Top Ten Books (Including YA) of 2016!
My annual 2016 list of favorites (whether or not they were published in 2016, these books are part of my experience). For my favorite middle grade novels published in 2016, visit my MG post. This list is a mixture of my young adult books as well as fiction, non-fiction, and everything I thought was a memorable reading experience (and recorded in my Goodreads reading). Here is my list, in no particular order. Enjoy and happy reading in 2017!
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. WOW. Cora’s story will captivate readers, through the horrors of slavery and the fear of those who dare to escape. This story blends the magical with the harsh reality of the time period. Utterly mesmerizing and unlike any slave narrative I have read before. Read it!
As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre-Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.
The Serpent King by Jeff Zenter. I cried. And I cried some more. For all the books I read over the course of the year, there aren’t a lot of characters that I miss after I finish a book. But I miss Travis, Dill, and Lydia. I still find myself thinking about them.
All American Boys by Brandon Kiely & Jason Reynolds. I have to admit that when I saw that this book was written by two authors, I was unsure. Here is what a pictured: an uneven voice, unevenly developed characters, and an “anti-police” agenda. I was wrong on all counts. Rather than a novel with an agenda, this is a novel that is a window to discussions of racial profiling and the complexities of issues that some might be tempted to judge from a headline. This is definitely a story about going beyond the headlines and thinking about multiple perspectives. It is timely, engaging, and thought-provoking. Read more about Brandon & Jason and how this novel came to be in this interview by James Sullivan.
Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow. I missed my bedtime by about 3 hours for this one. I got to a point where I couldn’t stop reading and finished around 2 am. Charlie Davis is a girl with pain in her life and her heart – and she needs a new chance, a chance to build her life again. She arrives in Tuscon, Arizona, and she faces her past and her future while trying her best to take steps forward, one at a time. Her grit is inspiring and you just might find yourself awake at 2am, anxious to find out how the pieces in Charlie’s life will come together.
Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer. So I listen to audiobooks as I run, and this was one that I listened to during the fall. My normal route is around thirty minutes. But when I was listening to Belzhar, I found myself saying, hey, maybe 4 miles today, or 5, just so I could keep listening. There are multiple twists in this story, and just when I thought I had something figured out, Meg Wolitzer surprised me again. Loved every minute of this book!
Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson. Just beautiful. The writing is phenomenal. Everything I pick up by Jacqueline Woodson is mesmerizing, from picture books to middle grade novels, and now young adult. This is a story of friendship, hope, and the bonds we have with those around us – the people we choose to let inside our lives and the people who hold our hands when we need it.
The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney. My goodness. Where to start? Something about this book reminded me of The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer. I found myself captivated by the characters, their motivations, their decisions, I could not stop reading. I have recommended this book multiple times since finishing it. Definitely one to read and discuss.
My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout. Just beautiful writing, and a thoughtful meditation on life, the decisions we make, and how we connect to those around us. Different from Strout’s previous novels, but the familiar themes of family, connections, friendship will remind readers subtly of Olive Kittredge and Strout’s other works as well.
Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg. There was something about this book that grabbed me and I found myself reading compulsively. At times the story was uneven, but I found the suspense to be a driving force throughout the novel, pushing me to keep reading and wondering what would happen to June’s world.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. I added this book to my TBR list because I saw it in a list of books about amazing but often unknown women. Rebecca Skloot inspired me along with Henrietta Lacks. Skloot’s perseverance in researching and telling this story is something to be admired.