Thank you all so much for taking the time to send in your lists, and thank you to our Iris who did a grand job gathering everything while I was loafing about on vacation… (But I read tons, so that’s not really loafing, right? Five squares filled on my ABC Reading Bingo chart, people! O.o) I will be mailing a little thank you to your homes in the coming week.
In Reverse Inbox Order we are honored to present your favorite reads: Maria Diceanu, Taffy van Doorn, Berthe Barnhoorn, Laura Baaijens, Heidi Brebels, Marieke Beemsterboer, Susan Reedijk, Mario Verhoeven, David Swatling, Ilse, Lian Blasse, Patty Friedrichs, Marloes Noordermeer, Darice de Cuba, Tess van Brummelen, Carola van der Drift, E.F.M. Bannenberg, Shelley Anderson, Ben van Brummelen, and the divine Sara Raap.
The Light Between Oceans – M.L. Stedman
You’re most likely to understand and appreciate this book if you’re a parent, went through the ordeal of a miscarriage, or suffered a severe loss. And if you’ve undergone any of the above-mentioned experiences then The Light Between Oceans is probably going to break your heart (as it is actually advertised in the book’s blurb). A child between two families, three people torn between right and wrong, a line between good and bad that has never been thinner and a lighthouse providing the light between oceans but in doing so, keeping the island it’s located on in the dark. Stedman made me wonder what I would have done if I was any of the three main characters. The book left me not knowing.
The Invention of Wings – Sue Monk Kidd
Upon finding out what the subject covered I was hesitant about reading The Invention of Wings, despite finding the title intriguing enough to randomly pick up the book in the library. I thought: “I have read so many books like this already, seen so many movies on this subject…” But I was wrong. I hadn’t. Not quite like this one. It’s not just the story, though that is quite special as well especially given the fact that it’s inspired by true events. It’s not just the characters, though they are beautifully portrayed and so intriguing that I actually ended up also purchasing the book containing the real letters and articles published by the Grimké sisters. The area where the author really shined was the language. In so many moments I simply had to pause, admire and let the words sink in. The constructions were so spectacular I really could not imagine where she got the idea of connecting the words like that. I really can’t remember any other book where I was so awestruck by the author’s choice of words and phrasing. Certainly not in novels. Everything she did, the author did with a purpose. Put a lot of work into the research and you can “read” it in the book. And most importantly, chose her words wisely. The Invention of Wings was simply a joy to read.
Room – Emma Donoghue
I was impressed with how universal the story felt. It’s not just Ma locked in a Room having trouble deciding what it’s best for her son, it’s to some extent: us all. Jack’s challenges of adapting to the world are in some ways every child’s challenges. As parents we all need to take our children from the safe environment they are used to and make sure they are able to survive in the “outside”. And quite often, it is as traumatic as Room brilliantly portrays it is.
Does the perspective of the 5 year-old feel consistent throughout the book? Perhaps not, as his narrative is quite insightful also regarding the feelings of other characters, his mother in particular but also the grandparents, uncle and sometimes even doctors. Did I consider this a weak point? By no means. In books, just like in films, I always prefer the logic’s or conventions’ sacrifice in order to achieve the feeling of more emotions.
Me Before You – Jojo Moyes
There are stars I give with my head and stars I give with my heart. My heart gave 5 stars to this book and my head couldn’t think of any strong enough reason not to (except of course, it being not the typical book that would receive the highest ranking from my part).
Honestly, reading Me Before You felt like a breath of fresh air. A simple story perfectly executed, with highs and lows, with everything needed to keep you turning pages and charismatic characters that you genuinely fall in love with. It has things to think about, situations that make you wonder “what would I have done?” but most importantly a story that takes you on a rollercoaster of emotions. And what I enjoyed the most was the fact that not even for a second did the book pretend to be more than it actually was.
The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo – Amy Schumer
This was the first audiobook I’ve experienced and I think it was a great choice. In fact, I think I enjoyed this book more in this format than if I had read it as a hardcover. Amy was hilarious most of the times, grave and serious when she wanted to be. I thought the book provided a great mix of funny and less funny moments. It felt balanced and it felt real. She felt genuine. Not like a famous person selling a very photoshopped (a.k.a. edited) image of “reality”.
Hex – Thomas Olde Heuvelt
Brilliant horror novel that sucks you in from the start. I read the Dutch edition and the end reminded me of the brilliant paintings by Hieronymus Bosch and the stories of Dutch fantasy writer Belcampo. Love these latter artists so this added to the reading fun.
Magnus – Arjen Lubach
Brilliant combination of road trip and coming-of-age novel mostly set in Sweden. The way Lubach entwines the different storylines in the end is very impressive.
Een waanzinning begin – Hans Fallada
Not sure if this is translated in English (note: yes it is, as Nightmare in Berlin), but this story of a German couple who try to survive in Berlin just after World War Two is very impressive. You can almost feel the bitterness they have to cope with. That’s how realistic Fallada writes.
Aurora – Kim Stanley Robinson
Wonderful sci-fi novel which combines hard science with a good and plausible storyline. Robinson gives you some interesting thoughts along the way. Not only on planetary travel, but on life itself.
Finders Keepers – Stephen King
The master storyteller pulls off another great thriller. Maybe even better than the first installment of the Hodges trilogy. Gripping from the start and you’ll keep reading until the disturbing end.
Mistborn: The Final Empire – Brandon Sanderson
Great worldbuilding and an unpredictable plot.
The Wise Man’s Fear – Patrick Rothfuss
About a thousand pages and I still thought it ended too soon.
Lies We Tell Ourselves – Robin Talley
Very touching with diverse characters.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – J.K. Rowling
The series finally matured a bit which is why I loved it (more than the first two books).
All the Bright Places – Jennifer Niven
I almost never cry over books, but I did while reading this one.
The Liszts – Kyo Maclear
This was just beautiful! Within these gorgeous covers lies a beautifully illustrated story of a very peculiar family. All family members – including the cat – spend their days making lists. They live a sheltered life because of it, but, of course, something happens that causes them to become a little more open-minded. It’s a unique story, perhaps even odd, but it’s definitely a little gem of a book, for people of all ages.
Winterling and Summerkin – Sarah Prineas
The second one was a lot better than the first book (which was already very enjoyable!) and though I did not get round to the final book of the trilogy, it’s at the top of my reading list for 2017. This is a solid fantasy series. I read quite a lot in this genre, and, though this story had some familiar themes, I still found it refreshing. Mostly because it has a lot of morally ambiguous characters, which is uncommon in children’s books.
Spectacles – Sue Perkins
I picked this up because I always enjoy Mel & Sue’s banter on the Great British Bake Off. It seemed like a light and fun read, but it turned out to be so much more than that. It’s really well written, laugh-out-loud hilarious and even heartbreaking at times.
Blueback – Tim Winton (not available through our suppliers, alas; the fate of too many great Australian, Canadian, and South African writers)
This book is written quite matter-of-factly and is very short, too, yet it still conveys so much emotion and covers many years of the protagonist’s life. I think this would be a great way for children to learn about environmental issues. And also just whisk them away into daydreams about friendships with beautiful animals…
The Shepherd’s Crown – Terry Pratchett
The Tiffany Aching series is one of my absolute favorite series. And I felt so lucky when it was announced that a fifth and final book would still be released after Terry Pratchett passed away. Anyway, the story continues in the same whimsical and wonderful way as before, with new additions – including a very intelligent and magical goat – and many characters from the previous books making appearances as well. Lots of loose ends were tied up and it felt like things came full circle. It’s still sad to see this series end, but it also makes sense to leave Tiffany as she becomes an adult.
A God in Ruins – Kate Atkinson
Ever since reading Life After Life (in 2014), I’ve been looking forward to reading this book. Life After Life is about Ursula and A God In Ruins is about her younger brother Teddy.
“A man is a God in Ruins.” Teddy was a bomber pilot during WWII and he lives to grow old. Some books aren’t just about the story that is told, but how it is told. This book had an immense grip on me, even long after I finished it.
Playing with Fire – Tess Gerritsen
This book was so much more for me than I thought that it would be. I love Gerritsen’s writing style and I expected another well-written crime story. The story, however, goes a lot deeper than that. It had a grip on me from early on, which only intensified towards the end. I do have to admit that one of the main storyline’s conclusions was a bit abrupt for me. Suddenly it was there and a heartbeat later it was gone again. In my opinion, in a book this good, nothing should feel rushed. But it doesn’t change my overall opinion of the book: it’s heartbreakingly good and it left me without words.
Alias Mrs. Jones – Kate McLachlan
This was a fun little read that promises a “little adventure back in time”. And what a grand adventure it was! The story had me glued to its pages and I lost quite some sleep because I really couldn’t put it down. It also combined two of my favourite genres: historical fiction and romance.
Touch – Claire North
I loved this book. The writing style reminded me of I Am Pilgrim. It’s fast-paced, has a lot of chapters and the story itself took me on a fascinating journey. I’m usually not a science-fiction reader, but this book never really felt like it was. The beginning is a bit slow, but it more than makes up for that in the second half. I couldn’t stop thinking about this book for a long time.
Ready or Not – Melissa Brayden
This is the third and final part of the Soho Loft series. This group of 4 friends who form an advertising agency in NYC is amazing and inspiring! It was a pleasure to be around them. Even when I think about them now, they make me smile.
The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
I started reading this book because a blog I follow recommended this book a lot and I now totally understand why! This book is fast-paced and full of adventures that everybody longs for. Enjoy awesome sword fights without risk of getting hurt! Dumas manages to capture the political climate in France very well and the characters never get boring. I feel like everybody can relate to d’Artagnan while Lady de Winter is the villain we have all been waiting for. I’m looking forward to read more of Dumas, with this one book he got me hooked!
Shadows of Self – Brandon Sanderson
A short novel gotten out of hand gave us a second trilogy in the Mistborn universe of Brandon Sanderson, and I’m glad it did! Sanderson is a master of worldbuilding, and while this book was shorter than the original Mistborn books, he created a masterpiece. The magic system stays fresh and the characters are given more space compared to The Alloy of Law. I especially loved Wayne and his thought process – I need him in my life.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – J. K. Rowling
As a Potter fan, a new book is a real treat even though it is a script. The characters are more grown up, but still relatable. The relationship between Albus and Scorpius is especially wonderful to enjoy. It’s sad I won’t be able to see the play in person, but this book still brings the magic back.
The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 3: Commercial Suicide – Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
If you want to read a comic, I definitely recommend The Wicked + The Divine. Every 90 years twelve gods are reborn as humans, in this case pop stars and will die in two years. The concept and art got me hooked from volume 1 and volume 3 does not disappoint. After ending the previous volume with a big cliffhanger, this is the volume where ‘the shit goes down’. As always, the wait for the next volume is torture.
Goldfinger – Ian Fleming
Ian Fleming brings so much more to James Bond than the movies ever do. Especially in the beginning of this book, Bond becomes so much more human. He’s tired of his life, he’s tired of killing. So, a delayed flight and a man who wants help because he has been cheated at cards seems like a perfect distraction. Of course, this leads to a world-domination plot with all the classic Bond elements. Fleming’s writing is, as always, superb and manages to paint whole scenes with only words.
Ebooks are available for The Three Musketeers, Shadows of Self, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, The Wicked + The Divine, vol. 3: Commercial Suicide, and Goldfinger.
An ebooks is available for A Little Life.
Hex – Thomas Olde Heuvelt
Dutch horror story in haunted Hudson Valley; also praised by Stephen King and George R.R. Martin.
Arrowood – Laura McHugh
Literary thriller that explores the unreliability of memories twenty years after the abduction of twin sisters.
Christodora – Tim Murphy
Moving saga of artists, AIDS, and activism that spans decades in downtown New York City.
Known and Strange Things – Teju Cole
Thought-provoking essays on art, literature, history and photography.
Gratitude – Oliver Sacks
Slim volume of four short pieces written at the end of a remarkable life. Less is more.
The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern
Best read of 2016, no doubt about it. I loved the descriptive style and the atmosphere. The whole book felt magical and after finishing it, I really needed a while to get used to the ‘real world’ again.
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore – Robin Sloan
I thought this book was very original, with old books and modern technology in one exciting story. I finished it within a day (which is very unusual for me)!
The Happiness Project – Gretchen Rubin
I wasn’t blown away by the writing or the content per se, but I included it in my top 5 because it really got me thinking. I annotated this book while reading, because there were so many things in it that I wanted to come back to later. It wasn’t an easy read but I’m glad I read it.
The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman
Funny, original and beautifully illustrated. Because it reads like a collection of short stories, it was the perfect book to read on the train to work.
The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck – Sarah Knight
Very funny, and I learned a lot from this book as well. So it was both entertaining and inspiring. For example, it taught me that standing up for yourself does not automatically make you an asshole.
Black Rabbit Hall – Eve Chase
I picked this up knowing nothing about it or its author. Read it in one sitting. Absorbing, shocking and dark. For fans of Daphne du Maurier and Shirley Jackson.
Dietland – Sarai Walker
A feminist, body-positive Fight Club. About time, too.
Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking – Susan Cain
There is nothing wrong with being fond of your own company above that of others. In fact, it could be good for you. Eye-opener.
The Girls – Emma Cline
As it turns out, you can pick your Family, but be careful what you wish for… Deals with cold-blooded murderers and scary cults, but is refreshingly low on shlock. Not less terrifying for that. Excellent.
Ready Player One – Ernest Cline
I picked up this book after reading about it on the Favorite Reads of 2015. I was not disappointed, I read the book in two sittings. If you are a child of the 80s or are into the 80s era and video games, this book is for you. I had just finished watching Stranger Things, which is an ode to the 80s, when I picked up Ready Player One. Even though this book is set in the future, it brings out nostalgic feelings for the 80s.
Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The cover of Americanah caught my attention in bookstores and from several Instagram accounts. It wasn’t until someone recommended me the book that I bought it and read it. It’s not an easy read, the book is told from the point of view of two people and the story is non-linear. But it was well worth it and it opened my eyes to things I never considered before.
Dead Wake – Erik Larson
This book reminded me of my love of history. I haven’t enjoyed reading a history book this much since high school. Larson’s way of writing non-fiction like a suspense fiction thriller is genius. Even though I know what will happen it kept me reading to find out how and what exactly. It’s also a sobering look at war. We feel today that we live in the worst of times, not to say war in this age is not tragic, but World War One and Two were much more destructive than what we have experienced the past 50 years. Dead Wake gives us a look on how life was (on a boat) during WWI and puts our reality into perspective.
The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 ¼ Years Old (Pogingen iets van het leven te maken) – Hendrik Groen
As an expat living for more than 15 years in The Netherlands, I still don’t get Dutch humor. Hendrik Groen’s dark sarcastic humor is the first one I find funny. Tragic, yes, but funny. It’s a real life fiction about the daily life of a geriatric man in his 80’s living in home for the elderly. The book is spot-on about how life is, politics and just people in general. Pure dark comedy goodness.
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet – Becky Chambers
Science fiction isn’t a genre I like reading, hence I did not notice this book until recently. The story focuses on character interaction and their personal story. While most science fictions are about the science and action, this book is a feel-good book about a diverse group of characters set in a far away future. It’s like a cozy version of Star Trek.
Ebooks are available for Ready Player One, Americanah, Dead Wake, The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 1/4 Years Old, and The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet.
Animal Farm – George Orwell
I sometimes have this thing where I purposely refuse to read books that are “too” popular, if you know what I mean. Luckily, I’m growing out of that tendency. (Yes, I do still need, and want, to read Harry Potter for example). Animal Farm was one of those books everyone read during high school, but I’m happy I waited until now. At university, I had a lot of classes on marxism and a bit on the Soviet communist revolution, and I’m definitely able to appreciate Animal Farm better because of that. Animal Farm is a very powerful book, IF you acknowledge the masterful contrast between the oversimplified fairytale-like appearance (animals that talk) and the sociological / psychological message behind the content (good efforts by inherently good people with good intentions can be overthrown and twisted 360 degrees by the power-greedy that are able manipulate the masses). Still relevant now: go ahead and replace ‘power-greedy’ with ‘Donald Trump’.
Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
For some reason, I love stories that take place in the south of the United States (and not just books but also for example the film The Green Mile, and the TV series True Blood). There’s something gritty and raw about those surroundings and tales (no wonder there’s an entire genre called ‘Southern Gothic’). Besides the fact that I adore reading the Southern accent (pronouncing it in my head), Of Mice and Men is an eye-opening and strong story, with commentary on social inequality and racial inequality! (Again: still relevant nowadays concerning racism and poorly paid labourers).
The Umbrella Academy volume 2: Dallas – Gerard Way (Writer) & Gabriel Bá (Artist)
A very surprising graphic novel by the singer of My Chemical Romance! I would have never thought he could write (and draw, even though he didn’t illustrate this graphic novel) SO well! Very interesting (sci-fi/fantasy/alternate reality) plot with interesting characters. Illustrations by Gabriel Bá truly top it off, with his characteristic heavy black shadows, reminiscent of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy style (a few issues of which Gabriel Bá actually worked on as well). I chose to mention volume 2, because I thought that one was even more innovative than volume 1.
Time Travelling with a Hamster – Ross Welford
I rarely buy books (I have too many at home as it is, so I usually just borrow new ones from the library), which means I almost never have a chance to read books published that same year: but now I did! I read this as an audiobook and I absolutely loved to listen to the sound of the Geordie accent, since the story plays out in Northern England. An endearing story by an endearing protagonist and his pet hamster. Although when you think of it the story is quite poignant and sad, the book contains humor galore (always a very good mix, showcasing masterful storytelling). And yes, this story really does contain time travelling (sci-fi, woop woop).
Brokeback Mountain – Annie Proulx
I’ve always thought the film adaptation was very romantic with Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal (two of my favorite actors), but I never even knew that it was based on a short story until I had to read it for a university course I followed: film & literature. And I actually thought the short story, with its “meagre” 36 pages, was even more intense and heartbreaking than the film! Spoiler alert: you will cry and be shaken by the harrowing and violent ending.
The Color Purple – Alice Walker
My favourite book of the year! It had been on my list for a while and was a pick for Emma Watson’s Our Shared Shelf book club, so I finally read it! Heart-breaking, breath-taking, beautiful, sad, funny, perfect. Every aspect of this book was amazing, from the style to the characters to every little detail in the storyline. A must-read! (But do avoid the movie because eh.)
Chaos Walking series – Patrick Ness (The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and the Answer, and Monsters of Men)
I read the whole series in one go this year and was blown away. Lots of twists and turns!
The Teahouse Fire – Ellis Avery
This book was on my mind all the time while I was reading it. Absolutely loved it, emotional rollercoaster and all, and the ending was perfect (although maybe a little too perfect? Who cares.)
Dear Leader: Poet, Spy, Escapee—A Look Inside North Korea – Jang Jin-sung
The only non-fiction on my list. Actually a Christmas 2015 present for my dad, and after he finished it he insisted I read it too. Terrifying, and very impressive.
Death’s End (Remembrance of Earth’s Past #3) – Liu Cixin
Admittedly my ‘least favourite’ book of the series, but bloody amazing nonetheless.
Nach Hause Schwimmen – Rolf Lappert
LaRose – Loiuse Erdrich
This is a beautifully written novel that moves from contemporary Ojibwe reservation life to 19th century government boarding schools. Erdrich’s writing is full of humanity and understanding even when exploring darker topics like drug addiction or infidelity.
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet – Becky Chambers
Danger! Secrets! Inter-species sex! This is one science fiction novel that deserves all the hype around it, because of the excellent characterization. Each crew member aboard a space ship that tunnels between worm holes is a unique individual—even when they belong to a different species.
The Beauty of Murder – A. K. Benedict
This is an intriguing and thought-provoking debut crime novel about a Cambridge University lecturer who stumbles upon a corpse—which subsequently vanishes. There’s time travel and a particularly nasty piece of work called Jackamore Grass as a villain. A very enjoyable read.
Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi
Another good debut novel, this time a multi-generational family story that travels from 18th century Ghana’s Cape Coast Castle to modern day California. It looks at slavery from different perspectives and at what it takes to survive—and occasionally flourish—such a history. Gyasi is a writer to watch.
Cold Earth – Sarah Moss
Six people are stranded during an archaeological excavation in Greenland. Winter is coming, they are out of supplies, and the outside world may no longer exist, thanks to a global pandemic. To add to the chill, there are ghosts. Can the crew survive? This is a thoughtful suspense story and a real page turner.
The Final Incal – Alejandro Jodorowsky et al
The Final Incal is “supposedly” the last installment of the Incal series. And I’ve waited a long time to read this, also because I wanted to get the bundled omnibus version at the ABC. The book was actually a bit thinner than expected compared to the ones before this. But a great continuation of the story nonetheless. It’s nice to see how this story deals with the multiple universes and storylines of the Incal books.
Marshal Law – Pat Mills, Kevin O’Neill
Just like the famous graphic novel Watchmen, this one is about the anti-hero. What’s unique in this comic is that almost all the people in the city are superheroes due to scientific enhancement. This causes some interesting story lines because not all the people use their powers for good and most of them actually go insane. There are lots of colorful costumes and character designs in this book but with a very dark undertone.
Umbrella Academy 1: The Apocalypse Suite – Gerard Way, Gabriel Bá
I bought this because the illustrations are very good, they were a bit similar to my favorite artist from the comic Hellboy by Mike Mignola. I didn’t expect much story-wise but I was amazed by how creative the story actually was. It deals with superheroes but totally not in a stereotypical way. And there are some events you really won’t expect!
Battling Boy – Paul Pope
Battling Boy is a comic that is a bit of a mix of both Japanese and Western styles. It is a very original story, the universe the characters are in is a bit of a mix of all sorts of things, like Norse gods, superheroes, monsters and sci-fi. All with nice and bright coloring.
The Shaolin Cowboy – Geof Darrow
Geof Darrow is an amazing illustrator/comic artist. All the panels are always extremely detailed. Some of the pages of The Shaolin Cowboy are just crazy packed, haha. Unfortunately I didn’t understand a single thing of the story it was trying to tell. It was just so weird. All his other books are in a sci-fi setting with robots, but this one wasn’t and I didn’t like that.
Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy – Cixin Liu (The Three-Body Problem, The Dark Forest and Death’s End)
I read all three books this year, and absolutely loved them. The ideas about aliens, about first contact, about our role… and also, a non-Western perspective. Everything was great, and I highly recommend this trilogy to any SF lover.
Shriek: An Afterword – Jeff Vandermeer
In March I visited Dutch Comic Con specifically for the ABC booth and the Speaker’s Corner, mainly because Jeff and Ann Vandermeer were there. I loved it! In preparation and afterwards I went on a Jeff Vandermeer binge, reading everything from Ambergris. From that series I would recommend everything if you like weird fiction, but I liked Shriek: An Afterword the best. Weird stuff.
Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days – Alastair Reynolds
One of my favorite SF writers (and a really nice guy to meet during signings) is Alastair Reynolds. This year I collected a lot more of his work and read two novellas in one book: Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days. Great hard SF in the Revelation Space universe.
What If? – Randall Munroe
Some non-fiction I read this year was What If? by Randall Munroe, artist and writer best known for XKCD. I loved the wacky scientific questions (‘What if everyone on earth jumped at the same time?’) that he explains with real science. And lovely illustrations make it even funnier.
The Big Book of Science Fiction – Jeff & Ann Vandermeer (eds.)
This book I am still ‘working’ on is one I had been waiting for ever since it was announced (edited by Jeff and Ann Vandermeer, there they are again). I am about half way through and love it. A chronological look at science fiction with a good introduction, and a selection of writers, some of which I had never heard from. The author bios before each story place the author in the bigger picture of science fiction, and the stories are very good. What I like is the international selection and the fact that these are not the most well-known stories that you see everywhere.