Carve Staff Recommendations: What to Read in the New Year

If you're like some of us and have already plowed through the books you got as gifts over the holidays, you might be casting about for a book to help you dive in to the new reading year. Below are some of our staff favorites, the best book we read in 2016 in any genre regardless of the year the book was published. These are the ones we found to be moving, wildly entertaining, or downright life-changing. We invite you to pull up a cozy chair by the fireplace or radiator and dig in.


Nancy Devine, Reading Committee Member:

"For me, the best book I read was The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie, a story that unfolds in fresh and compelling language set in Northern California, with a quirky but honest protagonist who has an odd boyfriend and an overbearing mother. McKenzie’s ability to compel me to cringe, laugh, and feel empathy for all the characters while handling big themes of money, love, and big health care is remarkable and unique."

Janelle Drumwright, Staff Blogger:

"I really enjoyed reading Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. Her masterful use of an omniscient third-person narrator to explore the secrets corroding a family from within is bracing, poignant, and artful."

Matthew Limpede, Executive Editor:

"I read Anthony Doerr's All the Light You Cannot See and it was just stunning. Gorgeous prose, captivating structure, and arresting characters with yearnings that'll squeeze your heart until it bursts."

Joe O'Neill, Reading Committee Member:

"I loved Where'd you go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple, former writer for the TV shows Arrested Development, Mad About You, and Ellen. She is effortlessly and continually funny throughout. Also, The Inventors, a memoir penned by Peter Selgin about the two most influential people in his life, his father and his eighth-grade teacher. Describing these alternately touching and tortured relationships, Selgin is as brilliant as Semple is funny. A brave and wonderful book."

Eris Young, Reading Committee Member:

"I read so many books in 2016, but I suppose the best was The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan. Powerfully written poetic prose that chronicles three characters' struggles for love and self-actualization in the face of an impending apocalypse. Written with such ominous, prophetic beauty that it reads more like an ancient epic than a novel."

Marléne Zadig, Staff Blogger and Reading Committee Member:

"The book that really surprised me the most was When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice by Terry Tempest Williams. It's universally riveting and revolves around the fact that her mother, when dying of cancer, told Tempest Williams that she was leaving her all her journals, but that she mustn't look at them until she was dead. Tempest Williams goes on to discover (and grieve — and rage) that the three shelves of journals are completely, intentionally blank. The book is innovative, shocking, and utterly fantastic."

Anna Zumbahlen, Managing Editor:

"A great book I read was No One is Ever Missing by Catherine Lacey, which is equal parts surreal adventure story and emotional retrospection, marked by the unique humor and morbidity of this protagonist's voice. It's a haunting and honest story — one that will stick with you."