Favorite Books of 2016
Here we are again at the start of a new year. You know what that means, time for all of us to look back and decide what our favorites were throughout 2016. I'm not going to lie, it was a little bit of a rough reading year. I read some things that caused a pretty significant reading slump for me, but by the end of the year, I pulled out of that and ended up just barely reaching my goal to read 50 books (This goal changed many times throughout the year, but we don't need to talk about that).
All of the books on this list really hit me in some way and continue to linger in my mind as time moves on.
#10 Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice is one of those books that is a favorite for SO many people. This was the first book I read last year and I have no idea why it took me so long to pick it up. I loved the memorable characters and the view into love in the 1800's. Mrs. Bennet is now on my list as one of my favorite mother characters. She and Mr. Bennet's relationship cracked me up over and over, as Mr. Bennet trolled his wife and she was continually frazzled about life. Elizabeth Bennet is still a very relatable character, 200 years after she was written by Jane Austen. The love story between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth will go down in history as one of the best and I think that honor is truly deserved.
#9 Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan
Brain on Fire made me paranoid about a thing I didn't even know existed before I read this book. It struck a chord with me with its emotional, yet somehow journalistic writing. Susannah Cahalan portrayed her experience with anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis in a way that terrified me. It was an insightful read and one that will undoubtedly help many people who have also been through what Cahalan has.
Sidenote: While I'm talking about non-fiction, I want to throw in an honorable mention to No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State by Glenn Greenwald. This is a very disturbing look at the NSA and surveillance which the government used on its own citizens.
#8 Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Let me start by acknowledging that yes, I probably should have read this at least 10 years ago when I was in high school, but this was not a part of our curriculum. In 2015 I read Catch-22, hoping that it would be what Slaughterhouse-Five turned out to be for me. It is a satirical look at war and its effect on people, as told by an unreliable narrator. The main character, Billy, is a prisoner of war that survives the firebombing of Dresden in World War II and the novel is told through his eyes as he is dealing with PTSD. It is heartbreaking at times because of what is happening, but also the inevitable calloused view of the world that develops in order for someone to deal with that much destruction.
#7 Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This book is the story of Ifemelu. A women who was born in Nigeria and moves to the United States for university, leaving behind the love of her life, family, and culture. As she struggles to understand Americans and how they view her, she works to achieve academic and career success. Reading from the point of view as Ifemelu, I started to understand what it is like to be a black woman in America. And for her, it was even more unusual coming from a totally different culture than "typical" black people in America. It was a refreshing and eye-opening read with a beautiful story. I know for certain that I can recommend this book to nearly everyone.
#6 Just Kids by Patti Smith
I didn't know much about Patti Smith before picking up this book, which is why I had this book in my Audible library for over a year before listening to it. If you enjoy art and music or are passionate about just about anything, I guarantee you will get something out of this book. The love that Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe had for the arts and for each other is awe-inspiring. It is a gift that we got a glimpse into their lives. I will definitely be reading her latest book, M Train very soon.
#5 The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Holy crap you guys, I did not expect to have so many feelings about this book. It is a coming of age story following a girl in early adulthood who descends into clinical depression. Set in the 1950's, it was a time filled with stigma and bad treatment practices. It was an extremely heartbreaking and emotional read. Following the story, there is a short biography of Sylvia Plath and her own experience with depression and eventual suicide. This hit me almost as hard as the novel, as I began to realize how much of herself Sylvia put into this writing.
#4 The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
Another beautifully sad story makes my top 10. Can you tell I was enjoying the emotional stories this year? Oscar is a self-proclaimed overweight ghetto nerd who loves everything sci-fi and fantasy. He doesn't fit into his Dominican culture in the slightest. This book is a multiple perspective novel which follows him and several members of his family. We learn out the gruesome histories of his mother, grandmother, and uncle, which they claim prove their family is cursed. It's easy to see why this is a Pulitzer Prize winning novel. I absolutely adored it.
#3 Let Me In by John Ajvide Lindqvist
One of my favorite movies of all time and I have just finally gotten around to reading the book. I loved it almost as much as the movie and was thrilled to learn more about the characters and strange story that this book reveals. I am not going to give you any hint about the plot, as I think it's better to go into it not knowing much about the story. If you have seen the Swedish adaptation of Let the Right One In, then you know what this is about (I'm just going to pretend the American remake doesn't exist), but let me tell you, it is well worth reading the book if you enjoyed the movie. I loved the nuanced characters, nearly all morally gray and make you like and dislike them at certain times in the book. There is also a very interesting dynamic between 2 characters and things one has to do to survive vs the other who fantasizes about doing the same things for fun. I'm trying very hard here not to reveal anything, but I'll just say this is definitely on my list of all time favorite books.
#2 Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
THE book that I've been thinking about all year. Not only that but as soon as I finished the last page, I was ready for a re-read. Station Eleven is a super clever adult dystopian novel which follows a nomadic Shakespeare theater group. Each of the lives of the members are intertwined with others and I love how Mandel presents this via multiple perspectives and timeline. Throughout, even though there is this grim atmosphere, hope is constantly there, so unlike most adult dystopian I didn't come out of this super depressed. It has been a full year since I read this and I MUST plan a re-read this year!
And now... My favorite book of the year:
#1 The Shining by Stephen King
Every once in a while you read a book that you just know is going to be a favorite through and through. Every page has you intrigued and compels you to keep reading. This year, The Shining was that book for me. Yes, I've enjoyed other horror/thrillers this year, but nothing even compares to Stephen King's masterpiece. From page 1 to the last, it kept me on the edge of my seat with it's gripping plot and amazing writing. The horror of this novel is also the kind that intrigues me the most, and that is the feeling of losing control of your mind. That helplessness of slowly going insane and you can do nothing about it. From now on, all horror novels I read will be compared and will likely fall very short of The Shining. I'm screwed.
That's it for my list. I hope you enjoyed seeing what books I loved reading throughout the year. What were your favorite books that you read in 2016?