Every December, LT staff members compile a list of our top five favorite books we’ve read this year. You can see past years’ lists here.
We also like seeing members’ favorite reads, so we compiled a list that all of LibraryThing can add to. We’re interested in not just the most read books of 2016, but the best of the best. What were your top five for 2016? Note: books on this list weren’t necessarily published in 2016—these are the best we’ve read this year, regardless of publication date.
»List: Top Five Books of 2016—Add your own!
Without further ado, here are our staff favorites!
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Hands down, the most devastating, beautiful book I’ve ever read. This is now the benchmark by which I judge all other “sad” books. Should come with a button which reads “I survived A Little Life.”
The Girls by Emma Cline
I read this on a trip to California and it was the perfect choice. Cline did an amazing job capturing the insecurity and loneliness of being a young teenaged girl, and the resulting motivations for action.
March: Book One by John Lewis
Representative John Lewis’s personal account of his life as part of the Civil Rights Movement should be read by everyone. It’s intense, and Nate Powell’s black and white art is used to great effect to build on Lewis’s story.
Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie
This wrapped up Leckie’s Imperial Raadch trilogy, and it hit all the right notes. Continuing to probe at what is left in the wake of an imperial steamroller, and pushing all my “robots are people, too” buttons, it was heart-tugging and funny, and left me wanting more of this universe.
Monstress, Vol. 1 by Marjorie Liu
Sana Takeda’s work on Monstress is hands-down some of the most beautiful art in current comics out there, and the world the co-creators have built is rich and intriguing.
Loranne’s honorable mentions:
- The Trespasser by Tana French
- Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang: The only reason this one isn’t in my Top Five proper is because I’m not done with it yet! Chiang’s stories are intimate and thought-provoking, and, if you like reading books movies are based on, the title piece—”Story of Your Life”—can’t be beat, as the inspiration for the movie Arrival.
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
This narrative, which follows 5 generations of a family separated in the 18th century by the Atlantic slave trade, is a book I have physically shoved into multiple people’s hands. Alternating perspectives between American and Ghanaian descendents of two sisters, it touches on the histories of those countries through the eyes of ordinary people.
The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
This memoir/academic research/musings/fragment collection explores how to make a queer romance, and a family, in a world where there are no solid models for either of those endeavors. This stuck with me for weeks.
Prelude to Bruise by Saeed Jones
In 2014, I had the pleasure of hearing Mr. Jones read aloud a few of the poems in this collection about a black gay man coming of age in the American South, but only got around to reading the whole thing this summer. My two favorites are: “Sleeping Arrangement” and “Pretending to Drown.”
Glorify by Emily C. Heath
This came to me at exactly a time when I needed a breath of fresh air into my faith. Rev. Heath suggests a refocusing for the progressive church centered in discipleship, and offers compelling reasons why. My mom, my church’s Lenten reading series, and many others also enjoyed reading and discussing it.
The City Watch Series by Terry Pratchett
I had dabbled in Sir Terry before, but had the opportunity to plow my way through Loranne’s copy of the City Watch books early this year, and enjoyed it mightily. I laughed; I cried; I developed a fondness for parenthetical footnotes. For a series of fantasy books, they really nail down issues that are perpetually present in the real world, pointing out political hypocrisies and themes. My favorite was probably Feet of Clay. Will re-read again, definitely.
KJ’s honorable mentions:
Gender Failure by Rae Spoon and Ivan Coyote A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, and Pocket, which helped me read >30k words a day of election coverage for 10 months on my phone without killing my eyesight. My soul, yes, but my eyes are fine.
The Great Poets by Gerard Manley Hopkins
I encountered Hopkins in my 20s and dismissed him as cramped—how wrong I was! I listened to him again between Boston and Portland, and almost drove off the road in unexpected pleasure. I haven’t discovered a poet I love this much in a decade.
Astrobiology: A Very Short Introduction by David C. Catling
A nice break from my usual interests; utterly fascinating, and surprisingly handy for understanding this year’s glut of astrobiology stories.
Ancient Near East: A Very Short Introduction by Amanda H. Podany
This was the year I got addicted to Oxford’s “A Very Short Introduction” series—can you tell? Despite all the classics and archaeology, by ANE knowledge was pretty scattered. This tied it all together for me, and led to further exploration. Other titles, such as the Ancient Egypt one, weren’t as satisfying.
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Utterly devastating and literally heartbreaking. And beautiful. This book made me sob uncontrollably while on a plane (the stranger sitting next to me never commented, at least), and then proceeded to give me a book hangover where I was unable to read anything else for a month after.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Speaking of twisting narratives that weave into a complex awesome puzzle… I should have read this two years ago when KJ first told me to and I refused to believe all the hype. I was wrong.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
I am one of those awful people who has seen the movies but not read the books, until now. I decided I shouldn’t postpone any longer. Not that Rowling’s writing needs it, but Jim Dale made this book even easier to read. Looking forward to Book three! I didn’t skip Book two, don’t worry!
Love in the Asylum by Lisa Carey
Loved this book! Lisa’s provocative—in a good way—story-telling made this an interesting & easy read. The characters’ thoughts, gestures, and interactions are real, relatable, and I quickly settled into the story. Great read. Bonus: historical (fiction) story within the story.
The One-Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka
This book is the argument for authentically natural farming—farming that follows most closely the behavior of nature. A short, good read that I’ll likely reference while planning my own garden!
No Death, No Fear by Thich Nhat Hanh
Like just about every other human being, death is sometimes a challenging concept for me. This piece is a great meditation on how to define death, and how to remove fear from the inevitable. Worth the reflection.
The Blood Mirror by Brent Weeks
Book 4 of the “lightbringer” series. I was disappointed by book three, so wasn’t expecting very much, but really enjoyed this book. Looking forward to the fifth and final book!
The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality by Brian Greene
I was taking a physics course this year, so this book was a great supplement to some of the stuff we starting to learn in class, but with more detail/focus on cosmological physics concepts.
Storm Front by Jim Butcher
I always wanted to start this series, but never got around to it. Figured I might as well dig in while on vacation in Puerto Rico. Didn’t disappoint! A bit cheesy, but you kind of expect that from a noir private investigator/wizard series.
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Achingly beautiful, and a wonderful narration by Frazer Douglas. This has been my before bed soundtrack pretty much since I first listened to it: I must have listened to the whole thing 5+ times through by now.
The Stolen Child by Lisa Carey
Even if I didn’t know and adore the author, this would have been one of my picks. You really feel like you’re a part of the world she builds, and the touch of magical realism plus these turns of phrase that made me stop reading and just think—gorgeous.
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
This was a total surprise. I’d seen the book featured in the window of a local shop for a while, and was looking for a new audiobook when this title popped up. By turns funny and bemusing and sweet, it’s just a damned good book.
Freedom Is a Constant Struggle by Angela Y. Davis
A really difficult but hugely illuminating book. Listening to Angela Davis narrate it made it that much more powerful. Very timely and a quick read, highly recommend to everyone.
Kirsten’s honorable mentions:
Turing’s Cathedral by George Dyson
A great (albeit extremely detailed) history of the computer. Featuring Einstein, von Neumann, WWII, Turing, the Manhattan Project, Eckert, Mauchly, Princeton Institute for Advanced Research, etc.
Grunt by Mary Roach
Because I tend to love anything that Mary Roach writes about. She goes in-depth into each subject she investigates and comes out with fun, interesting stories that are great for creating conversations around. See also: Packing for Mars or Bonk.
A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
Do yourself a favor and read the book and skip the rather boring movie. The book has a great sense of humor (humour?), although it gets a little strung out towards the end. I enjoy hiking and would love to do the App Trail at some point, but reading this book will have to do for now.