2016 was a heck of a year.
It was a year of uncertainty (being laid off, among other things).
I turned to familiar authors (Agatha Christie) or books that promised a happy ending. I found myself flipping to the last pages of a book for a peek at the ending. I reckoned there was enough stress in my actual life that I didn’t need to face the unknown when I could avoid it. Is that cheating?
I read on planes headed to cities like LA and Chicago. I distracted myself with books while waiting for appointments. I listened to audiobooks while driving to work. And I ended almost every day with Brad signaling it was bedtime by closing his book next to me, while I raced to finish the chapter.
My reading goal for 2016 was 65 books but I managed 70. That’s an improvement on 2015’s 57, but still lower than I expected (check out 2015’s top books list here). One of our goals for 2017 is to watch less TV, so it’ll be interesting to see if I read much more.
Below are my top 10 recommendations for books I read in 2016. You can see the full list of books that I read here.
Comment below with your reading goal or recommendations!
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch (SciFi/Thriller)
Even if you aren’t a scifi fan, you’ll enjoy Dark Matter. This edge-of-your-seat read is basically “Sliding Doors,” but with science. If you’ve ever wondered how your life would be if you had made a different decision, this book is for you. (I’ll be buying this for Brad to read).
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (Fiction)
Ove is a grumpy old man whose life is turned upside down when a new family moves next door. A great reminder that everyone needs love, kindness, and to belong. (Also good: My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Backman)
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (Historical Fiction)
An intriguing tale of friendship and war. It’s amazing and heart-wrenching. Don’t let the numerous details about planes bog you down (the author is a pilot), keep reading for the twist. (Brad also enjoyed this one!)
In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson (Nonfiction)
The answer to “How did anyone allow Hitler into power?” Erik Larson details Hitler’s rise to power through the eyes of the US ambassador to Germany. It’s best read with Kindle’s X-Ray feature to help keep all the Nazi power players straight.
Station Eleven Emily St. John Mandel (Post-Apocalyptic)
Woof. This book, y’all. Not most post-apocalyptic books can be called quick reads, but it’s hard to put Station Eleven down. This book encompasses before, during, and after a flu epidemic wipes out the majority of the world’s population. It’s like “Contagion,” but better. (Brad liked this one a lot!)
They Came to Baghdad by Agatha Christie (Thriller)
Agatha Christie is my girl. I had seen numerous rave reviews for They Came to Baghdad and they were all correct. Victoria Jones finds herself in the middle of espionage and murder on a trip to Baghdad. (I’ll be buying this because A) my personal library needs a copy & B) I’ve introduced Brad to Agatha & he’s a fan)
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab (Fantasy)
Kell is a magician who can travel between parallel universes. When he unknowingly brings evil into his world, he and the feisty thief Delilah Bard must do all they can to defeat it.
Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson (Memoir)
Jenny Lawson tackles everything from depression to taxidermy in a hilarious manner. If you suffer from a mental illness, or know someone who does, this is a must-read. Don’t be surprised if you want to purchase a stuffed raccoon after reading.
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys (Historical Fiction)
I love books that teach me about a moment in history I didn’t know. Almost 10,000 people died when the Wilhelm Gustloff sank in 1945—the largest loss of life on a single sinking ship. “Salt to the Sea” tells of the German refugees fleeing Soviet soldiers in WWII that believe this ship is their saving grace.
Death at Wentwater Court by Carola Dunn (Historical Fiction/Guilty Pleasure)
Sometimes you just need an entertaining, easy, happy book. That’s this series for me. Fledgling journalist Daisy Dalrymple joins forces with Scotland Yard’s dashing Alec Fletcher to solve a mystery in this charming, quick read set in the 1920s. A great option for audiobooks!
I just realized I referenced two Gwyneth Paltrow movies and I don’t know who I am anymore. Fun fact: I actually got to go on the set of “Contagion” when it was filming in Chicago.
2017 Reading Goal
And now here we are in 2017. My reading goal for 2017 is less about quantity and more about quality.
I started reading this book last month that I absolutely love. It’s not included on the list above because I haven’t finished it yet. I picked up “Great Tales from English History” by Robert Lacey after realizing that Brad didn’t know much about UK history (Brianna the Anglophile knows too much), and I thought he’d enjoy learning more before our trip in March. Well, I fell in love with the book.
It’s basically fairy tales with historical facts. It’s an incredibly easy read, but chock full of information. History is one of my favorite things in the world (along with cats, Brad, house renovations, Halloween, chocolate chip cookies, and Jesus), and it’s a great feeling to learn something while being entertained.
All that to say… I created a reading challenge for 2017 that I think will push me to read diverse books and learn about new subjects. I’ve gotten stuck in a rut that looks something like Paris or London in the 1940s (I read a lot of WW2 historical fiction). I want to read about new places and faces. I want to finally finish that Benjamin Franklin biography that I started forever ago.
Don’t worry. I’ll still read plenty of fluff. Lots of YA, tons of mysteries, and loads of fantasy novels. The top 10 list for 2017 might look a little different than 2016, but it will consist of more than biographies of Founding Fathers.
Please leave a comment here or on Facebook with a book that you recommend to me!
Do you want to join the challenge? Or create your own?