Can you believe the new year is practically here? Today I’m excited to share my top ten books from the past year. It’s so difficult to pick favorites, but surprisingly, the top ten came out to five fiction books and five nonfiction books without any forced arrangement. The order of these ten is incredibly flexible because I’m so bad at playing favorites. I honestly tried to rank all ten, but it was stressful! So just know that these are the ten books I liked best this year, arranged in a semi-accurate order as to which I enjoyed most. I’m sure I’ll be tweaking the order of the books until the very moment I hit “publish” on this post. You can find my original reviews of these books (when available) by clicking the title.
10. Shakespeare’s Comedies
I don’t have an original review to link for you, mainly because I’m not finished reading the plays I plan to review yet. This fifty book goal is coming down to the wire, folks. I’ve finished As You Like It and Twelfth Night, and I’m hoping to throw in another comedy before the year ends. I have to admit that I have been very surprised by Shakespeare’s comedies. I’ve mainly read his histories and tragedies, but these are smart, funny, and very entertaining plays. I’m glad they have been my end-of-the-year companions.
This book is a really fascinating look at how books helped US morale during WWII. The Armed Services Editions of books helped make titles like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and The Great Gatsby enduring classics. If you like American history mixed with your literary history, this is a really great choice!
This beautiful novel is a story of loss, homesickness, and finding love in a new country. If you’ve ever felt homesick, you’ll be amazed at how subtly and compassionately Tolbin describes those feelings in this book. Plus, there’s an amazing movie adaptation that really captures the essence of this book. I forgot how much I enjoyed reading Brooklyn until I looked back at my list for the year to pick my favorites. It really is touching and heartwarming.
It seems like Alexander Hamilton has been everywhere this year, thanks to the Tony-winning musical Hamilton (which I’m dying to see, by the way!). I listened to Ron Chernow’s ambitious biography of Hamilton on Audible, which I highly recommend. I love how biographies give you such intimate portraits of people you’ll never get to meet, and this biography was no different. Alexander Hamilton was an inspiring person who was responsible for much of the way our country’s financial system works. If you want a closer look at the founding fathers, check out this biography.
Continuing on with that theme of biographies, this was a biography I just finished recently, and enjoyed a bit more than the Hamilton one. Smith’s biography of Queen Elizabeth II might engage in a little hero-worship, but on the whole it is an engaging and informative look into the Queen’s life and her astonishing reign in the UK. If you’re especially interested in the royals, like me, check out this biography or watch The Crown on Netflix.
This novel by Forster was a short and sweet classic read on my list this year. I’ve read Howards End several times, so it was good to branch out into a little bit more Forster. I purchased A Passage to India, which Forster claimed was his best book, but I never got around to reading it. I guess I’ll save that one for 2017!
In school, I read Of Mice and Men and The Pearl, but I’d never read any longer works by Steinbeck. That’s probably because I didn’t enjoy the shorter works I had read. I decided to read East of Eden mainly because I found it at a used bookstore, and the concept intrigued me. This novel really grabbed my attention from the start, and I thoroughly enjoyed the way Steinbeck uses complex family relationships and strange people to accomplish his purposes in this novel.
One of the main reasons I try to read fifty books each year is that I want to read “outside my comfort zone.” That was definitely the case with Ready Player One, a sci-fi novel that takes place in a dystopian, futuristic society. Oh, and it’s about video games. That sounds nothing like me–the Jane Austen, William Shakespeare-loving, Downton-Abbey-watching girl that I am. However, I’d seen it recommended in so many places that I purchased the audiobook version, and it was SO GOOD. It’s easily the best fiction book I’ve read all year, and if you are a sci-fi, 80’s pop culture, video-game player, this one is for you. And even if you’re not, I loved it, so I think you will too!
This book is the one that meant the most to me this year. Lamott’s take on writing and creativity inspired me in countless ways as a writer. I toyed with putting this book as my number one, but I always try to pick a top book to recommend to people, and I knew that unless you are a writer or an aspiring writer, this book might not appeal to you. That’s why I put it here at number two. That being said, if you are a writer, this, along with Flannery O’Connor’s Mystery and Manners are two must-reads
It’s interesting to me that for the last two years, my top book of the year has been nonfiction. Last year, I picked The Boys in the Boat, which is easily in my favorite books of all time list. This year, I’ve picked One Summer because it was all-around the most interesting and informative book I read. I listened to it on audiobook, and I would recommend that version to anyone who struggles with reading nonfiction books. Even though Bird by Bird is probably my most meaningful read, I know One Summer will be my most recommended read of this year, which is why it earned the top spot!
In conclusion, 2016 has been one for the books (pun intended). I see a lot on social media about how 2016 has been terrible and how we should all be glad to see it go. I have to say, though, 2016 has been a pretty great year. I got to go back to London and Oxford, I’ve seen some really encouraging growth on the blog, and I started an amazing new job. I’m excited about what 2017 holds, but I’m also so thankful for the year that we’ve had.
Keep Reading, and Happy New Year!