In 2016, I wrote 3 books and read 237. I haven’t decided whether reading that many books in one year is good or bad. There are some that I don’t really remember reading. I look at the titles or read 5-10 pages and think to myself, “it feels like I read this already...” or “did I really read this one?” I have only the record on Goodreads to tell me that I did.
Some books were great. I don't think I could have read as many as I did if I hadn't found books and authors that resonated. There is at least one book that I want to find (so I can share it with others) but can’t because it was the side-plot not the main plot that resonated with me. I can’t remember the main plot or the title. Regardless, I read a lot and discovered a host of skilled writers that I’d never read before.
This is the list of the best authors or books that I read 2016. If a book or author made it into this list, I either:
- Read everything that author had available
- Read the author or book more than once (and know that I will reread many times it in the future)
- Stayed in my consciousness to be influential or instructive in thinking about myself or others
A book didn't get on this list just because I liked it or that it was “worth reading,” included in someone else’s “best books list," or popular. There are lots of books I felt were worth reading but if I’m never going to read it again it doesn’t make my list of re-readable, enjoyable, can’t-live-without-it books. The “Worth Reading” books are a totally different list.
Likewise, just because I read an entire series or an everything currently available from an author doesn’t mean it makes it onto this list either. Many of the books I read last year were a pleasant-enough read but I won’t ever read them again.
My stats as of 20 March 2017.
I’m not a big review writer—237 reviews would take a lot of time I would rather give to other things. I occasionally leave a review when something stands out to me as being notable (positive or negative) and the meaningful descriptor to me was something that other reviewers haven’t commented on or that is a tough criteria to search for. For example, early last year I was looking for books where the main character was a woman over 40 and who wasn’t a stereotype. (You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to search for that.)
On the other hand, I always give a star rating. Here’s what the stars mean to me:
- I didn’t finish it
- I liked it enough to finish it
- It was worth reading
- I enjoyed reading it
- I will read it again and again, many times in the future. This is a book that resonated.
Top Picks of 2016
Here is the best of last year’s reading extravaganza, in no particular order:
- Lisa Gardner—Start with The Neighbor and then don’t stop until you’ve read everything she’s ever written. If you like crime novels, thrillers, or mysteries, she's a MUST. Once you read her, you'll agree that women are writing the best crime novels.
- Lindsay Buroker—Start with her Emperor’s Edge series then move on to the rest. Even if you prefer SF, don’t start with her Fallen Empire series; it’s the weakest of her cannon (and written to formula). Her other work under this pseudonym has deeply developed characters who aren't flat stereotypes. It's what was looking for. Her Flash Gold series reminds me of Bruce Campbell's Brisco County. She has many books available free -alone or in bundles- on Kindle Unlimited.
- J. L. Bryan—Ellie Jordan, Ghost Trapper (series). One of the reasons I like these books is that a man is writing a female lead who is not, in any way, stereotypical. For me, this experience is a rarity. She could be he for all the story cares. They're fun ghost stories and I look forward to every new release. I haven’t read his other work; faerie stories are just not my thing.
- Becca Andre—Final Formula (series) taps into my love of chemistry and math...and necromancy.
- Kate Danley—start with her O’Hare House Mysteries series. I rarely read period books and her other work is very different. Her characters in the Maggie MacKay series are irreverent, modern, and fun. In fact, it turns out she was a writer on a TV show that I was relieved and grateful that Netflix picked up and finished.
- Alexandra Sokoloff—start with The Huntress/FBI Thrillers series. You may find you need to put #4 (Bitter Moon) in the freezer for a time. I did. She also has a book about screenwriting tricks for authors which always makes me remember my trip down to the San Diego STC chapter where everyone has writing projects on the side.
- Lisa Scottoline—Start with The Vendetta Defense (#6 in the Rosato series). She has a whole host of romance novels but I wasn’t looking for that: I was looking for another Lisa Gardner. I’ve been working my way through all her thriller-mystery novels and have loved every second.
- Marissa Meyer—The Lunar Chronicles (series). I’m a fan of retellings. I've read more versions of Sleeping Beauty than probably most anyone outside academic circles. This series is all about reimagining fairy tales. While my favorite is unquestionably the Tepper version, Meyer's is brilliant: Cinderella is a cyborg from the moon.
- Ann Christy—Between Life and Death (series). Although I'm a fan of the Walking Dead, I don't read a lot of zombie fiction. I couldn't resist this one when I was looking for new authors in the Kindle Unlimited library. She has an interesting take on the science behind zombies which I enjoyed.
- Michelle Diener—Class 5 (series). I'm sorry to say that the series is complete as a trilogy. I picked the first one up for free via Kindle Unlimited and really wish there were more. It’s pure science fiction fun.
- Darynda Jones—Charley Davidson (series). A fun read even if only for the T-Shirt slogans and Memes that open every chapter. These books have caused me to literally laugh out loud.
- You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You're Deluding Yourself—David McRaney. This is my favorite piece of nonfiction last year. It resonated in all kinds of ways over and over again as the year progressed.
Not on this list are the authors I discovered and read mostly in 2015: Lisa Shearin, Kim Harrison, Shannon Meyer, Heather Blake, Angela White, Lori Sjoberg, Kalayna Price, Karen Chance, Colleen Vanderlinden, and Carrie Vaughn. 2015 was the year of Strong Female Leads without a corresponding, stereotypical martyrdom complex (one guaranteed way to get a 1-star rating from me), while 2016 had a lot more science fiction and thrillers.
In 2017, I'm adding at least one non-fiction to my reading list every month. Those take more effort and take me longer to digest. All the rest of my reading is purely for fun. I work hard enough the rest of the time.
A Final Note
Sheri Tepper died in 2016. I have print copies of everything she’s ever written under all the pseudonyms I could figure out, including some short stories in old SF magazines and some of the pamphlets she wrote for Planned Parenthood (which are FAN-tastic). I even once wrote her a letter that she answered. She's perhaps the one author who has resonated with me the most and has stayed with me the longest.
Her best book, Raising the Stones, is out of print and that's a tragedy. I read this book regularly. It always makes me feel good about the humanity around me. It makes me say hello to everyone I see on the street and talk to people in the store. If you can't get it, you can find her second best, Grass (a prequel to RTS) on Kindle. If you’re a science fiction fan, try to find RTS but settle for Grass. You won’t regret it.
For those who started feminist reading groups last year, you should carve out time for Gibbon’s Decline and Fall in your group's reading list. While dated, GDF is still very powerful and has lead character who is in her 60s, which is rare enough to secure it a spot for that reason alone.