I’ve spent quite some time curating books lists from others and thought it was time to share my 2016 favorites. I always fall short in reading all the books gathered on my bookshelf, nightstand or in my purse. There are terrific reads every year and I’ve accepted I am not going to get to every novel, nonfiction work or essay collection.
These are the books that made it on my 2016 list:
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
I read this compelling memoir in one sitting and found Kalanithi’s courage during his cancer battle poignant and startling. This passage in particular resonated with me: “That message is simple: When you come to one of the many moments in life when you must give an account of yourself, provide a ledger of what you have been, and done, and meant to the world, do not, I pray, discount that you filled a dying man’s days with a sated joy, a joy unknown to me in all my prior years, a joy that does not hunger for more and more, but rests, satisfied. In this time, right now, that is an enormous thing.”
This Side of Providence by Rachel Harper
I adored this complex fictional narrative filled with interesting characters and themes of love, loss, betrayal and forgiveness. I had the opportunity to interview Rachel earlier this year and loved learning about her writing process and more about the nuances of her novel. This particular book is my fiction read of the year.
China Dolls by Lisa See
Historical fiction is always interesting when the voices of the characters come across as authentic. Two years ago, Lisa See visited a local bookstore and I attended her talk. She mentioned the years of research she conducted in order to bring the world of Chinese performers in American nightclubs in the 1930’s narrative to the page. The story focuses on female friendships in a larger historical context which makes it an interesting read.
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarity
I came late to Moriarty’s novel, but thoroughly enjoyed the fun characters and plot. This book portrays the outtakes of a school, the intersection of different types of personalities and the shenanigans that result from it. It is a nice break from the more serious works I read. Light, but realistic, Moriarity creates a novel the reader is reluctant to put down.
Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf
With quiet prose, this unlikely love story lingered days after I finished the book. Haruf relays the narrative between two widowers who are looking for comfort and companionship. This quote sums up one of the prevailing themes of the novel: “Who does ever get what they want? It doesn’t seem to happen to many of us if any at all. It’s always two people bumping against each other blindly, acting out old ideas and dreams and mistaken understandings.”
Ethics in the Real World: 82 Brief Essay on Things That Matter by Peter Singer
Singer is a philosopher who isn’t afraid to tackle questions and controversies regarding poverty, climate change, abortion, euthanasia and the ways to increase happiness. I liked that these essays were small vignettes on impactful and thought-provoking subjects.
Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
Kaur presents a collection of her poetry and pose that is split into four different parts with themes dwelling in love, survival, femininity and loss. A line I love is “you must want to spend the rest of your life with yourself first.”
Moments of Seeing by Katrina Kenison
I am ardent fan of Kenison’s work and have followed her since reading The Gift of an Ordinary Day. In her latest book she compiles her blog posts in one work and reminds all of us about the pleasures of the mundane, as well as more complicated subjects like parenting, friendship, love, loss and marriage. There are several poignant lines throughout her work. My favorite is “Be grateful. Keep an eye out for wonder.”
What were your favorite books this year? I’d love to hear the works that made your list.