My Top 5 Reads of 2016

Ah, books. Who doesn't love books? I read them. I write them. I obsess over them and analyze them and ignore real-life things in favor of them. Nothing like a good book to enjoy over breakfast or to end your day with.

I've been a lifelong reader, but it wasn't until a few years ago, when I started writing my first book, that I began to read them critically and figure out what worked or didn't work, or what I liked and didn't like. Naturally, this has helped me immensely with my own writing, but sometimes it sucks the joy out of reading when you're studying the book instead of just immersing yourself in it. That said, I've become a better reader because of it, and when I find a book I love, I really, really love it, because I can appreciate not just the characters or the plot, but the craftsmanship that went into it.

I read a lot of books last year, some memorable, some not. Here are the five best books, fiction and non-fiction, I read in 2016.

5. The Erin Solomon mysteries, by Jen Blood

click here for my full review

I picked up this series on Amazon over the summer and read straight through all five at top speed. The books can all stand alone, but also have a larger story arc running through them. Diggs was definitely the breakout character of the series for me, and I'm crossing my fingers we'll still see more of him. If you're a fan of mysteries and looking for a series to get lost in, this is a good choice.

4. 11/22/63, by Stephen King

This is a good book. A big book, some might even say huge, but that's just how big the story is, and I appreciate that King didn't cut corners for the sake of word count. Although the story is fiction and revolves around the ability to time travel, the amount of research that must have gone into this book is staggering. As a millennial (and a Canadian one at that) the JFK assassination is just history to me, but it's a pivotal and fascinating moment that shaped the future not just for America, but for the world. The story is a look at what could have been, as told with the usual Stephen King flair, but it's also a hard look at something many people still consider a mystery. And apparently now it's a miniseries. I guess I know what I'm watching in 2017.

3. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

This one was a more recent read for me, and it came at a good time. I read this book right around the time I was self-publishing Along Came December and was feeling a little overwhelmed and uncertain as I looked ahead to completing Book #2. As a writer, especially a fledgling writer and a self-published one, it's easy to feel like you're not doing things properly, like everyone else has found some secret magical formula that allows them to churn out masterpieces overnight. This book is an encouraging reminder that it's okay to stare at your computer screen for two hours and only write 150 words, because that's just part of the process. I strongly recommend this book to anyone struggling on their writer's journey, or to anyone who just wants to know how books get written.

2. The Lean Startup, by Eric Ries

This is a book I'll be returning to time and time again as I progress not only as an indie author, but explore some of the seemingly infinite product and service ideas currently simmering on the back burner. I have exactly zero background in business, and much of this book went over my head on first read, but I think (and the ratings would agree) that it's an incredible resource for anyone looking to work for themselves, regardless of whether you're writing or starting a tech company or expanding your Etsy shop. It's thorough, understandable, and will not only help you figure out how to start, but how to chart your course to get to where you're going. It's a great read and I think anyone who's got even a smidgen of entrepreneurship in their blood would find it valuable.

1. All Is Not Forgotten, by Wendy Walker

click here for my full review

Of all the books I read in 2016, this is the one that stands out the most, and it's because it helped flesh out a story idea I've got in the pipe for down the road (to mix a metaphor). The way this story is told, from everything to the POV choice to the narrator's voice to how flashbacks were handled, was just incredibly masterful. And the narrator is such a manipulative psychotic bastard that I loved him immediately. I wasn't totally satisfied with how the book ended, but that came from my expectations/desires, not from the book failing to deliver. But it does mean that someday I can tell that story. I don't think I'll be able to write it in 10 weeks, though, as Wendy Walker did with this book. But when it comes, it'll be good.