2016 was chock-full of amazing reads, and despite all the craziness that happened this year it’s good to know we can always rely on a good book to escape reality every once and a while. So we’ve put together some of the best books we read in 2016!
From incredible debuts to literary veterans, to contemporary favorites, these were the best books we read in 2016!
1. We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Shirley Jackson
Most are familiar with Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery,” commonly taught in literature classes, but her grim storytelling talent shines through in her 1965 novel, We Have Always Lived in the Castle. The storyline follows the mysterious, isolated Blackwood family, who have distanced themselves from the small, judgemental Vermont town they live in, after peculiar circumstances involving a family dinner and a sugar bowl full of arsenic, resulting in multiple deaths in the family.
Narrated by the unstable eighteen-year-old Mary Katherine “Merricat” Blackwood, We Have Always Lived in the Castle is an enchanting page-turner, and it is undoubtedly my favorite book I read in 2016. I was haunted by the story, not just by days, but by weeks after reading it, and I am eager for the 2017 film adaptation, starring actresses Alexandra Daddario and Taissa Farmiga, both of American Horror Story fame. If you like suspenseful stories featuring cats, scheming cousins, and/or acts of poisoning, then this is a must-read for you. — Abigale Racine
2. The Silkworm, Robert Galbraith (a.k.a. J.K. Rowling)
Nothing has stayed with me as much as the Cormoran Strike series, maybe because it is so different from the typical mystery novel. To start, the characters and setting of The Silkworm are so incredibly real. Set in present day London, there are small touches, such as the mention of newspaper articles and magazines, that make the events of The Silkworm feel as though they could be a part of the current day.
Galbraith takes the mystery novel and turns it into a critique of society through the metaphor of the novelist which appears in reference to the novel inside of the story, Bombyx Mori. At heart, The Silkworm is gruesome and brutal, but that is a part of what makes it so good. The suspense and wonder at what has happened to Quine keeps you reading until you finish the novel. At the same time, the reader remains invested in the lives the two main characters, Strike and Robin. The novel itself is great for any fan of mystery that is looking for a twist on the genre. However, for fans of J.K. Rowling, the novel presents a new opportunity. If you have never read her works under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, this series is worth looking into. — Melissa Ratcliff
3. Brave Enough, Cheryl Strayed
I was going through a really tough time over the summer, but Cheryl Strayed‘s book of hope pulled me out of my depressive state. I can’t even put into words how much these mantras helped me, and there’s something about Strayed’s voice that oozes so much wisdom and knowledge and such immense knowing. I will forever be indebted to her for this collection. Brave Enough was there for me in ways I didn’t imagine a book could be; it is such a staunch companion, a new best-friend. — Paris Close
4. The Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson
The Way of Kings is the perfect book for fans of the fantasy genre that are looking for something new. I was initially drawn to The Way of Kings because of it’s length. I will admit that there were times where the novel was hard to follow as there are multiple storylines, but Brandon Sanderson makes up for everything with incredible world building and character design. Almost everything in The Way of Kings is given detail; there are even pictures included that show what the world of Roshar looks like, created by one of the main characters! The Way of Kings tells the tale of three very different and seemingly isolated characters, Kaladin, Shallan and Dalinar, but manages to do so in a way that fits together. As the novel unfolds, it becomes clear that the world of Roshar hides many secrets, and that everything is interconnected. Sanderson manages to create an extremely detailed and beautiful world that is struggling with the unknown horrors of war. — Melissa
5. Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi
I couldn’t pass on Yaa Gyasi‘s Homegoing because that would be so unjust in so many ways. This was one of the most incredible pieces of historical fiction I’ve ever read in my life, even more so than classics like The Bluest Eye or Their Eyes Were Watching God. Gyasi’s brave debut wholly encapsulates the black experience to a T. And while Homegoing often has a knack for reaching its hand too far and too deep into the darkest parts of that reality, it is gracefully and poignantly done. — Paris
6. The Glorious Heresies, Lisa McInerney
This was, by far, my favorite book of the year. Lisa McInerney received her due amount of praise when The Glorious Heresies was published in Ireland and the UK last year. Unfortunately, it received less attention upon its publication in the States earlier this year. Much of my love for this novel stems from a personal and academic interest in Ireland. The country, the people, the politics, the folklore—it’s all fascinating to me. This novel perfectly captures the cadence of Irish dialogue, drawing me into this story that shifts from one point-of-view to the next. Those that live in Cork’s underbelly tell a story that is all at once heartbreaking, hilarious, and reflective. I look forward to so much more from Ms. McInerney. — Leah Rodriguez
7. Night Film, Marisha Pessl
Marisha Pessl’s Night Film was recommended to me by a friend who was studying and analyzing it for a fiction writing class. I picked up a copy while I had some time off to get some dental work done, and despite being under the influence of some pretty hard anesthetic, I loved, loved, loved this mystery thriller that bursts with energy. Stanislas Cordova is a reclusive, Hitchcock-esque film director, and Scott McGrath is the former journalist who destroyed his career and reputation, in efforts to track Cordova down. Cordova’s daughter is found dead, in an apparent suicide, and McGrath is the last person to have seen her alive, thus inspiring him to pick his research back up, to find what really happened to the director’s daughter. Pessl crafts McGrath’s journey in an unique way, as the reader follows the researcher’s tracks through a multimedia format, examining old photographs, maps, and web pages that lead toward the truth. — Abigale
8. The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, Amy Schumer
Amy Schumer is one of the few comedians whom I think is truly hilarious. Like everything she says incites embarrassing snorts of laughter from me, the loser who has nothing better to do on a Friday night than watch her stand-up routines on YouTube. Listening to The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo on audiobook was a treat because Schumer delivers her essays with all the hilarity and empathy you can imagine. Winter can become bleak and oppressive to the most optimistic of us, so if you’re looking for something lighthearted and truly funny, you’ll find nothing less in these essays. — Leah
9. The Widow, Fiona Barton
Hands down: The Widow by Fiona Barton was the closest thing I’d come to a thriller that read similarly to Gone Girl (a hailed favorite of mine). Barton has a very talented, patient hand for the art of suspenseful writing, and it certainly shows as we witness the crumbling that is Jean Taylor’s trust for her husband, who becomes the primary suspect in years-long investigation following the disappearance of an infant child. I can’t tell you how many hours I stood up flipping through the pages of this one, and I cannot wait to see what else the author has in store for us. — Paris
10. Modern Lovers, Emma Straub
Emma Straub‘s Modern Lovers begins lightly, as many novels do when they concern people who have known each other for years. In the beginning, it seems the reader is just seeing them do what they’ve been doing for years in the confines of an increasingly gentrified Brooklyn…But, inevitably, things fall apart. Straub builds the tension between her characters beautifully so that this small story becomes transcendent. No one renders the delicacy and tenuousness of interpersonal relationships like Straub. — Leah
11. Single, Carefree, Mellow, Katherine Heiny
Along with Brave Enough, I must pay homage to Heiny for pulling me out of my own darkness with the stories drafted in Katherine Heiny‘s Single, Carefree, Mellow. Everything you knew about the act of cheating or extramarital affairs is totally flipped on its head in this collection, which follows a series of unmistakably complex women with more emotional baggage than one could handle. There were moments when I felt guilty for reading this collection because of my ability to understand the powers which motivated these women and their illicit actions. Despite the calamity they cause, though, the reader is met with this unshakeable sense of forgiveness and understanding. And isn’t that what we all pine for? — Paris
12. In Cold Blood, Truman Capote
Dubbed as the innovative debut for the true crime genre, Truman Capote’s 1966 novel In Cold Blood details the brutal 1956 murders of the Herb Clutter family. Capote and childhood best friend Harper Lee (yes, the To Kill a Mockingbird author) travel to the small Kansas town in which the Clutter lived, interviewing those who knew the family best, as well as the pair guilty of slaughtering the family. In Cold Blood is a story so graphic, it’s hard to believe that it is from the same mind behind the classic Breakfast at Tiffany’s. This nonfiction novel is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary this year, so if you haven’t read this legendary piece of prose that treads deep into the psychology of two killers, then go to the library and check it out immediately. — Abigale
13. Don’t You Cry, Mary Kubica
I loved Mary Kubica’s Good Girl so I knew I had something worthwhile when I picked up her bestseller, Don’t You Cry, from earlier this year. Set in Chicago, this thriller had me guessing until the very end, and I loved how each chapter alternated to a different character’s point of view. — Leith Tigges
14. In a Dark, Dark Wood, Ruth Ware
I loved Ruth Ware‘s In a Dark, Dark Wood! I was immediately impressed by Ware’s storytelling and found myself drawn in from the first page. I loved the range of the characters and how unpredictable the conflicts between them came to be. An unexpected twist that took me by surprise! — Leith
These were our favorite reads from 2016, tell us some of yours in the comments!
Happy New Year!