I’m going to stick to my guns here, enforce my long time rule for selecting the top ten list which is “Do I want to read this book again someday?” The answer must be yes to qualify. Which means there are many books that I loved reading that will not make the list. Lots of books are great books, great reads, but not something I’ll ever read again. Plot driven books, the sort that rely on surprise to keep your interest. Once you know how it all turns out, you know how it all turns out. There’s no need to read it again.
To make this list, a book has to offer something more than a terrific first read. It’s tough standard which means some good stuff, a few bits of great stuff, will be cut, but that’s my rule.
Here in no particular order are my top ten favorite reads of 2016.
- The Lonely City by Olivia Lang A wonderful non-fiction meditation on living alone in the big city, Chicago and New York. Ms. Lang provides fascinating biographical information on the artists she writes about, men who lived and worked largely alone, but it’s the lyrical writing that won me over. The Lonely City contains some of the best writing I read all year.
- News of the World by Paulette Jiles I loved this account of an old man trying to take a seven-year-old girl, raised by Indians, home to her white family across several hundred miles of post Civil War Texas.
- Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino A catalogue of the cities Marco Polo visited as an ambassador for the great Khan. I loved it and will definitely be come back to it again. And since it was so much fun, I now have several more by Italo Calvino in my TBR stack.
- Please Look After Mom by Kyun-sook Shin I have been somewhat haunted by this story of a South Korean family looking for their vanished mother since I read it last summer. While there is an element of suspense in the story, it’s really the tale an entire society masked as the tale of one particular family.
- The Sweet Hereafter by Russell Banks I am very late to the party here. The story of how a small town bush crash affects both the town overall and the lives of a few key people. Told from multiple points of view in a way that works to make the whole even greater than the sum of its parts.
- Mother Tongues by Theodora Ziolkowski A very small book by a very small press The Cupboard. you’ll have to visit their website if you’d like to get a copy. The is a fictional collection of source material the Brothers Grimm decided not to use in their collected tales. I loved it. And I love the cover.
- Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante I may not be sticking to my rules here. This is the third book a series of four. The chances that I will one day re-read them all are slight, I realize. But, in a way, read through to book three should count for something, so I’m listing the third book here. I intended to start book four today, but found that I don’t have a copy. Guess I’ll have to go to the book store tomorrow.
- The Vegetarian by Han Kang, translated by Deborah Smith This has been my year of Korean reading. Another one sure to make my top ten list. I’ve already ordered Han Kang’s new novel, set to come out early in 2017. Can’t wait for it.
- Slouching Towards Bethlehem: Seven Places of the Mind by Joan Didion Classic non-fiction, mostly about California in the 1960’s. I find quite a bit of non-fiction on my top ten list his year. The best writing I read in 2016 was found in non-fiction. This was a surprise, frankly. If you’ve never read Joan Didion before, this is the one to read. I loved it. More please.
- Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson I just finish Ms. Woodson’s new novel Another Brooklyn which is very good, but not as good as Brown Girl Dreaming. I’ll be teaching it to my 7th grades late this year. Wish me luck
- The Gastronomical Me by M.F.K. Fisher M.F.K. Fisher invented writing about food. Maybe not, maybe someone did it before she did, but no one every loved food as much as she did. Not even me. The opening section on her first oyster is not to be missed. More excellent non-fiction writing.
I’ve already started 2017 with two contenders for the top ten list: The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon which I loved and Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Castorbridge which is holding up pretty well. this is the third time I’ve read it.
Since I’m not running the TBR Dare anymore, I was planning on joining in The Tournament of Books this year but The Dare has been resurrected by Annabel and Lizzaysiddal. They have even given it its own website here. I admit, I was both flattered and happy to see it continue so I immediately signed up. However, according to the rules, which are still as loose as ever thank you, I could put all the tournament books on hold now so I can still join in.
You can see why I have never 300 books in my TBR stack.