Saturday, December 31, 2016

Best Books of 2016

It's time to revive this blog to publish my Best Books of 2016 list.  (You can find my previous lists here:  2013, 2014 and 2015).

It was a good reading year for me in terms of the amount of reading I did.  I met my goal of reading 52 books, which is a record number of books for me!  The most I had read before was 49.  I also had a record number of pages read (thanks to Goodreads for keeping track!):  21,060 pages!  A few more stats courtesy of Goodreads (and because I like them): I gave 13 5-star ratings, 19 4-star ratings, 16 3-star ratings, and 4 2-star ratings to the books I read this year.

This Best of 2016 list is made up of books that I read this year that were also published this year.  (If I were voting for my favorite book that I read this year that was NOT published this year, my pick would probably be 11/22/63 by Stephen King).

Best Fiction

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (5 stars).  
I was afraid I wouldn't be able to pick a Best Fiction book this year, because I have read a lot of books that I liked but not many that I loved.  Until I picked up this book as my final read of the year.  I guess I just wanted to save the best for last.  This is a lovely, delightful book with an intriguing setting and story and unforgettable characters.  It took me about 50 pages to really get into it, but then it was just so good.  I highly recommend it!

Honorable Mentions in Fiction:
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult (3.5 stars).  The book is very formulaic and written in typical Picoult fashion, but the subject of racism in modern America and the thought provoking response it evokes makes this worth a read.

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye (4 stars).  This gets a mention because it is unique and twisted and a memorable book for me this year.  It's a book about a serial killer turned governess, and it is inspired by Jane Eyre.  It's a bit dark (obviously!) but intriguing, especially through the first (stronger) half of the book. It's got a little mystery, some dark humor and a side of romance all thrown together in the spirit of a Victorian novel.

Best Young Adult Fiction

Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow (4 stars)
This is a dark book about a girl who has been through some horrible things, and then she becomes friends with others who have also been involved with some horrible things.  So there are a lot of horrible things going on in this story.  For some reason, I am drawn to these tragic type stories, and this one completely pulled me in.   Again, this is a dark story and it may not be for everyone, but I did think it was very good.

Honorable Mention in Young Adult Fiction:
The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson (4 stars).  If you prefer something a little lighter in the young adult category, this is a much happier choice.  It's a sweet teen romance but it's also about friendship and family.  It's a little bit too long in my opinion, but still an enjoyable, easy read.

Best Science Fiction

Morning Star by Pierce Brown (5 stars)
This is the third and final book in the Red Rising trilogy.  I was a huge fan of this whole series, and the third book did not disappoint.  The ending was so much fun, and I just loved the way that Brown wrapped everything up.  I've heard people describe this series as "Braveheart in space," which is probably fairly accurate!  This is not my typical genre of choice, but I loved and highly recommend the Red Rising series if you are looking to escape into space for a few books!

Best Fantasy

A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir. (5 stars)
This is book 2 in the "An Ember in the Ashes" series.  I loved the first book, and I loved this book too.  It's just a good, page-turning series.  With both books, I could not put it down until I finished.  This book has an interesting twist at the end, and I'm curious to see how it plays out in the third book.

Honorable Mentions in Fantasy:
  • Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin (5 stars).  This is the second book in a two book series.  It's an alternative history book with a touch of fantasy, imagining what would have happened if Hitler did not die and if the Allies did not win World War II.  The first book is called Wolf by Wolf, and I would highly recommend them both if this sounds like an interesting premise to you.
  • A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas (4 stars).  I thought this was a young adult book, but I think it is more like new adult (geared towards older, more mature young adults).  There are several sex scenes that were more graphic than I would expect in this genre.  Just wanted to start with that warning.  Beyond that, this is a great second book in this series about faeries.  Yes, faeries.  I thought the first book was just okay, but I'm so glad that I picked up the second book because the story totally changes, and it is so much better.  
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling (4 stars).  If you are a Harry Potter fan, this is a must read in my opinion.  It is a screenplay and not a book, and it is nowhere near as good as the original books.  But, I still think it is fun to jump back into that world and see where all of the characters end up.
Best Memoir

The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner (5 stars)
This is the story of a girl who grew up in a polygamist community in Mexico, one of her father's 42 children!  It is so interesting and well-written, and while the subject can be difficult to read at times, it is worth the read!

Best Nonfiction

Evicted by Matthew Desmond (5 stars)
I don't read a lot of nonfiction, so I didn't have much to choose from in this category.  But this book is worthy of the title!  It is an eye-opening look at the housing rental industry in America, specifically focused on the city of Milwaukee.  Featuring 8 different families, Desmond gives a detailed account of the great problems with the current rental system and the role evictions play in contributing to poverty.  I finished the book with a great desire to do something to fix this problem and a more sympathetic attitude towards those stuck in this vicious system.  I walked away with a firm belief that a decent place to live should be an inalienable right for everyone in our country.

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