This year was probably one of my worst reading years yet. I pledged 50 books at the start of 2016, which honestly isn't a lot, and at the moment of writing this, I'm sitting at a measly 25 with barely two weeks left of December. Baring a miracle of monstrous proportions, I've failed. But that doesn't mean I haven't read some good books this year because I really have.
Reading was strange for me this year. It's as though the middle ground simply didn't exist. Everything I read was either "yaaasss girl" or "is it over yet?". As much as I prefer not to read on polar opposites of the quality spectrum, it does make it far easier to make a "best" list.
Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
Read: March 2016
Earlier this year, I was shocked that I'd read a non-fiction and even more shocked to have loved it. The book was well-written, well-structured and easy to binge-read all the way through. Objectively, it was a good book. Subjectively, it was a great one. I read it at the perfect time in my life, a time when I felt like saying 'no' was weighing me down in a way that made me feel less alive. Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes' documentation of the year when she finally started saying yes to her life, inspired me to live better, fuller. It's a struggle but it's worth it and I completely intend to institute a year of yes of my own soon. To read more of my thoughts, see my review here.
Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare
Read: March 2016
It's pretty much guaranteed that I'll love a Cassie book. There are quite a few reasons for that but one of the biggest ones is that when I dive into one of her books I know I'm in for a good time. There's bound to be laughter and sass and bad-assery abound and I look forward to that. But Lady Midnight surpassed that expectation. Because the truth is, Cassie did one thing here that I personally always found kind of lacking in her other novels, despite loving them too: she created characters with flaws. In this story about Emma Carstairs, the fiery seventeen year old Shadowhunter searching to avenge her parent's deaths, Cassie capitalizes on the fact that the readers know her world and that all of her characters are part of the Shadowhunter World, and she dives head first into exploring the complexity of her characters. Emma is hotheaded and frustratingly impulsive, Julian is jealous and scarily dishonest. And the others are all plagued by their struggles that somehow seem so much more real than our beloved TMI/TID fam.
Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
Read June 2016
The third installment of The Raven Boys books just barely edges out the other three as my favorite of the year. The series follows Blue, an eccentric girl who's quirkiness is capped by her role as a 'battery pack' of sorts for her family of psychics, and the raven boys she meets who drag her along on a quest to find a sleeping Welsh king. And this book just seems to 'up the ante', heighten the stakes. To be honest, I can't remember exactly why I loved this one more than the others, as I inhaled these books so quickly they kind of blur in my mind. But I distinctly remember my feels spinning off into another dimension with all the ships (friendships and romantic ships alike), and falling so much more in love with the characters including the ensemble we hadn't seen much of in previous books. Most of all, I remember getting to the end and thinking "I need the next book but I really wanna come back and reread this one."
Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson
Read: August 2016
This book was sneaky. You'd think it impossible for a 700-page book but it manages to creep up on you in such a strange matter that you don't even realize you love it until you're drowning in the deep and dangerous waters of obsession. When I began reading Final Empire, the story of a gifted crew looking to overthrow the cruel and unbeatable Lord Ruler, I thought it was interesting. It moved along well enough, had an interesting enough plot, developed enough characters. It had been hyped to all infinity and it was...enough that I understood where the hype could potentially come from despite my personal feelings. But then, somewhere around 100 pages, I felt a tether begin to pull taut and suddenly my heart was in it. Then my heart was in my throat. Then it was on the floor, flopping around like a fish because I just couldn't handle all the things and my precious babies, please survive this crazy insane thing you've decided to do and oh gosh! See? Creeping up on you.
The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
Read: September 2016
I loved this book. It touched a part of my soul that felt lost to a world that tells me to simply "get over it" or accept it for what it is. In The Female of the Species, McGinnis gives us an insanely and shockingly clear image of our world, the things we allow to exist and be said in it, the rape culture that permeates like an undercurrent and sweeps us away before we've got a chance to react. She takes normal, everyday occurrences and weaves them into the story in ways that highlight how messed up they are through the lens of a teenage girl. Alex's sister was raped and murdered a year ago and got away with it. Alex killed him. That's the first chapter. What happens after that is a world-wind of feels and frustrations, friendships and (in some moments) fun. My first review of 2017 will be for this book, so for now, just know - LOVE. If I had to chose a favorite of the year, this would be it.
When The Moon Was Ours by Anne-Marie McLemore
Read: November 2016
Moved. I am completely and utterly moved by this book. McLemore weaves character and culture into her story in such a seamlessly beautiful way that I barely realize I'm falling in love with the book until I set it down. She tells the story of Miel, the roses that grow from her wrists, the witches who want them and the her Samir, the Italian-Pakistani trans boy who literally hangs the moon. From the very first chapter, my heart felt like it was leaping out of my chest. A thread of magic and wonder manages to string its way through the book despite the darker tones of the novel, and the writing is magic in and of itself. McLemore writes in a way that makes me feel like I've stumbled down the rabbit hole and for this book, I'd gladly fall.
So there it is. My six favorite books of 2016. There were quite a few others that I enjoyed, but these six are the ones I find myself thinking about from time to time when I'm not trying to think about them.