As a kid, I would often hide under my covers with a flashlight so I could read books all night long. I don't have to do that anymore, but books do still keep me up at night. On my old blog, I used to write a lot about the books I was reading and often recapped my favorites from the previous year.
I've read a lot of terrific ones lately and that made me want to revive the practice here. These aren't all books that came out in 2016, in fact, many of them aren't new at all. But they were all new to me and I loved them dearly.
The MaddAddam Trilogy: Oryx & Crake, The Year of the Flood and MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood: I am a HUGE Margaret Atwood fan. And her books have never felt more relevant to me than right now. I devoured The MaddAddam Trilogy last winter. It was utterly absorbing and I was truly sad when the books were over because I loved the world she created so very much.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates: This book was so powerful that it stopped me in my tracks. Between the World and Me is a searing account of what it's like to be black in America told through a love letter to the author's son. Ta Nehisi-Coates speaks truth to power and we should all be listening.
The Lost Landscape by Joyce Carol Oates: One of my other favorite authors is Joyce Carol Oates and I absolutely loved getting to know her better through this memoir. I found her story of growing up in Upstate New York very relatable. It was fascinating to get a glimpse at the person behind her incredible books.
The Water is Wide by Pat Conroy: I've been a Pat Conroy fan for a long time and after his death last year, I wanted to read more of his books. The Water is Wide is a memoir Conroy wrote based on his time teaching on Daufuskie Island in South Carolina. The book's sharp honesty makes Conroy's words sing. And reading it made me long for the Low Country.
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi: Paul Kalanithi is a 36-year-old neurosurgeon on the brink of a brilliant career when he's diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. This is a powerful reflection on the end of his life that forces the reader to confront hard truths. A reminder that life is largely out of our control, but that we should still strive to lead full, true lives.
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman: My friend Meg got me this book for my birthday and I was so glad she did. I absolutely loved the main character, Ove, and the way the other characters fit into his story. The book's strength is Fredrik Backman's adeptness at revealing each twist and turn of the plot at just the right moment.
Barkskins by Annie Proulx: This might have been my very favorite book that I read in 2016. I love Annie Proulx and her latest work, Barkskins, was a true masterpiece. I couldn't get enough of the sprawling yet tightly crafted story and the way it lurched through time connecting the various plot lines and characters.
Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld: If you're looking for a fun, silly, girly book to take your mind off the current political climate, this book is for you. I read Eligible in only three days and laughed out loud a lot during that time. The book is a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice that was the perfect beach read last summer.
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson: Not only was Just Mercy one the best books I read in 2016, it was one of the most powerful books I've read, ever. Bryan Stevenson takes what could be a dull subject, the legal system, and makes it spellbinding. His stories of fighting for justice for the neediest members of our society are utterly compelling.
The Neapolitan Novels: My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave & Those Who Stay, The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante: These books have gotten a lot of attention because of their popularity and mystery surrounding the author (Elena Ferrante is a pen name). The first book didn't totally hook me, but I stuck with it and I was completely absorbed in the story by books two, three and four. I found the story of Elena and Lila captivating and couldn't put the books down.
Razor Girl by Carl Hiaasen: I've been devouring everything Carl Hiaasen has written ever since I discovered him when I was in high school in Florida. I've read most (maybe all?) of his books and loved each and every one. The latest is a Hiaasen classic, full of deft satire about our modern society and his home state of Florida, where there is never a shortage of characters and stories to write about.
Nobody's Fool by Richard Russo: My father-in-law gave me this book and it was such a treat to read it. The characters and descriptions of the town reminded me so much of my time spent in Upstate New York. Russo creates an engrossing world that's hard to leave after the last page. Luckily he's revisiting the characters in a new book, Everybody's Fool, which I'm about to read.
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett: This was my first Ann Patchett book, but won't be my last. I flew through the book in only three days, which says more than I can with words about how much I enjoyed it. I loved the way the story unfolded and connected over time. The characters were complex and interesting yet totally relatable.
If you're wondering how I remembered each of these books so well, it's because I keep a book journal where I jot down some details about everything I read. It helps me remember when I read a certain book and why I loved it so much (or didn't love it in some cases). Now it's your turn, what are some of the best books you read in 2016?