It’s once again time for the annual Goodreads Choice Awards, where thousands of readers choose their favorite books of the year. The competition is stiff this go around, with three stages of voting and tons of awesome reads to choose from. Goodreads has always been about the readers, bringing together authors and their fans in a truly personal way. The Choice Awards are no exception, and is, according to Goodreads, “the only major book award decided by readers.” Which is why this is such a great chance for the book lovers of 2016 to let their voices be heard.
The Opening Round vote started on November 1 and goes until the 6, so if you haven’t voted yet, now’s the time! Then it gets down to the nitty gritty with the semifinal round kicking off 11/8 and the final round starting 11/15. Here are my top picks of 2016:
It Ends With Us, Colleen Hoover (Atria Books, August 2, 2016)
First of all, if there were a “Best Cover” section, It Ends With Us would easily win. On top of that, it’s a gorgeous and complicated love story that’s as compelling as it is complex. This is not your typical romance novel, which might make it an odd choice for my pick. But its complexity is what gives it life, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Lily grew up in an abusive household, and she’s worked hard to make something of her life, including falling in love with surgeon Ryle Kincaid. But Ryle hasn’t always had it easy either, and when his past starts to creep into his current relationship, Lily has to decide just how much she’s willing to forgive. Things become extra complicated when Atlas – Lily’s first love – shows up in her life again. This book is sooo good and definitely deserves a Romance win.
The Wonder, Emma Donoghue (Little, Brown and Company, September 20, 2016)
Donoghue’s bestselling novel Room (which was turned into an award winning movie last year) is one of the most disturbingly well-written stories I’ve read. So I had high hopes for Wonder, the story of a miracle-girl who supposedly hasn’t eaten food for four months but is somehow still alive. Luckily, the book is just as wonderful as I hoped it would be. Wonder takes place in Ireland in the 1800’s and follows Lib Wright, an English nurse who comes to examine 11-year-old Anna O’Donnell to see if she’s really surviving on no food. What Lib finds is a religious and superstitious family, a community rallied behind their miracle, a child who may end up starving to death, and a mystery that Lib has difficulty rationalizing. This is a tale of blind belief, of manipulation, of family dynamics and of trust. You won’t be able to put it down.
This is Where it Ends, Marieke Nijkamp (Sourcebooks Fire, January 5, 2016)
Oof, this book. Taking place over the course of just one hour, This is Where it Ends describes a school shooting from start to finish: the fear, the horror and the intensity that’s crammed into such a short amount of time. Tyler Browne has always felt like an outcast, and when he traps his fellow students in a locked auditorium, he’s determined to take his revenge. For one hour, Tyler is judge and jury, and the reader is on the edge of their seat watching it all play out. The story is told from the perspective of four students who are all connected to Tyler in some way, and their fates hang in the balance as Nijkamp weaves her heart-wrenching tale. Considering how commonplace shootings have become in our culture, this is one of those novels that everyone should read.
The Bird and the Sword, Amy Harmon (CreateSpace, May 6, 2016)
It’s not always easy to wow someone with fantasy these days, as sometimes it feels like it’s all been done before. But there’s something about Harmon’s world that just sucks you in from the start and refuses to let go. When Lark’s mother dies, she takes her daughter’s voice in order to protect her. Trapped and without the ability to speak, Lark struggles to find her place. Words have enormous power in the world that Harmon creates, and magic can be a curse as much as a blessing. But Lark finds her ‘voice’ over the course of the novel, as well as a true love that shapes and changes her. The writing is lush and beautiful and the story is rich and well thought out – this is romantic fantasy at its best.
Murder in Time, Julie McElwain (Pegasus Books, April 11, 2016)
I adore time travel novels, particularly when they’re uniquely written. Time traveler detective who’s whip-smart and just as capable of solving crime in the 1800’s? Sign me up. When FBI agent Kendra Donovan ends up going back to 1815, she knows that she needs to find answers. But when a young girl is found murdered, Kendra throws herself into the mystery, determined to figure out how all of these strange events are tied together. Smart, fun and the start of a new series, Murder in Time is everything I want from a time travel tale.
You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain, Phoebe Robinson (Plume, October 4, 2016)
This was another tough choice (you almost had me, Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo!), but Robinson’s essay collection is just so smart and funny that it won me over in the end. No topic is off limits in this candid, hilarious collection, and Robinson turns a sharp eye on race, gender and her own experiences with both. You’ll be rolling on the floor one minute, and nodding enthusiastically the next. I couldn’t put this one down, and I’m sure I’ll be picking it up for years to come.