I hate having to put my favorite reads of the year in numerical order but how else can it be done? Let's just say that if you asked me, "What should I read?" these titles would jump off my tongue immediately. Normally I read an eclectic mix of old and new, fiction and non, but looking back over this year's top ten, it appears that all but one actually came out in 2016. Without further fanfare here are my choices for the most moving, most technically excellent, flat out best books I read this past year.
1. This debut novel by Nathan Hill, a local southwest Florida writer, bowled me over with its originality. 600 pages and I wouldn't have edited a thing. Spanning six decades of American history, Hill gently skewers academia, publishing, politics, and technology through the eyes of Sam and the mother who abandoned him. http://bit.ly/28TS55p
2. This may be the most underappreciated novel of the year. It's a devastating look at the effects of Jim Crow laws in the south on another abandoned young man, Devlin Walker, as he tries to make his way through an antagonistic world. Smith's prose if breathtaking. I defy you not to agonize over the injustices done to Devlin by a system designed to keep the black man in chains. http://bit.ly/1pajwu8
3. Amor Towles delighted me with this sly historical novel
set in Russia beginning in the 1920's. The plot involves
a delightful Count Rostov who's been accused of writing subversive poetry against the government. His punishment? Permanent exile in a luxurious hotel in the heart of Moscow where he manages to thrive more fully than many do with unlimited freedom. http://bit.ly/2iJ5L2Z
4. Yaa Gyasi's "Homegoing" takes readers through a history of the Dutch slave trade in Ghana, from the door of no return, to the United States, through the lineage of stepsisters, Effia and Esi, who are unaware of each other's existence. This novel is bound to be the ancestor to Alex Haley's "Roots," and would lend itself easily to film. http://bit.ly/2dHdHT9
Bill Clegg made his living helping other writers get published but when it came time to write his own novel he knocked it out of the park. A horrific tragedy on the eve of a family wedding leaves only matriarch June Reid alive to pick up the pieces of her life, if she can. This emotionally draining debut examines survivor guilt from the viewpoint of several characters on the periphery of the action.