Book Gems of 2016
I know these posts are supposed to go out at the end of the year instead of a month into the next one, but better late than never, right? Before I begin, a few disclaimers:
This is all my personal preference, of course. Further, only two of the books below actually came out in 2016, so that kind of obliterates the "best of 2016" notion, which is one (but not the only) reason why I didn't use this term. Instead, this is merely a brief list of fantastic books that I happened to read in 2016 and want to continue gushing about well into the new year—books that I think you should read, too. So, without further ado:
1. Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman
This book absolutely destroyed me in the best way possible. It's brilliantly written, beautifully intense, and more affecting than anything else I'd read in a long time. The description on the book's goodreads page is way more captivating than whatever I would say, so here it is: "Girls on Fire tells the story of Hannah and Lacey and their obsessive teenage female friendship so passionately violent it bloodies the very sunset its protagonists insist on riding into, together, at any cost." Ooof. Wasserman holds nothing back here, and it's this honesty, this rawness, that made this book so powerful. I can't stop thinking about it.
2. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.
This is one of the first books I read in 2016, and I continued recommending it to everyone for the rest of the year. Everything I Never Told You is a powerful story about a Chinese American family in the 1970s trying to hold themselves together after the middle daughter is found dead in the lake. The narrative is perfectly executed, beautifully rendered, and so, so memorable. Ng brings us in and out of each family member's head seamlessly, allowing this less-than-300-page novel to pack a huge punch.
3. Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
Bone Gap is another multiple-POV novel that absolutely floored me, about a girl who goes missing, and the boy that knows her sudden disappearance is not at all what it seems. Ruby's novel blends magic and realism in the most captivating way as the reader is drawn closer and closer to the dangerous gaps that exist, both figuratively and literally, between the people and the town itself. I could not put this book down. Wonderful story, gorgeous language.
4. Land of Enchantment by Leigh Stein
Stein's memoir speaks so eloquently about the complexities of a destructive relationship while weaving together a compelling personal story. The book beings as she learns of her ex-boyfriend Jason's death in a motorcycle accident, and cycles back through their relationship—particularly the time they spent in New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment, as their romantic adventure quickly reveals itself as something far more dangerous. Abuse, Stein realizes, comes in many forms. And sometimes, love is so inextricably intertwined that you can't even see it.
5. Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson
Wilson's genre-bending novel blew a lot of minds before I'd ever even heard of it, but because it was one of my favorite reads of 2016, I'm including it here. Blending fantasy, adventure, romance, modern technology, and elements of traditional Islam, Alif the Unseen follows a young hacker as he fights a repressive government in an unnamed Middle Eastern city, aided by both real and fantastic forces. One of the most unique books I've read in a long while.
6. Flying Couch by Amy Kurzweil
This graphic memoir tells the story of three generation of Jewish women: Amy, the young artist trying to figure out her place in the world; her mother Sonya, the psychologist; and her grandmother Bubbe, the Holocaust survivor. The narrative switches between Amy's coming-of-age story and Bubbe's own testimonial of her escape from the Warsaw Ghetto, exploring elements of memory, family, and self-discovery. A hilarious, heartbreaking, and powerful debut.
So, that's my list, which I found almost impossible to narrow down. I read dozens of other fantastic books in 2016, so definitely check out my Goodreads page if you're curious to see what else I've been loving! I also often post about books on my Instagram page, too.