A few years ago, I became the epitome of a suburban wife and mom when I joined the neighborhood book club. I still don’t drive a minivan but I have to admit that I don’t mind them nearly as much as I used to.
Joining the book club was a nice way to get to know the ladies in my neighborhood, give me a reason to get out at least once a month, and finally, drink wine. Yes, we totally fall into the stereotype of book clubs that focus on socializing and drinking wine but I swear I’m mostly in it for the books.
When I started reading for book club at the end of 2012, I was actually really excited because I had taken a long break from pleasure reading. Motherhood and working kept me from making time to read. When I joined a book club, I was thrilled that I would be accountable for 12 books a year. And the best part was that I didn’t even have to decide what to read.
As 2016 comes to an end, I can tell you that things have changed. I’ve gone from 12+ books per year to a whopping 26 books this year!
How did I do it? I’m still busy. I don’t have that many hours to devote to reading. And book club is not totally reliable every month. But somehow, in 2016, I managed to read 26 books. WOW!
The trick for me is get involved in multiple books at once. I was usually reading one book on my Kindle and listening to an audiobook whenever I was in the car. And this year, I started with secondary audiobooks which I’d often listen to when my son was in the car. And most of them were pretty awesome which is why I’m recounting them here for you.
Next to each book I read over the past year, I’ll let you know if it was a book club selection (forced read), audiobook (I’m addicted to Audible), or something I just happened to pick up along the way. If you’ve read some of these, I’d love to hear your thoughts. If not, I hope I give you some new ideas for reading!
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
My review: “This is an enormous book. Like so many others in this genre, I feel like I’m reading a historical account of Occupied France during WWII. The actual fictional story only makes it that much easier to relive that history. Beautifully written (and read by Polly Stone), I’m left with a sadness of how cruel life can be but also inspired to ensure future generations never forget.”
Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín
Book Club selection
My review: “I’d rather give this book 3.5 stars if I could. I didn’t feel swept away by the characters or the story, as I’d hoped. But knowing the Irish way of living, the story was told through an Irish lens – one of stifled emotions and obligations. I enjoyed but didn’t love it. Having said that, the preview for the movie looks great!”
The Memory Box by Eva Lasko Natiello
My review: “Recommended as a page turner, it truly was a quick, engaging read. With lots of psychological twists, the story kept you guessing. But in the end, I thought the main character Caroline was inconsistent and often confusing. I’m still scratching my head a little at the ending.”
Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll
My review: “At the start of the book, I was convinced this was going to be a shallow, materialistic millennial novel. While it had some of those elements, they were tied to a much deeper and unexpected story that really tells how much we are shaped by our adolescence.”
The Martian by Andy Weir
My review: “I like to think I’m a pretty smart person but this story made me realize I didn’t pay nearly enough attention in chemistry, physics, or math. If stranded on Mars, I’d be certain to crawl in a corner and bawl my eyes out. But Mark Watney is a modern day, totally believable space MacGyver. His determination, will to live, sense of humor, and view on humanity make me really want to buy him a beer.
I listened to the audiobook narrated by R.C. Bray. While I haven’t seen the movie (yet), the narration was some of the finest I’ve ever heard. I laughed and I cried.
Don’t be intimidated by the science-y stuff. There’s a brilliant novel here.”
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Book Club selection
My review: “I wasn’t sure how much I liked this book until we discussed it at book club. The story feels simple until you get past the first few chapters but it’s worth reading until the end when you get to the moment where everything makes sense. Quick and easy read.”
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
My review: “The third book I’ve read by Liane Moriarty confirms that she’s my current favorite author. Her characters are so well-rounded and well thought-out and Alice is no exception. What if you suddenly forgot 10 years of your life? The story is fun but imagining yourself in the same scenario gives pause. A great audiobook as well!!”
What She Knew by Gilly McMillan
My review: “If you’re a mother, this story will wrench your gut. But being able to relate (especially as a mother of only one boy) only makes this more of a page turner. A variety of multi dimensional characters makes every chapter fascinating and keep you guessing until the end. Note: I listened to this book and while the narration was good, it was a little over acted. Still a great story!”
The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty
My review: “Not my favorite of Liane Moriarty’s books but a fascinating story with fascinating characters. I loved this audiobook, like her others, mainly because they’re always done with Australian accents.”
A Murder Over a Girl: Justice, Gender, Junior High by Ken Corbett
My review: “It’s a slow narrative that seems to lack the hook or emotion of a crime story. Instead, the book focuses on a more intellectual level to try to understand the what and the why behind a murder and a hate crime like this.”
Full book review here: On Gender, Justice, and Murder
Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty
Book Club selection, Audible audiobook
My review: “I’ll admit that I’m a little biased when it comes to Liane Moriarty’s books because I love them and I wasn’t disappointed with this latest. It’s our latest book club selection and I can think of so many topics to discuss: marriage, friendship, parenting as well as more unusual topics like hoarding and infertility.
As usual, the characters are multi-faceted and I found something to relate to in every single one. Definitely one of her best!”
Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
My review: “My first Malcolm Gladwell book so I had no idea what to expect. I was taking a break from my usual pop fiction and listened to the audiobook version, as read by the author.
Maybe I’m not as much of a natural born skeptic as I thought. I seemed to like this more than so many others. He describes success as often following a distinct pattern and he proves his case time and again. We’re victims of circumstance and societal constraints as well as simply plain, hard work. If nothing else, that’s a valuable lesson to take away.”
Who Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner
My review: “While I definitely cared about the characters and hopes for a happy ending, I had to admit that I really didn’t like Rachel as a character. Perhaps it was the horrible narrator who read her part on the audiobook but I found Andy to be a much more sympathetic character despite his major flaws.”
You by Caroline Kepnes
Book Club selection
My review: “A fascinating, humanized look at a sick individual. Not a book for everyone: violence, sex, murder and the wonderful world of stalking.”
The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson
My review: “I was immediately drawn in to this tale of murder and deception. The characters were complex but solid and there were definitely a lot of twists – some I saw coming, some I didn’t. My only issue was with Lily, the main character, who did a great job of helping the readers relate to her twisted sense of morality. However, the ending didn’t seem consistent with her character so I ended with a touch of disappointment.”
Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid
My review: “When I started this book, I was quickly convinced that this was just another annoying chick lit book. And then I was convinced that it was a ripoff of one of my favorite movies, Sliding Doors (and it kinda is). But the characters were real and flawed and I liked the bigger issues that were raised about life, decisions, fate, and the life we’re meant to lead.”
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
My review: “It just goes to show that critical darlings or popular favorites don’t always do it for me. I got this from Audible because of the rave reviews. It was a fine book. A solid book with clever dialogue and an ensemble cast. In fact, it might have made a good play. But as a book, it was a touch on the boring and predictable side. 3.75 stars from me.”
The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey
My review: “Young adult, sci-fi, dystopian novel? Yes, please. This book marked a milestone for me as it’s the first book I’ve listened to with my tween. We both loved the story but could have used more action and less romance (guess we’re not the typical teen audience). And way better than the movie!”
I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh
Book Club selection
My review: “This is probably the third book I’ve read this year involving the British police. It helps before reading this one to know what CID, DC, DCI, DI, etc. all means. It’s great story with several moments that make you says… “wait a minute, did I miss something?” Because you probably did. I loved the twists and turns that I didn’t see coming. Dropping off a star simply because the dramatic ending was a little too cliched for me.”
The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
My review: “I crammed this book down because I wanted to read it before I saw the movie (which I did). The story is whatever the opposite of uplifting is (downlifting?) but that doesn’t make it a bad story. The character development is strong as individuals but I felt like I was missing some of the relationship development between the characters. And I didn’t completely understand Tom’s motivations for everything he did. I’d give it 3.5 stars if I could. A good read but not a must read.”
Full movie review here: Should you bring tissues to The Light Between Oceans?
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
Book Club selection
My review: “I tried to go into this book with an open mind and admit that I only got 3/4 of the way through. This book may help shed perspective for people who need it but maybe age and wisdom has put me well ahead of Rubin.
Even getting past the fact that she’s a nice white lady with so many resources at her disposal (seriously – how many bloggers are able to run their ideas past their “literary agent”?), I actually felt sorry for her that she had to remind herself to be nice, act silly, and have fun.”
The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
My review: “I don’t usually do mysteries but this book might have changed my mind. I was intrigued by the idea of a journalist on a cruise press trip. So many aspects I could relate to. What I loved is that you kept guessing what the mystery even was. Lots of twists and colorful characters. However, I do think there were some weak, underdeveloped points that never seemed to come to fruition. All in all, a great page turner.”
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Book Club selection, Audible audiobook
My review: “Listened to the audiobook and found that this story was nothing like I expected. It was a perfect family listen in the car as my 9 year old listened along too. The story went in so many crazy directions that it was well-suited for the mind of a tween. I found it enjoyable but surprisingly enjoyed the movie even more!”
Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris
My review: “I had no real idea what to expect with this book. It was a recommended audiobook from Audible. So glad I took a chance. This was un-put-downable. While the story became a bit repetitive after a while, I was still totally engrossed. The author did a fantastic job of keeping the stakes high enough that everything was plausible, except for a few bits at the end. Great page turner!”
In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware
My review: “Is this the best book I ever read? Nope. But it’s 5 stars because it’s engrossing, enjoyable, and keeps you guessing. While the ending, like most modern thrillers, is a touch over-the-top, I was a thoroughly entertaining read and I couldn’t put it down. I also recommend Ruth Ware’s second book, The Woman in Cabin 10 (but I admit to liking this one better).”
The Trespasser by Tana French
FAVORITE BOOK OF 2016
My review: “I’m new to Tana French and Detective Antoinette Conway but she instantly became one of my all time favorite characters. That says a lot since this is something like #6 in the series. I didn’t feel like I missed any character development by starting here. I highly recommend listening to the audiobook narrated by Hilda Fay. Then you can read any of the others and you’ll get all the accents, expressions, and humor just right. Definitely one of my favorite books of 2016.”
And there you have it. My exhaustive reading list from 2016. While my book club has tapered off a bit, it’s renewed my love of reading and I can’t seem to get enough.
I’d love to hear some of your favorite books from this year, especially if they didn’t make my list. I’m always looking for my next great read (or listen)!
Disclosure: All of the links above are Amazon affiliate links. It simply means that if you choose to click through and make a purchase, I make a teeny tiny commission for that sale.