In the High Peaks

Thursday, January 26, 2017

My Favorite Titles of 2016--Part One

I read a new record number of books this year--a total of 54, and I thoroughly enjoyed my reading year. I had very, very few duds. And I benefitted from having such a wide variety of reads, which I hope to demonstrate in the next series of posts.

Part One include my "Stellar" reads:

My all-time favorite read of this year receives this accolade largely because it was the right book at the right time. My best reading experience was The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney. At the time, I had been stricken with a vicious sinus infection (last March), and I must say, this book and its characters' foibles and complicated lives made me forget, for hours at a time, most of my misery. Thank you!  Oh, I will definitely read this one again.
Excellent writing and spot-on, smart dialogue, yes. A wonderful escapist read, absolutely. And yes, the adult children who placed their hopes on "the nest," which would make their lives perfect forever after, were egotistical and self-satisfied, but Sweeney rendered them as superbly human. I found them all likeable, despite their predatory instincts. Their lives were, in my opinion, lovingly depicted by Sweeney, while simultaneously maintaining a sharp, satirical eye throughout.

My next two favorite reads were both by the same author--P.D. James. She never disappoints, and each of her novels I look forward to re-reading some day. Original Sin was the first novel by James that I read this year and I gave it 5 stars. The other James novel I hesitated  to call a favorite at the time I read it, but, in retrospect, The Black Tower was so well done, that I have recognized its value all the more several months later, largely because of its power to stay indelible on my mind  The latter was published 20 years before Original Sin. I am an undeniably impassioned P.D. James aficionado, as some of you know.

Equally a favorite as the two P.D. James novels, was The Lewis Man by Peter May. This thriller/crime/mystery is the second volume in May's "Lewis Trilogy," Lewis being the Isle of Lewis in the Hebrides in Scotland. The first book in the trilogy, The Black House, is so deep, so profound, so wondrous in creating a landscape, so dark a noirish world, and so incredible an unspeakable crime, that it is one of my most spectacular reads of the past decade. But what makes all this darkness tolerable is the detective, who is the spirit of light, returning to his homeland in the Hebrides.

The Lewis Man continues the saga and the complicated personal life of the prime detective. This novel, too, was exceedingly well done, though probably nothing will ever top The Black House.
And now, I face the fact that there is the third book, The Chess Men, also set on the Isle of Lewis and featuring the same characters, but I'm blocked because I don't want to come to the end. I have noted numerable times in the past that this is a stumbling block for me.
After all, I haven't finished the third volume of Stieg Larsson's trilogy, though it's sitting on my shelf. I think I should read it. I think I can handle that it's the end of the trilogy, but I hate that it's the end of his work.


  1. You should join the Read Scotland Challenge!
    I've often been surprised that the books that stay with me longest are often the ones that at the time of reading them haven't seemed especially outstanding.

    1. Katrina,
      I'm so interested about your observation--What does that say? That perhaps we readers should wait before discussing a book's impact on us. Or follow up at the end of the year with a discussion of those books we more or less may have "tossed off" right after we finished them? Intriguing thought...

  2. Oddly enough, I've just finished The Lewis Man myself. Isn't it wonderful? I just loved all that delving into Tormod's past. Amazingly well done.

    1. Cath,
      Peter May is an immense talent and an incomparably skilled writer. I hope that these books received some awards. I should go and check, I suppose.
      I think I should urge myself to read The Chess Man this year, and then next year go on to one of his others, which my local friends, who take walking and hiking tours of Scotland every year, have read--actually one is set in Canada, and not far from here at all!
      But there are not a lot of books by Peter May. Oh, I do wish he has another book in him.
      So glad you enjoyed The Lewis Man!!!

  3. OH, I know that stumbling block well, and coincidentally I have his third mystery yet to read as well (although reading the first two was also something of a feat, as I tend to read first volumes, make promises to myself about later volumes, then rush to start new series instead).

    I've yet to read The Nest, but I'm curious!

    1. Isn't that remarkable that you, too, have The Chess Man still to read. I do hope to read it this year, but I will probably, given my psyche, read it very slowly, not wanting it to end. Sigh.
      And The Nest--do take a peek! I am hoping to read it again and am so glad I own it. Not everyone who's read it would agree with me, but I found it vastly entertaining, in a good way.
      Best to you!

  4. I am glad to hear how much you enjoyed The Black House and the Lewis Man. I plan to read The Black House this year.

    I also like almost all of P. D. James books, some the most recent ones in the series were not favorites (The Lighthouse for example) but all of the earlier ones are great.

    1. Oh, Tracy, I think, based on your interests, that you will thrill to The Black House. It transcends genre. I will look forward to your thoughts about it.
      I even liked The Lighthouse, though I could recognize that it was not as transcendent as some of her earlier works. Though, I must say, I think The Private Patient was published after The Lighthouse, and I loved that. Fortunately, I have a number of James's novels still to be read! Lucky me!

  5. I've always loved P.D. James, although it's been a while since I read one of her books. I haven't read anything by Peter May yet, but based on this post I'll be getting The Black House very soon!

    1. I've recommended The Black House to many people who love really great literary writing and a superior thriller. This one is a masterpiece--though I may have said this already!