Favorite books of the year lists are the ultimate in subjectivity. Yes, there is a thing that is called a good book. But I tend to think that the book that lots of people like is worth picking over one that is technically excellent, but many did not actually like (The Magician trilogy is a good example.) And more variable than anything, books often speak (or not) to the place we are in life. One person’s amazing books isn’t amazing to the next person because they have experienced the world (or at least that particular time) differently.
So my list of books here are just the ones that at the end of the year, on the day I wrote out this list, the ones that I picked. (My list of non-fiction books will be tomorrow.) Also if you missed it, Bookwi.se Contributor Emily Flury posted her list of her favorite books and their companion movies yesterday.
The links below are to the full reviews
Lila: A Novel by Marilynne Robinson
I was really reluctant to read the companion book Gilead. It took me forever to actually pick it up. But when I did, I liked it. Gilead as an old preacher telling his life story to a young son that will never know him because was touching. But I thought it was a little slow and plodding.
Lila, telling the story from a different person’s perspective, was anything but plodding. It was a the best fictional story of grace that I have read. It was a bit old fashioned and definitely a literary book. But it was excellently written and well worth reading. I am planning on starting a second reading of it this week.
The Martian by Andy Weir
I have not been kept on the edge of my seat listening to an audiobook for a while. Although I am not completely sure why I was so entranced. It was well written, with characters I liked. I wanted to figure out how the astronaut was going to survive life on Mars, but I never really seriously thought he wasn’t going to survive. It wasn’t the ending that was in question, it was the process. As there was all kinds of great science and MacGuyver ingenuity going on.
A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L’Engle
There have been a few years when most of my favorite fiction books have been young adult. This year I read a lot less young adult books than in recent years and much of what I did read, I wasn’t really impressed with. But A Ring of Endless Light was proof to me that serious literary young adult fiction is not only possible, but important. One of the reasons I have been such a fan of John Green is that I just did not read really good young adult fiction that took the reader seriously when I was a teen. But A Ring of Endless Light is proof that high quality young adult fiction existed (whether I would have been prepared to read it as a teen or not.)
Over the past couple years, I have been enjoying more mystery books. It was not a genre that I really liked much prior to the last few years. Being introduced to Dorothy Sayers, J Mark Bertrand, and Martin Walker have changed my view of the potential of mysteries. The Bruno series especially is enjoyable, but it is more about the characters and the setting than the mystery. Bruno is the chief of police (and only police officer) of a small french village. He sees his job as more about preventing crime and mediating between people than arresting people. Because of this he cares about the people and the people care about him, Walker creates a story that I want to read. Also I love all of the descriptions of French culture, food and wine. Every book in the series made me want to go visit France.
Both Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter and Attachments by Rainbow Rowell for different reasons were close to making the list but not quite there. Some years I am blown away by fiction. This year, while I really liked the above books, many of the fiction I read this year, just didn’t move me. Both Beautiful Ruins and Attachments were books that I raced through because I really enjoyed them. And I would recommend them both, but I wasn’t completely happy with either of the endings and while I am fond of both and have recommended them both to a number of people, they just didn’t make a favorite’s list.