Looking back over my Goodreads challenge from this year, I was surprised to find that I had actually read quite a bit of nonfiction. In fact, I read more nonfiction than adult fiction, which is a very weird thing for me. Most of these lists weren’t necessarily written in 2016, but these are my favorite things I read this year.
Young Adult Books
- Legend, Prodigy, and Champion by Marie Lu – This series officially became my favorite YA dystopian series. There are a lot of those, but I loved that this one included characters who weren’t white and also did a lot of different things. Where most of the series end with the big revolution that overthrows the corrupt government, this series goes farther and asks tough questions about what it really means to build a just, fair, and prosperous society.
- The Weight of Feathers and When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore – Oh man, I am so glad I found this author, so I had to include both of her books. The Weight of Feathers is one of the coolest examples of the star-crossed lovers trope I’ve ever read with an extremely satisfying ending. When the Moon Was Ours is beautiful and ethereal and tender and I just really loved Miel and Sam. Both of them fall under the magical realism genre, so they can be a bit strange if you’re not expecting that, but both of them are beautiful.
- The Love That Split the World by Emily Henry – Another magical realism-ish book, and one that I was very happy to receive in my OwlCrate box earlier this year. It’s got parallel universes and Native American mythology and romance and great characters. A really, really cool read.
- If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo – A book about a trans character written by a trans author = a really important #ownvoices narrative. #ownvoices is a hashtag started by Corinne Duyvis to highlight books about diverse characters written by that same diverse group. While no one person speaks for an entire group, and Russo is clear about that, #ownvoices narratives avoid a lot of the harmful stereotypes that crop up when people outside of a particular group try to write about it. This book is also just a really lovely story about love and family and friendship.
- Beast by Brie Spangler – I picked up this book because the cover is gorgeous. And then I realized it was a Beauty and the Beast adaptation – yes please! And then I read the blurb and realized that it was also about a trans character and I got even more excited (don’t worry – the trans character is the Beauty, not the Beast). The book itself ended up being delightful. I saw some reviews that didn’t like the main character, but his narration sounded spot on to me, and I spend a lot of time with teenagers.
“Real” Adult Books
- Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead – This book deserves every award it’s received. A lot of times I don’t find that award-winning books live up to the hype, but this one does. It’s brutal, because Whitehead refuses to sugarcoat anything, but that’s part of what makes it so good. Definitely worth the read.
- The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin and The Fire This Time edited by Jesmyn Ward – I highly recommend both of these works to anyone who wants to better understand the African-American experience in the US. James Baldwin’s work is seminal and should probably required reading in every high school curriculum, and the essays and other works that Ward compiled are eye-opening and moving. If you need facts and statistics, most people will point you to The New Jim Crow, but I think these personal stories are just as important for understanding race relations in America.
- Out of Sorts by Sarah Bessey – Bessey seems to find away to say all the things I’m feeling about theology and the church, just much more eloquently and coherently. Her writing is always such an encouragement to me, and this book was no different. She reminds me that it’s okay to not have all the answers because I know the One who does.
- The Awakening by Kate Chopin – I’m almost glad I never had to read it in high school, because I’m pretty sure I would have hated it. I would have called Edna selfish and annoying and I would have completely missed the point of the book. Reading it as an adult though, was an absolute pleasure.
- Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston – I have a pretty good idea about how I would have reacted to The Awakening because I did have to read this one and that’s exactly how I reacted. Oh boy was I wrong. This book is exquisite and high school me was an idiot. If you’ve never read either of these, put them on your list for 2017.