Okay, so it’s the last day of January, but better late than never, right?
2016 was an okay year of reading. I didn’t get to read as much as I would’ve liked, because of heavy academic obligations. I did manage to get through over 90 books, but a good portion were comics/graphic novels. There were not a lot of standout books. Of the 92 I read, there were only six I rated a full five stars. Two of those were actually just rereads of Harry Potter, so if we exclude those, my 5-star-rating rate was only 4%. If you’re wondering, yes, that seems quite low to me (although I am, honestly, quite picky). Maybe that’s a major reason 2016 reading life felt “just okay.”
So here they are, my 5 star books of 2016:
Red Rosa by Kate Evans
Read my glowing review here. This is a great book, and for those who are feeling distraught over recent political happenings, it might do you some good to read about an ancestor of path–even if, like me, you don’t identify as communist/socialist/etc yourself, you will likely be inspired by Rosa’s determination.
Annihilation by Jeff Vander Meer
I read this (and the two others that are part of the Southern Reach trilogy) at a time in the year where I did not have a ton of time to write reviews. But this small book had an outsize impact. I loved this story and although the other two in the series didn’t quite hold up to its creepy factor and mystery, they were also quite good. I loved reading this book, and it made me side eye my own house. Definitely different, and I guess that’s why it’s called “weird fiction.”
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
SO good! I didn’t actually get around to writing a review of this one either, but it was a book I read aloud to Peter (who also LOVED it!) and we talked about it in this episode of my sort-of-podcast. Waters wrote a perfect understated gothic thriller and it’s amazing!
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Another great book that I failed to write a review for. Wow, I didn’t realize I was quite that bad. Anyway, this one I read with my dad. I had bought him The Secret History as a gift a while back and he liked it so much he bought this one as soon as it came out. It’s such a good story, and I love her writing. I feel like it was maybe not as “deep” as Secret History (or maybe I was just suckered by the classicism of that book), but the storytelling is just as good.
Saga, Volume 3 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
…I just ran a search of my blog and can you believe I haven’t mentioned this series once here? What an oversight! Although this is the only volume I gave the full 5 to, all the other volumes that I’ve read so far (up to and including 5) have been solid 4/4.5 ratings. Overall I would rate the series a 5, since I feel like it’s more than the sum of its volumes. It is a really well told and engrossing story, lots of fun, and it gets me pretty emotional too.
I would and will reread all these books at some point, which for me is one of the highest praises I can give a book, what with all these never-read books competing for my limited attention.
Here are some other great books I read last year that are also worth your time:
- The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North: About an artist who can’t quite do relationships right.
- Broken Harbour by Tana French: Psychological thriller from my very favorite mystery writer.
- Delicate Edible Birds and Other Stories by Lauren Groff: Short stories to make you ache.
- Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self by Danielle Evans: More short stories to make you ache.
- Fun Home by Alison Bechdel: Touching graphic memoir. I liked the art and the way she told her story.
- Evicted by Matthew Desmond: An ethnography about how evictions are going down in some of our cities…very eye opening.
- The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil by Stephen Collins: Fun, short comic with great illustrations.
- The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison: Beautifully written thought provoking essays on a wide range of subjects.
- Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff: I don’t even know how to describe it. Great prose. Great characters. Interesting story.
- Killing and Dying by Adrian Tomine: He does like the achey short story stuff…only in comic format.
- Patternmaster series by Octavia Butler: I gave Wild Seed, the first of the series, five stars, but I read it in 2015; in 2016, I read Mind of My Mind, Clay’s Ark, and Survivor, all in the 4.5-5 range but not quite perfect enough to get the full 5 stars.
- The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wrecker: A really solid, well told story…with magic!
- Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller: Creepy yet enchanting story of an upbringing gone wrong.