The 5 best books I read in 2016

I made a Goodreads pledge to read 65 books this year, as I managed to read upwards of 50 last year. That didn’t happen, for various reasons, but I still managed to find time to fall in love with a few good’uns. Not all of these were published this year, but these were the ones that resonated with me the most.

5. The Girls, Emma Cline

As someone who’s been eerily obsessed with Charles Manson and his cult following for several years, the moment I read the description for this novel, I knew I would love it. My main gripe with this novel was that it followed the Manson storyline almost too closely, in the sense that it felt a little unoriginal, but the fact that it was from the viewpoint of the girls who followed the charismatic cult leader gave it new life. I’ve found myself thinking of this book often, and fondly.

4. The Sun is Also A Star, Nicola Yoon

I read this late in the year, just two weeks ago, but it mirrors a thought I’ve been having frequently this year: The number of things that have to go exactly right for something to happen — from something as big as the universe’s formation to as small as getting the good parking spot at work. I’ve seen a pattern in my adult life as I begin to read more YA novels that tackle big topics such as this that leave my head spinning. I’ve been thinking about the line “Everything looks like chaos up close” for nearly two weeks now, and I still can’t shake it.

3. Home is Burning, Dan Marshall

This book positively gutted me. I haven’t wept this openly while reading a book in recent memory, and unfortunately for those around me, I read this one on a plane. It was crude and honest in a way that no book about loss and grief has ever truly represented in a way I could identify with. Many griped about Dan Marshall’s immature response to both of his parents being diagnosed with chronic illnesses, but to me it perfectly depicted life’s messiness. Nobody’s response to grief is ever perfect. There’s no right or wrong way to deal with your life being flipped upside down. This book reminded me of that.

2. Fates and Furies, Lauren Groff

I loved the sheer depth of this story, and the layers of stories beneath it. A beautiful reminder that life is rarely simple, and the people who surround us are complex and imperfect and messy.

1. Milk and Honey, Rupi Kaur

Of all the books I purchased this year, this is the one I’ve found myself returning to repeatedly, dog-earing pages and marking with Post-It notes. I went through the most traumatic breakup of my life this year, and I sat wallowing in grief at my grandparents’ New England home this spring when I first opened this book. The words on every page are different, but I kept seeing one message leap out at me: You are not alone.

P.S. This blog was originally posted on Medium.