Last New Year’s Eve, I was under (self-imposed) pressure to finish the book I was reading for my new book club. I set a goal of 52 books (one book per week) for 2015 on Goodreads and it was really satisfying to meet my goal, even if it was at the very last minute.
This year, I set a goal of 55 books. Knowing I really wanted to hit my goal before the end of the year, I kept checking the status of how I was doing on Goodreads all year long, and I’m at 66 books with just over a week to go! There are still so many books on my TBR pile, both in my apartment and on my Amazon wish list. If you’re interested in reading more, taking a reading challenge can help motivate you.
Here are some of the best books I read this past year.
This fall, I took a Children’s Book Publishing course at NYU. My classmates and I read books from picture books to middle grade to YA (I included some of the middle grade and YA in my challenge, but not all). My favorite book from the class was Smile by Raina Telgemeier, which is a graphic novel/memoir crossover. I loved it so much, I chose it as the subject of my final presentation for the class, which was a mock pitch targeted towards the sales and marketing teams of a publishing house. The voice was so relatable and honest. Plus, I had braces (and headgear!) for several years. If you enjoyed Smile, I also recommend Telgemeier’s second book, Sisters.
I shared a link to a story about Skylar Neese in this post in September 2014. I finally ordered and read the book to learn more about the story. The short version: two girls killed their “best friend” and covered it up for many months. Their tweets play an interesting role in uncovering the truth behind what happened. True crime fans will find this fascinating.
I’m fascinated by the way social media shapes our culture, and Nancy Jo Sales does a deep dive into how social sharing platforms fit into the lives of young people in this book. Young women in particular are constantly criticized in popular culture for their use of social media, and this book is a great way to hear from teens directly how they feel about using these platforms. I also gained some takeaways for my personal and professional social media use.
I was so excited to win an arc of this book on Goodreads that when it didn’t arrive, I tracked down a contact at the publishing house to make sure it was still coming (and it did!) I’ve previously read and loved Abbott’s Dare Me, The End of Everything and The Fever, and there is no one who captures the darkness of teenage girls in a more captivating way. This book, set in the world of competitive gymnastics, does not disappoint. It’s also a commentary on the sacrifices families make to for their children to succeed in a competitive sport.
Set in the early 1990s, Girls on Fire is the story of a passionate, dangerous friendship. Megan Abbott’s blurb of the book describes it as “A captivating, terrifying novel, and one you won’t forget,” and I second that! It was un-put-downable and resonated with me long after I finished it.
I’ve been a fan of Odd Mom Out creator and writer Jill Kargman’s essays and novels for the longest time. The Right Address (co-authored with Carrie Karasyov) came out in 2004 and my best friend gave it to me. This Christmas, I got her a copy of this book, which is a follow-up to her most recent essay collection, Sometimes I Feel Like a Nut. I love her humorous take on the notoriously stuffy culture of the Upper East Side.
In my book club, we’ve read a couple of books in the women-work-life space, including #Girlboss, Unfinished Business and the novel A Window Opens. I was interested in this book because the author connected with real women about their lives and schedules. This book is a positive voice in what often feels like a depressing conversation about busy-ness and overscheduled lives and shows by example that having a job and a life is possible.
This book got a lot of pre-publication buzz – and rightly so! I loved the writing. The Girls is a fictional account of the women connected to Charles Manson in the 1960s. It’s dark and engrossing, and there are a lot of universal truths about coming of age as a teenager that resonate, no matter the decade. If you enjoyed this book, you might also want to check out the author’s 2014 essay, “See Me,” in The Paris Review.
Natasha Friend is one of my absolute favorite middle grade/YA authors (I highly recommend Bounce, Lush and Perfect) because her characters’ voices are hilarious but also emotionally authentic. Thirteen-year-old Anna is dealing with a breakup with her best friend, her mother’s suicide attempt AND a new stepmom and baby sister. The book details how she finds herself in the face of all of these challenges.
I’m hoping to read a few more books by the end of the year! What were your favorite books of 2016?