Wednesday 28 December 2016

2016: The Best Books of the Year

I’ve read a lot of books this year - over 200! - but I feel like I’ve been much more difficult to please than usual! I’ve reached really far out of comfort zone and stretched into short story collections and poetry and continued my love affair with audiobooks and classics. These are the best 20 books I’ve read this year.

Me and YA have had a bit of a rocky relationship this year. I've often felt like I'm wading through books because I have to without many stand-out books. Luckily, these 7 books saved the day:

The Abyss Surrounds Us, Emily Skrutskie

I was so, so impressed by The Abyss Surrounds Us. I went in with no real expectations of anything and ended up with fantastic world-building, a truly unique premise and a deliciously meaty relationship; what more could have I asked for?

A Court of Mist and Fury, Sarah J Maas

A Court of Mist and Fury is another sweeping, heart-pounding and staggeringly romantic fantasy from Sarah J Maas, and the one that’s had the most impact since I first read Throne of Glass in 2012. I can’t get enough of this series.

Under Rose Tainted Skies, Louise Gornall

I completely loved this beautiful, brave, and honest book about love and mental illness and I’m genuinely excited to see what else Louise Gornall has up her sleeves. What a debut.

Songs About a Girl, Chris Russell

Songs About a Girl ended on a cruel cliffhanger and I’m dying to hear more from Charlie and the boys from Fire and Lights – thank goodness there’s going to be another book! Chris Russell’s debut is one of the books that I've had the most fun reading this year.

Nevernight, Jay Kristoff

I was so surprised by how much I loved this, even though I also love Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman’s Illiminae Files series. Seriously, if you like your fantasy violent, sexy, funny and utterly captivating, Nevernight is for you. I want more.

My Lady Jane, Brodi Ashton; Cynthia Hand; Jodi Meadows

I couldn’t have loved My Lady Jane any more than I did – sass, wit, humour and a whole lot of fun. I never thought a retelling (kinda) of Tudor history could be like this - perfect!

The Graces, Laure Eve

Dark, compelling and shocking, The Graces threw me for a loop. I thought I was totally over paranormal romance, but maybe not. I can’t WAIT for book two!

I didn't read as many adult novels in 2016 as I had hoped to, but what I did read, I loved. You can't ask for more than that, really.

The Madwoman Upstairs, Catherine Lowell

The Madwoman Upstairs is a gorgeous exploration of loss, loneliness, love and the inimitable power of literature. I already want to devour it all over again.If you’re a fan of the Brontës’, literary mystery or just a damn good story, this needs to go on your 2017 TBR.

Eligible, Curtis Sittenfeld

This modern re-telling of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice was just such a joy to read that I dragged it out for a whole week even though I could have devoured it in one go. Fun, sassy and true to the original - a total must for Austen fans.

I read a lot of classics this year - in fact, I read more classics this year than any year since I've been recording my reading. But I honestly wasn't blown away by very many, though I did enjoy a lot of them. These three weren't just the best classics, but also some of the best books I've ever read.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Anne Bronte

I completely and utterly loved The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. It’s my favourite Bronte novel so far - feminism, strength and with way more subtlety than Charlotte and Emily. I’m so sad Anne didn’t get the chance to write any more books and I just wish she was as widely loved as her sisters.

Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton

I was expecting tragedy, but I really wasn’t expecting the level of tragedy Edith Wharton delivered. I was a bit taken back by it! It’s powerful, shocking and so very sad. Reading Ethan Frome has made me seriously excited to delve into more of Wharton’s novels. Potential new favourite author alert!

Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy

I went into Anna Karenina with hesitancy and no real expectations of whether or not I'd finish it, let alone enjoy it, but I completely loved it. It’s epic in every sense of the word and even months after finishing, I’m still thinking about it. In fact, I’m already considering making it a yearly re-read.

Only one non-fiction novel really jumped out at me in 2016 and it turned out that my final non-fiction read of the year was also my favourite.

Talking as Fast as I Can, Lauren Graham

Talking as Fast as I Can has left me eager to re-watch Gilmore Girls from scratch, buzzing with the meaning behind that A Year in the Life cliffhanger and a determination to get my hands on Lauren’s novel. A total joy and just like sitting down for coffee with Lorelai herself.

My year in short story collections is a very similar story to non-fiction, really. I started off really strongly but they faded out in the second half of the year as my time became less my own. But Treats was a stand-out read even while reading it.

Treats, Lara Williams

Treats is fresh, sharp, funny and brutally honest and I’ll be reading everything Lara Williams writes. If you’re stumbling through adulthood wondering how on earth that happened, this is the collection for you.

Audiobooks, my love, my life. I could not read as much as I do without the help of audiobooks - seriously, how did I life before I signed up to Audible?! I've listened to some incredible books this year, but these topped the charts.

Mistborn: Hero of Ages, Brandon Sanderson (Read by Michael Cramer)

A beautiful, heart-breaking, and perfect ending to an epic trilogy. Though a fitting end, I was gutted to see Vin, Elend and Kelsier’s gang go. I lvoe Michael Cramer’s narration too - I’ve only listened to Sanderson’s books on audiobook because I love how well they’re done.

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen (Read by Rosumund Pike)

As soon as this popped up on Audible, I knew it was time for a Pride and Prejudice re-read - it had been about 6 years! It was also not long after devouring Eligible and I just needed more Lizzie and Darcy in my life. Perfection!

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, JK Rowling (Read by Stephen Fry)

Re-reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone every year has become something of a tradition and I decided I should really give these audiobooks a go. It was a total delight. I find the way Stephen Fry says Malfoy oddly jarring, but otherwise I think they’re wonderfully read.

Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy (Read by Maggie Gyllenhaal)

Tolstoy’s epic romance landing on Audible with this new narration was what gave me the final push to start Anna Karenina and I’m so glad I did. Beautifully read and so engaging, I didn’t lag for a single minute of this 35-hour long audiobook.

Spectacles, Sue Perkins (Read by Sue Perkins)

Sue Perkins’ narration of her memoir is completely wonderful. Lively, fun and brilliant - I just fell even more in love with Sue than I was before. Highly recommended!

Reading poetry has been an exciting new venture for me in 2016 and I’ve fallen head over heels with a few collections, but I’m definitely still searching for my niche here.

Milk and Honey, Rupi Kaur

Milk and Honey is so powerful that I felt punched in the heart after only 20/30 pages and it just kept on coming. The short poems talk about abuse, sex, break-ups and love. It's a feminist rally cry.

Hold Your Own, Kate Tempest

Hold Your Own talks about everything we experience in life via a sharp, observant and modern eye and it’s completely brilliant. There is so much power in Tempest’s words and ideas and themes, lots on sexuality, feminism, school and society that sucker punch you with its simple truth. This is a collection I’ll be reading and re-reading over the years, I just know it.

What are your favourite books of 2016?


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