At the bottom of this post is the list of books I read in the second half of 2016. I am still on the fence as to whether or not there is any use to these posts, but I am doing one anyway. I didn't do a book list at the beginning of 2016 since I keep the list elsewhere, but I did a mid year post so I feel I must continue what I started. I didn't read some of the books I intended to read, but then I read others, and I can't say I am dissatisfied with my reading list. It simply is what it is.
Perhaps what interests me more is what books have stuck in my mind, or some variation on the "best books" theme. I did write such a post last year, called defining books. This year I'm opting for a variation on that theme, or a list of those books read in 2016 that are still actively in my head, or referencing my thoughts this January of 2017. They may or may not be the books that I remember a year from now, who can say. But at this moment, these are the books that exert the greatest influence on my thoughts and how I view the world and my role within that world.
I'll start by admitting that two of the best books I read last year were books I reread, in fact, books that have been read and reread multiple times, books which I find enlightening with every reading.
Of the new-to-me books, two were not literary in any sense, although one of them was written by one of my favorite novelists. The other was a book I read for EFM, a book that continues to echo in my thoughts, although in completely different ways and for different reasons.
As for fiction, Hanya Yanagihara's A Little Life was by far and away, and by every measure, the best novel I read last year. It is a novel that will remain with me a long time, and a novel that I will reread, although perhaps not in the near future. It stands so far above the other novels in my mind that I can't even list it with the next runner up, although that view may change in time.
My second novel is Nathan Hill's The Nix. I wouldn't put in the same class as A Little Life, but it still plagues my thoughts. I haven't decided if it is in my mind simply because it is so smart and funny and such a perfect send up of so much of modern American Culture, because I just finished it in December, although other excellent books were read in December with less long-term repercussions, or if it actually has staying power. I think it is brash, and terribly daring, and also hits home in many ways, but the author takes the easy way out in the end, as do we all if given the choice. It is too fresh in my mind for me to make a rational judgement. The other book shown below, Marie Ponsot's volume of collected poems, Springing, evokes feelings that are in many ways the opposite of my reaction to The Nix. I found the poems often quiet and contemplative, but sometimes brash, often disturbing and calming simultaneously. I can't say that the poems themselves occupy the same kind of front-and-center space as the thoughts evoked by the novel, and yet they remain, floating as if in a gentle undercurrent buoying my thoughts.
And here, finally, is the second half of my annual book list (including one book actually read in the first half of the year, but inexplicably left off the list)
23. Phillip Wylie, The Disappearance.
24. Ruth Rendell, Not In The Flesh.
25. Fredrica Harris Thompsett, We Are Theologians.
26. Elie Wiesel, Night.
28. Linda Przybyszewski, The Lost Art of Dress.
38. Helen Simonson, The Summer Before the War.
41. Marie Ponsot, Springing, New and Selected Poems.
42. Tamara McKinley, Lands Beyond the Sea.
43. Tamara McKinley, A Kingdom for the Brave.
45. Tamara McKinley, Legacy.
47. David Ford, Theology: A Very Short Introduction.
48. Michael Connelly, The Brass Verdict.
51. Louise Penny, A Great Reckoning.
52. John Grisham, The Whistler.
53. Tana French, The Trespasser.
54. Jodi Picoult, Small Great Things.
55. Nathan Hill, The Nix.
56. Haruki Murakami, Absolutely on Music: Conversations.
57. Cynthia Coe, Runaway Kitty. *
58. Roger Horowitz, Kosher USA. *
579 Matthew Carr, The Devils of Cardona.
* this post was updated on 1/9 to show two books I did read in 2016 but forgot to list. I suppose that says something about how memorable I found the books, although they were both interesting. I did not run an update on the Goodreads summary shown at the top of this post, listing 57 rather than 59 books.