best books of 2016
Reading is still one of my favorite ways to spend my time. It’s the introvert’s dream…to be a spectator in a world you don’t have to physically participate in. My reading challenge on Goodreads was to read 50 books in the year 2016. I read about 56 books. I lowered my book reading challenge to 40 for 2017 because I want to read more substantial books this year. The thick ones that I won’t be able to finish in a few evenings.
2016 was the third year in a row that I took a break from reading for two months to memorize lines for a theatre production. This year was the first Shakespeare role that was substantial enough for me to need to put all reading aside and memorize Elizabethan language for a few hours a day. I loved that challenge, and feel better for it. But it was good to get back to poolside reading after finishing that show.
2016 was also the year that I went to a lecture given by a favorite author of mine – Ann Patchett. My mom and I heard her speak at the Carnegie Lecture Hall in Oakland in October.
2016 was also the year I discovered that I am not an audible reader. I can’t listen to a book being read to me. I have to read it, and it has to be paper. I’m having trouble making the leap into new reading technologies. I still love stacks of books and rows of book-filled shelves. I will never be a minimalist book owner.
Here are my top reads (and the few disappointments) of 2016. The year started off and ended strong…the middle-of-the-year reads were pretty much that: middle of the road. I was going to do a “top five” but I couldn’t scale it down that far.
Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal. This was such a fun read. I don’t think I stopped smiling the whole way through to the end.
These were my two “futuristic” novels of the year and both were so different and so amazing. The Anders novel was slightly better in my opinion (alternative science), but Mandel’s book ended more hopeful. Loved that.
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
I read these next three in quick succession and all blew my socks off. The Secret History and Special Topics… were very similar and I think I ended up liking Tartt’s version of the story better, but I read Special Topics… first, and really enjoyed that story and Pessl’s writing. The Unseen World was a novel with a twist. I love it when I don’t see something coming.
Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl
The Unseen World by Liz Moore
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
These two Patchett’s I read this year as well. Patron Saint… was her first novel and Commonwealth is her latest. Both are lovely, but after hearing her lecture, Commonwealth was a comfortable and extremely fun read.
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett
Biggest disappointments of 2016:
The Martian by Andy Weir. I would still like to watch the movie with my boys. The story is intense, but the nerdy, unedited technical writing (that doesn’t fit well with fiction) turned me off and I skimmed my way through the second half.
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. I’m going to give Hemingway one more chance this year (For Whom the Bell Tolls) and if it’s anything like this one, I won’t return to him.
Some books I’m looking forward to reading in 2017…
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
We are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
The Heavenly Table by Donald Ray Pollock
Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem