Man, this year has been a real trip, and the final week is par for the course. Before I spend the rest of the night watching Return of the Jedi in homage to the late Carrie Fisher and her magnificent smirk, I wanted to take a minute to jot down some of the great things of 2016: namely, the best 10 books I’ve read this year. Because I read for pleasure and not out of obligation as a book reviewer, some of my favorite books this year weren’t published in 2016, but they’re still my favorite and I’m going to include them anyways. Deal with it.
Without further ado:
10. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Let’s just get this out of the way: though it’s not the best written thing I’ve consumed this year, I loved An Ember in the Ashes (and its sequel, A Torch Against the Night). It swept me in and kept me turning pages like a fiend. The characters were larger than life in the typical YA style, and the plot was mystical and gripping. Plus, Tahir’s cooked up a villain so atrocious she makes Voldemort look like a softie. All said, I can’t be a snob when I’m not-so-secretly counting down until the next book! Way to go, Ms. Tahir.
9. Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman
Having recently moved from Utah to New England, I’ve discovered a deep thirst for good Westerns (and have been delighted with 2016’s willingness to provide: looking at you, Hell and High Water and Magnificent Seven). Because of this, Vengeance Road just hit the spot for me: intense, direct, funny, honest, and sad, it was a beautiful homage to the genre. Plus, there’s a woman dressing up in man’s clothing, intense shootouts, outlaws, and treasure. Yehaw.
8. The Princess Bride by William Goldman
Why I loved it: This is a bit of the odd man out on this list, but lemme tell you, I’m so thrilled I finally picked up The Princess Bride. Even better than the movie (though Goldman also wrote the screenplay, so it’s pretty dang close), The Princess Bride had me staying up wayyyy past my bedtime, trying to suppress my gut laughter to not wake up my sweetie. Read it already.
7. I’m Glad About You by Theresa Rebeck
Why I loved it: I wasn’t sure if I was going to include this on the list because I set this book aside several times due to questionable content, but in the end, I’m Glad about You was one of the most influential books I’ve read this year. About the separate trajectories of two people after a painful break-up, I found myself drawn in by Rebeck’s incredibly insightful prose. As a religious (though not Catholic) person, I was intensely moved by her thoughtful portrayal of a character’s commitment to Catholicism, despite the suffering it causes him.Though religion isn’t even the main theme of the book, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen faith addressed so beautifully and even-handedly.
6. Every Hidden Thing by Kenneth Oppel
Why I loved it: I’m drawn to original ideas and settings, so Every Hidden Thing was a real treat: a forbidden romance between two teenagers, who are the children of dueling paleontologists during the Bone Wars of the late 1800s. Realistically turbulent teenage love, controversial Western Expansion, atypical female protagonists, dinosaurs?!? What could be better?
5. Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson
Why I loved it: Much like The Golem and the Jinni, this book did a fantastic job merging mystic fantasy with historical events. Based at the heart of the Arab Spring uprising, Alif the Unseen as a surprising conglomeration of coding, political science, and Muslim mythology. It thoroughly engulfed me with brilliant and wild new ideas.
4. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Why I loved it: I’d be hard pressed to find a more enjoyable nerdy romp that kept pace through every single page. I grinned on nearly every page, and couldn’t get enough of Wade Watt’s underdog attempt to solve the riddles and beat the sixers. I’ve yet to find a protagonist that I’ve cheered for more than Wade.
3. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
Why I loved it: I’m addicted to WWII fiction, and especially appreciate stories that aren’t completely soul crushing. I fell in love with Sepetys’ realistic teenage characters and their plight, and felt like a companion on their journey. There aren’t many books I’ve finished that I’ve felt truly inspired by, but this is definitely one. Perfect for any teenager or adult who wants a thrilling WWII read that will bolster their faith in humanity.
2. The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
Why I loved it: The Golem and the Jinni was a wholly new approach to mystic fiction for me. It combined my deep love of historical fiction with my fascination for magical realism by establishing complex and wonderful characters against the backdrop of 1900’s New York City. The writing was masterful and the plot was gripping.
Aaaand, my top book of 2016:
1. The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer
Why I loved it: Orringer’s prose was the best I’ve read in years. Though I (obviously) love the fast deliciousness of a good YA book, The Invisible Bridge was like an exquisite multi-course meal cooked by a Michelin chef. I’ve thought about it frequently since finishing it, and would recommend it to any adult looking for a transformative read.