Several years ago, a close friend of mine talked about Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves and how she wanted to read it. Since this friend is one of the people whose taste in books I trust most, I decided that, if she was so enthused by the prospect of reading House of Leaves, it might be a good idea to give it a try as well.
That proved to be a very good decision indeed, as House of Leaves has stuck with me as one of the most terrifying horror stories I’ve ever read. It also reintroduced me to the horror genre (after many years without, having already outgrown the Goosebumps books by the time I was fourteen) by showing me that jump scares might not be my thing, but creeping psychological horror very definitely is. While admittedly Danielewski’s style can take some time to get used to, my previous experience reading the works of Jorge Luis Borges prepared me quite well for reading and appreciating Danielewski’s novel. (I do, however, rather agree with some of Danielewski’s critics, who claim that there are times when his style sometimes feels more like the author patting himself on the back for being so clever, instead of actually improving the narrative.)
When it comes to series, especially dense, long-running fantasy series, I am always worried that the next book will not live up to the ones that came before it. I call it “middle book syndrome”, from the notion that the middle (i.e. second) book in a trilogy is generally not as good as the first or the third. The best writers try to avoid this, of course, but they do sometimes fall victim to it – my most recent experience was with The Obelisk Gate, the second book in N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth Trilogy.
However, when a writer gets the pace just right, it is possible to avoid this issue in the second or even succeeding books (though I’ve yet to read a series wherein this does not happen at all). There have been more than a few authors who’ve managed to do this (including Jemisin: her book The Broken Kingdoms is the second in her Inheritance Trilogy and is my personal favourite in the entire series), and it always makes me happy when I encounter an author who can sustain the strength of their series into the second book, and hopefully into the succeeding books of their series.
2016 was a good year for reading, if my stats are anything to go by. That means making this list was a lot harder than I thought – which is why it’s coming so late in the year, instead of as early as possible.
Nevertheless, here are my top ten favourite books of 2016, in no particular order because picking these ten was hard enough as it was without having to include ranking them in the bargain.
As happens every year, there is always a set of books that, for various reasons both valid and not-so-valid, I have chosen not to review at length. However, some of those books can be rather good – or rather bad, as the case may be – and it would not be right not to at least say something about them.
And so, in the interest of completeness, here are the books that fell through the cracks: honest reviews and all.
2016 has come to an end, and so has another year of reading. Last year I started recording my reading in an Excel sheet with the intent of crunching the data at the end of the year and then converting that data into visual representations of what a year of my reading looks like, especially when compared over the course of a number of years. However, I started the 2015 chart somewhat late in the year, so my 2016 results will be the baseline for all subsequent reading data comparisons.
Below is a set of pie charts representing one year’s worth of my own reading.