk Amanda" - Annisa Ihsani
A stands for Amazing, and that's what A Untuk Amanda is. An Indonesian young-adult book that talks about things that actually matter for juvenile and provides the real solution to the problem. Set in an idyllic constructed world that bears some verisimilitude with Indonesia, A Untuk Amanda is a guide for young teenagers who suffer from depression. Our people may ignore the fact that depression or mental disorder is something real, but reading A Untuk Amanda is an eye-opening and epiphanous experience. And a nice mention of teenage's spirituality is like cherry on top, establishing A Untuk Amanda as one of the best Indonesian young adult-books.
8. "The Hithchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" - Douglas Adams
Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy or H2G2 may look like a parody, and that's true, but it's a classic one. Who would've thought that the answer to everything is 42? The meaning of life? It's 42. Why people blush? It's 42. Is there any God? It's 42. It's first published in 1970s, along with the human being's sudden awe to the firmament above, as proven by the release of Alien, Star Wars, or Close Encounters of the Third Kind. However, magically H2G2 never seems to be obsolete, it's still relevant until today. And as people and the smartest human being on earth still haven't been able to crack the code of the universe, H2G2 is the closest that we can get to answer these incessant questions.
7. "Symptoms of Being Human" - Jeff Garvin
Thank God Indonesian language does not acknowledge the gender in pronoun, it will strike off one of gender fluid's millions of problems. It's not easy to live in world where binary is the norm. You are either boy or girl, you are either team Katy Perry or team Taylor Swift, you are either black or white. The world is much more colorful place, like a kaleidoscope, and gender is no exception. Written by a cis-man, Symptoms of Being Human somehow accurately portrays the strive of a gender-fluid living in this binary world. As Garvin tries to open people's mind that gender fluid is not a disease, is not a made-up word, or not a conspiracy. It's real, it's true, and it's completely humane.
6. "Jellicoe Road" - Melina Marchetta
Marchetta is a queen of young adult book, and Jellicoe Road paves her way to the throne. With "Jellicoe Road", she reminds adult people that being a teenager can be hard because teenagers still search who they really are, they still search their real self, and it's a hard phase. Teenagers are vagabonds, looking the meaning of their real life. All of these messages, embodied in Taylor Markham, are conveyed with feelings and emotions. It's as if Marchetta's characters were all real and breathing and alive. I've never felt this way when I read a young-adult book. Reading "Jellicoe Road" is an emotional journey.
5. "Monsters of Men" - Patrick Ness
Ness is fucking with all of us by publishing Monsters of Men, concluding one of the best young-adult trilogies of all time. As a god of his characters, he absolutely can end the book with simple happy ending, but he knows his readers will never think if it ends happily. They will never ponder that life with a happy ending is a rare occurrence, and mostly life throws us shit. Monsters of Men defies young adult's cliche, proving what amazing young adult book is capable of. The Chaos Walking trilogy is designed to make you keep thinking and keep thinking, a quality that even adult books sometimes fail to have.
4. "Me Before You" - Jojo Moyes
Jojo Moyes' Me Before You is a rare case where a chick-lit book can make me laugh and bawl at the same time. Saying that there are those goddamn ninjas cutting onion when I put this book down may sound like the epitome of cliche, but Me Before You is indeed wonderful. I will never think that the book that's full of persiflage and ridiculous moments hides something dark and despondent. Euthanasia, a favorite topic in English debate, a choice to end our life. The idea of ending your life may seem frivolous for most of people, but when nothing is able to hold you, even when you finally find the love of your life, will you still be able to live? Beneath the jocular scenes in Me Before You, Moyes elaborates that the choice of life and death is actually justifiable.
3. "11.22.63" - Stephen King
My biggest mistake this year is not finishing Stephen King's 11.22.63 as soon as possible right away after I bought it two years ago. But, towering for more than 10 cm--never trust the book that has thickness more than 10 cm--11.22.63 can be daunting. Not to mention how minuscule the fonts in the book are. However, as I toughened up and start turning the pages, my jaw drops. It's really good. It may be a typical time-travel fairy tale, but when King, a king of story teller himself, mixes it with the history of JFK assassination, giving another side of the story from that tragedy, it all becomes amazing. And before I realize, I begin to sympathize with the main character and care so much about him. When the book ends, I' had a hangover, a sign that I just finished a masterpiece.
2. "All The Light We Cannot See" - Anthony Doerr
What part of Doerr's All The Light We Cannot See that doesn't scream, "Please adapt me to a film! I will bring you Oscars and fame!"? There's something between World War II and the Academy that we never understand, but while it's true that All The Light We Cannot See is set in World War II, it shows us the tranquil side of the war, if that's ever possible. While other WWII stories are filled with cacophonous boom and ricochet and wail, All The Light We Cannot See tends to be quieter. You can still hear the war machine faintly moaning on the background, but the focus of All the Light We Cannot See is innocent boy and girl and the family love and how Doerr writes in such ravishing way, whetting all of your five senses. You can smell the ocean, you can touch the sand, you can hear the war, you can taste the salty air, you can see everything that happens. It's just simply astonishing.
1. "Story of Your Life" - Ted Chiang
To say that Chiang's Story of Your Life is a book is exactly like saying Lady Gaga is still a relevant singer these days. At just 39 pages, Story of Your Life is just a short story, but when you don't need hundred of pages to deliver an amazing story, that's where your talent is showcased, and Chiang has proven it with his oeuvres. Nothing prepares me for Story of Your Life, and when I finished reading it, I was blown away. Story of Your Life breaks all alien invasion tropes through, written from a linguist's point of view who is appointed to translate the alien's language. It is hardcore, it is confusing, but it's because our small brain cannot recognize the invisible thread that binds this story together. It all makes sense in the ending, and your head explodes. It's fortunate (or unfortunate) that Chiang is not a prolific writer. If that's the case, there may be thousands of headless people by now.