I’ve been watching Criminal Minds the past few weeks, and I couldn’t help but laugh at Garcia’s mention of her “Top 8” in one episode, so I thought this year’s reading recap could be a little throwback to that era of my life.
Here’s a summary of my top 8 favorite books of 2016.
It by Stephen King. / I have a sneaking suspicion that any time I read a Stephen King novel, it’s going to end up on my end of the year list. There alway’s so much character detail to his stories, and they’re often the only ones that have the potential to scare me, not because the monsters are terrifying, but because the people are. This book has its problems that I’m not going to rehash because, especially with the new adaptation coming up (!!!), they’re easy to find talk of all over the internet. But this was by far one of my favorites of 2016, even if it took me a whole month to get through it.
Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy. / I am so glad that I kept a list of all the books I’ve read this year, otherwise Dumplin’ might have gotten lost in the fray. I read this book way back in January, and I remember spending the better part of a day on an air mattress in the living room gobbling it up. Dolly Parton? Beauty pageants? Talking about body image? Yes, please! Julie Murphy’s novel was so entertaining and emotional. I very much look forward to reading more of her work soon.
The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner. / Ugh, Jeff. *collapses* This one had me up at two a.m. and sobbing, which of course I both loved and hated. It’s such a well-written book about fascinating teenagers living in a place I have almost no knowledge about. Honestly, the most I really know about Tennessee is how much I want to go to Dollywood (see above). The strain in the character’s relationships and the struggles they each dealt with, separately and together, were so heartbreaking at times, but it’s a book I absolutely can’t help but love. The Serpent King definitely earned its own review earlier this year, so be sure to check that out to get the full gist of just how much you should read this.
The Raven Cycle Series by Maggie Stiefvater. / THIS. SERIES. It’s so good that I’m counting all four books as one entry here, okay? It’s not often that I read urban fantasy–for some reason everything recommended to me is more high fantasy end of the spectrum–but at the suggestion of a couple of friends, and probably 85% of Tumblr, I picked up this series when I found the first two books at Barnes & Noble and had some cash to burn. It about killed me when I realized that the series was so damn good that I couldn’t wait to buy the last novel, but I didn’t want to get it in hardcover and have my set mismatched. Enter our old standby, the library. I read the final novel, The Raven King, in about two days, loving the way that everyone’s stories came together in the end, even if it totally ripped out my heart, as per usual with the YA genre.
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay. / Towards the end of the year I started reading a number of nonfiction essay/memoir genre books, and I think this is the one that really kicked it off. Two essays in and I became a total convert to Roxane. She’s got such humor and honesty to what she writes without feeling like a comedian–it’s more of a wry, everyday humor that your best friend might use, and that made this an enjoyable book for me. In fact, I began following Roxane on Twitter as I was reading, and after a couple of clicks through her website I found out she’ll be talking at Mount Holyoke in February. You can be sure I’ll be attending!
The Martian by Andy Weir. / This was my first book of the year, but still one of my favorites. I really don’t read enough science fiction, but when it’s coupled with such sarcasm as Mark Watney’s narration, I truly love it. As with many cases, I saw the movie first, and the veracity of the adaptation was pleasantly surprising given Hollywood’s track record. Considering Watney is the only character on an entire planet through much of the novel, Andy Weir does a great job giving him such a vibrant personality. I’m sure you’ve heard from others, but this novel truly had me laughing out loud as I read it. I’m thankful to have started the year with such a strong book.
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. / Along with The Art of Asking, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic quickly found its way onto my list of “books to reread when I need a kick in the pants.” I’m already thinking about when I’ll read it again, putting sticky notes next to the passages I like the best and want to find easily in the future. I feel like this book was especially poignant for me because it came from the perspective of a writer, just as I read it from the perspective of one. It’s not impossible to apply to other types of work, but being on the same wave as Gilbert probably helped. There was also a balance between being grounded and being mystical in its approaches to creative endeavors that struck a chord with me.
Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King. / I impulse bought this book at one of my favorite local bookshops this year, and I cannot tell you how glad I am to have chosen it. The story is thoughtful and heartbreaking, and it’s one of my favorite contemporary YA novels I’ve read in a long time. I said in my full review that A.S. King’s writing style isn’t your typical YA fare, lending the novel a literary tinge, and I stand by that. I can’t wait to reading more of her novels in the future.
What were some of your favorite books to read in 2016?