I had a goal to read 125 books this year, but I didn't quite make it. Still, I ended the year with a solid 118 books under my belt. To be fair, I only came close to reaching my goal after I decided to include all the chapter books we read aloud as a family. But a book read is a book read, and I'm satisfied with my year of reading.
In fact, I read a few too many books to make picking ten favorites easy. I could probably go back and forth a few hundred more times and switch this list around over and over, but these are the 10 books that first jumped out at me when I went through my year's reading list.
If you're looking for something notable to read this year, these are 10 books I thoroughly enjoyed.
This non-fiction book tells the story of the Soviet regime, the seige of Leningrad, and the eventual Allied victory. But what it's really about is the power of music and the incredible role that the Leningrad Symphony played in this period of history. Beautifully written, hard to put down. I highly recommend you get a hard copy of this one because the photos and format make this an even more enjoyable read.
Lucy Barton has a troubled relationship with her mother and they haven't spoken for years. But when Lucy ends up in the hospital for an extended stay, her mother comes to see her. The book is about their past and their relationship and it's beautiful. Deep, real, human characters are what I love most about Strout's writing and she does it so well in this book. Plus, at less than 200 pages, it's a quick read!
This is a middle grade chapter book that I read aloud with my kids, but I loved it with all my heart. Minli leaves her parents and their ramshackle hut in search of the Old Man in the Moon to find out how to change her family's fortune. It's an adventure of faith and friendship, told with magic and Chinese folklore. The hard copy also has some beautiful illustrations to accompany the story. This one stayed with me for a long time after I finished it.
This memoir about a neurosurgeon and his unlikely diagnosis with lung cancer made me cry big huge sobbing tears. It's beautiful, it's happy, it's sad, it's moving. I'll probably read it again this year. It's that good.
I recommended this book many times this year. I adored it. It’s set in a small English town in 1914, just before the dawn of World War I. It starts just a bit slow, but it didn’t take too long before I was hooked. The characters are charming and the story is fun – a bit of romance, a comedy of manners, and a good dose of historical fiction. I thought the whole time that it would make a perfect PBS Masterpiece Mini Series (think Doctor Thorne) .
I read the first book in this series, and then I don't think I really did anything else for a few weeks while I devoured the next three books. Originally written in Italian, these books follow two girls and their friendship as they grow and age in the outskirts of Naples beginning in the 1950's. They are kind of raw and intense and detailed, but they're also so rich and the characters are so alive and honest and real. I don't know yet how to describe these books very well - still processing - but I loved them. (The second and fourth books were my favorites.)
I surprised myself this year and started reading this Canadian murder mystery series. Murder mysteries are not at all my genre, but this aren't your average murder mysteries either. I'm six books into the series now and I plan to read every last one of them. Like a good friend of mine recently said, the mysteries are good, but the characters are even better.
This was a reread for me this year. I'd read it over a summer break between my freshman and sophmore year of college and I remembered loving it then, but really I'd forgotten just how well done this book actually is. It's a classic, but I find that like all the best classics, it's still so relevant.
In 1922, Count Rostov is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol Hotel in Moscow by a Bolshevik tribunal. The book follows his life in the hotel for the next 40 years and it's absolutely charming. There are fun characters, like the girl who stars as the Russian version of Eloise, and there's a lot of interesting history wrapped up in the story too. Mostly, I just smiled my way through this book. Really, a delightful, fun read.
I read this after the election with some of hope of understanding a bit more about that whole mess. It's narrative non-fiction, which makes it compelling and easy to read and it gave me so much insight into the breakdown of our political system. I particularly like how the book tells a big picture story by focusing in on personal and individual histories. I'm still deeply disturbed by it all, but this gave me a little more context for how everything has come undone.
And a few honorable mentions:
Graceling by Kristin Cashore (and the other books in the trilogy)
What are some of your favorites from 2016? I'd love to know! Have you read of any these?