Crystal King’s Top 10 Reads for 2016

Click the image to see what I read!

This week the Debs are looking back at their favorite reads of 2016. 

The Amazon-owned book site, Goodreads, has done a great job with allowing readers to challenge themselves to read more books. I set my challenge at 75 books this year. At the time of this writing, I’m at 79 or so with two weeks left in the year so I’ll probably polish off 4-5 more. There are a couple of cookbooks, you’ll notice, but they are books that have a rich reading component as well. I also read a lot more than what you will see listed on Goodreads. Those are the books that I share publicly. There are a lot of books that I chose not to add, whether it might be the occasional self-help book (no one needs to know what my neurotic tendencies might be), or more often than not, books I’ve read that I didn’t like and for which I didn’t want to give a positive review. There are enough nay-sayers in the world of books. I don’t need to add to that. Instead, I want to share the books that I love and encourage people to read them and love them as much as I might have.

2016 was a good year in books for me. I branched out into genres I might not always explore. I read books by my fellow debut authors that gave me thrills to know I was one of the first to read. And I had the chance to read the books of my fellow Deb Ball members, all very different from each other and in my mind equally wonderful. Note that I highly recommend a read of Amy, Lynn, Jenni and Tiffany‘s books but because we talk about them all the time over here at Deb Ball, just know that they are at the top of my list, even if I don’t dig deep into those books in this post.

Narrowing the list to my favorites was hard, if not near impossible. I also know many of the authors personally, and I don’t want it to be seen that I’ve given preferential treatment for some books over the others. So I’m going to skip all those books as well (but do check out my list on Goodreads to discover them!). So now that I’ve gotten that long winded intro out of the way, let’s get on to my top 10 recommends for 2016 (in no particular order). There are three main themes in this group: Food, Ancient Rome and the Fantastic:

  1. Ready Player One by Ernst Cline  
    If you are a child of the 80s and a video game fanatic you pretty much need to read this book. And hurry before the movie (directed by Spielberg) comes out.
  2. Appetite by Philip Kazan
    I’m writing my second novel set in Renaissance Italy and it’s about a famous chef. So naturally when I came across the description for this novel, about a Renaissance chef’s apprentice with an incredible sense of taste, I knew I had to get it. I devoured this book, every delicious bit of it.
  3. Secret Ingredients – The New Yorker Book of Food and Drink
    All the best New Yorker food and drink essays from the last 80 years, ranging from M.F.K. Fisher to Dorothy Parker, Malcom Gladwell, Steve Martin, A.J. Liebling, Alice McDermott and the list goes on and on.
  4. SPQR by Mary Beard
    Mary Beard is probably one of the most famous historians alive today, and for good reason. She is an expert on Ancient Rome but she has a knack for boiling down all that history and making it palatable to the everyday man. If you love the ancient past, this is a must-read book.
  5. Magic Bitter Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Homberg
    I adored this book, which is a beautifully written strange retelling of a variety of fairytales and centers around a young woman, Marie, who can infuse her food and drink with emotions and intent.
  6. The Bird and the Sword by Amy Harmon
    Gorgeously written, it’s a story filled with dark and light, love and loss, good and evil. A total page-turner that kept me up late into the night.
  7. And Again by Jessica Chiarella
    I’m so excited to interview Jessica on the Deb Ball in the spring…stay tuned for that. In the meantime, definitely go pick up this book, which is about four individuals who are chosen to have access to the clones of their perfect bodies, without disease, without scars, without the detrius of years weighing on them. The ethical and emotional challenges this brings to these individuals makes for a fascinating and thought-provoking story.
  8. Uprooted by Naomi Novik
    A grown-up fairytale of sorts, there’s a reason that this story went to a heated bidding war for the movie rights (which Ellen Degeneres has been tapped to produce). This lush and evocative book is still vivid to me, months after reading it.
  9. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
    This book takes the idea of Schrodinger’s Cat and turns it upside down. It’s also being made into a film and it’s no wonder. The book is a serious sci-fi thriller, about the possibility of multiple worlds (and multiple copies of the main character inhabiting those worlds). It will take an intense amount of CGI and acting talents to bring this story to life. Probably one of the fastest paced books I’ve ever read.
  10. The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt
    This won the Pulitzer in 2012 and I’m surprised I hadn’t picked it up before this year. Greenblatt explores how the Renaissance rediscovery of the ancient Roman poem On the Nature of Things by Lucretius completely transformed the world. Absolutely fascinating.

Have you read any of these? Or the other books on my list? Which ones do you think I should read next?

Also, Book Riot has just come out with their 2017 Read Harder challenge. I have to admit, it also makes me a bit uncomfortable. Do I really want to read a book about sports (does Quidditch count?)? Do I want to “waste” one of my 75 reads on a book about war? But as I looked through the list and realized how much I tend to stay within my comfort zone, the more I realized that challenges like these are ultimately probably the most life-changing. People who read the most tend to be the most open-minded, so I think it’s time to dive a bit deeper for 2017 and actually READ in an open-minded way.  So to that end I’m going to designate 25 of my 75 books I plan to read next year, to fulfilling the challenge on this list. Who’s with me?

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Crystal King is a writer, culinary enthusiast and social media expert. Her writing is fueled by a love of history and an obsession with the food, language and culture of Italy. She has taught writing, creativity and social media at Grub Street and several universities including Harvard Extension School and Boston University. Crystal received her masters in critical and creative thinking from University of Massachusetts Boston. She lives with her husband and their two cats in the Boston area.

3 thoughts on “Crystal King’s Top 10 Reads for 2016

  1. I read Blake Crouch’s DARK MATTER. It was hugely promoted in May at BookExpo and he was very personable, so I read it. It was way out of my comfort zone, but I enjoyed it, even though I didn’t fully “get it.” I liked his FX series Wayward Pines, with Matt Dylan which was based on his novels. I’m just amazed by the amount of product the guy writes, which gets published and produced for television and film. It’s insane!

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