Favorite Books of 2016

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Disclaimer: I’m not a critic (though if anyone is looking for a willing reviewer, I’m raising my hand) but I love books and I read some really fantastic writing this year.

I did not get to every book I wanted to read this year. I have some highly recommended books I’ll start over Christmas (more on those later) but listed below are the favorites of the ones I did read this year. I’ve also included a section on books I didn’t love, love, love, but maybe you will. Just because a book wasn’t for me doesn’t mean it isn’t for you.

When we have a spare chunk of time or brainpower, it can be overwhelming to narrow down the choices of books. My hope is you can jump off from the recommendations here and find something you will love. Books are investments of time. We all want to invest well.

Here are my favorite reads of 2016:

Fiction

Americanah – I’ve said lots of words about my love for this book. Not just a favorite of 2016, but a favorite of all time
The Wonder – I don’t want to say too much about this other than it is so compelling and worth every second of time.
Another Brooklyn – Jacqueline Woodson. Gah. I just can’t get over anything she writes. This book beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

Honorable mention: Last Ride to Graceland – Like a road trip through my childhood. If you are from the south, this book will ring lots of bells.

Nonfiction 

When Breath Becomes Air – I feel like this book will be held up as a standard for memoir for years to come. This is a brave book.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – The description for this book will seem very science-y but if that scares you, please don’t run away from this book. This is a story of a family and a legacy and a fight to preserve both. I could not put it down.
Hillbilly Elegy – Click on any roundup of 2016 books, and Hillbilly Elegy will be on every one. Stunning picture of life in rural Appalachia.

Important Read

Present Over Perfect – In our overly busy, overly scheduled and overly fast lives, this book comes in kindness and reminds us there is a better way. It is peace on a page.

Not my cup of tea, but maybe yours?

Sweetbitter – A little too real for me. I would rather not peak behind the curtain of the restaurant industry.
Eligible – A little too smaltzy sweet for me, but a good summer read.
The High Mountains of Portugal – Like Martel’s other novels, this is high on the suspended reality. I enjoyed reading it, but not something I would come back to.
Love Warrior – I originally liked this book, but the more I thought about it, the more over indulgent it seemed. High on pop psychology and a bit me-centric, which is a tricky balance for memoirs.

Planning on reading soon:

Swing Time

Also, for a more comprehensive 2016 book review, it’s hard to beat the NPR Book Concierge. And I’m over on Goodreads throughout the year. Let’s be friends!

Merry Christmas, friends! Let’s fill our lives with some stories in 2017. It makes all the difference in the world.
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