Sunday, February 5, 2017

Our Top 16 in 2016


LOL remember the goals we set for ourselves last year? Well, we didn't achieve all of them. Or even half of them, in my (Charlotte) case. Winner winner chicken dinner. Our plan to review most of the books we read? That didn't pan out. But 2016 was a hard year all around, so we're not going to be too hard on ourselves. And while we didn't review all the books we wanted to, we did read quite a few. Here are our favorite sixteen books from 2016.

Charlotte's Eight Favorites:

1. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (review here)

This book was awesome. If you're into dystopia, you'll like this book. If you're a nerd (geek?) and you're really into video games and movies from the 80's you'll especially like this book, as it's filled with references of that era. (I'm not a huge 80's buff but it didn't matter - the author does a good enough job explaining plot that anyone can follow and enjoy this story.) Corporate greed, poverty, resistance - this book's got it. Highly, highly recommend.

2. How Harry Cast His Spell: The Meaning Behind the Mania for J.K. Rowling's Bestselling Books by John Granger (review here)

This book was fantastic. It's filled with all the Christian symbolism throughout Rowling's famous series. If you enjoy Harry Potter and you're a Christian (or enjoy learning about Christianity), you can't go wrong with this book. 


3. The Mapmaker's Children by Sarah McCoy (review here)

I loved this book. It's historical fiction, but it alternates between current day and Civil War-era, following the stories of two women. I admit I enjoyed the Civil War chapters much, much more than the modern day ones, but it was still an excellent story. Sarah (our Civil War protagonist) is an abolitionist like her father, John Brown, and devotes herself to the cause in a surprising but believable way. It's thrilling. 

4. The Book of Esther: A Novel by Emily Barton (review here)

This was... dense? It's been months since I read this book and I still can't properly describe it. It's heavy, that's for sure. There's no shortage of long anecdotes, but it's so worth it. It's sort of mystical and imaginative but it's super badass. It's technically historical fiction but that's stretching it because it totally changes world history. If you like an interesting and often feminist book with superb writing, this might be one for you. 

5. My Sisters the Saints: A Spiritual Memoir by Colleen Carroll Campbell

This was actually a gift from Liz. It was a wonderful book, even though I found myself disagreeing with the author here and there. Through her own story, Campbell introduces readers to several saints and it's a great way to see how our own lives can mirror them (making it possible to draw inspiration and guidance from them). Definitely one of my favorite books of the year. 

6. Prince Caspian (The Chronicles of Narnia Book 4) by C.S. Lewis

I finally read The Chronicles of Narnia and I loved them so much. Knowing myself, it's possible I'll read them again in 2017. :) There's not much I can add to all the wonderful things that have been said about these books by others throughout the years. I loved them all, but I think I especially loved Prince Caspian. 


7. Ender's Game/Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card

I can't decide which of these books I liked more, so I'm throwing them both up here. This saga is incredible. It's action-packed (well, Ender's Game is, anyway) and thought provoking. I'm currently finishing it up and loving it. Top of the sci-fi world. 

8. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (review here)

Jane Eyre became my favorite book as soon as I read it. I picked it up as part of Liz's challenge for me and loved it. It's an emotional roller coaster, Jane is the #1 protagonist maybe ever, the other characters are terrific (Diana! Mr. Rochester (you know, sort of)!), and the themes are A+. Hands down my favorite book of the year. Go read it. 

 
Liz's Eight Favorites:

Before I begin, let me just say, Charlotte read like more than double the books I read, so she had a lot more to choose from for her top eight. Also, this bish must have an amazing memory, because I have to rely on my goodreads account to even remember what books I read in 2016. I legit looked at some of these books and was like..."I read this last year??" Fun fact: the only reason I was able to meet my goal to read 20 books in 2016 is because most of the books I read were YA novels. Anyway...

1. The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

Because obviously, right? I was so glad I finally read the entire series. I had read the first few books as a kid, but I was really bad at doing series when I was younger. Honestly, I think I appreciated the series more as an adult because there was stuff that was so funny. As a kid, you take it all so seriously, but as an adult you can see some of the childish humor more clearly. I also have experienced so much since I was a kid. My dad died when I was 17, and I've been through so much. This made me appreciate some of the themes so much more now. I am officially an HP addict like Char. Someone buy me tons of merch for my house (Ravenclaw, duh).


2. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

The Happiness Project is a self-help book that is 1) not preachy (which I think many self-help books can be), 2) very well-written and as enjoyable to read as a fiction novel, and 3) actually helpful AF. I can honestly say I am now a Gretchen Rubin fan girl (she was at my organization's gala this year and I got to get a picture with her!!). Charlotte was the first one to recommend Gretchen's books to me, and now I have been recommending this book to friends left and right, and everyone has liked it! I've even gone back to read a few sections over more than once because the advice is just that good. If you are looking for tips and ideas to have a more fulfilling life and to change up some of your habits, this book will be your bible.

Me (left) with Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project
3. Eleanor by Jason Gurley

One of the few books I actually wrote a review for in 2016! This book was emotionally heavy, to say the least. I remember picking this up to read when I was already in a bummer of a mood, and it just made me even sadder. That said, this book was really great overall. The novel's focus on the nature of time and space, and the power of choice make it a fascinating and gripping read.

4. The Serpent King by Jeff Zetner

Inspired by The Happiness Project, last year I subscribed to Owlcrate, a monthly subscription box that comes with one YA novel and other bookish goodies, for a few months as a way to treat myself. This was the novel that came with my first box, and I was so skeptical at first. The book's description sounded corny, but I LOVED it! It's a coming-of-age novel that takes place in the south and follows the lives of three friends, all of whom are very different from one another, as they try to get through senior year of high school. Besides the coming-of-age aspect, there's also interesting commentary on the role of class and religion in young adulthood.

5. This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

Another book from Owlcrate! I love books that allow the reader to really envision the story and surroundings, and this book was one of them. It's a supernatural novel (that is borderline a dystopian novel) that takes place in the future United States. A city has been split by war...and monsters. The two protagonists, who both live in opposite parts of the city and have completely opposite attitudes and upbringing, have to choose what role they play: hero or villain, and both are pushing back against the parts society expects them to play. I can't wait for the second book to come out!

6. The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley

It took me awhile to get through this one, but it was so worth it. Malcolm X is easily one of the most misunderstood, and misrepresented, figures in modern history. This book is insightful and as relevant as ever. Plus, there are so many aspects to Malcolm that are relatable, funny, and of course, admirable.


7. At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen

I read Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen either in late high school or early in college, and I had loved it. So, when At the Water's Edge came out, it had long been on my TBR. During World War II, a young woman, Maddie, journeys to Scotland with her husband and his best friend to search for the loch ness monster. But during Maddie's time in Scotland, she discovers the monster isn't what she expected, and neither is she. I was worried Maddie would annoy me at first, but she ends up being an empowering character, and the plot is excellent!

8. My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand

This novel had me busting out laughing. Yet another YA novel I got from Owlcrate, this novel is a historical fiction/comedy/fantasy novel that retells the story of Lady Jane Grey, and I must say that this story is a lot better than what happened in reality. If you are looking for a fun read that offers a great spin on history, this is for you. 

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