Favorite books of 2016

favorite books of 2016

Um, yeah, about that title. I am aware that 2016 has been gone for almost 2 months. (How? When did this happen?) Also, most of these books didn’t come out in 2016 – 2016 is when I read them. Regardless, it’s never too late to recommend a good book.

In keeping with recommendations, I’m mainly telling you why I liked the book – if you want to know about the plot, there are plenty of other places for that. And, bonus, at the end I’m dis-recommending 3 books that were duds for me.

One more thing: the book titles are Amazon affiliate links. While of course I would appreciate you buying through those links, if you can find these books in your local library and/or bookstore, that’s even better.


Imperial Radch TrilogyAnne Leckie

This was by far my favorite book (ok, 3 books) of the year. By genre I would have to call it a space opera, but don’t let that turn you off. It’s about artificial intelligence and what defines personhood and so much more.

DeathlessCatherynne Valente

A retelling of Russian fairytales about Koschei the Deathless. Weird and morbid – can you even call it a fairytale if it isn’t? Lush, descriptive writing that really immerses you in the fairytale feel.

Stories of Your Life and Others, Ted Chiang

You might recognize the titular “Story of Your Life” without knowing it – the movie Arrival was based on it. (And from what I remember, actually followed the book plot fairly closely – high five, movie!) This is the standout story in the book, in my opinion, but the rest are worth reading too.

The Shadow of the WindCarlos Ruiz Zafon

What I loved most about this book was that it had the feel of magical realism, yet everything in it could happen in an ordinary reality. In keeping with its genre, the plot is bizarre and mysterious, but not so twisted that you close the book wondering what the heck just happened (looking at you, One Hundred Years of Solitude).

Twelve Kings in SharakhaiBradley Beaulieu

I’m a sucker for fantasy stories with unique settings. That’s why I bought this book, but the story doesn’t disappoint, either.

Ink and BoneRachel Caine

The concept for this book is irresistible to a book lover – the library of Alexandria survived, and is now the gatekeeper for all knowledge. There were actually quite a few things I didn’t like about this book – the plot moves a bit too fast, some convenient deus ex machina happens occasionally – but the concept was intriguing enough to keep me interested.


Rising Strong, Brene Brown

Turns out that all the people saying you should read Brene Brown are not wrong. This book also helped crystallize why “everyone is doing the best they can” really bothers me, but that might be a topic for another day.

How Not to Be WrongJordan Ellenberg

Because who doesn’t want to be right all the time? Kidding. This book is actually about how to think about math and statistics – I promise it’s more interesting than it sounds, and you don’t have to actually do any calculating.

But What if We’re Wrong, Chuck Klosterman

I like books about being wrong, apparently. This book asks what if we’re wrong about big, defining concepts – like gravity or democracy. It’s about society-defining paradigm shifts – can we know if they’re going to happen?

Peak: Secrets from the New Science of ExpertiseAnders Ericsson

What makes an expert and how do you get there? It boils down to deliberate practice – key word “deliberate”. This book expounds that concept and explains how you can use it to get better at anything – whether you aspire to be a true expert or not.

Three duds:

Infinite Jest: I am not one of those people who never quits a book, because life is too short to read something you hate. I quit this book. Apart from the meandering, convoluted story – which I expected going into it – I found the main setting (an elite boys’ tennis school) incredibly boring.

The Alchemist: I didn’t quit this one, but only because it was short. And because I kept expecting there to be more to the “moral of the story”. I don’t at all understand why this book is so popular.

The Martian: This was an entertaining read, so not a complete dud. But the writing was meh (<– clearly I’m an erudite book critic), and the main character’s narration grated on me after a few chapters.



What was the best book you read last year?

14 Comment

  1. SUCH a great compilation!!! Thanks for this, girl!

    1. Hannah says: Reply

      Thank you!

  2. How Not To Be Wrong sounds interesting! O, and I love Chuck Klosterman!

    1. Hannah says: Reply

      I need to read more Chuck Klosterman!

  3. The Shadow of the Wind is one of my FAVORITE BOOKS EVER. I actually had to read it for a literature course I took while abroad in Spain. At the end of the trip, we actually took a walking tour of all the different locations featured in the book. It was amazing.
    Julia @ Drops of Jules recently posted…THIS Weekend (and some recovery ramblings of course)My Profile

    1. Hannah says: Reply

      Ok…I don’t think I realized the locations were real. How cool!

  4. Farrah says: Reply

    hahhaha, I like that you had “How Not to Be Wrong” right after “But What if We’re Wrong.” 😛 I haven’t had a chance to read for fun in a while, but hopefully sometime this year!? I haven’t read any of these so I’m going to have to go update my to-read list again! 😛
    Farrah recently posted…Dark Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar PopcornMy Profile

    1. Hannah says: Reply

      I swear I didn’t do that on purpose…but of course once I noticed I had to leave it 😛

  5. YES! Finally someone who didn’t like the Alchemist either. I read it and finished and was like “oh.”

    Totally underwhelmed!
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    1. Hannah says: Reply

      Totally! That was supposed to be inspiring?

  6. Laura says: Reply

    Thanks so much for these great suggestions! Though I *loved* the Martian, so hoping that doesn’t mean we have the opposite taste 🙂

  7. Hannah says: Reply

    I am consistently disappointed by books everyone RAVES about…by this point I’m thinking it might just be contrarianism on my part 🙂

  8. I used to read so much more! I really need to get back to it.Thanks for the ideas
    Deborah @ Confessions of a mother runner recently posted…5 Steps To A Better Night’s Sleep + Sleep Swag GiveawayMy Profile

    1. Hannah says: Reply

      Reading before bed is the best 😉

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