On Becca’s Bookshelf // 10 Favorite Books in 2016

collage-2017-01-231 I looooove to read a good book. This, I know, bemuses my husband, who appreciates my love for literature but envies my ability to dive into a novel and forget all else. My sense of responsibility to life fades when I have the hottest new title in hand! He gets it, though. We are a pair of readers who are doing our best to raise a whole family of bookworms.

This year I read 64 books, and you can see all of them here in my Goodreads account. I thought it would be fun to pick my 10 favorite books, the ones I still remember in my daily life (because let’s be honest… a lot of them I already barely remember reading…) and that had the biggest impact on me. They aren’t necessarily the best books I’ve ever read (although some of them are!), but they have been the most influential, thought-provoking, or just plain fun.

Let’s talk books…

*****

THE ONE IN A MILLION BOY by Monica WoodThis is the story of an 11-year-old boy and the 104-year-old woman he comes to help every Saturday morning, and the influence their lives and memories have on those around them. It reminded me of the current bestseller A Man Called Ove, a book I liked, but I didn’t love as much as this one. It took me a couple of chapters to get into One-in-a-Million Boy, but by then I was in love with the young boy with his records, the old lady with a touch of spice, the bewildered father finally growing up, and the grieving mother learning to live again. Deeper and sweeter and truer than I expected. Tears were shed. Highly recommend. — 5 stars

*****

THE WONDER by Emma Donoghue In rural Ireland, a lonely but meticulous nurse is hired to keep watch over a child who claims to be living on manna from heaven. It’s a mystery — can the nurse solve it? The author’s clean prose kept me engaged even when the story flagged a bit in the middle. Worth it for the ending! For some reason I keep thinking about this book, maybe because the plot was so unusual. — 4 stars

*****

MY BRILLIANT FRIEND by Elena FerranteThis Italian novel is intensely detailed and unlike anything I’ve ever read. Sometimes I felt bored, sometimes confused, sometimes awed. This book (and the two sequels in the trilogy) are mega-bestsellers, but while reading I wondered what the hype was all about. Was this just a soap opera about two poor Italian girls? But there is more here. There is truth in the portrayal of this dependent, jealous, undying friendship and the friends, family, and country that influences it. Time to find the second one in the series…. — 4 stars

*****

BABY CATCHER: CHRONICLES OF A MODERN MIDWIFE by Peggy VincentThis is a highly readable, endlessly entertaining account of a midwife who was practicing during the “wild west” of midwifery (1980s and ’90s) before a lot of our modern laws came into effect. Made me laugh out loud as well as cry. For those who love birth stories, or even just want to see inside the mind of your assistants, nurses, and doctors at childbirth, this is a wonderful read. — 5 stars

*****

THE DOLLHOUSE by Fiona DavisI recommend this book with caution, as it is certainly rated PG-13 in parts and many of you may not care for it. The book captured a slice of women’s history in the 1950s when women lived in a large hotel (nicknamed “The Dollhouse”) in Manhattan while pursuing acting, modeling, or secretarial careers. The story overlaps with a modern-day journalist who is writing about the hotel, and the entire book is all set in the old hotel itself. I could hardly put it down. — 3.5 stars

*****

FAITHFUL by Alice HoffmanA good story of loss, brokenness, and redemption. I recommend this one with caution as well as many of you might not connect with the main character. That said, the author realistically described someone who is suffering after a terrible tragedy for which she (wrongly) takes all the blame. After a slow, faltering journey, she finally matures out of the brokenness and into a strong, confident woman. (Also, as the wife of a veterinarian, I loved the veterinary angle. Animal rescuers will love this one.) — 3.5 stars

*****

TRULY MADLY GUILTY by Liane MoriartyLike all the best of Moriarty’s books, this one is set in a regular Australian suburban neighborhood with very human parents and their very beloved children — and then tragedy strikes and all presuppositions and choices in life are reexamined. This was so very insightful about the human condition, the way we think, and our motives and fears and desires. I loved the clever way the author told the story and the thoughtful weaving together of threads to resolve it. Another reason why Liane Moriarty is one of my favorites! — 4 stars

*****

THE NIGHTINGALE by Kristin Hannah “Some stories don’t have happy endings. Even love stories. Maybe especially love stories.” Beautiful, gripping, real, and so very sad. It is the story of two adult daughters and their father in occupied France during WWII and how each of them fights and survives the war in their own unique way. A love story of family and marriage and country. Beautifully written. I read this soon after reading All the Light We Cannot See and, truthfully, I enjoyed this one more. — 5 stars

*****

ELIGIBLE by Curtis SittenfeldWhat a fun, creative book! The author kept me totally entertained the entire time with her clever modernization of the story of Pride and Prejudice, beginning in Cincinnati, Ohio, where the Bennett family is abuzz with the gossip that the most recent star of the hit TV romance show (called Eligible, but clearly The Bachelor) has just moved to Cincinnati for his job as a doctor at the local hospital. I laughed out loud at many of the author’s reinterpretations of the story. Very smart, almost believable, and completely enjoyable. — 3.5 stars

Note: The story deals with many aspects of sexuality with which some might be uncomfortable, and it is not for the prudish. If you are a P&P fan and don’t mind a bit of a racy novel, you’ll enjoy this one, but I do recommend with caution.

*****

WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR by Paul Kalanithi And I saved the best for last. This book was written by a young neurosurgeon who has just discovered he has a potentially terminal cancer diagnosis. He grapples with work and faith and love as he struggles to finish his training, to prepare for possible death, and to continue to live fully in the world for as long as he can. Magnificent, gut-wrenching, true. One of the best and most powerful books I’ve read in a long time. I’ll be recommending this to everyone.5 stars

*****

And there you have it! Have you read any of these? Any recommendations to share with all of us?

Right now I just finished re-reading The Happiness Project, started The Gilded Years last night, and hope to get my hands on The Mothers by Brit Bennett at the library. Have you read any of these?

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8 Responses to On Becca’s Bookshelf // 10 Favorite Books in 2016

  1. Alica January 31, 2017 at 5:23 am #

    I almost skipped over this post, but I’m glad I didn’t! Just requested When Breath Becomes Air from the library. It must be good, because all of the copies are loaned out already! :) Thanks for the reviews!

    • Becca February 3, 2017 at 10:38 am #

      Oh wonderful! It’s so good, I know you’ll love it.

  2. kristin February 1, 2017 at 11:49 am #

    I skipped to the end when I saw the book, “When Breath Becomes Air”, because I recently read it myself. My father had the same diagnosis, and I was curious what someone would think about this diagnosis. The last part that the wife wrote hit me hard, and I also loved it. Will be looking at the other books you’ve read! :)

    • Becca February 3, 2017 at 10:31 am #

      Yes, I was definitely crying when reading his final words and then the things his wife wrote. Such a powerful, amazing book! So glad it spoke to you too.

  3. Eden February 2, 2017 at 10:31 am #

    I love getting your recommendations! Hope to read some of these this year.

    • Becca February 3, 2017 at 10:30 am #

      Yay! Let me know what you think of them. :)

  4. Melissa Sparks February 14, 2017 at 11:26 am #

    When Breath Becomes Air was my favorite book from 2016, as well. I’m also an avid reader and will definitely be checking these book outs. (I’ve been reading and thoroughly enjoying your blog for about a year now, but this is my first comment!)

    • Becca February 25, 2017 at 11:49 pm #

      Thank you for this kind comment, Melissa! So glad you also enjoyed the book. :)

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