All week, I have been sharing my opinions on various aspects of pop culture (movies, tv, music) and I will continue that trend today. This time, with books! The only problem is, I did not read a single book that was published in 2016 this year… I know I know, but with over 115 books on my To Read list alone, it gets hard to keep up! So, I will just tell you about all the books I actually read in 2016 in an effort to prove to you that I actually read and that will just have to do.
So, here are my favorite books that I read in 2016!
A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara
This 2015 novel is an emotional journey through the lives of four friends that flashes back and forth between their present lives and the people, places and things that have led them to be who they are today. I was not a fan of Yanagihara’s first novel, The People in the Trees but heard such good things about this book so I had to give it a shot. I am glad I did. We follow, Willem, JB, Jude and Malcolm from their childhoods through to their later years and learn just how difficult people’s lives can be – whether we know it or not. The subject matter is definitely heavy in that it deals with family drama, child abuse, self-harm and plenty of other horrible life events that these characters just barely manage to get through. I recommend it for the beautiful way the author reveals layer after layer of these seemingly normal friends and how raw and painful their lives can be. It is definitely a challenging read and I admit to openly weeping on the subway once or twice while reading it, but that just goes to show the power this book has and how attached to the characters and story you get.
Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights, Salman Rushdie
This was actually my first Rushdie novel and I was so quickly and entirely pulled into the magical world created inside these pages, I bought three other novels by the author before even finishing this one. The plot is actually difficult to explain as it spans many decades, characters and genres. Part sci-fi, part adventure saga, part fantastical journey; this book has something for everyone. The book centers around a Jinn falling in love with a human philosopher and bearing several of his children. We travel forward in time and follow their descendants and begin to see their magical ancestry come into play in today’s world. One such descendant, Geronimo, a gardner living in New York City begins to inexplicably levitate higher and higher off the ground each day. We learn that four powerful and dangerous Jinn have escaped from another dimension and have nothing but world domination and destruction in mind. This book, first published in 2015, is an exciting rollercoaster of action, romance, drama and prose. I flipped through every page with such fervor and excitement for what was to come next, I can’t recommend this book enough!
The Rise & Fall of Great Powers, Tom Rachman
Rachman’s 2010 novel, The Imperfectionists was a fascinating look inside the cast of characters working at a newspaper in Italy. I was thrilled to finally get around to reading his 2014 follow up and was very intrigued by the plot. A shy bookstore owner in Wales who decides to drop everything and go off on a worldwide adventure in an effort to track down the group of seemingly random people who raised her. We flashback from now (2011 in the novel), between 1999 and 2000 and 1988 and slowly piece together the story of Tooly Zylberberg, our unreliable narrator. We drop in on Tooly from a young age to the present and see the world through her eyes, which may not be the best way of looking at her story. We learn more and more about the “family” that raised Tooly and how she came to be who she is today. The book is a sprawling and interesting look at the people that effect you most and how finding the answers to all your questions may not be the best way to get to know yourself.
A Reunion of Ghosts, Judith Claire Mitchell
This novel, published last year, is written from the perspective of three sisters who have all decided to kill themselves. Really. The novel reads like a diary entry, or in this case, a suicide note from Lady, Vee and Delph Alter, who intend to end a family curse by ending their lives. The sisters’ strongest relationship in each of their lives has been with each other and share a particularly sharp sense of humor, despite the circumstances. We read as they tell their family history, full of heartbreak, death, mistakes and troubling patterns resurfacing generation after generation. The novel explores the family history of the Alter’s and how this curse has effected everyone in the family tree in their lives (and deaths) and we see that generational trauma coming through in the sisters’ retelling. A touching, heartbreaking and at times funny novel I would recommend to anyone with a passion for history, family relationships and 400 page suicide notes.
All The Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr
I bought this 2014 novel to take with me on my recent trip and was too busy the entire time to read any of it. That is, until the 14 hour flight from Beijing back to New York where I cracked it open soon after take off and didn’t put it down until I had finished, just a few hours before landing. Ok, I may have stopped a few times to pee, stretch my legs or take a nap… This book is a beautiful and suspenseful tale of a blind girl in Paris and her father who carved her a miniature version of their neighborhood in wood so she can learn to get around on her own. Set against the backdrop of World War II, the father/daughter duo flee to a small town on the Southern Coast of France to live with her eccentric and reclusive uncle. The story jumps back and forth between Marie-Laure’s story and that of Warner, a young German orphan living in a small mining town who’s skill for building and fixing radios gets him an invite to a military school run by the Nazi Party. These two lives slowly draw closer together and as the war rages on, a greater mystery surrounding a priceless diamond comes to light that connects them even more. This novel apparently took Doerr ten years to write and it is not difficult to see why. It is beautifully written, painstakingly researched and an absolutely page-turner. My favorite book I read this year by far!
Ok, so I didn’t read that much this year. And most of what I read, I didn’t like… But those are my favorites I got to this year. My goal for 2017 is to get through many more books, so next year’s list will be much more impressive! What books did you read this year? What should I add to my list?
For a full list of books I have read, want to read and am currently reading, follow me on Goodreads!
Stay tuned for my last Round-Up post tomorrow where I will recap my favorite memories and moments from my year!