2016 was a great literary year for me! I read almost twice as many books as I did in 2015…so YAY! Of course, it helped that I am part of a book club. My friend, Sandhya, and I started one of our own because we’d always wanted to be in one. We’re coming up to our one year anniversary and I’m so thankful for the opportunities it provides me to get together with 9 other readers once a month, and keep me reading throughout the year. I’ve started tracking my books in my Goodreads app which I love and whole-heartedly recommend. It beats the list I kept at the back of my agenda on loose paper.

Anyway, here are the 23 books I read in 2016 with a brief overview of what I thought about each one. They are each linked to my affiliate account with Indigo so if you do make a purchase through a link, thank you! At the end of this post, please leave a comment with a book recommendation for 2017.

1. What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

Poor Alice bumped her head in spin class and has lost her memory of the last 10 years of her life. Kind of inconvenient when in the last 10 years you gave birth 3 times and are on the brink of a divorce – and you can’t even recall why. This book was hilarious but also made me think about the past 10 years of my life. In some ways, my life parallels Alice’s and it gave all of us ladies at book club a lot to talk about. Definitely easy to read and a good one for book club.

2. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

This book warrants its own post and I am actually going to be posting it in the next couple weeks. I really believe this book made my 2016 as great as it was on a creative level. It helped me re-evaluate my intentions with creativity and gave me a strange kind of confidence to pursue my curiosities simply because…well…why not? Following my curiosities and interests this year was huge for me personally and professionally. Highly recommend this for anyone wanting to live creatively beyond fear (which happens to be the book’s subtitle).

3. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

What a beauty. This book. It really is a literary masterpiece and one I am glad I re-read as an adult because I have such a huge appreciation for the writing. Anne is our beloved Canadian icon who sees the world through these extraordinary lenses – and you won’t be able to help but look at things differently too. This book had me spell-bound and I honestly see myself re-reading it in the next couple years or so. I missed Anne’s company once the book was done. If you haven’t read it yet, or even if you did as a child, go grab a copy now.

4. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

This was a re-read for me, too, but it was our second book club pick. A must-read if you are working with or know anyone on the Autism Spectrum. The whole book is written from the perspective of a boy who processes sensory and social information differently, and it’s definitely eye-opening. It was a quick read and I recommend it if you like psychology or understanding human behaviour.

5. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Another book club pick! It’s about a grumpy old man and how he relates to the world around him after his wife passes away. Some funny moments and a bit of a tear-jerker at parts. This book was much-loved in our book club. There’s just something endearing about an old man who can’t seem to figure out why the world is the way it is. Actually, I saw a little of me in him (insert embarrassed face here).

6. Yes, Please by Amy Poehler

So, honestly, I liked this book but didn’t love it. I kind of live under a rock when it comes to famous people. I don’t really know a lot of the ‘newer’ people on the scene. Like, from the last decade. So, unless I’ve read someone’s memoir, I don’t know much about them. In that way, this book was interesting because it allowed me to get to know Amy through her own words. I’m always inspired by creative people who forge their own way and Amy certainly has done that. You should pick up this book if you’re an Amy Poehler fan or want to know what it’s like to make it big after years of building and building and building.

7. Any Known Blood by Lawrence Hill

I do enjoy a Lawrence Hill book and this past year I read three of his! This one I read earlier in the year and it was a great book about a man tracing back his roots so he could write family stories. I loved everything about the premise and enjoyed the read. It gave me the itch to travel and write my own stories. I’ve always been interested in African-American history, and this book reminded me that Canada has a history of its own that I’d like to learn more about. Add this to your list if you want to read more Canadian literature.

8. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

Again, a book by a famous person who I didn’t know. (This is a side effect of not watching T.V. At least there are books!). I identified a lot more with this book than I did with Amy Poehler’s, probably because I could understand the family culture and Mindy’s love of writing. This was another inspiring book about a creative person who just didn’t give up on her dreams, and also knew how to take an opportunity when it was thrown her way. Writers, add this to your list. Dreamers, add this to your list. And of course, if you are a Mindy Kaling fan, you’ll love this book.

9. The Wife by Meg Wolitzer

So, this book I found because I was actually looking for another book by Wolitzer that had been named a Canada Reads book for 2016. I never did find The Interestings but the library had a copy of The Wife so I thought I’d give it a try. I loved this book but hated the character of this woman’s husband. He made me so angry. Although I couldn’t put the book down, it definitely did not leave me with a warm and fuzzy feeling. The story is truly a story of a writer’s journey, and also gender gaps and also egos. The literary merit of this book is off the charts – so many times while reading I thought to myself, “Oooohhhh I love how she said that!” I do recommend you add this to your list and look up Meg Wolitzer to learn more about a Canadian author.

10. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

Another re-read for book club – and I was thrilled at the opportunity to read it again. This is one of my favourite books of all time. Kidd’s voice is just gorgeous through each of the characters and the story is unparalleled. So many beautiful themes to discuss in a book club with this largely female cast set in the Deep South. The first time I read it I was in college. Reading it again as a mother was like reading it with another pair of reading glasses, and it honestly enhanced the experience. If you haven’t read this book, you really should. And then tell me what you think!

11. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie

The story of a young Nigerian woman who comes to America for further education and ends up learning much more than she bargained for. What I loved is that the main character is also a writer who blogs about her experiences so we get to get in her brain with all her wonderful insight. We also follow her back to Nigeria and watch her try to identify as a Nigerian after so many years in the States. There’s love, loss, and a tonne of culture written in the amazing way that Adichie has with words. I had read her book, Purple Hibiscus, ages ago and after reading Americanah I’ve added it back to my list as a re-read. If you’ve watched any of her TED talks, you will enjoy hearing her voice in her written works.

12. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Perhaps my favourite book club read of 2016, this is an incredible WW2 story of two sisters (the war from women’s perspective!) who have to survive being left behind in Nazi-occupied France. They do so in two completely different ways, each phenomenal in its own right. But please, don’t try to read this in public or without a couple of tissue boxes by your side. I could not put this book down – I read it late into the night, crying into my pyjama shirt while my heart literally felt like it was being wrung dry. READ IT. You have never read about the war from this point of view and it’s real and it’s shattering.

13. The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

I liked this book but didn’t love it as I did Moriarty’s What Alice Forgot (the first book in this list). It has all the makings of a light read and I wanted to keep reading to learn the secret and then see how it all played out, but this isn’t one I feel compelled to re-read. Maybe a beach read?

14. Forgotten by Catherine McKenzie

Okay, so this is a book that I picked for book club on the recommendation of my cousin. It really was not a good book. I was obligated to read it of course, because I had to ask the club questions. Nobody liked it. The premise is so good. But I really had to stretch to come up with discussion questions.

15. The Illegal by Lawrence Hill

SO FREAKING AMAZING. The Canada Reads winner for 2016 had a lot to live up to for me because the first book I ever read of Hill’s was The Book of Negroes which had all kinds of fame. This book did not disappoint.

16. Black Berry, Sweet Juice by Lawrence Hill

This was an incredible book! It’s basically part memoir, part research on being black and white in Canada. I loved the style of the book as well as the content, and it even inspired me to start my own creative project on a topic of my interest. If you like memoir, race relations, Canadian social issues and Canadian literature, please add this to your list!

17. The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

Another book club read that I absolutely could not put down. This book also takes place in the Deep South on a plantation worked by slaves. The storyline was just incredible and the characters felt so real, I could picture every single one of them. Thankfully, there’s a sequel (which I also read and list below) and it also kept me reading late into the night!

18. Leaving Before the Rains Come by Alexandra Fuller

This book was recommended to me by my friend who knows how much I love memoir. Fuller’s writing is just beautiful and it’s such a unique perspective of a white woman growing up in Africa. I love reading about other people’s families; it always amazes me how different families can be from one another yet we all have these common themes that run through us. Grab this if you love memoir, Africa, and women’s stories.

19. Rush Home Road by Lori Lansens

I finally got around to reading this book! I’m so happy I did; I absolutely loved it! In fact, I’m going to grab my own copy for my personal library because I’m sure I will re-read it. The story is haunting and endearing all at once. I love that it’s also a Canadian book and gives us insight into race relations on this side of the border. Again, it’s a story of love and loss and motherhood and struggle. It really is a beauty.

20. The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer

Ok, so, first chapter in, I thought I would totally dislike this book. It was a book club pick and I’m glad because it made me keep going and ended up being one of my favourite reads of the year. And once again, I had no idea who Amy Schumer was until I read this memoir of hers and I feel so honoured to know so much about this complex, multi-dimensional person. Because it reminded me that, famous or not, we are all complex and multi-dimensional. And you know? She’s freaking hilarious! But also has a strong social activist voice which I loved. I love women who can speak out without fear or shame. Her messages are important and she definitely knows how to engage on the page!

21. Love, Loss and What We Ate by Padma Lakshmi

Ok, wow, I’ve read a lot of memoirs this year and I didn’t even realize it! This one was recommended to me by my friend Raj from Pink Chai Living. And no, I didn’t know who Padma Lakshmi was before this book. And now I follow her on social media everywhere! This book inspired me to get more creative in the kitchen, to learn more family recipes, to cook more with my kids, and keep forging my own path in business. There are also countless stories in here about women’s health, travel, love, entrepreneurship, and more. I really can’t believe how much Padma has lived already! It was amazing to watch her grow into herself through her words.

22. Glory Over Everything: Beyond the Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

This is the sequel to The Kitchen House that I mentioned above. Usually, I’m disappointed by sequels but this one was actually really good. I was so happy to ‘hear from’ some of my favourite characters in the first book, and yet this book had a unique story of its own. If you read the first book and are wondering if you should check out the sequel, I would recommend it.

23. We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Ok, so this is not quite a book – just a quick read of what is mostly her TED talk of the same name. I loved it, and so did my husband! It’s a great work that uncovers the true definitions of feminism, a feminist and outlines how we can all work toward gender equality.

I really hope you enjoyed this post and it gave you some inspiration for 2017! Please leave a comment with your favourite reads!

taslim jaffer, let me out creative