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This was really hard to do! I’ve read so many wonderful novels this year that I struggled trying to narrow it down to my ten favorites. To do so, I had to go back to why I read. I read for pleasure. I read to be transported to another place. I read to get lost in a story. I read to reach the end and think to myself, “Wow! I need to tell people about this book.”
Early in the process, I decided that my list would only include fiction since I read very little nonfiction. Reading a lot of debut novels, it’s no surprise that 50% of my picks are debuts. I also like historical fiction, but even I was surprised that six of my picks fall into that category. Only one of my top ten was written by a man, but I think that’s more of a fluke. Do I have a favorite book of 2016? Maybe, but I’m not even going to try to figure out what it is. They’re all wonderful!
All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage – This is one of three novels on my list that I read prior to starting Novel Visits. All Things Cease to Appear is a dark story about two families in a very small town in upstate New York. It opens with a husband finding his wife brutally murdered in their bedroom. From there Brundage moves back in time and weaves the stories of these two families around the murder. Brilliantly done and hard to put down!
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett – I’m an Ann Patchett fan from way back. I loved Bel Canto and State of Wonder, so was very much looking forward to Commonwealth. At times that anticipation can lead to disappointment, but not here. Patchett delivered a beautiful novel about a most dysfunctional family. Something many of us relate to. Most of our stories don’t get written up in a book as happened to the two families in Commonwealth, but this book made me realize that every family has a story! (full review)
I Will Send Rain by Rae Meadows – How had I never read Rae Meadows before 2016? It’s a mistake I will not make again! I loved I Will Send Rain, her story of a family during the Dust Bowl. They’re united, but lonely, filled with longings they cannot share. I ached for every member of this family as they battled the wind and dust, and their own desires for escape. Meadows treated her characters with honesty and compassion. As a reader, I was moved. (full review)
Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly – I’m a bit of a stalker when it comes to Lilac Girls. It was one of my first reviews, I talked about it in my WWII Novels post, and it made my Best Debut Novels list, too. With so much recognition, it can be no surprise that Kelly’s beautiful debut novel made my Best of 2016 list. The weaving together of three different women’s stories showed me sides to WWII that I was unaware of, especially the Rabbits of Ravensbrück and their heartbreaking story. (full review)
News of the World by Paulette Jiles – Jiles has been writing for a long time and has many books to her credit, yet somehow she was new to me. News of the World was a perfect book to introduce me to Jiles. It’s just the sort of book I enjoy; the setting was different, the premise unique, and the characters both interesting and likable. I love riding along as news-reader Captain Jefferson Kidd, and 10-year old Johanna traveled Texas on a journey to reunite Johanna with her family. (full review)
Shelter by Jung Yun – Shelter is yet another stellar debut novel for 2016. Jung Yun told a beautiful, but brutal story about a young husband and father struggling to love the parents that gave him everything but kindness. Had his parents not been the victims of a horrific crime, Kyung might not ever have had to confront his feelings. This isn’t an ordinary dysfunctional family story. It’s dark, violent, and sad. Yun’s shocking turns had me glued to every page of this book!
The Heavenly Table by Donald Ray Pollock – This was my first Donald Ray Pollock novel and I was captivated by it. The writing was brilliant, seamlessly weaving together every element of his story, including pieces that seemed inconsequential. Set in 1917, The Heavenly Table followed three brothers (newly turned outlaws) as they built a notorious reputation, ending up wanted men with bounties on their heads. The story had two sides: one dark and violent, the other sympathetic, even compassionate. (full review)
The Longest Night by Andria Williams – I can’t put my finger on exactly why, but Andria Williams’s debut novel is one I have thought about a lot this year. Maybe it’s because it’s from a different era than many historical fictions. Maybe it’s because of the imagining of the Sand Point nuclear meltdown. Or, maybe it’s because of the brilliant portrayal of a marriage in trouble. Whatever it is, The Longest Night is one of the books I have most recommended to friends this past year!
The Mothers by Brit Bennett – When a book gets a lot of hype I’m often nervous to read it, worried that it won’t live up to that hype. I needn’t have worried with the most talked about debut novel of the fall, The Mothers. This book has a lot going for it: a great storyline, well-developed characters, hard themes thoroughly explored. But, the biggest thing it has going for it is Brit Bennett’s gorgeous writing. I not sure I’ve ever highlighted as many passages as I did in The Mothers. (full review)
Tuesday Nights in 1980 by Molly Prentiss – From the moment I finished Tuesday Nights in 1980, I knew Prentiss’s debut novel would make my top ten list. This was a beautiful, rich, character-driven story. It centered on three very different people living in NYC: an art critic with a very unusual condition, a struggling artist from Argentina, and a small town girl, wide-eyed in the big city. The collision of their lives over the course of a single year made for an perfectly balanced, extremely satisfying read! (full review)
To see what some of my fellow bloggers picked for their favorite books of 2016 head on over to The Broke and the Bookish where you’ll find links to an amazing array of great book blogs. Many thanks to the women at The Broke and the Bookish for continuing to run “Top Ten Tuesday!”
Disclosure: There are Amazon Associate links included within this post.
Most of these are on my TBR. I just bought News of the World, and am starting The Mothers this week. This is a wonderful list, Suzie.
Sarah's Book Shelves says
You have my top 3 books on your list! And All Things Cease to Appear looks really good – I’m going to add that one to my TBR for when I need a page turner. You also have a couple that I DNF’d on here (Heavenly Table and The Longest Night). I’d still like to read Tuesday Nights in 1980!
There are just so many books. It’s impossible to get to all of them. (And frustrating, too!) I think you’ll really like All Things Cease to Appear. The two families are both VERY dysfunctional!
Sue @ Crushingcinders says
I loved The Liliac Girls. Shelter sounds really good. Thanks for the recs.
JoAnn @ Lakeside Musing says
Commonwealth and Shelter will both be on my list, too! I’m planning to read most of the others.
Ann @ Books on the Table says
Great list — and so glad you included Lilac Girls, which hasn’t been getting as much attention as it should. I’m heading out of town for a few days and have been saving both The Mothers and All Things Cease to Appear — can’t wait to read them. Happy New Year!
I so agree with you about Lilac Girls. It was wonderful! Enjoy your trip and the books!
Lory @ Emerald City Book Review says
I have not read any of these, but you give compelling reasons to look into all of them. Lilac Girls is one I had not heard of and with Ann’s recommendation as well it sounds like a must-read. I love that you read and feature a lot of debut novels as well — new writers need encouragement.
Deb Nance at Readerbuzz says
I definitely hope to read News of the World next year! Thanks for sharing your favorite novels of 2016.
Loved several of these books as well! I read my first Ann Patchett this year (Bel Canto) and am looking forward to reading Commonwealth hopefully soon. Great list!
Bel Canto was the book that made me an Ann Patchett fan. I think you’ll love Commonwealth.
Kathryn Trask says
Great list and I do want to read Commonwealth and The Lilac Girls.
Andria Williams says
So many great books here!!! Thank you for including ‘The Longest Night.’ 🙂
Andria Williams says
p.s. My mom was a lifelong middle school teacher! 🙂
thanks for stopping by! Middle school teachers…we’re all a little crazy!
Karen @ Runwright Reads says
I want to start reading Ann Patchett. I recently read an article she wrote and I am interested in getting to know more about her.
I love “Best Books of…” lists and yours added several titles to my 2017 list of books I want to read. 🙂 Thanks!
Katie @ Doing Dewey says
Commonwealth is actually the only book on your list that I’ve read, although most of them sound like my kind of books. So much to read, so little time!
Isn’t that the sad truth!
Stacy @ The Novel Life says
oh geez, you’ve just exploded my ‘to read’ list for this month/this year! I keep thinking if we could get the publishers to hold off publishing new books for a couple of months to let us catch up on all the fantastic books already published then life would be perfect 😉 For some reason they haven’t bought into my idea!
Susie | Novel Visits says
I so agree with you. That TBR pile just keeps getting bigger and bigger and there is always new “candy” to try!