If social media posts are any indication, most of us can agree that 2016 was a strange year. I’m not entirely sure what I accomplished besides keeping a toddler alive, which, considering my inability to keep plants alive, I consider a huge deal. But I do know that I read. A lot. Thanks to some insomnia (and aforementioned toddler), I read 37 (and a few halves) books this year!
Perhaps more impressive than the number is the diversity of books I read. While my passion for Young Adult Literature still burns, I found myself drawn to a lot of memoirs and (non-YA) suspense novels.
My top ten (in no particular order) are:
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
This series, slightly reminiscent of a soap opera, is highly entertaining with a healthy dose of voyeurism. There are so many characters, I was concerned about keeping them straight, but each one’s crazy is unique. I started reading the second book as soon as I read the last page of the first.
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
You know how you wanted to re-watch The Sixth Sense immediately after watching it the first time? Yeah, this book was like that.
I Was Here by Gayle Forman
In typical Gayle Forman fashion, this was an emotional roller coaster from beginning to end. What I didn’t expect, though, was how good – and complex – the mystery would be.
Yes, Please by Amy Poehler
I was so surprised by this book. I expected to like it, yes, because I love Amy Poehler, but I never expected to connect with it the way I did. I think had I read it when it first came out, it wouldn’t have spoken to me the way that it did now, given where I am in my career, in my life, and in my head. Her writing spoke to me much more profoundly than anticipated, while still – of course – making me laugh out loud. I enjoyed her behind-the-scenes look at Parks & Rec and got all the feels from Seth Meyers’ contribution about their friendship. Also fun was finding out the little things we shared growing up: “The scene when Sodapop comes out of the shower in The Outsiders was a very important moment in my adolescence.”
Favorites from Amy (yep, we’re totally on a first-name basis now) on the way the universe works:
“People help you time travel. People work around you and next to you and the universe waits for the perfect time to whisper in your ear, ‘Look this way.’ There is someone in your life right now who may end up being your enemy, your wife, or your boss. Lift up your head and you may notice.”
“I also found a song that I wrote when I was seven. It is a poem that has numbers written about it, so it can be played the special way on my special organ. I wrote it in the past and put it in the sacred bench so I could pull it out at just the right time. Time is just time. Time travel, y’all.”
Favorites from Amy on work:
“We did the thing. Because remember, the talking about the thing isn’t the thing. The doing of the thing is the thing.”
“Treat your career like a bad boyfriend. Here’s the thing. Your career won’t take care of you… Creativity is connected to your passion, that light inside you that drives you. That joy that comes when you do something you love… Career is different. Career is the stringing together of opportunities and jobs… Career is something that fools you into thinking you are in control and then takes pleasure in reminding you that you aren’t. Career is the thing that will not fill you up and never make you truly whole… Ambivalence is key. You have to care about your work but not about the result. You have to care about how good you are and how good you feel, but not about how good people think you are…”
Down the Rabbit Hole by Holly Madison
As a one-time fan of the show Girls Next Door about Hugh Hefner’s girlfriends, I was intrigued by this memoir. It turned out to be less of a tell-all and more of an inside look into Holly’s psyche while at the Playboy mansion. I never thought I’d find myself feeling badly for someone who seemed to have such a luxurious lifestyle that she presumably chose, but the book is a reminder: you never know what has led someone to where she is; “reality” television doesn’t show the whole story;, and getting out of a situation may not be as easy as it seems.
Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson
This is a thriller I could not stop thinking about; as I sat down to dinner, I thought, “Only two more hours before I can get back to reading!” It’s like a really dark marriage between 50 First Dates, Next to Normal, and an action movie from the 90s whose title would give away a major plot twist.
Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter
Talk about suspense! I was able to overlook the grittiness – gruesomeness, if I’m being completely honest – because I HAD to know what really happened. Just when I thought I knew what was going on, the plot twisted. A page-turner indeed!
Anatomy of a Misfit by Andrea Portes
This story received so many negative reviews, but I was too intrigued by this story to let that stop me. After reading – and loving – the book, I was surprised to find that a common reason for the negativity is the main character, Anika. She is what did it for me. I loved her snarky voice, and I loved that she acted very much like a real adolescent. There are a lot of criticisms of Anika “slut shaming” girls that aren’t even “sluts.” I recommend these people hang out with middle or high school girls for a day and get back to me on this one. Why do all of our YA protagonists have to be good role models? Who wrote that rule? Anika is an imperfect, complicated character, just like real humans are, and her story (which shockingly is based on something that really happened while the author was in high school) is a great conversation starter for numerous issues that adolescents face everyday, from bullying to violence to family relationships.
Joshua: A Brooklyn Tale by Andrew Kane
This book gave me all the feels. Centered around the Crown Heights Riots in the 90s, this story of the relations between a young black man and Hassidic Jews speaks to identity and humanity in the most heartbreaking and touching of ways.
Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
This innocent YA story, told in alternating voices, is simply adorable, sprinkled with humor and tenderness. If you’re looking for a quickly read, feel-good holiday story, this is it!
What were your favorite reads of 2016? Let me know in the comments – my To Be Read list can never be too long!