I feel like I just wrote about my favorites for 2015, yet here it is the end of 2016 already. This year I read 105 books by 104 different authors–Fredrik Backman was my only repeat (maybe I’ll fit another one in before the technical end, but we’ll go with 105). Of the 104 authors, 81 were authors I had never read before.
The breakdown looked like this:
Fiction – 76
Nonfiction – 29
Male authors – 63
Female authors – 41
(one book was a male/female team)
Print books – 74
Audiobooks – 30
73 books were written by American authors; 12 authors are from the UK; and the remaining titles were from Canadian, French, Norwegian, Swedish, Israeli, Australian, Irish, South Korean, and Vietnamese writers.
And 14 books were debuts.
So from that vast array of books, I’m offering you my favorites in three categories: fiction, non-fiction and audiobooks. I’m including 10 for fiction, 6 for non-fiction and five for audiobooks. I wasn’t able to winnow my 6 non-fictions down to 5. Picking the best non-fiction was my hardest task. I read great non-fiction this year. I’ll start with the audiobooks:
2016 Favorite Audiobooks
IQ – written by Joe Ide, read by Sullivan Jones. This was the best of both worlds. A fabulous book and an amazing performance. I reviewed this one for Audiofile Magazine.
Tell the Truth & Shame the Devil – written by Lezley McSpadden and Lyah Beth LeFiore, read by Lisa Renee Pitts. If I could nominate an audiobook performer for an Oscar, it would be Lisa Renee Pitts for this narration. It is astounding. The book is emotionally charged and the sparks fly from Pitts as she reads. Loved it! This was another review for Audiofile Magazine.
Night Work – written by David Taylor and read by Keith Szarabajka. I was floored by this duo last year with Taylor’s debut and Night Work resonates just as strongly. Szarabajka is fantastic and these are great suspense novels from Taylor. An Audiofile Magazine review.
Charcoal Joe – written by Walter Mosley and read by Michael Boatman. Boatman picked up all the wonderful nuances in Mosley’s writing and just made this an engaging listen. In addition to my review for Audiofile Magazine, this audiobook was picked as one of their 2016 Editors’ Favorites in the mystery & suspense category.
Lily and the Octopus – written by Steven Rowley and read by Michael Urie. This audio made me laugh and cry and drive an extra time around the block. If you haven’t read or listened to this one, don’t find out anything about it…don’t read reviews or dust jackets, just start it. You’ll appreciate it more. And Urie does a fantastic job delving into all the range of emotions then pulling those same emotions from his listeners. I reviewed it for Audiofile Magazine.
2016 Favorite Non-fiction
Balls: It Takes Some to Get Some – Chris Edwards. Far and away my favorite book of 2016. I reviewed this for Shelf Awareness and it was chosen as one of their favorites of 2016 as well. I wasn’t expecting the level of amazingness I experienced when I requested the book, so I was wonderfully surprised. I hope you’ll check this one out. It’s so worth it!
Incarceration Nations: A Journey to Justice in Prisons Around the World – Baz Dreisinger. Our prison and “justice” system is an issue I’m interested in and constantly wanting to understand better because I feel it is a high priority for our society. This book is incredibly enlightening and looks at prisons on a global level. We can and should learn a lot from Dreisinger’s project.
Moranifesto – Caitlin Moran. I just posted this review to the blog earlier this week. I loved every bit of this book. Moran is insightful, funny and incredibly smart. I want to share this book with every female who is important to me. Which is not to say men won’t love it or benefit from it. Any man that cares about a woman should also check it out. We can definitely use more Caitlin Morans in the world.
Another Day in the Death of America: A Chronicle of Ten Short Lives – Gary Younge. This is a tough but important read. I can’t say enough about it. I reviewed this for Shelf Awareness and it was also chosen as one of the publications favorite books of 2016. Younge has a unique perspective and does a stellar job on his research for this eye-opening look at the gun epidemic in the United States.
Pilgrimage: My Search for the Real Pope Francis – Mark Shriver. I am so fascinated–and inspired–by Pope Francis, so I was very excited to get this book for review. He’s an amazing human being and Shriver does a lovely job of illuminating the man who leads the Catholic Church now. We can use more Pope Francises in the world too.
You Will Not Have My Hate – Antoine Leiris (trans. by Sam Taylor). This short work is beautifully and powerfully written. I read it in one night and it will stay with me forever. As I recover from the awful, ugly hate that filled our presidential election this year, I’m inspired by Leiris work.
2016 Favorite Fiction
The Boy Who Escaped Paradise – J.M. Lee (trans. by Chi-Young Kim). I was so excited to see a new book from J.M. Lee, the author of The Investigation. And The Boy Who Escaped Paradise did not disappoint. Lee is an incredible writer. I hope we are able to enjoy a long career from this talented man.
An Obvious Fact – Craig Johnson. A regular on my favorites list, Craig Johnson continues his string of hits with the newest Walt Longmire. The subtle allusions to The Dukes of Hazzard really won me over in this one. What can I say? I’m a child of the 80s.
Property of the State – Bill Cameron. The first of this new YA series from Bill Cameron is spectacular. You don’t have to be a young adult in years to love the start of this new series. I’m looking forward to more of it.
Britt-Marie Was Here – Fredrik Backman (trans. by Henning Koch). Another regular to my favorites list, Backman makes two appearances this year. His third full-length novel is as wonderfully rich and thought-provoking, as delightfully funny and as creatively beautiful as his previous works.
And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer – Fredrik Backman (trans. by Alice Menzies). I laughed and cried and sat in wonderment at this beautiful novella. It’s a treasure.
The Opposite of Everyone – Joshilyn Jackson. This was my introduction to Jackson’s work and I’m hooked. I loved the depth of character, complexity of plot and amazing atmosphere. She has rich themes and great language. What more could you hope for in a great reading experience.
Hanging Mary – Susan Higginbotham. Higginbotham’s historical novel about Mary Surratt kept me fascinated and engrossed the entire time. I read a number of historicals this year. When a person or event is intriguing to me, I’m captivated by the way a writer can mold and craft a story around those elements from history. Higginbotham does a stellar job with the woman who was hanged for Lincoln’s assassination.
King Maybe – Timothy Hallinan. Tim’s Christmas novel, In Fields Where They Lay, is getting a fair amount of attention, but I am giving kudos to King Maybe from earlier in the year. With two books out in a year, you’d wonder if maybe the quality would suffer. Well rest assured, that’s a no go. King Maybe is top notch. I’ve never been disappointed by a Hallinan novel and this was no different.
Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All – Jonas Jonasson (trans. by Rachel Willson-Broyles). I had a little bit of a love affair with the translations this year. I was especially drawn to Scandinavian fiction and this is one of the handful I really enjoyed. The social commentary, the style of humor it all works well for me.
Darktown – Thomas Mullen. This was a powerful historical novel. Not an easy one by any means, but so authentically done and that’s what makes it so amazing. We’ve made advancements as a society, but Darktown also reminds us how much we haven’t changed. This is the level of book that changes you after you’ve read it.
And there you have it. My finalized list of favorite reads of 2016. What topped your list of favorite books this year?
It always ends up being a bit of a struggle to finish these lists. There are a few titles you know right away are on the list, no question. Then you struggle with about 8 titles to fill the remaining 4 or 5 slots. At least that’s the way it is for me. There’s always a few more I’d like to include. I could give you two or three more for each of my categories. I guess that’s the great thing about reading. There’s a lot of crap out there, no doubt. But there’s also a lot of wonderfulness as well. So here’s to a 2017 filled with a lot of wonderful books for you. Happy Reading!