Welcome to the special year end edition of Show Us Your Books, in which we talk about our favorite reads of the year.
This year I read 124 books. Out of those, I chose 11 as my favorite reads. The books on the list below are not necessarily the most critically acclaimed or best written books - this is Life According to Steph, not the New York Times best seller list - but they are the books that were my favorite reading experiences of this year.
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You can see all Show Us Your Books posts here, and you can see my post like this from last year here. In no particular order, here are my favorite reads of 2016:
Dodgers by Bill Beverly - I loved this book from beginning to end. It gave a glimpse into a life that's totally foreign to me - the criminal drug element and hierarchy of the streets. Beverly didn't go deep enough to overload you with info, but just far enough to make you realize it is a life with totally different rules that you can't even imagine. I loved the main character.
ARC ebook from Netgalley
Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver - I found this read emotional and moving. I was a little ragged and achy inside when I finished it. I don't know if it hit me at a good time or what, but the entire reading experience with the story and the words and all of it was beautiful. This is one of the things I really love about reading - the after feeling. I still feel it when I think back on it.
Dumplin' by Julie Murphy - I read this beginning to end in less than 24 hours. I loved the story and messages in this book. I thought Willowdean was just the right combination of kickass and vulnerable and enjoyed the blossoming of her misfit friends. Thoroughly enjoyable.
Brutality (Fina Ludlow #3) by Ingrid Thoft - The third book in the Fina Ludlow series did not disappoint. I had to stay up until 1 a.m. on a work night to finish it. I think Fina is a kickass female lead character and if you like mystery thrillers, you might enjoy the Fina books. This entry is really a vote for all three Fina books.
Water From My Heart by Charles Martin - Have I mentioned how I hate the star rating system on Goodreads? I hate the star rating system on Goodreads. But this is a flat out five star for me. It gutted me in a wonderful way. I do love a good redemption story.
Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly - Based on actual occurrences of women in Nazi camps, specifically Ravensbruck. Good Lord, this story. World War II stories are so hard to read, which is exactly why they must be told and re-told and read in all of their incarnations. So we don't forget how terrible humans can be to each other. And so we don't forget how resilient the human spirit can be. It was a very emotional, very good read. I liked the alternating viewpoints. I haven't been able to pick up a WWII book since, but it's almost time to.
Free ARC from Netgalley
Circling the Sun by Paula McLain - I was a huge fan of The Paris Wife, and McLain did not disappoint in this similar undertaking. McLain takes actual history of actual people and crafts novels around them. This time her main character was Beryl Markham (who wrote West with the Night) and Denys Finch Hatton and Karen Blixen (Isak Dineson, writer of Out of Africa) filled it out. This was a beautiful and romantic novel tinged with loss, triumph, and hardship. I truly enjoyed it.
Valley of the Moon by Melanie Gideon - This started a little slow for me. Depressing as hell too, in places throughout. But I genuinely wanted more story from every character, and by the end I sat in a parking lot to finish it before driving home after getting off the train. It was beautiful.
free ARC from Netgalley
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch - I ripped through the Wayward Pines trilogy in a week, and I really wanted more from Crouch. This is not a continuation of the Pines series, but a force in its own right.I was glued to this book, which is saying something as it concerned quantum physics and I cared about them for once in my life. A great read. Discussed on The Armchair Librarians here.
free e-copy from Netgalley
The Mothers by Brit Bennett - I couldn't put this down. I loved the writing itself, specifically what I came to think of as the Mothers' chorus, and the way the story was told. Read it.
Faithful by Alice Hoffman - I fell headfirst into this book. Great characters and relationship work by Hoffman. Sad and hopeful and full of love from unlikely sources and redemption.
Free e-copy from Netgalley
What were your top reads this year?