Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Best Books of 2016

If you are a long-time reader, you know I have done a post like this the past four years. It is one of my favorite posts of the whole year. You can find the 20122013, 2014, and 2015 versions in the archives (or by following the links).

A note of procedure, I only ever select new reads for this post. I love rereading books and I have done more of it in the past couple years, but so often I reread books because I love them. It doesn't feel fair to include them in these "awards" because they've already made enough of an impression on me to be reread.
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Most Thought Provoking: But What If We're Wrong? ~ I have a feeling I'm going to be pondering and referencing Klosterman's fascinating book for years to come.

Most Unique: Girl in the Dark ~ This memoir was fascinating. While you'd think a memoir could not qualify as being particularly unique, the content of this one easily sets it apart from any other memoir I have ever read.

Longest: The U.S.A. Trilogy / Outlander ~ If you count John Dos Passos' work as one book, which I did, it came in at 1,312 pages - the longest book I've ever reviewed on the blog. If you don't, then the popular Scottish romance clocked in at 896.

Shortest: She Finds Power ~ 133 pages, but I wouldn't have minded seeing this burgeoning author flesh things out a bit more.

Most Recommended: The Book of Unknown Americans ~ Ok, I don't know that I have actually recommended this to anyone yet, but I plan on doing it a lot. This book is important, especially as we face an increasing divide on immigration policy in our country. It's a good read, too.

Most Thrilling:  Fates and Furies ~ I know it may seem odd to rank this book as "thrilling." It's certainly does not fall into the traditional definition of a "thriller," but I found the story riveting and could not put it down. Really top quality character development is thrilling enough for me. No explosions necessary.

Most Educational: Being Mortal ~ This is one of those books that has changed how I think about end-of-life decisions for myself and my family. I learned a lot about death and dying and just the aging process in general. 

Tastiest: Rice, Noodle, Fish ~ I read both of Matt Goulding's food/travel memoirs this year. I read so much food-centric work, but this is some of the best food writing I have ever read.

Favorite Classic: Death Comes for the Archbishop ~ I read this at the beach expecting something...I don't know...different. Turns out, I fell completely in love with the story and with Cather's writing.

Biggest Throwback: How to Be A Heroine ~ The book itself wasn't an old book, but thinking back to how literary heroines have shaped me as a person definitely sent me back in time in some wonderful ways.

Most Fun: My Holiday in North Korea ~ How is it possible that a book about North Korea is ranking as my "most fun" book of the year? Wendy Simmons. That's how. Her bold, brash descriptions of her trip to North Korea had me laughing and learning at the same time - a truly wonderful combination.

Most Inspiring: Still Alice ~ This book was really hard for me, but it was so moving. Knowing I will likely be facing Alzheimer's myself or, certainly, within my immediate family, made this book particularly poignant. It really helped me see how frightening and discouraging living with the disease must be. Maybe that doesn't seem inspiring, but it inspired me to think differently about the experience and process of memory loss.

Honorable Mentions: A God in Ruins / The Language of Flowers / Go Set A Watchman Out of Sorts ~ These books don't fall into a specific "award" category, but they were favorites this year for a variety of reasons. Go check them out. They are worth your time. 
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Each month, I select a favorite book of the month. Below are the ones which captured the honor each month of 2016. There are definitely some duplicates from books above, but I like to list them all together as well. I think it provides an interesting look into the types of books that were really capturing my heart and imagination throughout the year. I encourage you to go back and read the posts and see why they each made such an impact on me.

Looking back on the books I read this year, I think the theme could be "thought-provoking." I did a lot of non-fiction reading this year, much more than I have in previous blogging years. I read a lot of things, both fiction and non- which caused me to view the world from a different perspective or take someone else's experiences into consideration for the first time. This is a practice with which I want to keep up. I preach to my students all the time about the importance of listening to other people's stories and opinions. Reading is such an easy, enjoyable way to do that. I want my reading to continue to stretch the boundaries of my imagination and understanding of the world. I want it to continue to challenge me. While I did not read as many "blockbusters" as I have during some other years, I had a lot of substance in my diet and that felt good.

So what does 2017 hold? What will be my favorite books in this upcoming year? Time, of course, is the only one who can tell, but I'm looking forward to the journey. If I learned anything from 2016 it's that I have a lot left to learn. Here's to the journey, to the lessons to come, and to the books which will carry them.

What were your favorite books in 2016?


  1. I just started Outlander last night! The Book of Unknown Americans is on my dang TBR list. I thought that I had started Fates and Furies and not liked it, but I thought surely the book I'm remembering would not be counted as thrilling by Alise, so I checked out your link and the book I'm thinking about had a similar title and cover but was not the same book. So I guess I have to put it back on my TBR list. ;)

    The Language of Flowers and Out of Sorts were some of my favorites too but I was underwhelmed by Go Set a Watchman. I think I missed something.

    1. Harper Lee is one of my all-time favorite authors. To Kill A Mockingbird is my favorite book. I think I was predisposed to enjoy it. Although, I really did like it for what it was, independent of those factors.