For reasons personal and public, this past year has been a tough one. At times reading was a solace and at other times it wasn’t. Here are some titles that were significant to me during this dark time. Included are books published years ago, this year, and even a couple coming out next year. Some are for kids and some for adults. These stand out for me as titles that were immersive, often profound, informative, sometimes just delightful in a lighter way, and always memorable. I didn’t write about all of them — there are links when I did.
I used to run and now walk for quite a lot daily. Years ago I started listening to books as I did this. Mostly adult books as most of the ones I read otherwise are for kids. Some memorable ones from this year include:
- Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals
I listened to Durrell’s own reading of several of his stories after enjoying tremendously the television series, “The Durrells in Corfu.” I followed that with more stories read by Hugh Bonneville. All were much needed joyful experiences.
- Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.
I’d read this years ago and decided to revisit it via the full cast audio production in preparation for the forthcoming television series. Given my greater (and many others) attention to cultural appropriation/appreciation I was impressed with Gaiman’s care given he’d written long before the current focus on this.
- N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season
Was blow away by this. While The Obelisk Gate didn’t excite me as much (perhaps because read it rather than listened to it) I think Jemisin is brilliant and can’t wait for the next in this series.
- Charles Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend
This is a re-listen, and I’m not quite done as of this writing, but I’m loving it and ready to go back and listen to all my favorite Dickens. Simon Vance is a fabulous narrator.
- Paul Beatty’s The Sellout
This is original, scathing, and jawdroppingly smart. Not for everyone, but I thought it deserved every award it got.
- A. S. Byatt’s Possession
Wasn’t sure how this would hold up in terms of time and as an audio book, but it worked for me. A bit of a comfort read at a tough time.
- Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell
I’d read this one too long ago and decided to listen to it after seeing the television series. Enjoyed as much as the first time.
A few other adult titles sticking with me include:
- Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad
- Cornelia Bailey’s God, Dr. Buzzard, and the Bolito Man
Lovely memoir read in preparation for meeting Mrs. Bailey this summer during the NEH Gullah Voices Institute.
- Nathan Hill’s The Nix
A bit of a cheat as I’m not yet done, but it is fabulous.
And here are a handful of books for children that I’m thinking of right now. There are many more wonderful books out this year that I also read (some of which I will mention in a future Newbery post), but these are coming to mind just now. Links are to reviews and blog posts.
- John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell’s March Book: Three
Didn’t write about it, but wow. A worthy finale to a brilliant series.
- Jason Reynold’s Ghost
My top hope for the Newbery.
- Elizabeth Wein’s The Pearl Thief
This isn’t out till 2017, but I read it in 2016 so here it is. Delightful.
- Laini Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer
Another not out yet, but I was blown away by it.
- Adam Gidwitz’s The Inquisitor’s Tale
So impressed with the storytelling and themes of this one. Lovely illuminations and bookmaking too.
- Tricia Springstubb’s Every Single Second
- Anne Nesbet’s Cloud and Wallfish
- Melissa Sweet’s Some Writer!
- Candace Fleming’s Presenting Buffalo Bill
- Pamela S. Turner’s Samurai Rising
- Kate DiCamillo’s Raymie Nightingale