Archives: Books Read in 2016

Summary of the Year

Well, this year a fell a smidge short of my annual goal. Instead of reading a book a week, I only made it through 49 during the course of the year. (If I include the books I started and abandoned, I’d easily clear the goal – but that seems like cheating.) Here are recommendations:

  • Best Overall Book – Pulitzer Worthy: Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah
  • Best Novel You’ll Think About for Months: A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara
  • Required Reading for Americans: Between the World and Me, by TaNehisi Coates
  • Best Premise: The Unseen World, by Liz Moore
  • Honorable Mentions:
    • Remember Ben Clayton, by Stephen Harrigan
    • Fates & Furies, by Lauren Groff
  • Most Over-Rated Waste of Time:
    • Eligible, by Curtis Sittenfield
    • The Girls, by Emma Cline
    • Truly, Madly, Guilty, by Liane Moriarty
  • Most Likely to Recommend for Specific Tastes:
    • Creepy Technology Future: The Circle by Dave Eggers
    • Trashy Chick Lit: In a Dark, Dark Wood, by Ruth Ware
    • Trashy Mystery with a Side of Misogyny: Before the Fall, by Noah Hawley

January

  • Fates & Furies, by Lauren Groff (A – the complex story of a marriage in two acts, with twists) 
  • Croak, by Gina Damico (D – YA fiction, was previewing it as a potential gift – won’t be giving it – feels like a Harry Potter wannabe)
  • Little Mercies, by Heather Gudenkoff (C- – social worker accidentally bakes her baby in the car – drama feels manufactured and the writing is meh)
  • The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace, by Jeff Hobbs (B – potential is trumped by birth situation, well-written but sad) 

February

  • We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler (B – well-written story of a college student coming to terms with her lost “sister”)
  • Changing on the Job, by Jennifer Garvey Berger (B+ – practical approach to adult development theory)
  • Marina, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (C+ – creepy/horror/mystery – beautifully written, but will lose anyone who insists on things being plausible) 

March

  • Born Standing Up, by Steve Martin (A – solid memoir – anyone who enjoys comedy will like seeing his journey)
  • Be Frank With Me, by Julia Claiborne Johnson (B – fun premise and interesting characters – would’ve gotten an A if it didn’t have a dumb romantic plot line)
  • Reconstructing Amelia, by Kimberly McCreight (B – trashy page-turner about a high school “club” gone bad)
  • Bazaar of Bad Dreams, by Stephen King (B – creepy short story collection by the master)
  • Finding Audrey, by Sophie Kinsella (B – good book for teens about anxiety)
  • The Bookman’s Tale, by Charlie Lovett (D – skipped around too much and the backstory was too complicated to care about)
  • In a Dark, Dark Wood, by Ruth Ware (B – page turner about a psychotic bachelorette weekend – not high literature)

April

  • Where They Found Her, by Kimberly McCreight (D – page turner but dumb and overly-complicated)
  • A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara (A+ – beautiful, tragic, haunting – a story of friendship and, sadly, the ways in which love cannot conquer all)
  • The Life We Bury, by Allen Eskens (C – premise had potential, but the execution was clumsy)
  • Immunity to Change, by Robert Kegan (B – good information/approach for coaching, but book was a bit dry at times)

 

May

  • Lexicon, by Max Barry (A – fun sci-fi for people who want to believe words are as powerful as it gets)
  • The Circle, by Dave Eggers (B+ – not the best work of fiction, but it’s a page-turner because it draws so much from reality, and shows how it can all go horribly wrong)

June

  • Remember Ben Clayton, by Stephen Harrigan (A – solid story about a sculptor commissioned to make a statue of a fallen WWI soldier in rural Texas)
  • Terrible Virtue, by Ellen Feldman (C – terrible is about right; this fictional account of Margaret Sanger’s life had a lot of promise, but seemed preoccupied with showing her as horny)
  • Eligible, by Curtis Sittenfield (D – dumb modern day retelling of Pride & Prejudice)
  • After You, by Jojo Moyes (B – chick lit but with an interesting story – this is the sequel to Me Before You)
  • End of Watch, by Stephen King (A – great conclusion to this fun, twisted trilogy)

July

  • Lilac Girls, by Martha Hall Kelly (C – fictionalized tale from all-woman WWII concentration camp – interesting story but writing was lacking)
  • We’re All Damaged, by Matthew Norman (B – dysfunctional family meets a broken heart – in the same vein as Jonathan Tropper’s “This Is Where I Leave You”)
  • The Patron Saint of Liars, by Ann Patchett (A- fascinating setting, well-developed characters – and the question of how much we can ever really know another person)
  • Don’t Let Me Go, by Catherine Ryan Hyde (B – residents of an LA apartment building bond over a neglected child in their building – I liked aspects but it was implausible)

August

  • The Nest, by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney (B – dysfunctional family drama centered around an inheritance, fun read)
  • The Short Drop, by Matthew FitzSimmons (B- – hacker politicial thriller – good page turner even though the plot twist is spotted well in advance) 
  • The Girls, by Emma Cline (D – overly ambitious account of a Manson-like cult – without much depth)
  • Before the Fall, by Noah Hawley (D – great premise, fun read – if you don’t like characters with complexity, and a dose of misogyny) 
  • The Unseen World, by Liz Moore (A – loved it –  a subtle mystery with a mix of technology, parenting and familial secrets – highly recommend)
  • The Residence, by Kate Anderson Brower (B – interesting view of life as White House Residence Staff – scratched my Downton Abby itch)

September

  • Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates (A+ – should be required reading, especially to help “white” people understand race in America)
  • Rewinder, by Brett Battles (B – fun sci-fi time-travel adventure – probably most enjoyed by tweens)
  • Norwegian by Night, by Derek B. Miller (D- At times entertaining, on the whole this book demanded too much for a piss-poor payoff)

October

  • Britt-Marie Was Here, by Fredrik Backman (C – far-fetched and choppy)
  • Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett (B – two families, an affair and the aftermath)
  • The Girl Before, by Rena Olsen (B – trashy but fascinating  about human trafficking) 
  • If You Find Me, by Emily Murdoch (C – dumb premise – girls raised in the woods by their meth mom have to readjust to civilization)

November

  • The Pecan Man, by Cassie Dandridge (C- a two-dimensional morality tale)
  • Abide with Me, by Elizabeth Strout (B – great character development)

December

  • Black-Eyed Susans, by Julia Heaberlin  (B+ – fun thriller, but the ending is weak)
  • Medium Raw, by Anthony Bourdain (B – enjoyed this a lot – aside from the opening chapter, which almost made me abandon the whole book)
  • The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, by Alan Bradley (B – mystery with a fun child detective)
  • The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, by Amy Schumer (B – mixed bag, but does a good job telling the story behind the comedian)
  • Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah (A+ – best book of 2016 – I recommend the audiobook)

 

Abandoned Mid-Read This Year

  • Pretty Baby, by Mary Kubica (felt like it was written by someone with a barely passable IQ)
  • The Selected Works of TS Spivet, by Steig Larsen (fun but slow – ran out of time)
  • Boy, Snow, Bird, by Helen Oyeymi (initially loved it – then got weird and bored)
  • Truly, Madly, Guilty, by Liane Moriarty (attempted to tease the plot out too long)
  • Imagine Me Gone, by Adam Haslett (I want to like this – I’ll try again)
  • The Summer Before the War, by Helen Simonson (too pokey, but maybe I’ll try again)
  • Lights Out, by Ted Koppel (got the gist, then got bored)
  • Eileen, by Ottessa Moshfegh (library book – ran out of time)
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