Because I'm grumpy and opinionated, they will be odd choices. Because I'm puckish and contrary, I insist on doing my list at the very end of the year, and counting things I read that year, not some arbitrary publishing calendar.
(I've been doing this since this blog started; see previous entries for the years 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, and 2005.)
My rules have gotten codified in relatively simple terms these last couple of years, so here they are again:
- My list is finalized on the last day of the year, so it includes all my reading for the year.
- This is a list of "favorites," not "bests."
- I try to favor recent/current books -- but this rule gets bent more and more every year.
- My reading includes many genres and formats, and the list mixes that all together.
- I pick a favorite for each month, to make a top twelve.
- And each month gets a narrative including other notable books I read then.
The Field:I read only 157 books in 2016, down even from 2015's 175 and substantially from 2014's 383. But 2014 was a Book-A-Day year, and 2016 was back in line with the three years before that (which averaged a bit over 150).
If I didn't read a book, it can't be one of my favorites for the year. (Simple, right?)
I always wish I read more -- even in the years when I got through five or six novels a week, I complained that there were as many other books that I wanted to read but didn't get to. I don't know if it's "worse" now, but there's always more books to read, no matter how many I do read. (This is a good thing.)
So the below is what I read in 2016 that I want to celebrate and call out and point at, for various reasons. It's not as complete as I wish it was -- once again, man's reach exceeds his grasp.
Then there was Roald Dahl's first volume of autobiography, Boy: Tales of Childhood -- it was quick and a bit glib, but a great view into the inner life of a man who wrote so many books for young readers that are sneakier and smarter than they appear.
2016's Top Twelve
- Ray Davies, X-Ray
- Manuele Fior, 5,000 km per second
- Neil Gaiman and J.H. Williams III, The Sandman: Overture
- Austin Grossman, Crooked
- Tom Hart, Rosalie Lightning
- Simon Parkin, Death by Video Game
- Tim Powers, Salvage and Demolition
- James Salter, A Sport and a Pastime
- Lemony Snicket, "Why Is This Night Different From All Other Nights?"
- Charles Stross, The Annihilation Score
- Paul Theroux, Deep South
- Richard Thompson, The Complete Cul de Sac
Of course, the problem isn't finding books worth reading: the world is stuffed with them. The problem is picking them, to fit a particular moment or mood, and in finding the time. So my New Year's wish for both me and the rest of you is for excellent luck in your reading life in 2017. May the right book leap to hand whenever needed.