Best reads of 2016 – Part I

The new year has begun and with it a new Goodreads challenge has started. Last year, my initial goal had been to read 30 books. I quickly realized that I had underestimated my reading habit. I read a whopping 63 books in 2016! Obviously, I loved some and hated some. This is a complied list of my best 2016 reads. Note: They are my best reads, and may not necessarily be yours. But if you enjoy reading, I highly recommend these books!

Here goes, in no particular order.

  1. The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell Processed with VSCO with 7 preset

Goodreads summary: Think you know Charlotte, Emily & Anne? Think again. Samantha Whipple is the last remaining descendent of the illustrious Brontë family, of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre fame. After losing her father, a brilliant author in his own right, it is up to Samantha to piece together the mysterious family inheritance lurking somewhere in her past – yet the only clues she has at her disposal are the Brontë’s own novels. With the aid of her handsome but inscrutable Oxford tutor, Samantha must repurpose the tools of literature to unearth an untold family legacy, and in the process, finds herself face to face with what may be literature’s greatest secret.

At a time when I was feeling the onset of a reading slump, I picked up this book from my Kindle library and immediately fell in love! It was a fun, light read with a bit of mystery to it, which was totally what I needed!

  1. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent Processed with VSCO with j3 preset

Goodreads summary: Northern Iceland, 1829. A woman condemned to death for murdering her lover. A family forced to take her in. A priest tasked with absolving her. But all is not as it seems, and time is running out: winter is coming, and with it the execution date. Only she can know the truth. This is Agnes’s story.

Burial Rites is based on a true story, and such books always intrigue me. Hannah Kent has written a beautiful portrayal of Agnes Magnúsdóttir that tugs on your heartstrings. It will break your heart and leave you in pieces. You have been warned.

  1. The Night Circus by Erin MorgensternProcessed with VSCO with tk preset

Goodreads summary: The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night. But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love – a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands. True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

This book was one of the best reads of 2016 as well as EVER! I have rarely been so sucked into the story that I have no idea of what is happening around me. The writing is astounding. The characterization is supreme. And the circus will simply leave you breathless. IT IS AN ABSOLUTE MUST READ! I am now a Rêveur for life.

  1. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahirimg_2511

Goodreads summary: Set in a terrifyingly brutal Rome-like world, An Ember in the Ashes is an epic fantasy debut about an orphan fighting for her family and a soldier fighting for his freedom. It’s a story that’s literally burning to be told. LAIA is a Scholar living under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars who claim that they will help to save her brother from execution. ELIAS is the academy’s finest soldier– and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias is considering deserting the military, but before he can, he’s ordered to participate in a ruthless contest to choose the next Martial emperor. When Laia and Elias’s paths cross at the academy, they find that their destinies are more intertwined than either could have imagined and that their choices will change the future of the empire itself. Vow your blood and body to the empire. Keep your heart for yourself.

I don’t have much experience with dystopian or fantasy. The only other reads I can remember from these genres are Hunger Games and Harry Potter. So when I picked up this book, I didn’t know what to expect. I actually only bought it because of all the hype it created on Bookstagram (the readers community on Instagram). I was pleasantly surprised. I loved the writing and the world building in this book (it is a 4 part series). I loved how I was torn between the characters and did not know how things were going to turn out. I can’t wait to read the next part! If you love this genre or want to try a different book, I would highly recommend this one (although, I must warn you, only the 1st two parts of the series have been released so far.).

  1. Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeldimg_2067

Goodreads summary: This version of the Bennet family—and Mr. Darcy—is one that you have and haven’t met before: Liz is a magazine writer in her late thirties who, like her yoga instructor older sister, Jane, lives in New York City. When their father has a health scare, they return to their childhood home in Cincinnati to help—and discover that the sprawling Tudor they grew up in is crumbling and the family is in disarray. Youngest sisters Kitty and Lydia are too busy with their CrossFit workouts and Paleo diets to get jobs. Mary, the middle sister, is earning her third online master’s degree and barely leaves her room, except for those mysterious Tuesday-night outings she won’t discuss. And Mrs. Bennet has one thing on her mind: how to marry off her daughters, especially as Jane’s fortieth birthday fast approaches. Enter Chip Bingley, a handsome new-in-town doctor who recently appeared on the juggernaut reality TV dating show Eligible. At a Fourth of July barbecue, Chip takes an immediate interest in Jane, but Chip’s friend neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy reveals himself to Liz to be much less charming. . . . And yet, first impressions can be deceiving.

Now how can one go wrong with Pride & Prejudice?! I have to be honest though; I was really worried about this book being an absolute let down, because the original is just so damned good! But, I loved every minute I spent with this modern Bennet family. If you want a wonderful, fun read, this is your book!

  1. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Adichie img_2056

Goodreads summary: Fifteen-year-old Kambili’s world is circumscribed by the high walls and frangipani trees of her family compound. Her wealthy Catholic father, under whose shadow Kambili lives, while generous and politically active in the community, is repressive and fanatically religious at home. When Nigeria begins to fall apart under a military coup, Kambili’s father sends her and her brother away to stay with their aunt, a University professor, whose house is noisy and full of laughter. There, Kambili and her brother discover a life and love beyond the confines of their father’s authority. The visit will lift the silence from their world and, in time, give rise to devotion and defiance that reveal themselves in profound and unexpected ways. This is a book about the promise of freedom; about the blurred lines between childhood and adulthood; between love and hatred, between the old gods and the new.

I read this book with two of my friends, post which we had a lengthy discussion about it. That is what I love about Chimamanda Adichie’s writing. It starts a conversation. It touches upon issues that need to be spoken about, worked on and dealt with. It is not enough to just keep quiet and move on. It is a thought provoking read that will stay with you for a long time to come.

  1. Lullabies by Lang LeavProcessed with VSCO with f1 preset

Goodreads summary: A sequel to the hugely popular, best-selling Love & Misadventure, Lullabies continues to explore the intricacies of love and loss. Set to a musical theme, love’s poetic journey in this new, original collection begins with a Duet and travels through Interlude and Finale with an Encore popular piece from the best-selling Love & Misadventure. Lang Leav’s evocative poetry speaks to the soul of anyone who is on this journey.

This year was the year I explored poetry. I had always thought that I am ‘too dumb’ to understand poetry. And then a close friend made me realize that poetry is meant to be felt not understood. So I decided to explore it. Lullabies was the first book I read and I couldn’t have asked for a better entry into this world. Lang Leav is simply exceptional. There are no words that I can write that explain what her poetry can do. Even if you do not read poetry, you should really read her work.

  1. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert Processed with VSCO with 7 preset

Goodreads summary: Readers of all ages and walks of life have drawn inspiration and empowerment from Elizabeth Gilbert’s books for years. Now this beloved author digs deep into her own generative process to share her wisdom and unique perspective about creativity. With profound empathy and radiant generosity, she offers potent insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration. She asks us to embrace our curiosity and let go of needless suffering. She shows us how to tackle what we most love, and how to face down what we most fear. She discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives. Balancing between soulful spirituality and cheerful pragmatism, Gilbert encourages us to uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us. Whether we are looking to write a book, make art, find new ways to address challenges in our work, embark on a dream long deferred, or simply infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion, Big Magic cracks open a world of wonder and joy.

 I read Big Magic as part of a book club that I am part of. A friend had also recommended it to me. I am not a self – help kind of reader. I am very very skeptical about self – help books. But 2016, was the start of my journey to becoming healthier, both physically and mentally (although I did not know it at the beginning of 2016!). In 2016, I focused solely on my mental health. So this book went quite well with the theme I had going on! The book DOES NOT read like a self – help book. I enjoyed myself thoroughly and found myself underlining most of the passages in the book! If you are feeling creatively stuck, I would highly recommend this one. I still go back to the passages in my mind, whenever I start feeling immobilized.

  1. Jane Steele by Lyndsay FayeProcessed with VSCO with f2 preset

Goodreads summary: Reader, I murdered him. A Gothic retelling of Jane Eyre. Like the heroine of the novel she adores, Jane Steele suffers cruelly at the hands of her aunt and schoolmaster. And like Jane Eyre, they call her wicked – but in her case, she fears the accusation is true. When she flees, she leaves behind the corpses of her tormentors. A fugitive navigating London’s underbelly, Jane rights wrongs on behalf of the have-nots whilst avoiding the noose. Until an advertisement catches her eye. Her aunt has died and the new master at Highgate House, Mr Thornfield, seeks a governess. Anxious to know if she is Highgate’s true heir, Jane takes the position and is soon caught up in the household’s strange spell. When she falls in love with the mysterious Charles Thornfield, she faces a terrible dilemma: can she possess him – body, soul and secrets – and what if he discovers her murderous past?

Now who here has not read and loved Jane Eyre? The Brontë magic can be seen sprinkled all across the history of literature. I read Jane Eyre as a teenager and I remember enjoying it very much. I was intrigued by this retelling that I came across on Bookstagram. I ended buddy reading it with a bookstagram friend and fell in love with Jane Steele from the very first word! When you’re in need of some Goth, pick this one up and I promise you, you wont regret it.

  1. Unbearable Lightness: A story of loss and gain by Portia de Rossi

    Processed with VSCO with 10 preset
    Processed with VSCO with 10 preset

Goodreads summary: Portia de Rossi weighed only 82 pounds when she collapsed on the set of the Hollywood film in which she was playing her first leading role. This should have been the culmination of all her years of hard work—first as a child model in Australia, then as a cast member of one of the hottest shows on American television. On the outside she was thin and blond, glamorous and successful. On the inside, she was literally dying. In this searing, unflinchingly honest book, Portia de Rossi captures the complex emotional truth of what it is like when food, weight, and body image take priority over every other human impulse or action. She recounts the elaborate rituals around eating that came to dominate hours of every day, from keeping her daily calorie intake below 300 to eating precisely measured amounts of food out of specific bowls and only with certain utensils. When this wasn’t enough, she resorted to purging and compulsive physical exercise, driving her body and spirit to the breaking point. Even as she rose to fame as a cast member of the hit television shows Ally McBeal and Arrested Development, Portia alternately starved herself and binged, all the while terrified that the truth of her sexuality would be exposed in the tabloids. She reveals the heartache and fear that accompany a life lived in the closet, a sense of isolation that was only magnified by her unrelenting desire to be ever thinner. With the storytelling skills of a great novelist and the eye for detail of a poet, Portia makes transparent as never before the behaviors and emotions of someone living with an eating disorder. From her lowest point, Portia began the painful climb back to a life of health and honesty, falling in love with and eventually marrying Ellen DeGeneres, and emerging as an outspoken and articulate advocate for gay rights and women’s health issues.

This book was an eye opener on many levels. I did not know who Portia de Rossi was until I read this book and googled her. Just reading about her battle and her extraordinary journey was humbling. Her story has been written with such honesty and simplicity that it may just make you stand up and take notice of your health, your body and your mind. And for this reason, you should pick this one up.

These are Part I of my Best Reads in 2016. In my next post, I will include the other 10 books that I think you absolutely must read!



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