I like to ask the people I interview about what books they like, because (as I've mentioned often) I love to read. So, I thought I'd share a few of my favorite books I read in 2016. I like to keep up with bestsellers, read for my book club, and get recommendations from my mom and my friends. Sometimes, I read whatever pops up that I can check out digitally from the library- especially when I'm traveling. And I listen to audiobooks- memoirs, history, and business/self-help are my go-tos. I loved some, I liked some, and some I forgot about immediately after I finished them.
Here are my favorites:
I got into Big Magic through Elizabeth Gilbert's podcast "Magic Lessons" last spring when I was developing the idea for Girls Like You and Me and starting to build the site. Even though I'm not in a strictly creative endeavor, I thought it was inspirational and practical. AND, I just saw that there's a second season of the podcast!
I started listening to this as an audiobook, but, since it switches points of view frequently- including a kind of Greek chorus- it ended up being easier to just read. I don't usually go for thrillers and mysteries, but it drew me in and held my attention. I'm looking forward to the miniseries that's coming out next month on HBO with Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley, and Zoe Kravitz.
If you didn't catch the Hamilton bug in 2015, you probably caught it in 2016. I haven't been lucky enough yet to see the show- I'm hoping to go here in Chicago sometime this winter- but I got hooked on the soundtrack as soon as it came out on Spotify. I had fun reading the companion book. If you like Hamilton, musicals, 90s rap and hip hop, American history, or the creative process, you'll enjoy Hamilton: The Revolution.
I started this back when it came out in 2006, but only got about 1/3 of the way through. Last year, I was determined to read the rest of it, and, as I suspected, it was fascinating. I was familiar with the major characters from a childhood fixation with the Civil War, but I came away with deeper sympathy for Mary Todd Lincoln. She was institutionalized late in life, and is a bit of a punchline even now. Getting more insight into the depth of personal loss she experienced and the public pressures made her anxieties and depression understandable.
This was a powerful debut novel from a young author. There's a lot of tough subject matter, since it turns on the slave trade within Africa, and slavery here in the United States, plus the systemic racism that remained post-Civil War. But, the novel is episodic- each chapter focuses on one member of each generation of the descendants of two sisters, and that keeps it from being overwhelming without diminishing its impact. I'm currently reading it again for my book club this weekend.
I felt like everyone was talking about Commonwealth this fall, so I had to check it out. I'm not too picky about what I'll read, but I'm a tough critic, especially of literary fiction. The story was compelling and went in a different direction than I thought it would after the first chapters. It's also very different from Bel Canto, my favorite of Ann Patchett's other books. (Also, did you all know she owns a bookstore in Nashville, Parnassus Books? It looks fabulous, and I will definitely make a pilgrimage if I'm ever in Nashville.)
What were your favorites last year?