One of my favorite ways to enjoy the holidays is to steal a few hours to cuddle up with a good book (and some holiday treats!). Since 2016 is drawing to a close, I asked my good friend & librarian Amber to give us a list of the 10 best books from this year. These are amazing books that came out in 2016 that you do not want to miss!
Can I just say that I had such a hard time narrowing down all the amazing books from this year to just the top 10! I actually turned to some of my other librarian friends to get their opinions. This list should offer a little something for everyone. As the year draws to an end, here are 10 books worthy of your time.
Two families’ lives collide at a legendary ball held on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo and they will be changed forever. Set during the 1840’s, Belgravia is the story of a secret. A secret that unravels as the nouveau riche start to rub shoulders with the upper tier of London’s society.
For those of you missing Downton Abbey now that the series is over, this is the perfect book for you. Written by Julian Fellowes, the screenwriter and producer of Downton Abbey, it is full of a wide cast of characters, intrigue, drama and great historical details.
The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson
Beatrice Nash is independent and headstrong. She moves to the tiny coastal town of Rye, England in the summer of 1914. Beatrice is still in mourning for her father but has found work as a Latin teacher. She struggles against the limitations put on her because she is a single, well-educated woman. Soon she develops a friendship with a formidable member of Rye society and her two adult nephews, Hugh and Daniel.
Helen Simonson has created an engaging novel full of winsome characters set in the summer right before the outbreak of World War I.
Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty
The decision to throw together a last minute neighborhood barbecue irreparably changes the lives of three couples. Sam and Clementine are the parents of two cute daughters and seem to have fulfilling careers and a comfortable life in the suburbs. Clementine’s childhood friend Erika and her husband Oliver grew up in troubled homes but they find comfort in each other and their ordered life. Tiffany and Vid are vibrant, social people and their invitation to a barbecue is what starts this whole mess.
Liane Moriarty is a talented author that examines very serious issues through her quirky characters. She excels at writing from the perspectives of her main characters. As the narration switches from one character to the other the reader is swept up in the story and it is slowly uncovered what really happened that night and why it was so traumatic to the participants. Liane Moriarty has become one of my favorite authors. You may also want to try Big Little Lies or What Alice Forgot.
The Sheriffs of Savage Wells by Sarah M. Eden
Paisley Bell has been acting as the temporary sheriff of the quiet town of Savage Wells, and been doing a great job of it, even though some doubt her ability because she is a woman. When the town council decides to hold tryouts to find a permanent replacement, her fiercest competition comes from the famous lawman Cade O’Brien. He has his own reasons for wanting to settle in the sleepy town and he is pleasantly surprised when Paisley can actually hold her own. Their quick banter turns into mutual respect, but they both know that Savage Wells just isn’t big enough for two sheriffs.
Shadow Mountain publishes a set of books known as Proper Romances. These books are clean, historical romances that you can enjoy without having to worry about the content. This is probably my favorite of all the Proper Romance books that have been published recently. Paisley and Cade share a great chemistry and I loved all the quirky side characters. Sarah Eden is a great author and I have liked everything she has done, but in my opinion, this is her best. I REALLY loved this book and can easily recommend it to everyone!
Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave
Mary North has lived a privileged life. When war breaks out she leaves her boarding school and signs up to help. She is assigned to teach school but soon most of the kids are sent to the countryside. She makes it her mission to try to help those left behind. She meets new friends and war tests them in ways they could never imagine.
There has been a lot of WWII historical fiction books published in the last few years. It is amazing that authors continue to take the same time period and show it from different angles. This was a bittersweet novel that took an honest look at the changes war creates on a country’s landscape and its’ people. This is worth your time. [Note from Autumn: one of the best books I’ve read in years!]
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
Ruth is a labor and delivery nurse accused of murdering the newborn of a white supremacist couple who gave instructions that she have no contact with their baby. An unfortunate series of events happen that leave Ruth facing very serious legal charges.
The story is told from three different points of view; Ruth, the black nurse, her white defense attorney Kennedy, and Turk, the white supremacist father. This is not an easy novel to read but it brings up many important questions about racism. It will make you question yourself and the world we live in and will stay with you long after you finish.
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
Count Alexander Rostov is sentenced to house arrest because he was deemed unrepentant by a Bolshevik tribunal in 1922. He must stay at the Metropol, a grand hotel in the heart of Moscow. Rostov must move from his large suite to a small attic room but he doesn’t allow his circumstances to determine his fate. He creates a rich life filled with friends and purpose.
Count Rostov is an endearing character that will steal your heart with his kindness and efforts to show everyone the greatest respect. Amor Towels is a gifted writer and this novel solidifies him as a new favorite.
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanith (Nonfiction)
Paul Kalanithi was a gifted neurosurgeon, just finishing up his training, when he was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was the doctor treating the dying, and the next day he was a very sick patient with an uncertain future. He was determined to try to discover what makes life meaningful and worth living.
This is a beautifully written, heartbreaking and affecting memoir. This book is so, so sad, but worth the emotional investment.
The Rainbow Comes and Goes by Anderson Cooper & Gloria Vanderbilt (Nonfiction)
Both Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt have names that are familiar but I didn’t realize that Gloria is Anderson’s mother. This memoir is a compilation of emails that the two exchanged in the year following a serious bout of pneumonia when Gloria was 91. Anderson realized that he didn’t know much about his mom’s early life. This is an honest and heartfelt memoir. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that famous people face trials and insecurities just like everyone else.
The audio version of this book is read by both authors and it is a wonderful way to experience their stories. Beyond learning many fascinating details from their lives, this book has a powerful message about the importance of preserving the stories of an older generation before they are lost forever.
Louisa: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams by Louisa Thomas (Nonfiction)
Louisa Catherine Johnson was born in London to an American Father and a British mother. She eventually fell in love with John Quincy Adams. Their lives together were full of turmoil, some coming from conflicting personalities and some from years spent living abroad serving the United States government. They spent time in Prussia, Russia, England, Massachusetts and Washington.
A lot of research went into this book but it reads more like a historical fiction novel. Louisa Adams is a fascinating person and the author, Louisa Thomas, did an exceptional job detailing her life. I’m surprised more hasn’t been written about her. This is biography at its best!
It was so hard to narrow it down so here are a few more from my favorites list.
Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee
Before the Fall by Noah Hawley
My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
America’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray
The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson
Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Rare Objects by Kathleen Tessaro
Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, and the Science of Success by Angela Duckworth
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