Top 10 Books of 2016

Recap, Review / Saturday, February 4th, 2017

A bit overdue–apologies for that! This past year, I was determined to read more in any capacity. As I mentioned in my post highlighting my 2016, I decided to help myself along by tracking my reading via a GoodReads reading challenge. My goal started small, at just 20 books for the year, and I was able to bump up my goal to 40. It might not make sense to keep raising it after I did it–at that point, any extra books were just a bonus, but I kept moving it just a bit beyond my reach each time to spur me on. However, this backfired a tiny bit in that I tended to favor graphic novels, especially since my library has an amazing selection of new releases. While valid books to read, they are much quicker reads, and as a result 26 of 41 books were graphic novels. Of the remaining 15 books, 8 were non-fiction (which I’d wanted to read more of, and the other 7 were fiction/YA and the Harry Potter play.

Next year, I think I’d be better off setting a smaller goal and keeping it there, so that I’m not tempted to avoid longer books in favor of book count. That’s just counterproductive and a con of trying to game-ify my reading habits. But nonetheless, I read far more than I have in the past few years, partly because I’m not in school anymore, but also, again, because my library is, in fact, the bomb-diggity. I read more non-fiction, particular memoirs, business books/self help/Malcolm Gladwell type books, and books about feminism. I read some educational graphic novels, which I love.

Originals: Hands down my favorite read of the year, written by author Adam Grant, whom I’ve never heard of, but reminds me very much of the works of Malcolm Gladwell, of which I’m very familiar with. This is just one of those books that really motivated me, and really made me want to go out and do.

Lean In: This was a library checkout that, like Originals, I find that I purchased just so that I have my own copy on hand to reference and annotate as I go through life. It was such a valuable book for me to read, and I honestly wish that 1) I’d found it AGES ago and 2) that I could hand one out to every person at every company and in every HR department ever. I was a little skeptical being told by Sheryl Sandberg–a super privileged white woman–about having it all when she can mandate child care facilities at her place of work (or just hire a nanny), but she did a great job of acknowledging and navigating her place in this, as well as bringing in other voices to speak where she shouldn’t/couldn’t. Another book I enjoyed (though was depressing) that accompanied this one well was Everyday Sexism* by Laura Bates.

Smile: A graphic novel that just gets me, man. IT MADE ME SMILE. Genuinely so. It’s based on author Raina Telgemeier’s life, and SHE IS ALL OF US. This story follows young Raina getting braces and the stigma and bad luck that seems to stem from them, and follow us through her awkward adolescent years trying to find her tribe and place and just who she was and what she was all about. It was just a story I can really relate too.

You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost): This autobiography by actress, Geek and Sundy founder, The Guild creator, and pop culture icon Felicia Day was sort of #lifeGoals for me, to be honest. I loved this book so much, it was the subject of my first ever YouTube video, where I reviewed it.

Tetris: The Games People Play: To be honest, it could have been a little stronger, but I thoroughly and sincerely enjoyed Box Brown’s latest graphic novel, despite the roller-coaster I felt whist reading it. He managed to find such a gripping story in such a simple moment. Who knew a game like Tetris had so much drama behind it? As someone who is looking to read and learn more about video game history, this was a welcome book to find.

Lock In: I don’t know how I’d never heard of John Scalzi until this year, but I’m so grateful that one of my co-workers recommended him after a long discussion about holy grail Ready Player One. We were discussing our liking of sci-fi/fantasy/magical realism where the tech/magic/special occurrence or thing is not the focus of the story, but rather just a contributing factor to the environment. And that’s what Lock In is. At it’s core, it’s a fast paced detective story THAT ENDED WAY TOO ABRUPTLY UGH. But it’s the world that it’s set in, the technology and disease that exists that makes it fascinating and changes it up in what may perhaps be the most beautiful genre smash since we all realized Die Hard could be a action film and a Christmas classic. Scalzi’s Red Shirts and Old Man’s War are next on my list.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe: This book in some ways reminded me of when I first read John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, because immediately, what stood out to me was the higher-than-expected level of the language used for a YA novel. This book took that and raised the bar even higher. This book was honestly poetic to read. Like. Poetic is not how I’d describe many fiction books, especially YA, but I kept pausing while reading it to think about how beautiful that sentence was constructed or how nicely that paragraph was composed or the quick-witted, funny dialogue flowed. I was actively aware of how good the writing was but it never took me out of the story so much as brought me in deeper. The story simply follows the newly minted friendship between teens Aristotle and Dante, and their time together learning about themselves, each other, their families, and their…well, place in the universe. It was written by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, an older gay gentleman, whose other books I must now track down. This was also the first book I read that heavily featured LGBT characters in lead roles, and maybe one of only a small handful of books I’ve ready featuring Hispanic characters, which, damn, it’s about time, yo, for both of those groups.

Fangirl: This is the only book on the list that was admittedly a re-read, and one of only two books of my 41 that was a re-read (Nimona was the other). I read it to get me hyped up for NaNoWriMo, which worked and didn’t work (another post for another time). This book made me quite a bit nostalgic for my college days, even though that was only like 5 years ago, get a grip, Jen. But it really captured that spirit, and the spirit of belonging to a fan community and participating in it in different ways, such as writing fan-fiction (which is admittedly something I didn’t/don’t really do). Although I’ve never written fan-fiction, I wrote a lot creatively in college, both for class and independently, and I was lucky to have found a group of friends who were into the same nerdy shows and books, and who also liked to write, to the point that we’d had a weekly meet-up to just work silently with each other on personal works.

Carry On: Written by Fangirl author Rainbow Rowell, this is actually the fan-fiction that the main character (Cath) in Fangirl (see the previous book!) writes about. There’s small bits of it throughout the book, and Rainbow decided to just amp up the meta and write it out as a fully realized book. So it’s fanfic from a fictional book that was turned into fiction which makes it the canon story for the fake Harry-Potter-esque magical world in the character’s world that they write fan-fiction about. It’s dope, and features LGBT characters in the leads.

The Nameless City: Author/artist Faith Erin Hicks is someone who has been on my radar (and Twitter feed) for a while, but I somehow never read anything from her until now. I’d been seeing and reading hype about this graphic novel, and it was justified. To be fair, I was especially keen on it because the cover/world looks like it could be a part of Avatar: The Last Airbender. I loved that this book dealt with classism, racism, war, sexism, ageism, but was never overbearing, preachy, or lacking in action. It was a great story and I’m excited to continue the series. I’d love to see it animated some day too!

Consider joining GoodReads and take up the 2017 reading challenge! People pledge all amounts–you could pledge 12 books for the year, and strive to finish one book per month this year!

*I’ve linked to Amazon pages for each book in this post using my affiliate link, which means that any books purchased through it in the first 48-hours of posting will earn me a teeny tiny commission, which will go towards’s development and upkeep.

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