I read only 80 books in 2016, and it was a year of 3-star books, so there weren’t a lot of books to choose from. I am not sure if the books I read in 2016 were meh, or that I changed as a reader, or maybe I wasn’t as immersed as I was in reading…but regardless of the reasons, this year probably was the easiest one to list ten books that wowed me.
Before I run down my Top 10 Books of 2016, here are five honorable mentions:
- The Mothers (Brit Bennett) – Though the story started when the main character was in her teens and ended when she was maybe in her 30s, this novel wasn’t really big on the plot. It mostly focused on character development, something I love in contemporary and realistic fiction. I devoured this book the way I devoured my favorite Lay’s potato chips… I kept reading it, but taking my sweet time doing so because I just don’t want it to end yet.
- Fairest (Marissa Meyer) – Though this was just a spin-off, or a .5 in a series of novels, I immensely loved this one more than the main novels in the Lunar Chronicles series. I still don’t like Levana, and reading this didn’t change any of it, but what I loved about this novel is the idea that it offered more to the character…not just Levana’s but also her sister’s.
- The Vegetarian (Han Kang) – Call it over the top, but I think this book just gave a new angle to the word “depression.” It is quite disturbing, yes, but the most disturbing factor of all is when you realize, digging deep, how much of it you could relate with.
- Dangerous Girls (Abigail Haas) – I hate to use this sentence, but… this book is definitely unlike the typical YA novel. It was written well, it kept me on my toes, and it was so twisted, I couldn’t help but love it so much.
- Push (Sapphire) – So disturbing, so sad, but oh so optimistic and inspirational.
And now, my Top 10 Books:
10 – The Narrow Road to the Deep North (Richard Flanagan). Of all the WW2 books I’ve read, this offered the most vivid description of the cruel life prisoners of war had to endure at the hands of their captors. It was so vivid that I nearly threw up while reading some of the gory scenes. The reason why this didn’t rank high on my list is because I truly didn’t care about the main character’s life outside of the WW2 years. If it were me, I’d rather not include it in the book, but okay, I guess it did offer a different light to story.
09 – Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness (Susannah Cahalan). I thought it was genius that the author wrote this more like a novel and less like a “typical” memoir. Word per word, I could feel how much Susannah Cahalan invested her time and talent in conveying what happened to her based on the stories her family, friends, and doctors told her. Though what happened to her isn’t a big disease like cancer or AIDS, I still found this book to be an eye opener, and a brilliant way to help the people who is currently suffering the same illness.
08 – What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (Haruki Murakami). This book is a memoir, yes, but it was more than just recalling a person’s life, as it also gave pieces of advice and words of wisdom. This is a very short book, so if you have the chance, go and read it. You don’t have to be a runner to appreciate it, but reading so might make you want to wear your shoes and start running.
07 – In Perfect Light (Benjamin Alire Sáenz). At first, I was like, “Oh no, this doesn’t feel like Aristotle and Dante,” but even if this book didn’t capture my attention from the get go, it was still one of the most heartwarming novels I have read this year. Yes, it wasn’t anything like Aristotle and Dante, but it still packed the right amount of punch to make it to my top 10 reads.
06 – Animal Farm (George Orwell). I am very grateful to have finally read this book. It was indeed an entertaining read, but I cannot take away the fact that it was disturbing me while I was reading it.
05 – Just Kids (Patti Smith). Her writing style is so mesmerizing to say the least, but it was the friendship she had with Robert Mapplethorpe that warmed my heart the most. This book made me wish I was born in the 70s, because even if drugs were rampant those days (something I condone), the way people seek and value art was something to commend about.
04 – The Art of Racing in the Rain (Garth Stein). It is about a dog, but it is not about a dog…and it is about racing, but it is not really about racing. It was a clever way to use a dog to convey the story, and I admired the writing because it wasn’t cheesy at all. Best of all, the way the author bridged the gap between scenes where Enzo the dog wasn’t present was so brilliant, I love it so much!
03 – Between Shades of Gray (Ruta Sepetys). I am spanking myself for waiting three years before reading this one, but now that I did, I am beyond grateful. This side of WW2 is rarely seen in movies and novels, which made it more memorable. Though the hardships people faced was horrendous, the overall vibe of the novel was actually simple compared to the other WW2 novels I have read. Still, it was such a great novel that I wish you could read if you have the chance.
A series of essays and lectures Virginia Woolf wrote about women and the need for them to have a room of their own in order to properly work on their art is one of the richest and most informative essays I have read. Though it was written in 1920s, much of what was written could still be applied in today’s world, even if women have more access and more freedom to pursue anything they want.
01 – Burial Rites (Hannah Kent). Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, and I do love a character driven novel. This book has both, and even if I read this at the start of the year, the atmosphere of the novel managed to stay with me ’til the end of the year, and I think it will stay in my memory for many years to come. The haunting tale of the last woman executed in Iceland is so tragic, I don’t think anybody who has read it can brush off the memory from their heads.
So there you go, my favorite reads for 2016. I just realized, 4 of the 10 books here are non-fiction. Hmmm, I am pleased! Hopefully next year, I can read more from the fantasy and sci-fi genres, as well as other genres I have yet to discover. I am thinking of listing my least favorite books, but I guess it is better to keep this post positive. Though this year wasn’t a very good reading year compared to past years, I am still very, very grateful to have read the books I’ve read. Thank you, 2016.