By the end of this year, I will have read 126 books, and so many were absolutely wonderful! It was really difficult to narrow them down to my top 10 fiction and top 5 non-fiction picks. I could make a top 40 fiction and still feel like I left out some gems. But a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do! So, here we have my top 15 books from 2016, fiction first and then non-fiction.
Everyone Brave is Forgiven – Chris Cleave
This beautifully-written novel is about a couple in London during World War II. It is witty and fun, and unforgettable. Cleave weaves a masterful story. His characters and setting are phenomenal and transport the reader directly to WWII. I loved this story through and through.
Be sure to check out my interview with Chris Cleave after you’ve read it. He’s such a wonderful writer and person!
Small Great Things – Jodi Picoult
Jodi Picoult has long been a favorite author of mine, but I’ve always considered her more of a guilty-pleasure-read. This novel changes that for the better. Small Great Things tackles black/white relations in this country in Picoult’s signature style (court case and personal drama). I devoured this one.
Homegoing –Yaa Gyasi
Yaa Gyasi’s debut novel follows two branches of a single family from Africa through the colonial period, slave trade, and post-segregation America. She includes one story from each generation, and it doesn’t seem like it should work, but it does! And it’s so revealing and thought-provoking. I couldn’t put it down.
Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead
Colson Whitehead reimagines the underground railroad of America as an ACTUAL railroad, just like we all did as children. His novel is hard, but so necessary. Main character Cora will stick with you long after this one has ended.
Lilac Girls – Martha Hall Kelly
This stunning debut novel introduces us to the “Rabbits of Ravenbruck”, healthy young women who were experimented on medically by the Nazis during WWII. I listened to it on audio, and that’s definitely the way to go. The three narrators of the audio version really bring the story to life in such a unique way.
Be sure to check out my interview with Martha Hall Kelly after you’ve read it!
A Man Called Ove – Fredrik Backman
This sweet story is about Ove, a curmudgeonly old man reeling after the death of his wife. He is forced to interact (begrudgingly) with his neighbors throughout this book, and it produces some sweet moments filled with hope and joy and laughter. Backman is only 35 years old, and this book was originally written in Swedish. I feel like knowing those two things makes the entire story that much more amazing.
11/22/63 – Stephen King
This isn’t a new book, but it was new to me this year. It’s the first 30+ hour book that I devoured on audio, and that should say something about its plot. It’s un-putdownable. None of the horror that made Stephen King famous, but all of the plot and character development that he has perfected over his decades of writing best-sellers.
News of the World – Paulette Jiles
This is a story about an older man (Captain Kidd) that reads newspapers throughout Texas who ends up taking care of a young girl who needs to be returned to her parents after four years of being held captive by the Kiowa tribe. The road they travel is dangerous and long, and they have only each other to make it through. Beautifully-written, and absolutely wonderful plotline.
This Is How It Always Is – Laurie Frankel
This one comes out early next year, but I couldn’t not put it on this list. Laurie Frankel gives us a family of boys, the youngest of which is diagnosed with gender dysphoria. He is a girl. This family drama deftly illustrates the love of forever that comes with family as well as the trial and heartbreak of having a child that you don’t know how to parent.
Two-Family House – Lynda Cohen Loigman
Loigman’s story about Mort and Abe, two brothers (and their wives Rose and Helen, and their numerous children) who live in a single home spans a full generation. It will make you laugh and cry and sigh with affection for her characters. You’ll be sucked in by family secrets and wonder if it’s a thriller or a drama.
Love Warrior – Glennon Doyle Melton
I love Glennon’s writing in every form, but I think this one might be my favorite. The shattering of her (and my) naive notions about marriage, love, acceptance, beginning, and pain is just fantastically written. She does such a wonderful job of redefining the landscape, for women especially, in relation to God and the church as well. I found myself nodding, crying, and amen-ing throughout this book and I know it will become a regular recommendation for others, just like Carry On Warrior has done!
Born a Crime – Trevor Noah
I was so grateful for this freebie from Audible! Trevor Noah brings his trademark humor to some really tough stories about growing up during and after the fall of apartheid in South Africa. Read by the author, these stories are full of wit and fun and a bit of horror. just like the daily show, just like life.
Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys – Steven James and David Thomas
Thomas and James dissect boyhood perfectly into ages and stages and needs and wants and desires. I kept nodding my head and wanting to tattoo parts of this book on my arms. I broke out the highlighter and read pages aloud to my husband. Cannot wait to pass it along to fellow boy moms (as long as I get it back!)
When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi
In this memoir, neurosurgery resident Dr. Paul Kalanithi is diagnosed with brain and spine cancer. Not a spoiler: it’s about his journey toward death. Paul’s writing is beautiful and poignant. He so faithfully captures both the doctor and patient sides of care. As with everyone else who reviewed this gem, the afterword by his wife left me weeping on the floor.
Brown Girl Dreaming – Jaqueline Woodson
I loved this memoir in verse novel format. I listened to it as an audiobook, read by the author. I highly recommend it in that format, especially. Like most verse novels, this isn’t a lengthy read. Due to our current national/political/social climate, this one seems especially important. Woodson has much to tell us, even in the short format. Make sure you stay tuned for the author’s note and “thankful for”s at the end.
If you’d like to see my entire year as a reader, you can click over to Goodreads, where they’ve created this fun Kaytee’s year in books graphic!