Thursday, March 9, 2017

Favorite books of 2016

This title is a little misleading, because these aren't books that were published in 2016, just books I happened to read last year. Because I post regular round ups with eve.ry.thing I'm reading (however humiliating), my lists often include a lot of duds. Rather than make you dig through all of them if you're looking for only good recs (is anyone looking for bad book recommendations?) I thought I'd go back and compile the books I liked.  Also, I clearly planned to get this up in January or even February, but here we are and it's March. Let's roll with it.

2016 books

The standouts:

The Boys of My Youth - Want to re-read this a million times, not exaggerating.
A Manual for Cleaning Women - Killer short story collection.
Pond - Serene, poetic, lovely.
The Angel of History - Heart breaking, gorgeous.
The Argonauts - Read it in one sitting if you can.
The Hand That First Held Mine - Loved this novel about two women living in London at different time periods.
Bastard Out of Carolina - Heart wrenching but so worth it.
Gilead and Home - Loved these. The writing is just so perfect.

Runners up:

Young Skins - Great debut story collection.
When Breath Becomes Air - Gut wrenching and beautiful.
After a While You Just Get Used to It - Mile a minute funny memoir.
A God in Ruins - Kate Atkinson's follow up to Life After Life.
Fates and Furies - Really beautiful and intimate exploration of a marriage.
Mislaid - Weird and fun. Dry humor. Explores gender, sexuality and race.
Between the World and Me - Powerful.
My Name is Lucy Barton - Fragmented and ethereal in the best way.
Into Darkest Corner - Seriously creepy thriller.
The Wonder Garden - Short story collection about a fictional small town. Voyeuristic in a good way.
If I Loved You I Would Tell You This - Well observed short stories.
The City of Mirrors - Last in the Passage trilogy.
Monsters of Templeton - Funny little almost fairytale.
Make Me - Solid Lee Child.
A Spool of Blue Thread - Lovely novel about family relationships.
Now You See Me - first in a series about a female detective in London. Gory.

I'm still in a kind of literary dead zone as far as 2017 goes. I read a couple things in January that now feel like a blur but I should probably dig them up and share them with you. I've been re-reading familiar books for comfort and ease but I'm hoping to dive back into my reading list as my focus (hopefully) improves.


  1. This is an excellent list, but I love your thorough round-ups of what you've read. Please don't stop!

    1. Awww, thanks! And don't worry - I like doing the regular round ups with everything, so I'll keep posting those throughout the year.

  2. "Re-reading familiar books for comfort"... that's a great idea. I'm still in that hazy stage where reading anything feels like a chore, as opposed to the usual joy I derive from it. I keep adding books to my amazon cart and then staring at it blankly because I know I want to read, but these days, just can't muster up the energy/attention span to do so. Funny how grief works, huh? Anyway, thank you for the idea, I'll go home and pick back up some comfortably familiar pages and see how that goes. Hope you're doing well, and as always, thank you for your words. They're always authentic and refreshing, and so very enjoyed.

  3. A fabulous list! Must read Boys of our Youth, what a compelling plug :). And ditto the reviewer above, always a fan of your roundups!

    1. By reviewer, I mean commenter. It's bee a long week! But keep 'em coming, your books posts are the best!

  4. Hi Rachel,

    Glad you're posting again! I started following you about eight months ago, so I found some of these titles from you. I loved Fates and Furies (read it in two days), and The Passage was great, for someone who doesn't like vampires (I know it's not on your list, but City of Mirrors is).

    I found Into the Darkest Corner through someone else...wasn't crazy about it. It was a quick read, but I felt like something was missing.

    I recently got back into Ann Patchett. I can't remember if you've mentioned reading her or not, but I feel like our reading tastes are usually pretty aligned, and if you haven't given her a shot yet, you should. I know this falls into dangerous territory for a reader, but I feel like she would be a really great friend. Her book of essays "This is the Story of a Happy Marriage (more about the process of becoming a writer than her actual marriages) is compulsively readable. I also just read "Commonwealth" in about three days.

    One last book suggestion - "The Nix." It's about 700 pages, but I think I read it in four days.

    I swear I have a life! I do!

    Anyway, hope that your year is going well.



  5. Thank you for sharing these! Your posts on reading inspired me to finally get a library card from the Los Angeles Public Library and start borrowing books on an e-reader! I've been in a bit of a new motherhood bubble the past two years, and your posts are a reminder that I need to take care of myself by reading. I enjoy your simple reviews as they push me to try books out of my normal comfort zone. Thanks so much!

  6. Hi Liz, I am going back to my hometown for a visit in a few days, and Gilead is waiting for me - a gift from my sister. I am so looking forward to it. And I am listening to Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope on audio, it is so gentle and civilized, and the author comments with no holds barred on the writing process, the characters and their fates, newspapers, sermons, anything he wants to talk about. It is fun, sometimes long-winded, but I am enjoying it as a gentle voice to put me to sleep.

  7. The Neapolitan novels by Elena Ferrante blew my mind! Definitely check them out; they'll kickstart your reading for 2017 for sure.

  8. Just added most of these to my to-read list. Im always looking for suggestions, thanks for these round ups!

  9. I love your recommendations and am so glad you turned me on to Jo Ann Beard. I just finished her second book, In Zanesville. Have you read?


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