8 Books You Should Add To Your 2016 Must-Read List

Have you ever been in a conversation about books and found yourself... lying? "Oh, I loved that one," you hear yourself say with a little too much enthusiasm. "But the ending — ugh. Disappointment." You banter in generalities and jacket copy, counting down the seconds until the subject changes. As a last resort, you mention a title you actually have read. Let your friends have a turn in the hot seat.

I'll admit to having stretched the truth about what I've read. C'mon, it happens! Like many bibliophiles, my reading diet is a point of pride. When I find an area with some room for improvement, it's hard for me to admit it, especially if that room for improvement is a book that just about everyone seems to have read. Literary peer pressure, anyone?

This year, though, I'm resolving to get to some of those titles I've been putting off. After all, the only person who really suffers from my lying is me. And there's nothing like finally reading something that's been sitting on your bookshelf forever. Besides, once you crack open Moby-Dick , you know you'll either:

  • be hooked; or
  • be able to say, the next time someone mentions it: "Yeah, I started. Just wasn't for me."

Here are eight titles worth tackling before next December.

1. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Reading a Russian novel — especially this one, which deals with themes of faith and doubt in a nonlinear, labyrinthine plot — is always a fortifying experience.

2. Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum

Looking for a lascivious romp with literary overtones? Poet-turned-novelist Jill Alexander Essbaum's tale of suburban adultery just might fit the bill.

3. Notes From A Bottle Found On The Beach At Carmel by Evan S. Connell

I'm a longtime fan and recommender of Connell's companion novels, Mrs. Bridge and Mr. Bridge; why haven't I sung the praises of his poetry? This collection is an unsung 20th century classic.

4. Don't Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

If you couldn't put down Rankine's last book, Citizen, you'll want to make sure you read this. Combining her astute prose with images from TV, you won't believe this book was published in 2004.

5. Orlando by Virginia Woolf

Even if you're not a Woolf acolyte, now, more than ever, is the time to read this novel. Why? An English nobleman who falls asleep and wakes up as a woman? Combine the totally progressive blurred lines of gender with Woolf's sumptuous prose, and you have a historical story that feels as renegade as Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette.

6. By Night In Chile by Roberto Bolaño

Maybe The Savage Detectives and 2666 have been taking up shelf space in your library for a while. Make this the year you finish a book by R.B. by opting for this incredible novella that takes the form of a deathbed confession.

7. Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko

Be a little bit mad if this book was never assigned in your literature classes. This poignant story of a young Native American returning to his reservation after World War II is a celebration of a heritage and storytelling unlike anything else.

8. Loving by Henry Green

For all you Downton Abbey addicts, Henry Green is your new favorite fix. Writing about the divided and colliding worlds of the upper- and lower-classes in England during the middle of the last century, Green's third novel, Loving, will transport you to an impossibly magical castle, complete with many accents and a fairy tale structure that may move you to tears.