My Favorite Books of 2016

Sorry that I haven’t blogged in awhile but since it’s the tail end of 2016, I thought at least I should compile my list of my favorite books that I read in 2016.

First of all, I read 21 books this year, one more than my Goodreads goal of 20 books. It wasn’t easy because I’m not a fast reader. I’m not good at reading more than one book at a time, otherwise I will read one book and ignore the other. The biggest book I read this year was Underworld by Don De Lillo. It’s over 800 pages and the first 60 were about baseball. I actually took a week off from reading it because I needed a break from it. I think it took 2 months to read. I usually don’t do that.

Anyway on with the list:

1) The Awakening by Kate Chopin. I don’t know why it took me so long to get to reading this book. It’s a beautifully written book that takes place after the Civil War. A young mother of 2 small boys realizes that she is not happy in her marriage and winds up obsessing over a young man. It’s a small book that packs a strong punch.

2) The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. This brilliant book never saw the light of day until the 60’s, long after the author died. It’s a masterpiece that combines witches, a talking cat and Satan himself but at the center of this crazy book is a retelling of the Pontius Pilate story. It’s funny and moving at the same time. Supposedly, the book inspired the Rolling Stones song “Sympathy for the Devil”.

3) A Separate Peace by John Knowles. I wasn’t sure if I had read this in high school. I graduated in 1978, so my memory about certain books I read at that time were very fuzzy. I was shocked how fast I got into this novel. It’s about friendship and rivalry at a prep school in New England right before WW2 starts. I also loved the gay overtones in the book. I think today it would be marketed as a YA book, but I think even adults can relate to it.

4) Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis. Sticking with academica, this was the funniest book I read this year. The book takes in England during the 50’s at a small university. Jim is a first year History professor and his career flames out in spectacular fashion. The main reason for this is that he tries to woo the girlfriend of the son of the head of the History department. I love a good comic novel and this one is worth checking out.

5) The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton. This is a lesser known NYC novel by Wharton but no less enjoyable than House of Mirth or Age of Innocence. Undine Spraggs is an ambitious young woman who has traveled with her parents to Manhattan to marry into NY society. She marries a man who is well connected in society but is a poet and therefore doesn’t make lots of money. Never marry a poet! Undine is a fascinating ambitious selfish woman and the book is a great look at high society in NYC.

6) Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain. I loved the cleverness of this book. It’s a war novel that doesn’t take place in the war in Iraq. It takes place during a football game at Texas Stadium. Billy’ s unit is on a ” Victory Tour” for an act of heroism that wound up on YouTube. The book compares war and America’s favorite pastime, football. It’s also about true patriotism vs fake patriotism. There’s a lot going on and the book is well written.

7) Underworld by Don De Lillo. This mammoth book explores the fallout from the Cold War. It’s an epic read. I could have done without the 60-page opening, which talks about a World Series game where the Giants beat the Dodgers, but the book is so well written that you get sucked into it. I think White Noise is my favorite De Lillo book, but I enjoyed epic scale of Underworld.

8) Diary of a Mad Housewife by Sue Kaufman. I blogged about this book earlier, so I won’t go into great detail except to mention that even though the book is dated in parts, it’s still worth reading because it’s an early feminist novel.

9) Nine Stories by J. D. Salinger I don’t read enough short story collections that often. Salinger was a great writer and most of the stories work. My favorite stories were ” A Perfect Day for a Bananafish”, ” Uncle Wiggly in Connecticut ” and ” Teddy”.

10) It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis. I thought this was an appropriate novel about how Fascism can come to this country. It’s not a great novel but I appreciated it more as a document showing how America could become a Fascist country. Not his best book but still worth reading.

I have 3 honorable mentions: Dancer From the Dance by Andrew Holleran (an early queer classic, cult novel), Geek Love by Katherine Dunn and The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fford, a which is a fun literary mystery.

So there you have it. Have you read any of these books? What were your favorite books of 2016? Next blog post will deal with my reading goals for 2017. Happy reading.