Saturday, December 31, 2016

Thoughts on 2016 Reading

Taken from a bookish perspective, 2016 was a good year. A very good year.

It was a year that saw the publication of books by Louise Erdrich, Ann Patchett, Maggie O’Farrell and Colson Whitehead. That’s all I need to say.  A year in which only one of these writers publishes a book is cause for celebration.  Novels from all four authors in a single year make me feel like a six-year-old on Christmas morning.

Yet 2016 was far from finished. There were new novels by Laura Lippman, Tessa Hadley, Helen Simonson, Ian Rankin, Alan Furst, Michael Connelly and Tana French. Plus, I was introduced to the works of Emma Cline, Megan Abbott and Noah Hawley.

Yes, I’m gushing, but in self-defense it was a year that warrants excess emotion (I’m talking about literary output only here).

The books I’d highlight are below, but first a preamble:
  1. These are all books published in 2016. I address books published prior to 2016 elsewhere.
  2. You can consider it a “best of 2016” if you wish. I think of this list as books that I enjoyed the most — some touched me deeply — and which I am most inclined to recommend.
  3. I do not respect genres. A good book is a good book.
  4. If a book doesn’t make my list, it doesn’t mean YOU won’t like it. Michael Chabon, Annie Proulx, Jonathan Safran Foer and the Smiths (Zadie and Al), all had books published in 2016. These are authors that I like and admire, but their books this past year left me wanting more.
  5. There is more fiction than non-fiction. That’s just how I read.
  6. The books are in alphabetical order by author’s last name. I respect these writers too much to try and tell you that someone’s book was better than another writer.
  7. There is no arbitrary number . . . the top 5 or top 10. I stopped when the books I liked ran out
  • You Will Know Me, Megan Abbott
  • Hagseed, Margaret Atwood
  • The Girls, Emma Cline
  • The Wrong Side of Goodbye, Michael Connelly
  • LaRose, Louise Erdrich
  • The Trespasser, Tana  French
  • A Hero of France, Alan Furst
  • Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi
  • The Past, Tessa Hadley
  • Before The Fall, Noah Hawley
  • The Nix, Nathan Hill
  • News of the World, Paulette Jiles
  • Wilde Lake, Laura Lippman
  • Coffin Road & Runaway, Peter May
  • This Must Be the Place, Maggie O’Farrell
  • Commonwealth, Ann Patchett
  • Rather Be The Devil, Ian Rankin
  • The Summer Before The War, Helen Simonson
  • My Name Is Lucy Barton, Elizabeth Strout
  • Miss Jane, Brad Watson
  • The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead
  • Another Brooklyn, Jacqueline Woodson

  • The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu, Joshua Hammer
  • The League of Regrettable Superheroes, Jon Morris
  • The Word Detective, John Simpson
  • Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen
  • The Caped Crusade, Batman and the Rise of the Nerd Culture, Glen Weldon
  • First Bite, How We Learn To Eat, Bee Wilson

Graphic Novels
  • Dark Night, A True Batman Story, Paul Dini & Eduardo Risso
  • March Book 3, John Lewis, Andrew Aydin & Nate Powell

  • Thunder Boy Jr., Sherman Alexie & Yuyi Morales
  • I Am A Story, Dan Yaccarino
  • A Child of Books, Oliver Jeffers & Sam Winston

Books written prior to 2016 or How’d I Miss These The First Time Around?
  • About Grace, Anthony Doerr
  • Blood, Salt, Water & Still Midnight, Denise Mina
  • H Is For Hawk, Helen MacDonald (a damn fine book, read it)
  • The Indian Lawyer, & Killing Custer: The Battle of the Little Bighorn and the Fate of the Plains Indians, James Welch
  • Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels: My Brilliant FriendThe Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay & The Story of the Lost Child. (Take a month and read alll four books in one massive, joyous go.)
  • Rick Bass: I read several books by Bass, both fiction and non-fiction. I like his non-fiction the best, but wouldn’t hesitate to recommend his fiction, especially his short stories and novellas.
  • Craig Johnson: Thoroughly enjoy the Longmire series.  
  • I continue to recommend books by Bernard Cornwell, Jim Harrison, C.J. Box and Patrick O’Brian.

  • I begin every year with a book by Charles Dickens. He is the greatest writer in the English language. Sorry, Will.
  • Erdrich’s Love Medicine is a terrific book. No, it’s better than terrific.
  • Willa Cather remains one of my favorite authors. 
  • I was disapppointed in Brideshead Revisited and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. For Parade Magazine, Ann Patchett identified these two books as among the best 75 books in the past 75 years. Hate to disagree with Ann, but I’m not seeing it.
  • Sherri Tepper is a grandmaster of sciene fiction as far as I am concerned and Grass is an awesome book. This was my second reading, and only confirmed by affection for the author and this particular novel.

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