I read lots of good books in 2016 across several different genres. I always enjoy revisiting a few old favorites as well as discover new books and authors. Here are a few of the best books I read this year.
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead will probably be the last book I finish this year. It is without a doubt one of the best. I discovered Whitehead through the recommendation of a friend in the early 2000s. His first book, The Intuitionist, had come out to much critical and commercial acclaim. I read it and liked it. But I didn’t read any of his subsequent books over the years, until The Underground Railroad. I recognized it’s author from his first book. And I couldn’t ignore this book after it won the National Book Award. His writing impressed me in his first book, and it wowed me in his latest one. Whitehead’s story of that famous “railroad” is brought with a combination of well-done research, sympathetic characters, and self-assured, lyrical prose. I will be reading the books of Whitehead’s that I missed, and I give his latest book my highest recommendation.
The second book on my list is also historical fiction. It comes from one of my favorite writers that I discovered this year. Erika Robuck writes historical fiction revolving around the lives of famous writers. She caught my attention with novels based on the lives of two of my favorite authors: Ernest Hemingway (Hemingway’s girl) which is pictured above, and F. Scott Fitzgerald (Call Me Zelda). She has written several other novels as well. Robuck has a wonderful way of writing about complex characters and relationships, while painting a clear picture of the specific time and place. I was also honored she accepted my invitation to talk about her books, and writing in general on my podcast, La Literati.
I read A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman with my friend, Jenny. It’s a story about a grumpy curmudgeon who has his life disrupted by people he would rather not have anything to do with. What follows is a novel with equal amounts of humorous and heart-warming moments. I’ve also recently seen a movie trailer, so I look forward to watching the film adaptation of this story.
Next on my list is unique in that it is a one-act play written by my friend, Briana Morgan. Touch is a drama that takes place in a world where deliberate physical contact is a crime. The main character has never spent much time questioning this taboo. But the arrest of some of her classmates changes this. She decides to do it, and discoveres the power of touch, and how it affects people. It’s a short, thought-provoking read that I enjoyed.
I am a great fan of Westerns. This is probably due to my Dad’s enjoyment of John Wayne movies. In time, I came to love the Westerns that Clint Eastwood starred in. At any rate, I seek out these types of stories in books and movies. Fortunately, there are quite a few good ones to be enjoyed. True Grit is one of my favorites. I watched the movie with John Wayne playing the role of Rooster Cogburn. But I didn’t learn that it was a book until the remake came out with Jeff Bridges playing the marshal. I love this story, and prefer the remake to the original, which is a point of friendly contention between my Dad and me.
The last two books I want to mention are science fiction and fantasy, respectively. In Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline, we are in the year 2044. Wade, the main character, like many other people don’t care much for the real world. Their escape is the OASIS, which is a virtual utopia created by James Halliday. Halliday has hidden clues to a golden egg: a massive fortune that is promised to the person who can solve all the riddles steeped in 1980s pop culture references. Halliday grew up in that decade, as I did. So that made this story a fun read. But even if you don’t understand or like all of the pop culture references, there is still the virtual quest with some romance added to the mix to keep you entertained.
The last book is a modern fantasy, Uprooted by Naomi Novik. I heard about it through a combination of online buzz, and friends working at Barnes & Noble who kept asking me if I had read it yet. The Dragon is not a literal dragon, but a man. He is a magician who lives in a tower outside of town. The Dragon protects the town from the evil forces in the Wood. As part of the arrangement, the Dragon takes a girl from the town every ten years to serve him and live with him in the tower, after which time she leaves to start her life over eslewhere.
The time for the next choosing is nigh. And Agnieszka fears what everyone thinks, that the Dragon will choose her best friend Kasia. But he doesn’t choose her. What follows is a very original story with elements of folklore and fairy-tale.
So these were a few of my favorite books that I read this year. I would love to hear what you thought of any of these that you read. And what books would make your list of the best books you read this year?