The Best Books of 2016

Out of the 73 books I read in 2016, I rated 6 as 5-star reads. Here’s the list, and some notes on why I loved these so much.

What were your favorite books of 2016? I’d love to hear your recommendations. Or, if you’ve read any of these and have thoughts to share, let me know in the comments!

The Unfinished World: And Other Stories, by Amber Sparks (Buy via IndieBound)

Historically, I haven’t read much in the realm of short stories, something I’d like to change in the future. I’d heard so many good things about this book, so when I saw it on the table at Missoula’s fantastic independent shop Shakespeare & Co , the beautiful cover jumped out at me, and I decided to give it a go.
Sparks covers some intriguing topics in her stories, but it was her use of language that reached out and grabbed me. This is a book that, in retrospect, I regret not reading with highlighter or book darts in hand. However, this gives me the opportunity to re-read and soak in the beautiful words once again. Highly recommended for those who love fantastical fiction, a little bit of oddity, and language that will pull you right into the story.

A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman (Buy via IndieBound)

I’d heard a lot of good things about this author, and finally got to reading this book. While in truth, the plot can be a bit formulaic in parts, I found the characters delightfully real, the story touching, and the message inspiring. I laughed and cried more while reading this book than I have with any others in recent memory. Backman, and in no small part translator Henning Koch, deserve immense applause for the way this story unravels slowly for the reader, a most excellent example of showing, and not telling. At some point, I’ll have to watch the movie and see how it compares!

The Trespasser, by Tana French (Buy via IndieBound)

I’ve read all of French’s Dublin Murder Squad books, and I think this latest will be one of my favorites. It’s tightly plotted and I really enjoyed the point of view of Detective Conway. French is consistently strong at characterization and really immersing the reader in the tale, and this was no exception. French will remain one of my favorite mystery writers, and I can’t wait for her next book.

Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube: Chasing Fear and Finding Home in the Great White North, by Blair Braverman  (Buy via IndieBound)

I’m working on another post about fear and bravery in my own life, but suffice to say I found so much in Braverman’s book that resonated with me. This wasn’t quite the book I expected, as it was both quieter and humbler than many “adventure” type books I’ve read before, but I found her truth to be inspiring and I’ve enjoyed following her story further via her recent(ish) interview with Nicole Antoinette’s Real Talk Radio podcast, and feature in the Winter 2016 print edition of Misadventures.

A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic #2), by V.E. Schwab (Buy via IndieBound)

I read A Darker Shade of Magic, book 1 in this series, in 2015, and really enjoyed it. Book 2 elevated my love to the highest levels and resulted in my purchasing all of Schwab’s backlist. She’s an incredible wordsmith telling a story I wish I had thought of myself. And on top of that, I find her writing about writing – such as her article “On the Slow Pursuit of Overnight Success” – to be inspiring and thoughtful. I hope to see her in person at some point at an author event, and I most definitely have Book 3 on pre-order.

Bats of the Republic: An Illuminated Novel, by Zachary Thomas Dodson (Buy via IndieBound)

Wow. This book blew me away in terms of its creative premise, integrated art, and storytelling. A book that hands-down must be read in physical format, the meta themes on story, family, exploration, and freedom that weave into the text make it a story that pulls you in and keeps your attention until the end. It’s nearly impossible to explain or summarize well, but if you like fiction, and stories that play with time and place, this one is a great pick.

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