Sunday, January 08, 2017

My Best Books of 2016

I should start with a disclaimer. I spent a lot of 2016 reading pure escapist, fluff fiction. I didn't want to think deep thoughts. I didn't want to read about other people's tragedies. I wanted happy endings and light adventures and cozy mysteries.  So my list might look a little different from the year end lists you may see elsewhere.  At any rate, here are a few of my favorites:

I've loved very one of the Dublin Murder Squad novels by Tana French, and The Trespasser was among my favorites for the year. Each of the books in the series is different -- and you don't need to read them in any order. This newest mystery had the same characteristics of the others, though: a rich plot with unexpected twists and turns, an engaging narrator, and rich characterizations. If you're in the mood for an engrossing mystery, this (and any of the others) won't fail you.

Jodi Picoult is another reliably good writer. Her books start with a subject matter that is currently topical, and they explore the theme from the perspectives of everyone involved. Lone Wolf  addresses issues around life and family: what does being on life support mean? What is brain dead? And how does a family member go about deciding to withdraw life support? These hard issues arise in the context of a family where the father is a renowned wolf expert who has left his family to live among wolves, so questions of what is family, what is each member's role, how do family members take care of each other are all in play, too. It's a rich story with unusual themes. Picoult handles them well, as always.

I love it when I pick up a book found in some random place and it turns out to be wonderful. This was my experience with Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor. The book is the first in a series about St. Mary's, a site for historical research in England which just happens to involve a bit of time travel so historians can go back in time to observe key events. This first book follows a new recruit, Max, as she learns that ins and outs of St. Mary's, pops between 11th Century London, the first world war, dinosaur viewing in the Cretaceous Period, and the Alexandrian library. Finding this was such a delightful surprise. The writing is strong, the characters entertaining, the whole novel is smart and funny and full of unexpected wry humor. I've already read the second in the series, Symphony of Echoes, and I loved that too.

The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton was another excellent book that surprised me. I'd read a previous novel by Lupton (Sister, which was very good) so I gave this a try. And what an intriguing, unusual story.  The novel follows Yasmine and her deaf daughter Ruby as they travel through Alaska to find out what happened to their husband/father. It's a very original psychological thriller that uses darkness and silence and snow and uncertainty so effectively. I especially loved the sections of the novel narrated by Ruby, reflecting on her own silence, using sign language, and what family means to her. I happened to read this during a very hot stretch in the summer, and reading about blinding, deadly arctic chill truly transported me.

Well, there you have it. No life changing, deep novels, but some truly enjoyable books anyway. If you have any wonderful novels to share, please post them in my comments -- I'm always eager to find new books. And if you'd like to see what else I read (good, bad and mediocre) and follow what I'm reading, you can check out my Goodreads book list.

Happy reading! It's a wild, rainstorm day here in Northern California -- perfect weather for curling up with a good book. So that's what I'm going to do right now.


  1. Just finished "Under the Harrow" by Flynn Berry and "A Man Called Ove," not a mystery, but charming. I think you'll like them both. I love Tana French, and have you tried Camilla Lackberg's books? Lovely Swedish detective series. These are cheerful Swedes, not Wallendar types. I find I am needing escapist books these days. Can't imagine why.

    1. Janet! Thank you for these... adding them to my list! I've been wary of the Swedish mysteries after the violence and darkness of the Dragon Tattoo series so this is very good to know!!