Highly Recommended

My Top Ten Books of 2016

2016This week’s Top Ten topic,  hosted by The Broke and The Bookish, is the ten best books of 2016.  I like to compile two lists, one for books published in 2016, and one for all books I read in 2016.

I have to say, when I compared my 2015 list to my 2016 list, I think my reading was much better in 2015.  Sigh – one more thing about 2016 that was not so great.

From all the books I read in 2016, except for children’s books which are too hard to compare, these were my favorites:

  1. The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney: this book won the Bailey’s Prize this year, and I can’t say enough good things about it.
  2. The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie: I don’t normally like “quirky” novels, but with this one I really identified with the characters and their family problems. I know this book didn’t work for everyone but it did for me.
  3. The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan: an excellent second novel by the writer of The Panopticon. I’ll read everything she writes.
  4. Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain: a memoir about serving as a nurse in World War I, not an easy read, but everything about this book was fascinating, from Brittain’s fight to go to college to her later work as a political activist.
  5. The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey: a gripping and at times, disturbing, science fiction novel about the zombie apocalypse, it has a memorable lead character and will be made into a movie in 2017 (I think; it was released in UK in 2016).
  6. Did You Ever Have a Family? by Bill Clegg: this book could have been melodramatic but I really got caught up in this story about two women who lose everything in a fire.
  7. A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson: Atkinson never lets me down, but this story of one man’s life during World War II and afterward is one of her most powerful.
  8. Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf: I loved everything about this moving story of two older adults who form a connection.

I stopped at 8, because while I read a lot of books in 2016 that I really liked, I didn’t have two more that rose to the level of the others on this list.

I did read a lot more newly published books in 2016 than I usually do, and here were my favorite 2016 releases:

  1. The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie (see above)
  2. The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan (see above)
  3. Lady Cop Makes Trouble by Amy Stewart: I love, love, love this series, which combines history, detective fiction, and fantastic female characters.
  4. The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin: the sequel to The Fifth Season, a complex science fiction series that is beautifully written.
  5. The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer: a memoir by this comedian/writer/actress that was surprisingly thoughtful.
  6. Everybody’s Fool by Richard Russo: a follow-up to one of my all-time favorite books, and characters.  It would have been easy for this to disappoint, but it didn’t.
  7. All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders: a first novel by this former editor of i09 (a great website) this book combined science fiction and fantasy in an interesting, thoughtful way
  8. Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave: this book could have been just one more World War II story, but it felt really different to me. I liked the focus on race issues and the sometimes-unlikable main character.
  9. My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout: I feel like this one ended too quickly, and already demands a re-read.
  10. Before the Fall by Noah Hawley: I thought this would just be a thriller, but it raised a lot of interesting issues.
  11. The Longest Night by Andria Williams: a historical novel about an early nuclear plant accident in Idaho Falls, 1959. This book didn’t just tell a true story but really delved into the complicated marriage of its two main characters.

Those were my favorite reads of 2016!  A few books that disappointed: The Girls by Emma Cline, which just didn’t grab my attention, and The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson, of which I had high expectations based on her previous book, and found it dull and somewhat trite.

For more recommendations, check out my top new-to-me authors in 2016.

What were your favorites?  Anything on these lists you disagree with?

17 thoughts on “My Top Ten Books of 2016

  1. I love The Girl with All the Gifts! I haven’t read any of the other on your list, but I really want to read Everyone Brave is Forgiven.

  2. The Girl with all the Gifts was a good read. I listened to it as an audio book, and Finty Williams did an AMAZING job voicing Melanie.

    I know what you mean about 2015’s reading list being better than 2016. Still, I read some great ones this year so it wasn’t too bad.

    • Yes, I agree – I can hardly say 2016’s reading wasn’t good, just maybe not as good. Glad you enjoyed the audiobook of Girl with all the Gifts. I’m really curious about the movie.

  3. It makes me feel a bit better to see that you liked the books of 2015 better than those of 2016, just as I did.

    Thanks also for recommending Sunlight Pilgrims. I was going to pass on it, but now I think I should give it a try.

    • Glad I’m not the only one. I did find a lot of great reads with the Baileys longlist, so will do that again. Sunlight Pilgrims is a really interesting story and I loved the characters. I’ll warn it’s a bit slow for someone expecting more action. I’d compare it to Station Eleven.

  4. Read Our Souls At Night on audiobook while walking the dog – shed the odd tear or two as a result in the country lanes of Essex! Loved Glorious Heresies too.

    • WordPress is pretty limited in its use of collages, so sometimes I go with it and sometimes not. This time it worked pretty well. Your list looks great, several books on their I’m really interested in (The Gathering and Do Not Say We Have Nothing, particularly)

  5. First of all my reading year was the same – fine but kinda blah. 😦 Anyway, I’ve never heard of Testament of Youth and it sounds fascinating and right up my alley – thanks for bringing that one to me attention. Our Souls at Night was one I heard about a while ago and thought sounded interesting and then completely forgot about – I’ll get that one on the TBR too. I’m so glad to see the love for the second in Amy Stewart’s series! I adored book 1 and was SO excited when I heard it was going to be a series!

  6. Testament of Youth has been a favorite of mine since I was a teen. If you can find it, the old PBS miniseries is much better than the recent movie.

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