So 2016 is over and I read 65 books throughout the year. 65! My original goal had been 52 books, which was also my 2015 goal that I failed to meet. I ended up surpassing the 52 book goal in 2016, so I reset it to 60, and then passed that and reset my goal again to 65, which I just made, finishing the last book on a plane on new year’s eve day.
I wanted to share some of my favorites from 2016. I’ve blogged about most of them before, but will put them into favorite categories with some honorable mentions, too. I have to say, it is really tough to pick favorites! I was lucky to have read so many great books this year, but I also included some I didn’t love and wouldn’t recommend.
I read a lot of mystery/thrillers so I found it really hard to pick a favorite from the year. In the end, 11/22/63 by Stephen King had to be my pick (fun fact: it was the highest rated book on Goodreads that I read in 2016). I read it at the very beginning of 2016 and am STILL thinking about it, which is a clear indication of how good it was. This is a very long book but is totally worth the time investment. In short, it follows the life of someone who time travels back to the assassination of JFK in an attempt to change the course of history and prevent the event all together.
I have two honorable mentions for this category (I told you it was hard to choose!). First is The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain, which was an emotional thriller that centers around a family. I loved this book and devoured it on a flight in the beginning of the year. I just had to know what happened! Next, I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh made a big impact on me because it surprised me, and it was super engaging. These are both much shorter reads than the Stephen King book, so if you’re looking for something less bulky, definitely give them a try.
FAVORITE LIGHT READ
We all need something on the lighter side once in awhile, right?! Although I try not to fill my reading list with too many of these, when I’ve had a trying week or in between two heavy books, I like to fit in one of these. Plus, many times, they make great stories! Can’t blame me for loving those, right?! Anyways, for this I chose The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin. This was a very sweet story that had me rooting for the main character the whole way through and had a super happy ending. What could be better than that? I’d recommend this to anyone looking for something light and, I’ll admit it, a bit fluffy, but that will leave you both engaged and smiling.
I feel like I read a lot of stories that center around families, some to a greater degree than others. I found it really hard to pick a favorite in this category, but in the end I settled on Happy Family by Tracy Barone. This was Barone’s debut novel, and I saved it as a vacation read because I’d been so excited about it. It was definitely worth the wait as well as the read. It centers around a family and adoption, and I always tend to love stories about the topic. What I loved most about this book was how it was written: it was witty and also emotional, so it kind of had the best of both worlds. I’m looking forward to seeing what else Barone writes going forward.
As an honorable mention and very close second in this category is We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. This is another book that surprised me and I liked how fast paced it was. Another honorable mention is Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld. I love stories about sisters especially, and this was very well written with an interesting and intriguing plot.
Disclaimer – by “new” author I mean new to me, as in an author I had not read prior to this year. For this I felt like I had to choose Liane Moriarty because I finally delved into her wonderful world of books this year (how did it take me so long?!). I love her work, and to be honest, totally admire her as a writer. She’s witty and has such a well-defined voice, and she is truly a wonderful storyteller. I read five books by her this year. I started with The Last Anniversary, which was good but far from my favorite of hers. Next, I read The Husband’s Secret which I LOVED and was definitely my favorite of hers so far (I’ve recommended this to three people who all read and loved it, too!). Next, I read What Alice Forgot, which was also great – totally different than The Husband’s Secret, but very engaging and left me dying to know what would happen next. Then, I read Big Little Lies, which I thought was amazing – such a great story centering around one singular event, but well-written and never, ever boring (also, I can’t wait for the HBO series of this to start!). Finally, as my last book of 2016 I read her latest – Truly, Madly, Guilty. While I was definitely interested throughout this book, it didn’t meet my expectations, set by her other engrossing novels. This one seemed a little boring and bland in comparison, but still worth the read! Definitely will be following this author closely and reading all of her work because, it’s unbelievable. (Side note: I constantly think that she wrote the book The Year of Secret Assignments, which is a book I read and loved when I was younger. Different author, but a great YA book!).
A couple other new authors that I really enjoyed this year: Noah Hawley who wrote Before the Fall, which I really enjoyed and thought was an interesting and well-written story. I have The Good Father by him on my Kindle to read soon! Also, Bret Anthony Johnston who wrote Remember Me Like This, which I read late this year and very much loved.
BOOK TO MAKE YOU CRY
I didn’t read too many highly emotional books this year, but there was one that stuck out in my mind that definitely made me cry and left its mark on me for long after I read the last page. That book was Alice and Oliver by Charles Bock, which I read after seeing Elin Hilderbrand recommended it on her Twitter account. This book is about a couple that endures a highly heartbreaking and emotional hardship and how their life and family is affected through it all. While the book was definitely sad at points, I did enjoy it overall and am glad that I read it.
I read my fair share of love stories, but overall I did not read a ton of them this year. My favorite, by far, was Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld. It’s no secret that I love everything that she writes, and this is her latest, and it’s also part of the Jane Austen project as it’s a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice. While some of Sittenfeld’s other books have been quite long, this was a relatively quick read. I absolutely adored the characters in this book and thought it was so much more than just a love story, but was a love story nonetheless. If you love love stories, or even if you typically don’t, I think that this is worth the read. I loved the way that Sittenfeld described the family, and she created a memorable and fun dynamic between them.
After reading The Nightingale in 2015, very little can top that in the historical fiction genre. However, I did read some good picks this year in the category. My favorite was Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly. I love that this book was inspired by a real story and person from World War II, and what made this book so intriguing and memorable was the changing perspectives from which the stories were told. The author so beautifully weaves together the lives of the three narrators, and it is a story that I could not read fast enough, yet was sad when it ended. If you like historical fiction, you have to add this to your list of books to read,
A couple honorable mentions here. First is The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant. This book was quick and short, but I loved following the life of this individual throughout the story. Finally, I loved The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin. This book was really fun to read and painted such a vivid image of what it must have been like to be a part of high society in the 1950’s. I would definitely recommend it if you haven’t read it thus far.
TRIED AND TRUE
I wanted to do a “tried and true” category, which highlights my favorite book by an author that I love and have been reading for a while. I chose American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld (shocker, I know). I was totally enamored by this novel, which has been out and on my TBR list for quite some time. But – oh my goodness – it is so good. I couldn’t stop reading it, and tore through it as quickly as I could. It was a pretty long book, but I truly wished it was even longer because I never wanted the story to end. This is the loose story of Laura Bush’s life, which made it even more interesting to me. This novel depicts politics, successes, failures, family, relationships, and life overall in such a beautiful and relatable way that, in my opinion, you can’t help but love it.
My overall favorite this year comes from an author I’d never read before, but this was a book I still think about and recommend all of the time, despite reading it at the beginning of 2016. What Was Mine by Helen Klein Ross was my absolute favorite of the year. This was a very emotional book about a woman who steals a baby from a shopping cart and raises her as your own. What I love about this story is that somehow, the author gets you to sympathize with the woman who was so clearly in the wrong, stealing a baby while her mother was right there, shopping only a few feet away. The plot is so interesting and what happens throughout the novel left me reeling. I would highly recommend this to all readers, as it was such a complex and in depth tale that it can appeal to such a wide range interests.
I know I’ve done a few honorable mentions already, but there are several more books I just couldn’t leave out. The first is Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal. I wasn’t sure what “category” to place this in (just general fiction, I suppose), but I read this on vacation and it’s my favorite book I read on any vacation throughout the year (which is saying a lot, because I read 15 books on vacations alone). This was just a wonderfully told story where I grew very fond of the main character throughout the book. I would highly recommend reading it if you haven’t (it’s also only $3.99 for Kindle right now, which is a steal!). The other book I wanted to call out was The Ramblers by Aidan Donnelley Rowley, which was a definite standout fiction read for me. I know I’ve blogged about it before, but it was such a great story and I loved the differences between the characters as well as the changing perspectives throughout the book. It felt so out of the box from other stories – definitely far from cookie cutter – and when it was over I found myself thinking about the storylines and wishing I knew more about them. If there’s one symbol of a good book, that must be it.
There are some in every bunch, right? I don’t want to harp on these too much, but wanted to share a few books that I would not recommend. They are as follows: The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin, The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson, The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett, The Past by Tessa Hadley, The Lake House by Kate Morton, Modern Lovers by Emma Staub, and First Comes Love by Emily Giffin. These books just weren’t for me, but keep in mind that everyone has different taste, so I don’t want to discourage anyone from reading any of them.
Blast from the past, but I wanted to highlight a few books from 2015 that I’m STILL thinking about. If nothing else, it shows how impactful they were on me and I just cannot recommend them enough, so here I am, recommending them one more time (it probably won’t be the last, either). For a love story, Who Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner (I JUST recommended this to a friend this past weekend!). For a great fictional story, Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford or In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume. Finally, for a historical fiction book, nothing can beat The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah.
I’m already onto my third book of 2017, and to follow all that I’m reading, check out my Goodreads account or follow my Instagram account (run by myself and my book bestie, Sam): @bibliobesties.