As 2016 comes to a close, I thought I’d go back and recap some of my favorite books from 2016. I’m always up for a good book, so if you have one, please pass it my way! Aside from listening to Audible, Christmas and summer vacation are the only time that I feel like I can curl up with a good book and actually read it vs. listen to it. Hopefully you’ll have some free time over Christmas break and can take advantage of some down time and read (or listen to) a good book. This post contains some affiliate links.
Some of these I’ve talked about over the course of the year, but I thought it would be fun to round them up, and have them all in one place. It’s fun to look back and remember these books too, as there are some great ones in there.
Let’s go through them by the numbers:
1/ The Storyteller 2/Orphan Train 3/Mr. Mercedes 4/The Life We Bury 5/The Nightingale 6/Sycamore Row
7/Behind Closed Doors 8/The Couple Next Door 9/Hillbilly Elegy
Now, I know these books weren’t all published in 2016, but they’re books that I’ve read and enjoyed in 2016. With the exception of The Nightingale – I finished that last year, but it’s so good that it’s worth sharing again. It’s literally my favorite book of all time at this point in my life. It’s that good.
To give a quick recap of what I read this year, there is a mix of suspense/thriller (not horror, don’t let the Stephen King title throw you), and some historical fiction, with a memoir thrown in for good measure. I really have found myself loving historical fiction, from World War II in particular. I’m sharing a bit of my perspective on the books, as well as an overview of what they’re about (with help from Amazon).
1) The Storyteller
This is a story that takes place in the present, while also looking back on the past, with the main characters being a holocaust survivor, her granddaughter and a former German SS Guard. The audio book was very well done, and the story takes turns that you can’t anticipate. Beautifully written story, and one that I just loved listening to – if that makes sense. Some books just draw me in with the words, phrases and details, to where you can imagine it all so vividly, and this one is one of those books.
Sage Singer is a baker. She works through the night, preparing the day’s breads and pastries, trying to escape a reality of loneliness, bad memories, and the shadow of her mother’s death. When Josef Weber, an elderly man in Sage’s grief support group, begins stopping by the bakery, they strike up an unlikely friendship. Despite their differences, they see in each other the hidden scars that others can’t.
Everything changes on the day that Josef confesses a long-buried and shameful secret and asks Sage for an extraordinary favor. If she says yes, she faces not only moral repercussions, but potentially legal ones as well. With the integrity of the closest friend she’s ever had clouded, Sage begins to question the assumptions and expectations she’s made about her life and her family. In this searingly honest novel, Jodi Picoult gracefully explores the lengths to which we will go in order to keep the past from dictating the future.
2) Orphan Train
This book is another that has some ties to historical fiction, but is about two different generations with similar life experiences who come together in an unlikely way.
Penobscot Indian Molly Ayer is close to “aging out” out of the foster care system. A community service position helping an elderly woman clean out her home is the only thing keeping Molly out of juvie and worse…
As she helps Vivian sort through her possessions and memories, Molly learns that she and Vivian aren’t as different as they seem to be. A young Irish immigrant orphaned in New York City, Vivian was put on a train to the Midwest with hundreds of other children whose destinies would be determined by luck and chance.
Molly discovers that she has the power to help Vivian find answers to mysteries that have haunted her for her entire life—answers that will ultimately free them both.
Rich in detail and epic in scope, Orphan Train is a powerful novel of upheaval and resilience, of unexpected friendship, and of the secrets we carry that keep us from finding out who we are.
3) Mr. Mercedes
This is the first book in a trilogy by Stephen King (I read the trilogy). I’ll admit, I’ve never read Stephen King in the past, because I’m not a fan of horror, but this one is not a horror, but a suspense/mystery. Trust me. It’s a great trilogy, and Mr. Mercedes starts it off with a roar.
In the frigid pre-dawn hours, in a distressed Midwestern city, desperate unemployed folks are lined up for a spot at a job fair. Without warning, a lone driver plows through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes, running over the innocent, backing up, and charging again. Eight people are killed; fifteen are wounded. The killer escapes.
In another part of town, months later, a retired cop named Bill Hodges is still haunted by the unsolved crime. When he gets a crazed letter from someone who self-identifies as the “perk” and threatens an even more diabolical attack, Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing another tragedy.
Brady Hartsfield lives with his alcoholic mother in the house where he was born. He loved the feel of death under the wheels of the Mercedes, and he wants that rush again. Only Bill Hodges, with two new, unusual allies, can apprehend the killer before he strikes again. And they have no time to lose, because Brady’s next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim thousands.
4) The Life We Bury
This book is another one in which a story from the past unwinds, and you must put the pieces together.
College student Joe Talbert has the modest goal of completing a writing assignment for an English class. His task is to interview a stranger and write a brief biography of the person. With deadlines looming, Joe heads to a nearby nursing home to find a willing subject. There he meets Carl Iverson, and soon nothing in Joe’s life is ever the same.
5) The Nightingale
Again, my favorite book of all time. Historical fiction from World War II, sharing the struggles and hardships of two sisters, and what they needed to endure to survive. All I can say is that I think you will love this book. It was one that I didn’t want to see end, and I was fully invested in the characters and their story.
With courage, grace and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah captures the epic panorama of WWII and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women’s war. The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France–a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women. It is a novel for everyone, a novel for a lifetime.
6) Sycamore Row
A John Grisham book, that chronicles a story that begins with the death of the wealthy Seth Hubbard, diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, who hung himself from a sycamore tree. This is another Audible book for me, and the narrator is fantastic. Great story, lots of depth and history to the back story. From Amazon:
Seth Hubbard is a wealthy man dying of lung cancer. He trusts no one. Before he hangs himself from a sycamore tree, Hubbard leaves a new, handwritten will. It is an act that drags his adult children, his black maid, and Jake into a conflict as riveting and dramatic as the murder trial that made Brigance one of Ford County’s most notorious citizens, just three years earlier. The second will raises many more questions than it answers. Why would Hubbard leave nearly all of his fortune to his maid? Had chemotherapy and painkillers affected his ability to think clearly? And what does it all have to do with a piece of land once known as Sycamore Row?
7) Behind Closed Doors
I shared this book recently, and oh. my. goodness. This psychological thriller was heart pounding for me – another one that gets your attention from the beginning, and you just can’t believe what you’re reading, yet it all makes sense as you take in the story. It’s one that you can’t quite explain to others, but need to read for yourself, if that makes any sense. From Amazon:
Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace. He has looks and wealth; she has charm and elegance. He’s a dedicated attorney who has never lost a case; she is a flawless homemaker, a masterful gardener and cook, and dotes on her disabled younger sister. Though they are still newlyweds, they seem to have it all. You might not want to like them, but you do. You’re hopelessly charmed by the ease and comfort of their home, by the graciousness of the dinner parties they throw. You’d like to get to know Grace better.
But it’s difficult, because you realize Jack and Grace are inseparable.
Some might call this true love. Others might wonder why Grace never answers the phone. Or why she can never meet for coffee, even though she doesn’t work. How she can cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim. Or why she never seems to take anything with her when she leaves the house, not even a pen. Or why there are such high-security metal shutters on all the downstairs windows.
Some might wonder what’s really going on once the dinner party is over, and the front door has closed.
8) The Couple Next Door
This is another recent book for me, following Behind Closed Doors, and is another suspense/thriller that I got swept into quickly and kept on going.
It all started at a dinner party. . .
A domestic suspense debut about a young couple and their apparently friendly neighbors—a twisty, rollercoaster ride of lies, betrayal, and the secrets between husbands and wives. . .
Anne and Marco Conti seem to have it all—a loving relationship, a wonderful home, and their beautiful baby, Cora. But one night when they are at a dinner party next door, a terrible crime is committed. Suspicion immediately focuses on the parents. But the truth is a much more complicated story.
9) Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
I will add a caveat to this book in that I haven’t finished it yet, but it’s an interesting book so far, and much of the story takes place in towns not very far from where I live, so that’s compelling as well. From Amazon –
From a former marine and Yale Law School graduate, a probing look at the struggles of America’s white working class through the author’s own story of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town.
Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of poor, white Americans. The disintegration of this group, a process that has been slowly occurring now for over forty years, has been reported with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. In HillbillyElegy, J.D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hanging around your neck.
I love reading and sharing books that I enjoy, and would love to hear of any books you would recommend, as I’m always on the hunt for something new! My Audible subscription keeps me busy, and I feel like I’m being productive while listening and doing other tasks at the same time. 🙂
the cape on the cornerDecember 21, 2016 at 1:09 pm
my coworker recommended behind closed door to me, and at first i thought it was obvious the sort of relationship with the two characters. but when you are shown the true actions and motivations of the husband…woo boy. i wasn’t expecting that at all.
i can’t wait to read the one with the neighbors!
MEMDecember 29, 2016 at 11:52 am
I also loved The nightingale. You also need to read her Winter Garden, immediately, if you have not already.
Just as powerful.
JennyDecember 29, 2016 at 12:05 pm
I will add that to my list! I haven’t been able to find a book that has moved me as much as The Nightingale – such a high bar. I was so sad to be done with that book it was so good!
AmyDecember 29, 2016 at 11:06 pm
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman has to be one of my favorite books for 2016. Incase you are looking for a new book.
JennyDecember 30, 2016 at 10:46 am
I read that one too Amy – I don’t know how it slipped my mind! Maybe I read it last year – I’ve read so many I can’t remember anymore!
MaryeDecember 30, 2016 at 12:58 pm
If you love complicated, surprise plots with well-developed characters read anything by Kate Morton (she only has 5 books), also, The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield is incredible.
JennyDecember 30, 2016 at 9:54 pm
Thanks for the recommendation Marye! I will add it to my reading list!