In the year of 2016, I read 145 books. My goal for the Goodreads challenge was 105 books, but truth be told- I always mentally shoot for 150. I didn't make it to 150 but I did read some incredible books, most pointedly more non-fiction books than ever before.
I'll break down the "winners" by category but I positively refuse to rank them in each group.
Let's start with non-fiction, in a departure from the way that I normally write this list. Nearly all of my favorite books this year were non-fiction, after all.
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Ms. Woodson(a National Book award and Newberry award winner) writes an absolutely eloquent and moving book of poetry of what it was like to grow up as an African American child in the 1960s and 70s. A heavenly and poignant read that you will never forget.
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice of Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
Mr. Stevenson, a young lawyer who founded the Equal Justice Initiative, is the true story of an idealistic young man that spends his life fighting for justice for those who have none. The story is told both through the coming of age of the author and the harrowing stories of his clients. It is a poignant and painful indictment of the current American justice system and race relations in our country. I believe that absolutely everyone should read this.
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
You may know Mr. Noah from his work on The Daily Show. This book tells of his surprising beginnings in South Africa where he was "born a crime"when his white, Swiss father had a child with his black Xhosa mother. This book is alternately laugh out loud hilarious, absolutely shocking and poignant. I can't imagine a more appropriate book for times as the author tells us to be wary of governments that divide us to better rule the people. As always, history is our greatest teacher.
As a side note, I would love to meet his mother some day. Trevor clearly speaks of some of his mother's flaws in the book(we are all flawed, after all) but she seems absolutely extraordinary.
Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn
An absolutely powerful book of stories that is overall a call for the world to rise up and stand against the worldwide oppression of woman. Inspirational, harrowing and desperately sad all at once.
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
Just as he was completing a decade of training to be a neurosurgeon, Dr. Kalanithi is diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. He died in March of 2015 while writing this poignant book, but his words were left to us as a guide of what is really important in our lives. Stunningly honest and beautiful piece of work and maybe of particularly of importance to those, like me, that are in the medical field.
Look at You Now: My Journey from Shame to Strength by Liz Pryor
The previously untold story of Liz Pryor's journey in 1979 as an unexpectedly pregnant seventeen year-old sent off to a locked facility for juvenile offenders and young pregnant women to have her baby. An extraordinary and detailed story of those months many years ago and how they have impacted the author's life forever. It reads so beautifully that it felt like fiction, but had truths inside that burn as only true stories can.
Sold by Patricia McCormick
Yes, this is categorized as a children's book. Don't let that scare you off, Loves. Lakshmi is a desperately poor Nepali girl who is told that she must take a job to help her family. She is told that she will go on a journey to become a maid, but instead ends up placed in the unthinkable position of being sold into prostitution. This book will stick with you long after the last page is turned.
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
This one surprised me. I did not expect to love it so much. Finch and Violet are two people that no one would expect to form a friendship- after all, Finch is obsessed with death and Violet is obsessed with the future. They meet on the ledge of the bell tower and an unlikely friendship blossomed. The novel is equally gripping and poignant, a page-turner that will leave you breathless.
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Lina is a young Lithuanian girl in 1941. She lives a pretty normal life until the night that soldiers barge into the safety of her home, separating her family and sending her on a journey of hope amidst war and destruction. This one is, again, a children's book that is so stunningly written that whole families can come together to read it.
I Will Send Rain by Rae Meadows
Annie Bell is a young woman living in Oklahoma during the dust bowl. Dust covers everything and times are desperate for her family and all of the midwest. Her family, once held together so fragilely, begins to split apart under the strain of their life and Annie find escape in an unlikely place- an escape that may cost her more than she ever prepared for. This novel was written so beautifully that I lost myself inside the pages.
Bird Box by Josh Malerman
Another book that I never expected would find it's way onto my year end best-of list. I've never read a book that can hold tension so tight throughout the entirety of a novel. Absolutely the most creative and gripping novel that I've ever read. An apocalyptic novel like no other.
Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk
Yet another Children's book. Are you seeing a theme. No longer is serious fiction relegated to the adult sections of the library, a fact that I find quite thrilling for our younger readers.
Annabelle lives a quiet life in Pennsylvania until Toby, a strange WWI veteran, is targeted by Annabelle's cruel classmate Betty. Their lives will never be the same.
Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow
This was a novel after my own heart and in many ways mirrored the deep depression that haunted me throughout my teen years. Gritty at times, moving, honest and much-needed in today's world, this story of Charlotte as she weathers the pain of her life will stay with you forever.