It’s the most wonderful time of the year...for book lists. Everyone from independent booksellers to editors at national newspapers are sharing their picks for the best reads of 2016, and now Silent Book Club is weighing in. SBC members from all over the country shared their favorite books of the year with us on Facebook, and here are the top five that our readers recommend. Pair any of these with a bottle of bubbly and you'll be everyone's favorite gift-giver this year.
This beautifully written debut novel by Yaa Gyasi is the single most powerful work of fiction we read this year. Narrated from the perspective of one family member per generation over the span of 300 years and two continents, no other book has made the legacy of slavery feel so profoundly personal and immediate. I'm gifting this, in hardcover, to everyone on my list who hasn't readit yet. Recommended reading for America.
This memoir by self-proclaimed "loud woman" Lindy West is a must-read rallying cry for the world we, unfortunately, find ourselves living in at the close of 2016. West is a whip-smart culture writer for GQ magazine and The Guardian, who is unafraid to take society to task for its entrenched sexism. Shrill proves beyond a doubt that feminists can be funny. More of this in 2017, please.
By far the darkest novel on the list, The Girls takes the prize for the most controversial book of the year. Readers were divided on this coming-of-age tale about the cult of young women lured by Charles Manson to commit horrific acts of violence in the 1960s. Several people nominated itas their best book of the year while others found it too unsettling to enjoy. Full disclosure: I didn't readit myself—I was afraid it would be too disturbing.
Hands down, the most recommended series of the year was Elena Ferrante's epic four-volume tale of friendship, betrayal, love, and loss in post-war Italy. SBC members had a serious case of #FerranteFever in 2016—these were the most talked about books on our Facebook page. While My Brilliant Friend made more appearances at meet-ups across the country than any other book on the list, I must admit that my favorite was book three, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay.
This is the book I'm giving to my best, snarkiest girlfriends. Helen Ellis is wickedly funny as she skewers the myth of the perfect housewife in a collection of short stories that will leave you clutching your pearls and bursting with laughter from one page to the next. Her "grown-ass" ladies have run out of damns to give as they wage war over foyer décor, dumpster dive on reality TV, and gauge the fertility of a young book club recruit. Serve this with eggnog and make sure it's spiked.