Monday, January 2, 2017

7 Favorite Books of 2016: A Year in Review

2016 was a great year for reading. I consumed 80 books in three different formats, a personal best this century. 


To be fair, a handful were children's books, but Goodreads assures me the average length of books on my "read" shelf in 2016 was 298 pages, so I rest easy with my total (thanks, Joe Hill!).  

My Exceptional Reading Year included an inordinate (for me) number of re-reads: six books. For the most part, I credit this to catching up on original or first books before launching any sequel or companion books. However, Good Omens was re-read via Audible just for fun — and it remains one of the funniest books I have read.

Audiobooks changed my reading habits: one-fifth of the books I read this year were audiobooks, and three of those were re-reads. This format gives me an opportunity to read while I run or work out in the gym. I listened to Caitlin Moran read her immensely funny memoir, and I discovered Juliet Stevenson reading Sense and Sensibility. Audiobooks are not always the best format; I kept getting lost during The God of Small Things, and David Sedaris' essays waxed a bit too long for a listen. 

Additionally, I was surprised to discover that nearly one quarter of the books I read were on my Kindle. I own most of those in print, but I found the Kindle version more convenient; my bedside lighting is not stellar, and I have limited nightstand space. 

(Full disclosure: I recently purchased new furniture in part due to the nightstand size; however, my cats aren't keen on sharing their nightstand space with each other, let alone books that can be oh so fun to rearrange. As a result, I read my books on Kindle — and occasionally on audio — for the convenience of my cats. Do not judge my indulgences, and I shall afford you the same courtesy.)

Here are seven of my favorite books I read this year, in no particular order.
  • Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe — I began this book because of the narrator and finished it because it was a beautiful read. I have never been in the mind of a teenage boy, and Benjamin Alire SΓ‘enz was a wonderful guide. There is no Big Reveal at the end of the book, but the truth still feels large, and it was gorgeously wrought.
  • The Year of YesShonda Rimes is an amazing person, and very wise. She hit her stride after the commencement speech and never slowed down. Would I call it a memoir, a self-help book, a feminist book, a humor read? Yes.
  • The Cure for Dreaming — Cat Winters writes good books, so I recommend them all. However, this one I read in late October, and its examination of early 20th century suffrage was revolutionary.  
  • The Underground Railroad — Imagine... no, don't imagine the world Colson Whitehead brought to life in his novel. Read it. It will change your perception of antebellum America. 
  • Life After Life and A God in RuinsMust be read in this order. I reviewed the first book a few years ago. Together, they command readers to re-think what life is, their own and others.
  • The Invisible Library — I am a sucker for library and librarian stories, and this is a good one. I recently reviewed this book, which is the first of a trilogy. I can't wait to start the second volume. (The third book will be released in the U.S. on January 20.) Find out more about this trilogy on the author's website.


What books did I read in 2016 I would I not recommend?

  • The Museum of Extraordinary Things — Weird, disappointing, and hard to follow.
  • The Bookseller — The premise was intriguing, but the resolution was unsatisfying. Read my review here.
  • Everything We Keep — The story stretched out so long before the second act that the resolution was singularly unsatisfying. The story coda, which attempted to bring the story full-circle, was awful.
  • Big Magic — A self-help book that did not provide any new or interesting information. (Full disclosure: I avoided reading the author's chart-topping memoir, and I really disliked the movie.)

Thankfully, most of the less-than-stellar books were library loans.

Here is the complete list of books read in 2016. Most of them are good reads, so I hope you find a few to add to your nightstand (or e-reader, or listening device). I have indicated the format of each book (e-book πŸ“² , print book πŸ“– , or audio 🎧 ) and whether they were borrowed from the library (via nerd face πŸ€“ ).



  1. Passage πŸ“² πŸ€“
  2. Bear Counts πŸ“²
  3. Ish πŸ“²
  4. The Roll-Away Pumpkin πŸ“²
  5. The Deep and Snowy Wood πŸ“²
  6. Plum Spooky πŸ“– πŸ€“
  7. Octopuppy πŸ“²
  8. Between the Plums πŸ“² πŸ€“
  9. 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People πŸ“² πŸ€“
  10. The Year of Yes 🎧 πŸ€“
  11. Thirteen Chairs πŸ“²
  12. Commonwealth πŸ“–
  13. The Invisible Library πŸ“²
  14. Good Omens 🎧
  15. Thin Mint Memories πŸ“²
  16. The Forgetting Time (½) πŸ“² πŸ€“
  17. Lamb 🎧
  18. The Cure for Dreaming πŸ“– πŸ€“
  19. A Mew to a Kill πŸ“²
  20. Sense and Sensibility 🎧 πŸ€“
  21. Fates and Furies πŸ“² πŸ€“
  22. Summer House With Pool πŸ“²
  23. Between the World and Me 🎧 πŸ€“
  24. Ghostly Echoes πŸ“²
  25. Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls 🎧 πŸ€“
  26. The Underground Railroad πŸ“–
  27. The Uninvited πŸ“²
  28. Who Goes There? (The Thing) πŸ“²
  29. Big Magic πŸ“– πŸ€“
  30. Dorothy Parker Drank Here πŸ“–
  31. A Spirited Tail πŸ“²
  32. The Goodbyes πŸ“–
  33. Secondhand Souls 🎧 πŸ€“
  34. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe 🎧 πŸ€“
  35. Everything We Keep πŸ“²
  36. If Books Could Kill πŸ“– πŸ€“
  37. The Bookseller πŸ“²
  38. Unlikely Friendships πŸ“² πŸ€“
  39. Homicide in Hardcover πŸ“– πŸ€“
  40. Ghostly Paws πŸ“²
  41. The Sleeper and the Spindle πŸ“– πŸ€“
  42. The Body Reader πŸ“²
  43. Blackout πŸ“– πŸ€“
  44. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl πŸ“² πŸ€“
  45. Vacations From Hell πŸ“– πŸ€“
  46. 168 Hours πŸ“–
  47. Farewell, Dorothy Parker πŸ“–
  48. When Breath Becomes Air πŸ“–
  49. In the Heights πŸ“–
  50. Crenshaw πŸ“²
  51. How Do You Sleep πŸ“²
  52. In the Shadow of Blackbirds πŸ“² πŸ€“
  53. NOS4A2 🎧 πŸ€“
  54. The Humans (play) πŸ“–
  55. Random Harvest πŸ“²
  56. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? πŸ“²
  57. Vader’s Little Princess πŸ“²
  58. Darth Vader and Son πŸ“²
  59. Darth Vader and Friends πŸ“²
  60. Good Night, Darth Vader πŸ“²
  61. Americanah πŸ“² πŸ€“
  62. Winter of the World  πŸŽ§ πŸ€“
  63. A God in Ruins πŸ“² πŸ€“
  64. Rip Van Winkle 🎧 πŸ€“
  65. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow 🎧 πŸ€“
  66. The Fall of Giants 🎧 πŸ€“
  67. Life After Life πŸ“² πŸ€“
  68. How to be a Woman 🎧
  69. Twenty Yawns πŸ“²
  70. True Grit 🎧 πŸ€“
  71. It All Changed in an Instant: More Six-Word Memoirs πŸ“² πŸ€“
  72. The Museum of Extraordinary Things  πŸ“² πŸ€“
  73. The Luckiest Girl Alive πŸ“–
  74. Grandma Drove the Snowplow πŸ“²
  75. The Map πŸ“²
  76. Beastly Bones πŸ“²
  77. Impossible Things πŸ“–
  78. Girl Waits With Gun πŸ“²
  79. Library of Souls πŸ“–
  80. Emerald Green πŸ“²

What did you read in 2016? Anything you can recommend? Do tell!

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