One of my favorite readers, Cindy Burnett, shares her Top Books of 2016:
Creating a Top Books of 2016 list took considerably longer than I envisioned it would. 2016 was a banner year for great reads, and after much reflection, I chose 13 of my favorites (a baker’s dozen) because I just could not narrow it to ten. A Gentleman in Moscow was my hands-down favorite for the year, but the rest are in no particular order – they are all fabulous.
- A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. As soon as I learned that Amor Towles had a new book coming out, I counted down the days until it was published. Rules of Civility is a favorite of mine, and I could not wait to see what he wrote next. The danger in such anticipation is that a book can rarely live up to that type of expectation. A Gentleman in Moscow not only met my expectations, but instead far surpassed them. Towles writes so cleverly and lyrically, and I felt that I was at the Metropol with Rostov and his many friends. All I can say is that if you have not read it yet go buy it and get started reading.
- The Assistants by Camille Perri. In The Assistants, Camille Perri tackles the relevant contemporary issue of the imbalances of wealth and gender in today’s society with humor, insight, and thoughtfulness. Her prose is outstanding, and so many of her clever modern and historical references had me continually laughing out loud as I read this novel. This book is a highly entertaining read.
- The Purple Diaries by Joseph Egan. While this book is non-fiction, there is so much drama in The Purple Diaries that the story reads like a well-written soap opera involving various famous actors, actresses and other Hollywood players from the 1930’s. Joseph Egan chronicles Mary Astor’s custody battle with her soon-to-be ex-husband over their daughter, Marylyn, and throughout the story, Egan includes various photos and newspaper articles which significantly contribute to the storyline. The Purple Diaries is truly a must-read.
- Home by Harlan Coben. Harlan Coben writes one of my favorite mystery series about Myron Bolitar, a former basketball star, and his sidekick Win Lockwood. Coben had taken a break from this series to write a few stand-alone novels, and thankfully he turned his attention back to Myron and Win and created a page turner that I could not put down until I was finished with it.
- The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore. While the topic sounded interesting, I was a little worried that this book would be slow paced and a bit hard to get through when I actually sat down to read it. Thankfully, my initial concern was completely ill-founded because The Last Days of Night was utterly fascinating. Graham Moore does an incredible job taking these real-life events (the race to electrify the United States) and putting them to paper in a way that is both understandable and enthralling.
- Multiple Choice by Alejandro Zambra. Multiple Choice is a one-of-a-kind read in the best possible way. Chilean author Alejandro Zambra styled his new book after the Chilean Academic Aptitude Test which students took every December from 1967 to 2003 if they planned to apply to college in Chile. Specifically, he chose the Verbal Aptitude section as he took it in 1993 which consisted of ninety multiple choice questions contained in five sections. As I spent time playing around with the answer choices and manipulating the sentences, I ended up focusing so much more on what he was saying and how he was saying it. Long after I finished a section or put the book down for a bit, I found myself still pondering what a particular question/passage meant or just the concept that rearranging sentences or choosing to delete a sentence or two can so dramatically change the meaning of a particular story. This is an extremely thought-provoking book.
- The Velvet Hours by Alyson Richman. The Velvet Hours focuses on the lives of two women: Marthe de Florian, a member of the demi-monde, whose story begins in the late 1800’s and Solange, a young woman living in Paris during World War II. As the story unfolds, Solange learns she is related to Marthe and begins visiting her regularly. During these visits, Marthe relays the story of her intriguing life and the magnificent. Richman includes a wonderfully detailed Author’s Note regarding her inspiration for the novel (which is partially based on a true event) and her efforts to learn more about the real-life individuals.
- Whispers Beyond the Veil by Jessica Estevao. Whispers Beyond the Veil marks the beginning of a superb historical mystery series. Jessica Estevao manages to create an extremely likeable, flawed heroine, Ruby Proulx, and place her in an equally enjoyable setting, the charming seaside resort town of Old Orchard, Maine. One of my favorite things about Whispers Beyond the Veil was how different it is from anything else I have read. Estevao’s originality is much appreciated and welcomed; I cannot wait to read the next installment.
- Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Y. Dennis-Benn. Here Comes the Sun is both beautiful and heartbreaking. While the story was much sadder than I expected it to be, I truly loved the book and have continued thinking about the story and the characters long after I finished the book. Nicole Dennis-Benn weaves a tale of greed, longing, and betrayal on the island of Jamaica. She deftly portrays the paradox Jamaica has become where extreme poverty exists side-by-side with untold wealth and the trouble that results. Using Jamaican patois and highly descriptive prose, Dennis-Benn dispatches the reader to the coasts and seas that make up the island. The story is a deep and desperately sad tale that is definitely worth reading.
- In Sunlight or In Shadow: Stories Inspired by the Paintings of Edward Hopper edited by Lawrence Block. In Sunlight or In Shadow is such a clever idea – each writer chosen to participate picked a different painting by Edward Hopper and then created his or her own story about the subject matter of the painting he/she chose. I am a huge Hopper fan so the concept really appealed to me. There are 18 paintings and 17 stories (one author had to drop out but the painting was included anyway as the frontispiece), and I was excited to see paintings that I knew well and even happier to see paintings of Hopper’s that I had not encountered before. One of the things that makes the compilation so successful is the variation in writing style and genre of the collection of writers that Block chose.
- Off the Grid by C.J. Box. This is the 16th book in the Joe Pickett series, and C.J. Box’s writing and storylines just keep getting better. Pickett is a game warden in Wyoming, and this installment focuses on trying to destroy a terror cell in the Wyoming desert. There are a number of series that I regularly read; C.J. Box stands out as the one author whose books are always outstanding.
- Bronx Requiem by John Clarkson. Bronx Requiem is the follow-up to Clarkson’s first novel in this series, Among Thieves. The books center around James Beck, a flawed, unique, highly-likeable protagonist who operates with his group of ex-cons in the Red Hook neighborhood in Brooklyn. Clarkson’s characters are fantastically written, and the Bronx Requiem’s plot is highly entertaining and fast-moving. The book’s resolution was perfect and even contained a little twist I did not see coming at the very end. This series is darker than the books I usually choose to read but not overly graphic.
- The Midnight Watch: A Novel of the Titanic and the Californian by David Dyer. Titanic stories have always fascinated me. While I am familiar with much of what happened with the Titanic before, during, and after its demise, I was not aware of the complete story regarding the Californian, and its utter and negligent failure to potentially stop the Titanic tragedy. While The Midnight Watch is historical fiction, Dyer stayed true to the events that unfolded the night the Titanic sank and created quite an enthralling novel.
What are you reading and where are you going?