Best Books of 2016

December 27, 2016 Annual "Best Books" Lists 53

Best Books of 2016

I’ve given up trying to challenge myself to choose one favorite book every year. Like last year, I’m treating this list like an Olympic swimming final (if 10 swimmers advanced to the finals, rather than 8). And being an Olympic year, this is fitting. The top 3 books are my medalists and the remaining 7 round out my “finalists.” And, I’ve brought back the high school yearbook-style “Superlatives” from previous years (2015, 2014).

2016 was the year of the debut for me, with 6 debuts making my overall list and taking 2 of my 3 medals! For more on debuts, check out my Best Debuts of 2016 list. And, 70% of my Best of 2016 authors are female!

The Medalists

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett (review)
Best Dysfunctional Family

Latest Addition to My Favorite Authors List
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Shelter by Jung Yun (review)
Most Nail-Biting First Chapter

Most Brutal
Best Balance Between Writing and Plot
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The Mothers by Brit Bennett (review)
Most Gorgeous Writing
Best First Page
Caused My Most Recent Book Hangover
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The Remaining Finalists

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance (review)
Best Nonfiction of 2016

Most Relevant to Current Events
Best Female Heroine (Mamaw)
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My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout (review)
Quietest

Best Life Lessons
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Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Ed Tarkington (review)
Best Southern Coming of Age Novel

Most Recommended Book of the Year
Best Narrator’s Voice (Rocky)
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Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler (review)
Best Gritty Coming of Age

Best Food Writing
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Tender by Belinda McKeon (review)
Most Cringe-Worthy

Most Emotionally Intense
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The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin (review)
Most Thinly Veiled Nonfiction

Most Scandalous
Best Example of Wealthy People Behaving Badly
Biggest Surprise of the Year
Best Recovery Book
Biggest Rating Regret (I rated it 4 instead of 5 stars when I read it)
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When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
Most Likely to Emotionally Wreck You

Most Deserving of All the Hype
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What were your favorite books of 2016?

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Includes 6 debuts & 70% female authors!

53 Responses to “Best Books of 2016”

    • Sarah Dickinson

      I really enjoyed Before the Fall as well – didn’t make my top 10, but it did make my summer reading list. And Bull Mountain was so fantastic – one of my favorites from last year!

    • Sarah Dickinson

      Yay! I almost didn’t put it on, but realized the only reason I was hesitating was that it was a “light” book. And then I decided that was not a valid reason.

  1. Kate @ Midnight Book Girl

    Great list of books! I liked Sweetbitter (probably would have liked it more in my 20s) and Commonwealth was my first Ann Patchett novel, but it definitely won’t be my last! Can’t wait to get my hands on When Breath Becomes Air, even though I know it’ll rip my heart out. Hope 2017 is filled with even more great reads!

    My Top Ten Tuesday

    • Sarah Dickinson

      I loved Patchett’s State of Wonder and also just read her essay collection, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage. Commonwealth got me excited to read her backlist and I think Patron Saint of Liars might be next!

  2. Susie | Novel Visits

    Obviously, I thin k your medalists are perfect choices! Commonwealth and Shelter would be right up there on top for me, too. Bittersweet almost made my list. I love that you included nonfiction. I really need to read When Breath Becomes Air. (Next time I’m feeling too happy!) Wonderful list and a super fun delivery!

    • Sarah Dickinson

      Thank you 🙂 And, yes, make sure you’re not in a public place when you really dig into When Breath Becomes Air!

    • Sarah Dickinson

      Oh yay! So glad to hear that – there’s a lot to chew on there. And I hope you get to Shelter – it’s brutal, but fabulous.

  3. Catherine

    What a fabulous way to do this! And of course, they should be ranked like Olympians!

    I’m glad our choices are different enough that I get a new perspective on books I didn’t like as much as you did. It helps me see things I might have missed.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      I agree! I love how we 100% on the same page about some books and feel completely differently about others.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      I agree and have heard similar things from lots of people. This is the first year I’ve included a single book I rated 4 stars in my top 10 list.

  4. CurlyGeek

    The only one of these I’ve read is Lucy Barton, and that was a beautiful book! I hope to read many of the books on your list, especially Commonwealth.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      Commonwealth is so fantastic – I hope you get to it (and aren’t on a library hold list – I heard they’re LONG).

    • Sarah Dickinson

      You have so many good ones in your future! Save Swans for when you need a recovery book..it’s the perfect one!

  5. Dawn H

    Sarah, I’ve been following and enjoying your blog for a while but have never posted. Our reading tastes are similar. I’ve read 7 of your 10 top choices, and Commonwealth is in my top 3 for the year as well! Hope 2017 is a good reading year for you!

    • Sarah Dickinson

      Awh – thanks and glad you posted! Since we have such similar tastes, I’d love to hear some of the books you’ve loved that I might not have read yet! Hope you have a great reading year as well!

      • Dawn H

        I really liked The Nix and The Flood Girls. Lots of others too, but those are at the top of my list!

  6. Carmen

    It must have been difficult for you rounding the winners up to ten considering how much you read. Love your choices and the superlatives were a great touch!
    I hope 2017 is filled with many more great books.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      Thank you! And – haha – I feel like I don’t read nearly as much as some other book bloggers!

  7. Lindsay

    “When Breath Becomes Air” is on my list too… what a poignant, beautiful book it was, and one that I think should be read by everyone.

    I’m finally going to read “The Mothers”! I just got a notification that it’s in for me at the library. And I’m hoping to get to “Hillbilly Elegy” soon too.

    Love the superlatives!

  8. Toady

    When Breath Becomes Air was one of my favorites too. I am currently reading The Mothers, which I am very much enjoying at 27 percent. Most of the others are on my TBR. I love the way that you lined your picks up. Choosing just one favorite of the year is impossible really.

  9. Marisa @ The Daily Dosage

    I love how you do this! Commonwealth was a favorite this year also and Swans a total surprise as to how much I enjoyed it. I didn’t love Tarkington’s as much as everyone else. Maybe I can squeeze one more in before the year ends.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      Thank you! And I know of some others that didn’t love the Tarkington too…but the narrator’s voice really hit a chord with me. Hope you get that one more in!

  10. Lauren

    I enjoy this much more than a “one favorite book” list. First of all, it gives me more to peruse and secondly, it’s difficult enough to pick one favorite in a genre, but to pit fiction against non-fiction in particular is so rough. Speaking of which, I read a tweet by a nameless someone (but a person in the book world) yesterday saying Hillbilly Elegy is his most hated book of the year. I really want to talk to him about it, but haven’t mustered the gumption. We have some overlap in our loves and some on your list I wasn’t thrilled about, which is the way I like it. Varied loves are the best. I have to say, Shelter has been on my list for a while, but the medal it won makes me want to pick it up all the more!

    • Sarah Dickinson

      It’s so hard to pit fiction against nonfiction..I hope one year I’ll have read enough nonfiction to do 2 separate lists. Alas, it wasn’t this year.

      And I found him on Twitter…he tweets a lot about Hillbilly Elegy!!

  11. Tara

    I never did read My Name is Lucy Barton; I should add that to my library list! As always, I love seeing your lists every year; we did have several in common, which is so much fun. I hope you have a good reading year in 2017, as well!

    • Sarah Dickinson

      It’s a short one, so hopefully you can fit it in one weekend! And back atcha!

  12. Barbara H.

    I came up with a top 16. Narrowing it down to one would be too hard, but high up there would be Not in the Heart by Chris Fabry. I keep seeing Hillbilly Elegy mentioned everywhere – I need to check it out.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      I might be misremembering, but did you tell me at some point that you don’t like the dark, brutal stuff? If so, I’ll warn you about Shelter. But, if that doesn’t bother you, then Shelter is fantastic!!

  13. Donna @ OnDBookshelf

    And this is why I always read your reviews and recommendations. I read seven of your best of 2016, the only one I didn’t love was Lucy Barton. I got Sweetbitter for Christmas, so 8 out of 10 is not bad!

  14. Naomi

    I can’t believe I haven’t read any of these yet! But they are all firmly on my to-read list. I have lots of good books to look forward to!

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