I know 2016 was a great year for books when all but one of these selections published for the first time this year. This list contains multiple genres, everything from memoir to YA and even a new one for me, sci-fi. So grab a cup of coffee and get your holiday gift lists ready!
The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner: A fascinating memoir about growing up in a polygamist community in Mexico and it’s one of those cases where truth is stranger than fiction. Beautifully written considering the author’s trials and tribulations and a perfect book for fans of The Glass Castle.
All the Winters After by Sere Prince Halverson: This beautiful and haunting novel is not just words written on paper, but a multilayered story of a family and their grief over time. At its heart is also a love story, not only between two people, but one between a person and his home. The setting is chilling and the story is full of hope and promise.
Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris: I truly was holding my breath in spots as I turned the pages of this book. It had a hold on me that didn’t let up until I finished the entire thing. For a debut author, that’s quite an accomplishment. This is the one thriller I’ve recommended to everyone this year. I guarantee you won’t think of a “perfect marriage” the same way after finishing this book.
The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner: When I think of outstanding YA, my brain automatically goes to John Green for The Fault in Our Stars or Rainbow Rowell for Eleanor & Park. Make room on your bookshelves for Jeff Zentner. He had me laughing in one paragraph to crying in the next. I was so emotionally invested in these characters. They were extremely well drawn out that I couldn’t help but form a tight connection. I was sad to see them go as I turned the final page.
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult: As important as this novel is, so is the author’s note at the end. Jodi portrays three completely different characters with such grace and credibility. You know a ton of research went into creating them. It’s a story of race relations and it couldn’t have come at such an important time in our history. I applaud her for not shying away from writing this story, which needed to be written, when she knows people will react with hatred. I know when I pick up one of her books I will never be disappointed.
Aftermath by Clara Kensie: Lots of books have been written about a tragedy, where something happens to a family as they all have to deal with it. Aftermath takes place when a tragedy is resolved, and the repercussions of a kidnapped child and how the family handles it today. I loved the short chapters which made it easy to keep reading. The story itself was compelling and there were plenty of surprises along the way.
The One Man by Andrew Gross: Mix historical fiction with a thriller and you have this hard-to-put-down novel. Gross used to co-write with James Patterson but he clearly deserves the individual accolades for this one. It is an extremely well-paced story about trying to infiltrate the Auschwitz concentration camp during WWII and then having to break out. So far, this is the defining book of his career.
Center Ring by Nicole Waggoner: Nicole jokes that she was so homesick when she moved away from her hometown that she invented 5 best friends to keep her company and that’s how this story was born. I related to multiple characters in this book, especially when they were trying to balance it all, like the circus theme suggests. It ends with a cliffhanger but happy to report Book 2 in the trilogy, The Act, releases in February!
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi: A beautiful reflection of living life and living it to the fullest told by this neurosurgeon as he faces his imminent death from cancer. Yes, the story is heartbreaking, but his words will move you. This is a tiny book but it sure packs a powerful punch.
The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin: I knew I was in for a treat when I saw this debut was recommended and blurbed by both Jodi Picoult and Diane Chamberlain, two of my favorite authors. This has one of the most unique storylines I’ve ever read and had me spellbound. It even has a mystery embedded in the story. I cannot recommend it enough.
Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway: A sweet and fun contemporary YA. Oliver is kidnapped by his father and reappears years later in his hometown when all his elementary school friends are now teenagers. Emmy’s personality is full of wit and snark and just jumps off the page. A truly heartfelt read that answers the question, “Does absence make the heart grow fonder?”
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch: Sci-fi is not a genre I normally read but when I heard all the rave reviews for this one, I knew I had to pick it up. It is a complete mind warp that has your brain working in new ways. As I was reading, I was envisioning it playing out as a movie right in front of me. So even if this isn’t normally your cup of tea, if you like thrillers and fast-paced books, please give it a try.
Did you read any of these books and feel the same way? What were your favorites of 2016? I’d love to hear and welcome any comments. Have a Happy New Year!