Monday, January 23, 2017

Top 10 Books of 2016

     Hey, January is almost over, it must be time for my top 10 list! I read 75 books this year, averaging 1.44 books a week. This was 5 titles more than last year's total. I got a lot more reading done the last month or so of the year then I had been averaging earlier. My number one pick was an easy choice and I'm excited to have found a great new author, at least in my opinion. I'm still reading at least 90% of my books on my Nook, I think I only read 3 or 4 physical books this year.

1. A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman. I discovered Backman when a coworker at the bookstore raved about "My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry". I got a copy, read it, and absolutely loved it. I followed that up with "A Man Called Ove" and a few months later "Britt-Marie Was Here" when it was released. I'm going to cheat here and include all three of those books as my number one book of the year. Overall, "A Man Called Ove" was easily my favorite book of the year. The book made me laugh and cry out loud and I was thoroughly pissed when it was over that it wasn't longer. Ove is a widowed curmudgeon who wants nothing more to be left alone. As he comes into his neighbors as he goes about his well established routines, we learn his back story and how he came to be the man he is today. I highly recommend this book and the Swedish film that was made from it as well. Backman's other 2 books are wonderful reads also - "Britt-Marie Was Here" is a sequel to "My Grandmother.."

2. Good Morning Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton. An absolutely beautifully written book. Something apocalyptic has happened to mankind, the only survivors we know of are a 78 year old scientist at an Arctic observatory and 6 astronauts headed back to Earth after an expedition to Jupiter. None of them know what has happened, their were rumors of impending war and then nothing - no radio signals, no signs of life at all. Sully, the female communications officer on board the Aether, and Augie, the scientist stranded in the Arctic, have much in common. There is hope that somehow they will be able to communicate with each other. I can't remember ever reading a book with such a profound sense of loneliness, it make my heart ache. But it is a fantastic book and I am glad that I read it.  

3. The Fireman by Joe Hill. "The Fireman" is an excellent look at a fascinating core of characters after a disease has decimated the world. It is easily comparable to his father's book "The Stand", in my opinion. A horrible plague is spreading quickly across the country. Everyone calls it Dragonscale, and it's a highly contagious spore that produces gold & black marks on their bodies and eventually causes them to burst into flames. An infected nurse and a fireman work together to help a camp of victims survive and find a place of safety. I love Stephen King's books, but this is the second straight book from his son that is as good as most of his.      

4. To The Bright Edge Of The World by Eowyn Ivey. Absolutely beautiful tale of an Alaskan exploration mission by a small American Army group. The story is told in a series of letters, diaries, and newspaper articles. Three stories are going on at once - Colonel Allen Forester, the leader of the expedition; Sophie, the pregnant wife he has left alone at army outpost; and two modern characters writing each other about the history of the expedition. All three stories are wonderfully told and there is a beautiful sense of nature and the religion & mythology of the Alaskan Indians. There are many parts of this book that I will remember for a long time.

5. The Nix by Nathan Hill. In my original review of this book several months ago, I said "The Nix" was a very good book that could have been a great one if it was about 100 pages shorter. While I still won't say it was a great book, it was very good and I now think that the length was just right. It has been  several months since I finished it, but I keep thinking about it. Samuel Andresen-Anderson is a 30something small college English professor whose mother abandoned his family when he was 11. Some 20 years later she reemerges when she is filmed throwing rocks at an ultra conservative presidential candidate. He begins a journey to find out all he can about her life, trying to understand why she left him and how she got to this place. Part of Sam's back story is that he obsessed with a World of Warcraft type online game. The first review I read of this book described it as a mix of John Irving and Michael Chabon and I think that it lives up to that. Nathan Hill is an author well worth watching. 

6. Moonglow by Michael Chabon. Speaking of Michael Chabon, here he is with one of his best. He takes the life of his grandfather and turns it into intriguing fiction. Chabon is the narrator here and he has flown to his mother's home to spend time with his terminally ill grandfather. As he sits with him, his grandfather starts telling him stories from his life. Those stories take us from prewar Philadelphia to London and Germany during WWII; from a prison in New York to working with NASA during the latter days of the space race; and finally to a retirement community in Florida where he takes on a giant reptile eating the neighborhood pets. It's all a heartwarming and sad story of a man's life and some 80 years of American history.       .

7. The Last One by Alexandra Oliva. Zoo is a contestants on "In the Dark", a survival reality TV set in the wilderness of the Northeast. She, the other contestants, and the production crew are cut off from, the rest of the world while they are filming. Unknown to them, a pathogen hits that begins to kill off most of world’s population. Zoo is working alone and has no idea what has happened. She thinks the desolation and death that she sees are just tableaux set up by the production team of the show. Oliva is an wonderful writer and Zoo's thoughts on life and society as she begins to realize what is happening are gripping.

8. North Water by Ian McGuire. An excellent literary thriller set on board a 19th century British whaling ship. There's a killer aboard and although we pretty much know who it is, the story is still tight and exciting. Be warned that the storytelling is graphic and gory.  

9. The Road To Jonestown by Jeff Guinn. Meticulously researched, but fascinating look at Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple from their founding in Indiana to their tragic end in Guyana. I knew the basics of this story, but I learned so much from reading this book. Jones and his church did a lot of good for many years, before things started to spiral out of control. Highly recommended, but you will have to wait until April for it's release.

10. Morning Star by Pierce Brown. Fantastic conclusion to the "Red Rising" trilogy. I can't say enough about this science fiction trilogy. The publisher marketed it as Young Adult, but the author was nominated for a Hugo Award for the first book. It's possible to make a few comparisons to "The Hunger Games", but I feel that these books are much better than those.

     Other books that I loved this year were "Devotion" by Adam Makos (a great nonfiction story of two pilots in the Korean War), "Curioddity" by Paul Jenkins (a Douglas Adams like private eye adventure), "Everyone Brave Is Forgiven" by Chris Cleave (a moving WWII story set during the London Blitz), "The Wonder" by Emma Donoghue (a nurse investigating a possible miracle in 19th century Ireland), "Dark Matter" by Blake Crouch (a thrilling parallel world SF story), "The City Of Mirrors" by Justin Cronin (very good wrap-up to The Passage trilogy), and "Orphan X " by Gregg Hurwitz (start of a great new thriller series). I'm not sure if I read "Fortune Smiles" by Adam Johnson in 2016 or 2016, but it is an amazing collection of short stories by the author "The Orphan master's Son".
     And finally, the book that I most disliked this year - "Security" by Gina Wohlsdorf. It was a pretty mediocre thriller and I was contemplating just giving upon it. Then I read this paragraph and decided I just didn't have time for this. "Brian's and Tessa's laughter has calmed. They're each looking off in an imagined distance. They share a past. They're watching it like a movie. Brian knew Tessa when she was young and innocent. If he was remotely decent, he guarded that innocence, as did his stupid dead twin brother, but then they abandoned her, both of them, so what right does he have to steal an eyeful of Tessa like the sight of her is a nutrient of which he's been deprived."

1 comment:

  1. I loved A Man Called Ove, but haven't read his others yet. I will! I started Good Morning Midnight, but couldn't get interested. Might have to give it another try. I'll also have to add The Fireman to my TBR list. I loved Heart-Shaped Box, but haven't read any of his others. The Red Rising trilogy has piqued my interest, too. I liked Everyone Brave is Forgiven and Dark Matter quite well, too. Lots of good books here, Lee.