There is a lot of 2016 that I’d love to throw by the wayside. It was a rough year personally and politically (which I take pretty darn personally), and if I was going to request a do over, 2016 just might be my pick. But. My reading life in 2016 was busting at the seams. So many wonderful books fell into my lap and because I made reading a huge focus, I kicked butt and took names when it comes to my personal reading challenge.
My goal was 80 books and 31,110 pages. My final results?120 books and 43,430 pages! Rock on!
I had planned to read 10 chunksters (books over 450 pages), and I read 15. Yay me!
My A to Z Challenge? Yeah. Not so much. I get down to the last few letters, the more difficult ones that limit my choice, and I just can’t make myself do it. Starts feeling like a “have to” when I don’t want to and then it isn’t fun anymore. After a few years of trying, I’ve decided that A to Z challenges just aren’t for me. Too restrictive. But more on my 2017 challenges in a future post.
As for the best books I read this year? I couldn’t cut it down to a nice clean number and leave somebody out, so here is my list (in no particular order):
NOS4A2 by Joe Hill – This was my first by Joe Hill, and it really stuck with me. I still think about those creepy kids sometimes, and when I’m driving around in beautiful, wooded Maine, I flash back to scenes from that book and it makes it all the more real for me.
All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda – Better than Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train. Need I say more? Ok. It’s feckin’ brilliant.
The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis – I don’t even know what to say about this book other than I loved it SO MUCH and if I had been forced to cull this list down to only five books, this book still would have been on the list. It was insightful and thought-provoking and perspective changing. Unlike any post-apocalyptic book I’ve read. Must. Read.
The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan – A book I’ve recommended again and again. It’s different in all the right ways. For me, the most compelling part was Stella’s experience as a transgender youth. It helped shed light on an experience I know nothing about, but want to understand better. And the pre-apocalyptic setting was my cup of tea.
Valley of the Moon by Melanie Gideon – Another top 5 for me. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever read. It’s hard even to describe. A truly emotional journey, this book. One that shouldn’t be missed.
The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore – Historical fiction that revolves around the current wars (Edison, Westinghouse, Tesla). This book is on the list because it was such a surprise to me. I’m more of a medical science person, not so much a physics and engineering person. But Moore took a subject I didn’t think I’d be particularly interested in and turned it into a book I couldn’t put down. And I got educated in the process. My favorite historical fiction of the year.
All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood – I. Can’t. Even. Messy and complex and beautiful and masterfully written. This book is all-the-things. Set aside your preconceived notions about morality and humanity and people and get ready to learn to love the brutifulness of life (if you aren’t familiar with the term brutiful – see Momastery). I love this book so hard!
Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter – Never read Karin Slaughter before, but this was my book club’s monthly selection, and I was not disappointed. A wonderful page-turner, that reminded me how good a well-written thriller can be. And it’s a stand-alone.
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult – I’m ashamed to say I haven’t read her before now. If this book is a fair example of her other work, I’m all in. She handled a very sensitive and delicate topic in a way that opened my eyes even wider. As a liberal, I tend to think I “get it” when it comes to racism and prejudice, but this book made me see the little things I never paid attention to before, the insidious ways that prejudice affects the daily lives of people of color, and how even well-meaning white people like myself likely have biases we are blind to. A must read.
The Tearling trilogy by Erika Johansen – I love YA, and I read some good YA this year, but this trilogy was really excellent. Probably it’s because I’m drawn to fantasy, and because I appreciated the grittier approach. So often YA uses a soft touch, and I understand why (such a wide age range), but for those who aim towards the older end of the spectrum, or who give credit to younger readers ability to “handle it”, I can’t help but show some favoritism. Not because I’m 40, but because I was once a 14 year old reading Flowers in the Attic and The Exorcist, so…yeah.
The Passage trilogy by Justin Cronin – I love reading about the world falling apart and humanity picking up the pieces after the fact. I also love vampires, werewolves, and all things supernatural, so humans getting a virus and turning into something violently “other” and tearing the world apart? I’ll take three servings please.
Miller’s Valley by Anna Quindlen – A book about the true definition of home. My first Quindlen. Not my last.
The Ice Twins by S.K. Tremayne – I read this during Dewey’s 24 hour Readathon, and it was riveting. Creepy and twisty and strange. The perfect book to read on a stormy night with the lights down low. Truly suspenseful. Eager to read more by Tremayne.
Books 2 (Dragonfly in Amber) and 3 (Voyager) in the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon – When I originally started reading this series, I devoured the first two books, and when I started the third, I was a little burnt out (they are super long – each book is equivalent in length to two or three books), and I needed a break. I took a longer than expected break and when I was ready to pick Voyager up again, I decided to reread the first two. Towards the end of 2015, I reread Outlander. In 2016, I reread Dragonfly in Amber and finished Voyager. I love this series. LOVE. Unfortunately, I’m not the kind of person who can read nothing but one series end to end (trilogy, yes; 8 books that equal nearly 8,000 pages? No.) But I plan to get through at least two more this year. And I always, always recommend this series.
That’s it. A long post, to be sure, but I couldn’t leave anybody out. If these were the only books I read in 2016, I’d have counted myself a lucky girl. Several of them I hope to reread in the coming years. Hopefully, you’ll get a chance to enjoy a few of them, too!
Can’t wait to see what beauties 2017 has in store for me. 😀