I read so many brilliant books in 2016, and I’m pleased to say that most of them were by women. I really got into non-fiction and feminist texts this year which really confirmed for me what I believe in and what I stand for.
BASICALLY, WOMEN FOREVER.
I used to love gritty crime thrillers and drama, mostly written by men, and there isn’t a male-authored crime novel on this list ANYWHERE. That’s not to say I don’t read books by men anymore, because I totally do, but I’ve definitely branched out a little, and I think that can only be a good thing.
Here are nine of the best books I read in 2016, along with three of the worst. Feel free to let me know what your favourite (or not so favourite) books you read this year were in the comments at the bottom!
The Best Books I Read in 2016
1. Everyday Sexism | Laura Bates
I read this book for the first time recently and to be honest I’ve no idea why I didn’t buy it before. It’s fantastic. I mean, it kind of made my blood boil, but it also made me even more determined to continuing doing what I can to spread the word about how important gender equality is and I’d encourage any woman, young or old, to read this very powerful, and at times very poignant, book.
2. Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman | Lindy West
If you’ve ever been told that you’re too much, too loud, too ‘you’, then you’ll LOVE Shrill. Addressing issues like fat-shaming, trolling, and the obstacles she has had to overcome in a society that doesn’t believe women (especially fat women and feminists) can be funny, Lindy West’s book is frank, funny, and provocative, and one of the best books I read in 2016.
3. Fates and Furies | Lauren Groff
Every relationship has two perspectives and every story has two sides. And every marriage? Well, turns out that sometimes it’s the secrets that hold everything together, not the truth. Fates and Furies is beautifully written, almost poetic, and an absolute joy to read. If you’re looking for a story to really lose yourself in, I’d definitely recommend this book.
4. Girls Will Be Girls | Emer O’Toole
Sometimes I think we forget just how much gender stereotypes are still embedded into society. It’s in the roles we play, how we dress, what we do to our bodies, and what we say. Emer O’Toole investigates this in a book that is intelligent, witty, and thought-provoking. I loved every minute of reading it.
5. Becoming | Laura Jane Williams
If you’ve ever felt a little bit lost, this is the book for you. Laura’s memoir is heart-wrenching and relatable and had me in tears as I remembered that awful, hollow feeling you experience when you get your heart broken and have to suddenly rebuild yourself from the ground up. It’s not all doom and gloom though; Becoming is funny and touching, and you’ll no doubt see yourself in Laura’s words.
6. Sweetbitter | Stephanie Danler
This coming-of-age novel follows a twenty-something girl as she moves to New York City and takes a job in one of Manhattan’s most exclusive restaurants. What I loved about it most was how Stephanie Danler manages to perfectly capture lust, loss, and what it’s like to start again in a brand new city whilst also navigating the exhilarating world of working in a restaurant.
7. Notes From A Small Island | Bill Bryson
It’s 1995 and before he leaves his home in North Yorkshire to move back to the States with his family, Bill Bryson takes one more trip around Britain and produces Notes From a Small Island, a book that had me laughing out loud as I read it in bed and full of pride as Bill describes the wonderful oddities that make living in Britain so unique.
8. Paying Guests | Sarah Waters
Set in 1920s London, Paying Guests sees a widow and her spinster daughter take in lodgers; a young couple who change the lives of both women in ways they could never have expected. Sarah Waters is never afraid to be explicit, and that’s kind of what I love about her writing. It’s bold and yet there are so many subtleties in her work as well. So many things that don’t need to be said because her characters feel so real.
Sarah Waters is my favourite historical novelist, and if you’ve never read any of her books before Paying Guests (or The Night Watch, I love The Night Watch!) is a great starting point.
9. Bird By Bird | Anne Lamott
Bird By Bird was recommended to me by my wonderful friend Fiona and is packed full of writing advice delivered in a funny, relatable way. No boring lists of tips in this book. Brilliant for any aspiring writer.
The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo | Amy Schumer
I really wanted to like Amy Schumer’s book, but to be honest I thought there were way too many asides which distracted from the narrative and made the book feel jumpy and disorganised. It didn’t read well. I thought I would relate to Amy, but in reality it just felt as though she was shouting at me.
The Other Son | Nick Alexander
I was disappointed with this book. I don’t know if it was Nick Alexander’s intention to make most of the characters unlikable but that’s what it felt like, to me. I thought Natalya was brilliant, although I think the reader is supposed to hate her: she seemed to me to be the only one who had a pair of balls.
The Primrose Path | Rebecca Griffiths
I bought this book in a rush at a train station when I realised I hadn’t brought anything to read so, I mean, I guess panic-buying books just isn’t my forte. To be fair, had I been observant enough to spot the massive “RECOMMENDED BY THE DAILY MAIL” on the front cover I almost certainly wouldn’t have bought it at all.
The plot could actually have been really great. There’s crime, a bit of stalking, a bit of running away from problems and moving to the countryside. There’s an evil mum, an abusive boyfriend, a past that no-one, least of all the main character, wants to talk about.
But, honestly, nothing really seemed to happen for absolutely ages. And when it did it felt like we were only scratching the surface. That there had been so much preamble to the action that there wasn’t room to go into any kind of detail.
What were your favourite (and maybe not-so-favourite) books you read in 2016?