BRL Best of 2016

Well, Christmas has come and gone, and it’s been a truly lovely one here for our family. My son is five, and he is still at a sweet age to believe in Santa and the magic of Christmas, and not too cool yet to sing carols with his family on Christmas Eve while Dada plays guitar.  (He still calls my husband Dada. We’re hanging on to that as long as we can!)  Our parents are all still healthy and with us, and even though they’re long divorced, my mom and dad get along well enough to spend Christmas Day with us at my in-laws house.  I’ve had some days off and return to work tomorrow.  My family has baked and listened to Christmas CDs and watched The Charlie Brown Christmas Special and drove around looking at lights.  We’ve done all the holiday things we love to do, including reading lots of Christmas picture books!  It’s been so sweet and I really feel grateful.

That said, I’ve not done a lot of reading the past few weeks, and I’ve done even less blogging.  But I feel the desire for both returning, and I’m super excited about my reading plans for 2017!

But before I get to that post, I need to take stock of my reading for 2016.  So without further ado, here’s the Big Reading Life Best Of List!


  1. (TIE) Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi and The Book of Night Women by Marlon James.  Both novels deal with slavery – James’s book is set in Jamaica on a sugar cane plantation, while Gyasi’s spans continents and centuries.   Both illuminate the horror of slavery in ways I’d never even considered before.  Both are stunning.
  2. Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen.  A memoir as open and vulnerable, but also as joyful and hilarious, as The Boss himself.  I truly appreciated Springsteen’s willingness to call out his own bullshit while not “telling tales” about others.  I especially loved the sections in his childhood and young adulthood.  I love this guy.
  3. Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt.  Weird, sad, and hauntingly romantic.  I haven’t been able to forget about this one all year.
  4. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison.  Words fail me here.  Utterly magical.
  5. The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney.  This  kind of book is my catnip anyway – multiple perspective family saga!  Rich People Problems!  But I was wholly invested in these messed-up, authentic characters.  Truly a standout of its type.
  6. March Books One and Two by John Lewis.  While I haven’t yet read the third in the series, I am wholly taken with the first two.  They’ve shown me the power that a graphic novel can have to illuminate and educate.
  7. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  Quietly devastating and powerful coming of age story in Nigeria.  So glad I finally read it.
  8. Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye.  So. Much. Fun.  Romance and gothic intrigue, a respectful but liberated take on Jane Eyre.  It’s not for everyone, but I just adored it.
  9. Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler.  A surprise love for me this year.  Something about this novel just hooked me and didn’t let go even as I could see its flaws.

Goodreads tells me that I completed 80 books this year.  Of these 21 were by authors of color, which is about 26%.  Not quite as high as I’d intended at the beginning of the year, but an improvement on last year.  More stats:

Audiobooks: 4 (Interestingly, all were nonfiction.)

Graphic Novels/Comics: 14 (the most I’ve ever read!)

Nonfiction: 20  (8 were memoirs.)

Middle Grade: 3

Mystery/Crime/Thriller: 10

Rereads: 4 (an unusually high number for me)

Fun Fact:  The only YA titles I read all year were all comics/graphic novels!

So there you have it.  It’s been a very good reading year.  I began the year participating in a reading challenge (the TBR Triple Dog Dare) and ended the year rereading a trio of books, apparently seeking comfort (Little Women, Murder on the Orient Express, Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies, which I’m still reading.)  I’ve been thinking about my reading goals for weeks now, and am really excited to share them in my next post.

I hope you all had/are having very Happy Holidays!  Have you met your reading goals for this year, or made progress towards them?  What was your standout book for 2016?  Have you read any of my top ten?


31 thoughts on “BRL Best of 2016

  1. Mr. Splitfoot is going on my top ten list for the year as well–so wonderful and I loved the dual perspectives. I’m glad to hear you liked Born to Run so much; I just bought it for my dad as a Christmas gift and he’s a huge Springsteen fan but very picky about books. Great list!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh thanks! I am glad to hear you also appreciated Mr. Splitfoot. I think it was a below-the-radar novel this year. Hope your Dad likes the book – if he’s a huge fan, I suspect that he will! (I bought my mom a copy for Christmas too!)


  2. It sounds like you had a really lovely Christmas celebration! 80 books for the year, nice! I wouldn’t have expected Bruce Springsteen’s book to be that good. Glad to hear I am wrong! I hope the remaining days of 2016 are pleasant. Looking forward to hearing your plans for the coming year!

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    1. Jeanne, part of me wants to freeze him at this age, but I know it doesn’t work that way, and I really wouldn’t want to… so I try to write down things he says and take lots of pictures and breathe deeply and appreciate him in the moment! Happy New Year to you and yours!


  3. Mr. Splitfoot made my list, too! I also really liked The Nest, but it didn’t quite make the final for me. I read so many New York novels this year, but Rules of Civility was my favorite…although I am reading The Swans of Fifth Avenue right now, and it’s also quite good!

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  4. I remember your reviews for most of these! I guess I’ve been following you for almost a year now. 🙂
    2017 Is the year I finally read The Book Of Night’s been on my Kindle for over a year now. Seeing it tie with Homegoing at the top of your list reminded me what I’m missing out on.

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  5. Tragically I’ve only read one of these – the dreaded Jane Steele, which I’m one of the everyone it’s not for! 😉 But I really want to read the Toni Morrison since my own book of the year was Beloved, and I will give Marlon James a try at some point. Glad you had a great Christmas – here’s hoping for a geat New Year to go along with it! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha ha, Fiction Fan, I was thinking of you when I wrote that about Jane Steele! 😉 I hope that you have a very Happy New Year as well! By the way, rereading Beloved is one of my stated reading goals for 2017. I’m excited to encounter it again (this time as an adult.)

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  6. This is an extraordinarily powerful list of books, Laila! I am sad to say I haven’t read a single one of your top picks yet, but ALL of them are on my TBR! So, that is a good sign. 🙂

    Almost all of my audiobooks are non-fiction. Specifically, memoirs. There is something about the author reading their own text which really pulls me in. I love listening to Neil Gaiman read his works when it comes to fiction, too. I didn’t enjoy his books until I listened to an audiobook. then it suddenly clicked! Brilliant.

    Standout books for me this year are The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, At Home with Madhur Jaffrey (a cookbook! It is amazing), and Illuminae. I’ve found that since becoming a blogger I’ve become more and more drawn to YA. I think it’s because so many bloggers are YA focused!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Jackie. I agree, I love an author reading their own text. I listened to Neil Gaiman’s Graveyard Book last year and it was AWESOME. His voice is amazing.

      I LOVE Shadow of the Wind. So good.

      I am going to read more YA in 2017! So I know I’ll find good recommendations on your blog. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Some great books there. And I’m so glad to see you read the Book of Night Women and loved it. I enjoyed it too when I read it and recommended it to everyone. I plan to read both Purple Hibiscus and Jane Steele next year and I’m interested in the March comics, Mr. Splitfoot, and Sweetbitter.

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  8. Homegoing was also one of my best books of the year! Your post just reminds me of how much I want to read The Book of Night Women (yet again).
    It sounds like you had a great reading year and a wonderful Christmas with your family! I miss the days of Christmas picture books. My youngest still wants to read a few (she’s 11), but they are much more movie-oriented at Christmas now (which is also fun!). 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Naomi, I am trying to savor these days with my five year-old. Time is going by so fast! I’m glad to hear that your eleven year old still reads a few picture books, that makes me feel better! I hope we can enjoy books together for many more years to come. I hope your Christmas was a very good one!

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  9. This is the first time I find myself really wanting to read The Nest: thanks! (And here I was just quieting noting that it appeared on the top of the list of top library loans for this year in the city, unmoved.) i just finished the third March book over the holidays and I think it’s as powerful as the first two combined. At least it’s twice as long in any case! Hope you’ve got lots of new faves awaiting you in 2017!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, so glad to have tempted you into maybe getting The Nest. If you like that sort of novel in general (family secrets/dynamics/rich people problems) it’s an outstanding example, in my view. I’m so glad to hear that the third vol of March is good – I expected it to be and hope to read it soon!

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