Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Best of 2016 Books!

I know. I should have a better way to log the books I read. Goodreads. Or one of the data bases that Rick builds. Yes I should.

But I really don't want to! When it comes to reading, I'm low-tech all the way, from the printed page to the last, good feeling when I write down the name of the book and number of pages.

My goal for reading this year was 60 books. And I made it. Just -- finishing at 4:15 on Christmas Eve. And it came to a rollicking 18,325 pages!

I will admit some of the titles were "gimmes" -- you can't really compare Nancy Drew and an Ann Patchett novel! And it is pretty clear that my favorite genre is mystery, although I read more fiction than I expected.

I revisited my Nancy Drew days.

You'll also note that there are many books that have a WWI-WWII flavor to them, regardless of category, as well as a definite appreciation for books about or set in France or Britain!

So, time for a new year!

I need to find a better place for my stack -- taking the packing tape out of the middle would help. And the Scrabble dictionary doesn't count as a read.
 I'm starting with a deep Stephen Sondheim bio (very tiny type, great photos, but only goes through 1998). Then Susan Branch's "A Fine Romance."

This is coming up after "Stephen Sondheim" because I'm going to need a little art and England by then!

A complete list follows at the bottom for those of you really into titles. But here is a summary of favorites!

Picks of the Litter

My fave fiction books included work by Mitch Albom ("The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto," a great way to start the year!), Ann Patchett's "Bel Canto," Kristin Hannah's "The Nightingale" and possibly my favorite book of the year and one that I think is the most profoundly eloquent book about grief and hope, "Little Paris Book Shop" by Nina George. 

Two books stood out for me in the Memoir/Biography category -- Susan Branch's "Martha's Vineyard, Isle of Dreams" (and no, not just because we had just been there) and Alice Steinbach's "Educating Alice." 

"Martha's Vineyard, Isle of Dreams" and "Gardens of Awe and Folly" were two of the books I'd never give away -- but would buy for others (and have!)

Three specific mysteries drew me in (with one, the page-turner "I Let You Go" taking up right up to my deadline! I'm so glad it was a good book!) The others were Jacqueline Winspear's current Maisie Dobbs book, "Journey to Munich" and the surprisingly intriguing "The Couple Next Door" by Shari La Pena. I have to add that the only reason I didn't include any Louise Penny books (I just discovered her this year) or those by Christopher Fowler was that they are "all" the best. Each book in both these series remain captivating, telling new stories and more fully developing their characters. Deborah Crombie's Duncan Kincaid series also continues to provide good stories and character development. Three cheers to Penny, Crombie and Fowler!

I'm a mystery girl -- I admit it. And I was so glad to have discovered Louise Penny this year!

In the special interest section -- a bit of a this-and-that -- Vivian Swift's "Gardens of Awe and Folly" tops my list. Of course it does -- it's beautiful! In a completely different vein I enjoyed the wonderful creative motivation book "Create Now" by Margo Johnson and Jessica Fellowes "Downton Abbey: A Celebration." The latter, certainly, won points for hundreds of photos, character bios and complete synopses.

In the non-fiction category, I recommend "The Great Silence" by Juliet Nicholson, which looks at England in the years immediately following WWI as soldiers returned, battered, and women were finding new roles in a post-war society.

The Litter Box

My most disappointing books of the year were Elena Ferrante's "My Brilliant Friend" (I really hated those girls), "Suzanne of Love and Art" (a bio of Suzanne Valdon -- I would have loved this for information, setting, personal interest but the dialogue sounded like it had been written by a slutty seventh grader; had she stuck to a non-fiction book, I would have liked it better). "Me Before You" left me cold and I tend to like books about situations like that but it was too romantic or something.

The List -- Favorites are in Bold


The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto (Mitch Albom)
 Moonlight Over Paris (Jennifer Robson)
Queen Lucia (E.F. Benson)
God Help the Child (Toni Morrison)
Me Before You (Jojo Moyes)
Neverwhere (Neil Gaiman)
Bel Canto (Ann Patchett)
Storms of War (Kate Williams)
Little Paris Bookshop (Nina George)
The Nightingale (Kristin Hannah)
The Woman in the Photo (Mary Hogan)
Miss Carter's War (Sheila Hancock)
My Brilliant Friend (Elana Ferrante
Twelve Days of Christmas (Debbie Macomber)


Let's Just Say it Wasn't Pretty (Diane Keaton)
Cary Grant (Marc Eliot)
Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey (Fiona Carnarveron)
Toujours Provence (Peter Mayle)
The Kingdom by the Sea (Paul Theroux)
Martha's Vineyard: Isle of Dreams (Susan Branch)
Educating Alice (Alice Steinbach)
The Vineyard We Knew (Kevin Parham)
The Duchess of Windsor (Diana Mosley)
Will and Kate (Alice Hudson)
Suzanne of Love and Art (Elaine Todd Koren)


It's the Little Things (Craig Wilson)


Mrs. Roosevelt's Confidante (Susan Elia Macneal)
Bryant and May on the Loose (Christopher Fowler)
Shoulder the Sky (Anne Perry)
Bullet for a Star (Stuart Kaminsky)
Murder on the Yellow Brick Road (Stuart Kaminsky)
Leave the Grave Green (Deborah Crombie)
Journey to Munich (Jacqueline Winspear)
Bryant and May Off the Rails (Christopher Fowler
How to Paint a Cat (Rebecca M. hale)
High Midnight (Stuart Kaminsky)
The Kind Worth Killing (Peter Swanson)
The Memory of Blood (Christopher Fowler)
Still LIfe (Louise Penny)
London Rain (Nicola Upson)
Mourn Not the Dead (Deborah Crombie)
The Couple Next Door (Shari LaPena)
A Fatal Grace (Louise Penny)
The Cruellest Month (Louise Penny)
The Murder Stone (Louise Penny
Bryant and May and the Invisible Code (Christopher Fowler)
In a Dark, Dark Wood (Ruth Ware)
The Brutal Telling (Louise Penny)
Bury Your Dead (Louise Penny)
I Let You Go (Clare Mackintosh)
Buried Caesars (Stuart Kaminsky)
The Howard Hughes Affair (Stuart Kaminsky)

Special Interest

Gardens of Awe and Folly (Vivian Swift)
Downton Abbey: A Celebration (Jessica Fellowes)
Create NOW! (Margo Johnson)
Fashion House (Megan Hess)
Monet's Table (Claire Jones)


Paris at the End of the World (The City of Light During the Great War of 1914-1918 (John Baxter)
The Great Silence (Juliet Nicholson)

Young Adult

Secret of the Old Clock (Carolyn Keene)


Mae Travels said...

You really are organized! Other than looking in my Kindle App and on the blogs I have no idea of what I read this year. I'm sure some of the ones I read disappeared without a trace, and I probably don't even remember them! Definitely no lists.

You make me think I should read more Louise Penny. And maybe try a Nancy Drew after all these years.

Good reading in the New Year!... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

Valerie-Jael said...

Sounds like you have some good reading in front of you this year. I have read 4 books since Christmas - one of the perks of being alone is getting plenty of reading time! Hugs, Valerie

Katie Clooney said...

Oh Jeanie... what a fabulous list! Before I had the blog I wrote all the books in a notebook because I could never remember if I read a certain book or not. I made a note of "I let you go" and "The Little Paris Bookstore." I bookmarked you post so when I am at a loss for a good read, I will know where to go! Have a wonderful week and thanks for the recommendations!

Linda @ A La Carte said...

I'm an avid reader also and read over 100 books in 2016. I use Goodreads to keep track now. I use to write them down like you do but switched to the list on the computer. I always enjoy seeing what books others enjoy. Thanks for sharing.


Lynne said...

I am in awe . . .
60 books!
Logged, read, reviewed . . .
You amaze me woman!
I have The Little Paris Bookshop in my stack right next to me!
You have me motivated after I finish my Daniel Silvia, The Black Widow . . .
Gabrielle series . . . I've read them all cuz' he's a favorite!
How many in 2017 ?????

I need orange said...

I have been closing books and sending them back to the library unfinished. One, after another, after another. Especially novels.

I'm picky. It's true. But sheesh..................

I will have to try some of your faves! Thanks for the reviews. :-)

Anne said...

So many books, so much time. Rocking my reading again this year.

Sandra Cox said...

Congrats on hitting your 60 read goal!
I didn't read the book but recently saw Me Before You and was completely blown away.
You look just the same as you did when these photos were taken:)

Jeanne Washburn said...

Wow...60 books in one year...that's 5 books per month...more than 1 book for week...Wow. I love your list and will save it for future reference...it is a wonderful list!

coffeeontheporchwithme said...

I used to keep a notebook (like the kind you would use for journaling), writing each letter of the alphabet at the top of the page, and then keeping track of the authors I read (and titles). It worked pretty well, and then I stopped doing that and relied on the library's little piece of lined paper they taped in the front of each book where you could write your initials if you read it. Then I stopped going to that library because I had to start paying for a library card (seriously??). I have thought of starting a list on my sidebar on my blog (more for my own reference than anything). I love your list. I'm glad you discovered Louise Penny, she's one of my favourites! -Jenn

Bella Rum said...

I already have The Nightingale in my audible library and The Couple Next Door is on my wish list. Good on you for reading so many books. I enjoy mysteries, too. I will certainly try some of your suggestions. What a great post for all of your readers - a nice Happy New Year present for us. You are a blogger extraordinaire.

Stacey said...

So much to love about this post! First of all, just the fact that you read that many books is such a great accomplishment. Love that you kept a list. I've always wished that I had been keeping a list over the years.

Sally Wessely said...

Wow! What a list. You do better than I do at keeping track. I'm trying to compile a list now. I wish I kept a journal like you do. I have used Goodreads, and many of the books I have read are on there, but I don't think I've added anything recently because when I finish a book, I just want to get on to the next one. I need to write them down because I forget what I have read otherwise. (That baffles me. You'd think I could remember.)

I don't read mysteries. That is one genre I never read.

Joanne Huffman said...

I always enjoy your book reviews.

My name is Erika. said...

You and I have a lot of reading in common Jeanie. I loved all 3 Susan branch books, and Bel Canto was really good. Never mind Louise Penny. Those are superb mysteries. She is one of my all time favorites and I would love to meet a real Inspector Gamanche. I also keep a paper list- it is the best way- even if it is old fashioned. Great post. I love seeing what people read and getting some good ideas. Hugs-Erika

Linda said...

A great post, I absolutely love it!! I'm often turned off by the rigid style book lovers share what they're reading. Your post is warm, friendly, and inviting. I'll be checking this post several times. I found your blog from the 'Just Cats' recommendation.

Marilyn Miller said...

I must revisit your list again. I never keep track of how many books I read in a year, but I do add them to a list I keep in my documents. Hopefully I won't pick them up and buy them again, but still do that sometimes. I have read the Susan Branch book and enjoyed it. It is on my shelf to read again sometime. Many books I pass to my sister or a few other friends, then there are some I must keep for another rainy day. I never read when I was young, so loving it now that I am older.

bj said...

goodness gracious...that's a lot of books...xoxo

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

I'd love to be able to sit down and read 60 books in a year. But of course, I would have to give up sleeping if I did. I have read ONE book on your list: Murder on the Yellow Brick Road by Stuart Kaminsky. I was drawn to the title, since I live in Oz and the Yellow Brick Road runs through my city.

Congrats again, dear.

Lisbeth Ekelof said...

I love your hand written list. Am crazy about note books for the moment. Interesting and varied list of reads. Keep going for 2017! Looking forward to a review of the packing tape...,

Pam Richardson said...

Jeanie, we share a love for reading. I enjoyed reading your titles for the year...you will definitely like A Fine Romance! I have loved reading all my life and should keep up with how many I read in a year! Happy Wednesday!

Victoria Zigler said...

Hey, you keep track of them however you like. Although, if you do ever join Goodreads, feel free to add me as a friend on there.

I'm glad you enjoyed most of what you read in 2016.

I've only read the first few Nancy Drew books. I have a few more on my Kindle waiting to be read, but I only started reading the Nancy Drew books some time in the past couple of years, and even with how many books I read in a year, I haven't had time to read them all yet. I've enjoyed what I've read so far though.

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Do you know that I just got tingles, a shot of excitement as I merely LOOKED at all those books? For some odd reason, TITLES intrigue me. A cover of a book with its title just sends my imagination off to Nowhere as I confabulate my own story from the title! I had such a great Christmas vacation, cuddling up with a few books of different genres, and loving every moment of it. CARRY ON!

The French Hutch said...

I'm impressed with your past year's readings. Good for you to have met your goal. I enjoy mystery as well, love travel fiction (wonder why:)). I should be more disciplined and keep up with pages read. Interesting Jeannie. Love the cute pics of you as a chile.
Happy Day.........

Deb Smouse said...

I loved this list!

Little Paris Bookshop was my Best book of 2016, too. I loved it so much, I chose it for when I host my book club this coming April. Kristen Hannah's The Nightingale was on the top of my list, too.

And Louise Penny!!! I discovered her this last year, too, and went through the entire series from beginning to end.

La Table De Nana said...

How lucky you are to have those vinatge:) photos..you look the same as in the first..love the pics..we have read quite a few of the same books..although I love Goodreads..this could work for me too..at work people would keep things on their computer..phone etc.I loved my paper agenda.
I have moved to Ebooks because I can read more.I can get them from the library without stepping out when the desire is there.My small town library is so cute and old..so cute and old;)
So the books are not plentiful..
One thing I have noticed though..when you have a real book in your hands..you see the title on every page..on my android..Nexus..you do not and I read mostly on that..so I forget which books were what..hate that.
And may I say I would like to be a bit more like you and my friend Nancy..she wrote in her cookbooks..some splatters were on the pages..I am getting there..but my books are arranged by height..I am shy to say..all of them:(
I need to loosen up;)
Yours look loved..mine look dsciplined lol.

Marcia said...

So impressive, Jeanie. Wish I had the patience. I do agree completely on low-tech when it comes to books. Love the pics of you, same beautiful smile. :)
Thank you for staying in touch throughout last year, for all your encouraging visits.
Much love!

Marcia said...

And a happy and healthy 2017 to you and Rick.

~*~Patty S said...

WOW that is a lot of reading Jeanie!
Well done you!!!
I do not know how you manage all that you do.

Barb said...

What a great list (and accomplishment). I think maybe I read that many, but I've stopped counting! I want to read Little Paris Bookshop. Have you read The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin? Also about a bookstore and one I enjoyed. Happy 2017, Jeanie! Ready, set, read!

Arti said...

Well Jeanie, this is impressive! I don't know how you did it. You've done so so much this past year and still managed to squeeze in the time to read 60 books! You've motivated me to work harder. As much as I love to read, sometimes I'd rather choose a nap time over reading (or the game on my iPhone. Now, that's the culprit!) Anyway, you may be interested to know, (maybe you knew already), your fave The Nightingale is going to be turned into a movie. Yes, we know the producer and director, but cast hasn't announced yet. As I'm waiting for the hold of an audiobook at the library, tell me, who would you pick for the major roles?

Kathleen Grace said...

Well I can't be in the garden, so it's book reading season here! I am looking forward to looking some of these up and trying them. I love that you gave us your favorites and a bit about them. Thanks for the suggestions :) I have such a hard time finding anything I love to read anymore.

Red Rose Alley said...

Jeanie, that is fantastic that you read so much! I haven't picked up a good book in a long time. These pictures or you as a child are adorable. You really DO look like a young Shirley Temple. You know, Nel may have read many of the books you listed here, as she is the book lover in the family with a study of wall to wall books. Oh, weren't those Nancy Drew books interesting?

I hope the new year is being kind to you, Jeanie.


~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

I am so excited to see your list of books...looks like we love so many of the same books. I'm visiting because Red Rose Alley, Sheri sent me over here. She knows I love to read. So I'll add some of these authors to my reading list this year. I love mysteries best and have read all of J. Winspear, L. Penny and many Nancy Drew. So now I need to find one by Fowler! Happy Reading in this new year! Hugs, Diane

The Artful Diva said...

I just ordered "I Let You Go". Thanks for the recommendation

Carola Bartz said...

This is the way I note the books I'm reading - just as old fashioned, but it will never be eaten by a virus!
I actually was thinking of writing a similar post and I will as soon as I'll have the time. You gave me a lot of new reading ideas. Little Paris Bookshop sits on my book shelf, waiting to be read. I liked My Brilliant Friend and I definitely want to read Louise Penny's books. One of her books is on my Amazon wish list, but I seldom buy new books these days. We have a thrift store here with an excellent book department and I get most of my books there. They're just a buck or two and this inspires me to try books and/or authors I have never heard about. My husband gave me a Kindle paperwhite for Christmas and now I can get ebooks from the library.

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

I love your handwritten record of what you've read! I have thought about doing a journal for my reading but my handwriting is so terrible, I would struggle to read it. ;) I will have to come back to this list and add the ones you loved to my TBR list (which is ever-growing!!). I love that you have the physical copy of so many of these books!

Joyful said...

You had an ambitious reading goal and you met it! Good for you! I had a reasonable goal of 35 last year which I met. I find this amount of books allows me to read without needing to read every day or even every week to meet my goal. I like that balance though if I am reading a good book it certainly doesn't take long to read :-) It's good you keep track of your books. Old fashioned pen and paper is just fine though I'd never be consistent about that method so I kept track at Goodreads. It's helped me see that I read a lot more historical fiction than anything else.

Joyful said...

I enjoyed the book Bel Canto too. I don't think you and I have other books in common for 2016. Since you enjoy mysteries have you read, Donna Tartt's "Secret History". I recommend if you haven't read it yet. I also recommend, "Perfume: The Story of a Murderer" by Patrick Suskind.

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