2016 roundup: favorite reads

Since the New Year is only a couple days away, I have likely finished all the books I will be able to read in 2016—and let me tell you, I read a LOT more in 2016 than I did in 2015. It was really tough for me to read regularly for the first two years I was out of school. I didn't have as much time or energy, I was trying to figure out who I was and what I wanted to do, and I let myself be duped into thinking the books I truly loved to read—YA fiction and fantasy—would make me seem silly.

Two things. 1) YA books are not silly and 2) Who the f*** cares if other people think I'm silly for reading YA?

*end "pro-YA for adult readers" soapbox here*

That being said, I read some truly spectacular books in 2016 that spanned many genres. Once I wholeheartedly recommitted myself to reading every day in August, I managed to read 17 books in the last four months! However, five in particular stuck out:

1. The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater

I already declared on my Instagram that The Raven Cycle was my favorite series of 2016. I haven't even read The Raven King yet and I still hold true to this (even though Throne of Glass got REALLY close to making me overturn this statement). The characters that Stiefvater writes are all incredibly hilarious in their own ways, but what really gets me is how much she made me like them. If an author can get me to sympathize with and root for a bunch of teenage prep school boys, I am sold on their talent. These books are also very quotable and extremely self-referential, which is actually pretty hard to do well. She's also not afraid to cause harm and kill off important and loved characters to build a great story, which sometimes can be scarce in YA books (except for Sarah J. Maas, who is essentially the George R. R. Martin of the YA world). 

Magic runs throughout these books, popping up in subtle ways for those who look for it in rural Virginia. It brings a sense of magic to the real world, like going on a hunt for the ley lines is actually a journey I could go on and follow in Gansey's footsteps. It seamlessly blends medievalism with magic and modern humor, and I would be hard pressed to find many faults with these books other than I need more of them.

2. Buffering by Hannah Hart

I have loved My Drunk Kitchen and Hannah Hart for many years, and I was unreasonably excited when she started talking up the release of her memoir. She had hinted about her extremely fraught past but never focused on it, and it just always seemed that there was more to Hannah than meets the eye. If you watch her videos talking about the release of the book, you can see genuine nervousness about putting so much deeply personal information out into the world.

Y'all, I am so glad she did. This memoir is further proof to me that memoirs written by young people are immensely valuable and should continue to find a place on our bookshelves. It made me laugh, it made me tear up, it made me want to go out and punch a couple people on her behalf, and it also showed me a side of Hannah that is deeply flawed and not all that funny. Which of course only made me love her more.

3. Witches in America by Alex Mar

This book escapes genre definition: it's like a memoir meets historical non-fiction meets documentary? The author, Alex Mar, wrote it in conjunction with a documentary she produced called American Mystic, which is why I think it reads like a film.

This book was incredibly interesting. It felt like I was reading On the Road, except written for women who are interested in paganism. Or women who aren't interested in paganism but have ever felt like they didn't belong anywhere. I savored this book for a couple weeks, and would take breaks to go look up some of the practices or rituals that were mentioned to get a better understanding of what it would have been like to be there. It's definitely a book about courage, or lack thereof, and finding the self-worth and inner peace to shrug off your critics and live authentically. I'm a terribly anxious and doubtful person who tends to focus a lot of energy picking apart and doubting myself, so reading about the tradition of witchcraft in America through the lens of someone who is even more doubtful and anxious than me was reassuring. It reminds you that it's okay to want to believe, and just not quite be there yet on a daily basis.

4. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

This book is Treasure Planet meets Kill Bill meets Peter Pan, and Kaz Brekker is the love child of Sherlock Holmes and James Moriarty. The world building is beautiful and has incredible scope, pulling some elements from Tolkien's style. It's a really smart book, which I think can be overlooked because of the high-speed action and adventure elements. The plot lines and characters address sexual assault and trauma, xenophobia, and poverty in ways that have inspired countless think-pieces and articles, and will continue to grow in importance under the new administration. The thrill of the chase hits the ground running from the first page and accelerates throughout the book: my heart was literally racing as I read some of the chapters. Even though it's a large book, the speed of the plot pulled me through it in just a few days.

I am foaming at the mouth to get my hands on Crooked Kingdom...hurry up, library!

5. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

I was pretty hesitant to read Throne of Glass because I didn't really care for A Court of Thorns and Roses. However, I saw a lot of people weighing in on ACOTAR not being representative of Maas's best work, and ToG seemed to have everything I like in a book: sass, magic, disobeying authority, and political upheaval. Mmmmm, a recipe for unrest and civil war: tasty. I mentioned that Maas is the Martin of the YA genre, and, yeah, I lost track of the murders in this series about 1/3 of the way into Throne of Glass. But that's what you get when you write a series about professional killers and warriors, right?

Celaena Sardothien has become one of my all-time favorite protagonists. She's extremely imperfect and often slips up, but her insane assassin skills usually pull her through. Her ego is off the charts, which always endears me to a character. Plus, she's a weird mix of unfiltered and mysterious; it seems like she lays all of her thoughts out for the reader, but by the end of Crown of Midnight we find out she's been hiding a SUPER BIG IMPORTANT SECRET from the reader for two whole books!!!

Sarah J. Maas, you sneaky sneak.

Also, Celaena interacts with a menagerie of very shippable characters, if that's your thing. More to come in the following books, I am sure!

I can't wait to finish the series I started and pick up some new titles in 2017! What were your favorite reads of 2016?

Curious about what didn't make the list? Here's everything else I read in 2016!

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